Make Note! False Friend: Notiz versis Notice

One of the most annoying false friends in the German and English language happens to be anything that has to do with Note and Notice vs the German word Notiz.  Imagine this scenario:

You are an English native speaker who is invited to an interview for a teaching position at the University of Bayreuth in Bavaria. You have two interviewers, a German and a Brit and they ask you some questions about your teaching career. All of a sudden the German interviewer attempts to speak English by saying:

“I will notice this.” You see that the interviewer is writing down in a notebook.  The Brit stares at the German colleague.

What do you think is the reaction to this statement and why?  Give yourself a couple seconds to think about this.  Then look at the picture below:

After some thinking, what do you think about this? Would you correct it and if so, how?

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Aside from the use of Become versus Bekommen, the use of Notiz versus Notice is considered to be at least one of the most misunderstood false friend pairing in the English and German language. Normally when we talk about these two words we think of their meanings:

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

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Notiz:

Definition: A small written memo on a sheet of paper to inform or remember something.

Translation into English: Note, Memo, Notice (important information)

Sentence Formulation:

In German we would formulate it into “Notizen machen” or even “Notieren” yet when translated into English, we would consider it as the following:

“Make Note of It.”

“Write it down”

“Note it down”

“Put it down in writing”

“Write a note/ memo about it.”

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Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

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Notice:

Definition:  There are three different definitions to the word Notice:

  1. To observe and pay attention to an action as a purpose of informing someone. Synonym to this definition include observe (Noun: Observation)
  2. To inform a person about a situation that may be of importance. Synonym to this definition include notify (Noun: notification), inform (Noun: Information), announce (Noun: Announcement)
  3. To terminate a person’s employment; relieve a person of his/her duties. Synonym to this definition: to fire, to lay off, to terminate, to can.
  4. To announce one’s intention to quit an engagement/commitment. Synonym to this definition: to resign (Noun: Resignation), to withdraw (Noun: Withdrawal)

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Translation into German:

  1. For definition 1: beobachten, bemerken, beachten
  2. For definition 2: bekannt machen (Bekanntmachung), ankündigen (Ankündigung), mitteilen (Mitteilung), informieren, benachrichtigen (Benachrichtigung), Bescheid sagen, anzeigen.
  3. For definition 3: kündigen (Kündigung)
  4. For definition 4: aussteigen (Ausstieg),  zurücktreten (Rücktritt)

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When looking at the definition of the two words, one can see a clear-cut difference between Notiz and Notice which leads to the question of why a person would use the phrase “I will notice this,” when his intention is to take notes and the definition of Notice is either to observe, quit or fire someone from his job. Granted some dictionaries have put Notiz and Notice on par with each other, yet when looking at the definitions of both and their translations more closely, one will recognize that they are false friends.

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Note:

Ironically though both Germans and Americans have the word Note in their respective vocabularies, whereas when looking at the meaning of the word in both languages, the differences cannot be even more crystal clear.

When Germans use the word Note, it means the following:

  1. Grade or Mark on one’s report card in school (Schulnote)
  2. Bill/ Invoice to pay (Kostennote)
  3. Cash bills (Banknote)

Americans use the word Note which means in German:

  1. Small sheet of paper to write down important info (Zettel)
  2. Write down information on a sheet of paper (Notiz Machen/ notieren)
  3. Pay attention to something as to make note of it (bemerken, anmerken, vermerken)

There are two aspects that say that Note can be related and they are:

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Any questions?

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Activity 1

Look at the following situations below and determine whether you would use the word notice (n) or make note (mn). In some cases, both (b) are possible.

  1. People protesting for better pay
  2. People complaining about the supervisor and his erratic behavior
  3. Listening to a lecture at a university
  4. Watching a science experiment and completing the homework
  5. The change in mood of a person upon information of his firing
  6. The air in the tire getting low
  7. Interviewing a person for a new job
  8. Staff meeting
  9. Intense political discussion
  10. Writing a “to-do” list for your colleague before vacation
  11. Tendering one’s resignation
  12. Information about a town hall meeting at the company
  13. Taking part in a seminar for your studies
  14. Person’s appearance at a fashion show
  15. Personal makeover.

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Activity 2

The following words have to do with the word Note. The question is which one is the German version (D) and which one is English (E)? There is a possibility that both (B) is possible.

  1. The grade you are getting this semester is a B+
  2. Wow! That’s a good-smelling perfume!
  3. We’re learning a new music piece by J.S. Bach. The music is complicated.
  4. I’m pissed because I received my pink slip today! I have to find a new job!
  5. My boss wrote me a reminder and left it on my desk.
  6. I wrote down some important information about this theory today.
  7. We have a few cash bills left in my wallet.
  8. He just got an invoice for the house renovations.
  9. You got a message to meet your boss this afternoon.
  10. Your overall school average is 1.5! Congratulations!

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Hope this lesson on false friends helps. 🙂 In case you have any questions about this or have any other false friends between German and English, feel free to use this form here to send a line. Thanks!

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