5

I always struggle with the complexity of my sentences. I'm a native German speaker and I'm used to make complex sentences, not every time, but here and then.

When I try to express myself in English and I start with a sentence, I get - somehow - lost in between. Sometimes I just don't find the word to combine two parts or I struggle with the grammar. On the the other hand, I don't want to sound like a five year old.

How can I train this? I actually do a lot English. I read and watch TV shows in English and I try to speak a lot.

  • Well, about this, my teacher advised me to 'write' a lot. But sometimes I write very peculiar sentences in my writings! I'm curious about the answer this Q will have. – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Jan 8 '15 at 18:08
  • 2
    Are you talking mainly about speaking or writing, when you say when I try to express myself in English? – user6951 Jan 8 '15 at 18:15
  • @CarSmack Mainly about speaking but also writing. Speaking is more present to me, because when I write corrections are easier to manage. – veloursnebel Jan 8 '15 at 18:51
  • I assume you live in Germany. In that case, you probably have access to purchase products using the Assimil method. Including Englisch ohne Mühe (which probably starts from the beginning, so it may be too simple for you). I use Assimil products when I am studying a foreign language. But different people like, and don't like, different products/methods. – user6951 Jan 8 '15 at 21:24
  • Some example sentences would be helpful. Maybe add some in German with rough English translations. Then it would be easier to advise about what the issues are and how to simplify. – user3169 Jan 8 '15 at 23:07
2

You do realize that this question will most likely be closed as opinion-based?

But I can relate:
IMHO - being a native German speaker myself - this is a nasty side-effect of being able to handle your own language well. German is a language where multiple looooong sentences are nested within each other. The placement of the verb at the end of dependent clauses conditions us to mentally parse long sequences until getting to the actual information at the end. (Phew, that was another example of what you are talking about, right?)

This might be ok when writing (with some later editing), but not for conversations. So what do I do?

  • Use simpler words.
    We Germans tend to use the precise or technical term (the "formal" or "Latin" or "Greek" word) instead of a plain one because we are (implicitly) taught that this is the "better" word. Think of grasp the concept vs. get the idea or extract the essential information vs. get the important bits. You do not want to do this all the time (because you know the "better" word and are not five years old), but when you catch yourself making "Bandwurmsätze" again. Basic verbs like "do", "get" and "make" are your friends here. It's counter-intuitive, but draws your mental focus on simplicity.
  • Make a short statement, then elaborate in a second (& third,...) one.
    Often, native speakers will not try to fit all information in one sentence (like Germans tend to do). Instead, they give a short statement of the main issue, then add more aspects in more sentences. Random example:

    English version:
    "This is akward. I mean, when you bring you boyfriend to the table, right? How should I behave when you start making out?"

    We clumsy Germans:
    "I never know how to behave when you bring your boyfriend to the table and you two start making out."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.