Rachel-Deutsch: Fire-Evenings

Here’s a post on one of my own speaking mistakes, for a change. When I first moved to Switzerland, I avoided speaking in German or Swiss German like the plague, even though I desperately wanted to learn. I always told myself I’d start speaking once my level was higher – a mistake everyone makes when learning a new language.

Mistakes – inevitable but necessary

I knew I would definitely make mistakes if I tried to speak – first of all, I was painfully aware that my pronunciation was almost always wrong, but I was also aware that I would inevitably make grammatical mistakes (German grammar isn’t the easiest, let’s just put it that way).

Now that I understand a lot more, it’s easier to speak and try things out. That doesn’t mean I all I say is free from errors, however. That’s why learners of foreign languages should practise speaking at any opportunity, no matter how low their level is. We’ll definitely make mistakes, but mistakes are always a learning opportunity.

I’ll be posting my various mistakes every now and then for your entertainment, and this will be the first post of what I’ll call the Rachel-Deutsch series.

My workmates say this every evening, and, trying to fit in, I really wanted to say it in Swiss for once instead of saying ‘have a good evening’ every time.

I assumed it meant ‘free evening’, or something along those lines: free from work and stress, free to enjoy the rest of the evening at home or with friends – only it didn’t really sound like free, or frei in German, so instead I unwittingly said, with a stupid grin on my face:

…Fire-evening. They had a good laugh at my expense, and it was only then that I realised what I had said, not to mention how weird my Swiss and High German mix must sound.

After being corrected, I tried not to show my embarrassment too much and promised myself I would spend the rest of my fire-evening studying German. Instead of avoiding the phrase, I used it (almost) everyday. It still doesn’t sound exactly the same as a native speaker would say it, but I don’t need to worry about that too much at this stage.

Pronunciation: The ü Problem

There are other similar words I have a hard time saying properly, at least in Swiss German. It’s easy to say Feuer or Feuerzeug in High German, for example, but I just can’t get the Swiss Füür and Füürzüüg right, no matter how hard I try. Every time I ask for a lighter, I end up mixing Swiss and High German and saying ‘hesch Feuer?’ or ‘chasch mir bitte s Feuerzeug ge?’

Here’s the vocabulary, including articles, I should get to grips with:

  • Der Feierabend
  • De Fiirabig / De Fiirobig
  • Schönen Feierabend! Schöne Fiirobig!
  • Das Feuer, Das Feuerzeug
  • S’Füür, S’Füürzüüg
  • Kannst du mir bitte das/dein Feuerzeug geben?
  • Chasch mir bitte s’/dis Füürzüüg ge?


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