Why American Expats Like Me Should NEVER Become English Teachers in Germany

Bad Teacher
“Do you have a learning disability? Because you should just KNOW this shit.” — Image Credit: Patrick Bell (https://www.flickr.com/photos/druidicparadise/) – Subject to CC 2.0 License.

As I’ve said many times before, my wife is German and she is a Gymnasium teacher here in Hannover, Germany. As such, she teaches two primary academic subjects, but she is also required to conduct elective classes. These classes are usually fun things, like arts and crafts, sports or cooking. (But not beer drinking. I checked.)

Not long ago, my wife was tasked with teaching an elective baking class to a bunch of snot-nosed 8th graders. They were going to make a Black Forest Cake, also known as a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. Now, I don’t know why, but my wife wanted the recipe to be in English, so she downloaded one from the internet — which had clearly been translated from German into English — and asked me to proofread it for spelling and grammar mistakes.

What I found was an absolute clusterfuck of linguistic crimes, any one of which would — in an ideal world — warrant death by hanging. (Followed by the deceased author’s body being dragged through the streets and beaten with rubber mallets, then thrown into a pit of acid-spitting vipers which reduce the corpse to rendered lard, thereby enabling it to be molded into tiny, adorable birthday candles.)

Below is the Black Forest Cake recipe from the internet, complete with my edits indicated in red. ***WARNING*** Contains swearing and one rather graphic illustration. (Click image to enlarge.)

German and English Language Editing - Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake) Funny Recipe Corrections

Summary:

Look, if the situation were reversed and I had to write this cake recipe in German, I would fail so hard I would have to throw myself off a cliff. Still, I cannot excuse such heinous linguistic crimes. This is why I must award this recipe with a despicable 1 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds:

Merkel Diamond from Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of Germany

Would you be a good English teacher? Have you ever had a particularly good or bad language teacher? We’d love to hear all about your experience in the comments section below…

 

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26 thoughts

  1. Hi! I’ve been reading your blog since college and been laughing constantly. I’m teach English in Spain at the moment and have taught English in France before as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar here. Another mistake that is always popping up is Make vs. Do. I’ve had a few students who could have captioned your drawing unknowingly as “I did/do/will do a cake + time phrase” has come up in class more than once. I usually ignore this but I did have this one university student who was convinced she was right. I ended up directing her to American Pie for reference since I wasn’t getting anywhere. On the flip-side, when I was first learning Spanish and French I said some pretty embarrassing things too (I haven’t had the chance in German but that’s because I can’t say enough yet to say anything stupid).

    Anyway, thanks for the posts! They make Mondays a bit more fun. Looking forward to next week!

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  2. Hi! I’ve been reading your blog since college and been laughing constantly. I teach English in Spain at the moment and have taught English in France before as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar here. Another mistake that is always popping up is Make vs. Do. I’ve had a few students who could have captioned your drawing unknowingly as “I did/do/will do a cake + time phrase” has come up in class more than once. I usually ignore this but I did have this one university student who was convinced she was right. I ended up directing her to American Pie for reference since I wasn’t getting anywhere. On the flip-side, when I was first learning Spanish and French I said some pretty embarrassing things too (I haven’t had the chance in German but that’s because I can’t say enough yet to say anything stupid).

    Anyway, thanks for the posts! They make Mondays a bit more fun. Looking forward to next week!

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  3. HAHA!! Fantastic! I’m annoying my friends on Facebook endlessly re; my fascination with German culture owing to my discovery that my Scots ancestry was really German if one went back a few years, so shared this of course… they’ll love it. For the 4th of July, I attempted to make my first Schwarzwald Kirsch Kuchen or Schwarzwalder Torte (I am just beginning to learn German words and to realize there are in fact so many versions of how to phrase anything in German that I have no hope of ever learning it properly before or after I arrive to (potentially) pursue my Masters or Doctorate). The cake I made was a huge success, as I cannot even believe what passes over here for the “American” version of Black Forest cake (blech!) when it actually takes 3 days to make properly according to the recipe I received from a German cook. My cherries had to soak in kirsch for 48 hours before the other parts of the cake began to be prepared, and then had to sit for a full day to blend. I see this recipe is adjusted for children (thank goodness). Mine says clearly “do not serve to children” owing to the amount of alcohol… Really, I’d say don’t serve to adults who intend to drive that week!

    And, if the Masters Degree thing does not go as planned, I have to say I’m not deterred by your post from the possibility of using my corporate training background, and my endlessly frustrating-but-positive-outcome-interactions with IT engineers and stock brokers to teach business English in a German company or language school. I don’t expect I’ll be doing the kind of illustration you’ve done here, though (and not because I think the employees wouldn’t appreciate the levity) but being a single gal, I’m not sure if that’s exactly the right kind of message I want to be sending to my students… I’d probably be better off with an illustration of me behind the cake.. you know, like in the Calendar Girls movie? :)

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  4. Could you not give just NIL Mutti-gems? One is already too good.

    So many mistakes in such a small piece of writing!
    Everybody who has EVER read an English recipe knows better than to let preserved (cherries or not) drip … Preserved fruits are drained.

    (I checked the English equivalent of “abtropfen” on dict.cc, just to make sure not to become an idiot. All of us know that every comment which is criticizing something for mistakes is prone to show up with mistakes itself. One of the laws of the internet.)

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  5. You would think that the author of the recipe would have it edited by an English teacher or an English-speaking person before publishing it. When I was a university English teacher in Slovakia, I edited some publications and speeches and essays by Slovak writers who wanted to be sure all was correct before they presented their work. It’s unprofessional otherwise.

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  6. Speaking as an English teacher in Germany… the struggle is real. Fighting middle-aged engineers on things like make vs. do is my bread and butter. Good thing we usually have beer in the fridge when I get home.

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  7. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so heartily at an indecent graphic. Usually,I abhor attempted humor involving genitalia and baked goods (i.e. the horrendous piece of ca ca-ish film, a term I use loosely here, known as AMERICAN PIE and its sequel- or any comedic cartoon/video, etc., utilizing body parts in general), but your drawing elicited such a bawdy response from me, both my cats skittered from the room so quickly, I fear they broke a toenail or two in the process! SECONDLY, thank God there’s someone else like me who gets annoyed/offended, etc., when the English language gets slaughtered! My husband thinks it’s hilarious, and a lot of people think I’m a bit squirrelly when I got pissed off at the idiots on TV when they mispronounce a word or use the incorrect word like the American media’s rampant use of the phrase – between you and I (HOLY FUCKBALLS, PEOPLE, between is a preposition…would you use the proper pronoun ME – JUST ONCE!!!!!?), but I think they should give all of the so-called reporters a frickin’ grammar test before they’re allowed to show their ignorance in front of millions of folks on television…but, anywho! THANKS FOR SHARING. HAVE AN AWESOME Monday…or at least a tolerable one! :) ~TB

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  8. Hi there,

    How funny!

    One important thing I want to point out about the recipe. There is no such thing as cornflower, there is cornmeal but you don’t want that in this cake. What the recipe needs is cornstarch, although potato starch would be a good substitute as a thickening agent if cornstarch is not available in Germany.

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  9. Great one. When I look at #5 I can imagine myself whsiking a tablespoon of sugar pretty clearly. But I´m not a native speaker, so that one could be correct ;)

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  10. I can’t tell if you would be a good teacher or not (Maybe a “Teacher of Mankind”). But I can tell that the poor choice of font and (now my English fails me … the arrangement of words and letters, I guess “composition”) would justify the sentence you proposed.

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  11. I think you’d make a great teacher. Funny but firm. One thing I’ve learnt as a corporate trainer is never to teach children or make jokes. I’m British, nobody seems to get it LOL!
    “Let the cherries drip” forever….!

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  12. First of all, I apologize for my English, since I never actually studied it (Spanish is my native language). I think that the problem is not that the person who “translate” the recipe had terrible English teachers, but that this person has no common sense at all. When you dare to translate something to your language and you are not a specialist, you can apologize by saying that you have, let’s say “good intentions”. But when you do this kind of thing, in a language that you don’t know; you are shameless. Period.
    Also, this person never ever read a cooking book, nor a recipe from a magazine, not even one from the Crisco can label.
    That said, I have a great story for you. My sister bought once a mandolin (the cutter, not the musical instrument) and the manual said: “Warning: Do not let the child independent employment”.
    We still LOL with that epic line…

    Hope the recipe was not as crappy as the “translation”.

    :)

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  13. I had a particularly good English teacher in Gymnasium who made me graduate with a 14 (out of 15), and I will always remember him. I didn’t become a teacher myself (which he proposed), but, after some detours, a social worker and part-time writer.

    The recipe, to me, is fascinating because of the “200G” cream. You know, G is usually meant to mean the gravitiy “constant”, on earth and in central Europe usually about 9.81 meters per second squared. So a 200G cream might well be called “Jupiter cream”. The preparation of it might take some time, however, and be quite expensive: Put a payload of milk onto a space probe, send it towards Jupiter, and bring it safely back to earth, and you have your “200G cream”.

    But, as we all know, we do not bake cakes because it is easy, but because it is hard …

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I hope your wife doesn’t teach English, because if she does she really should have be able to correct these very obvious mistakes herself ._.

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