Help! My Woman is Becoming a Baby! A Look at Become and Bekommen.

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ƒƒ FALSE FRIEND

Glauchau (Saxony), GermanyPolice in Saxony are getting a great laugh over a traffic incident on the Motorway A4 in the direction of Frankfurt (Main). Shortly before pulling off the route at Glauchau-Ost, police pulled over an Austrian couple, whose wife was in the process of giving birth. The officer, originating from Russia but having lived in the state of Saxony for 13 years, cracked up when she saw that the woman in the car on the passenger side was in the process of giving birth, but her husband responded to her claim of him speeding:

“HELP! My woman is becoming a baby!”

Before going further, look at the sentence and ask yourself why this is wrong. Did you find the difference?

If not then here’s a hint: The officer can speak Russian and English both like a native speaker. Now can you make the difference?

 

DEFINITION:

If still not, then let’s have a look at the word become.  Become has a similarity to the German bekommen just because of the spelling with a couple minor exceptions: in German, it’s replacing the C with K and adding another M.  Sadly though, the meaning of the two are clearly NOT different.  Here’s the simplest explanation to clear this up:

BEKOMMEN means a person is receiving something, whether it is a gift, message, etc. The English equivalents to the German word include: get, have, receive, secure, earn (money), gain, collect, take (from someone), introduce and welcome (someone new to the group or team), as well as accept (something from someone).

BECOME on the other hand means in German SEIN WERDEN, or something similar, as can be seen in the link. In other words, it has something to do with the person being something in terms of appearance, action and behavior. It can also have something to do with an object being something or forming something to make it different. In short, BECOME has to do with the LOOK.

 

FAZIT:

Keeping this in mind, let’s go back to the story: It did have a happy ending for the officer gave the driver a warning for going 25 kilometers per hour too fast and gave him a free ride to the hospital, which was on the opposite end of the city and required going through the city center. A happy ending for everyone and the family.  However, the Russian officer, who has two children of her own, gave him a lecture on English. You can imagine how it went:

Next time, it’s not woman but your wife. And it’s scientifically impossible for a grown adult to become a baby, let alone a woman. She’s getting a baby, or you can say She’s giving birth, She’s in labor or she’s having a baby. Got it?

He understood although from my own personal experiences, a person could technically become a baby if he/she throws a temper tantrum, especially over a bad grade on a test. But that’s a different story for a different time.

 

ACTIVITIES:

A. Determine whether these sentences are true or false. If false, please correct them.

  1. André will get a police officer after he’s done with the training next year.
  2. Jason will become his teeth pulled out next week.
  3. The basketball team got the win over Munich last night.
  4. I’ve become irritated over his constant absence from class.
  5. Jackie became an engagement ring from her long-time boyfriend Kalvin last week.
  6. They became married at a small church ceremony last Saturday.
  7. They’ve become a newlywed couple.
  8. Lindsay will become an award for her years’ experience at a ceremony next week.
  9. We’ve gotten more experienced in this game.
  10. How often per month do you get your weekly newspaper?

 

B. Complete each sentence using get or become. Please pay attention to the verb tenses

  1. Chris _______ in late to class today.
  2. The teacher __________ annoyed of his tardiness.
  3. Romy _________ 23 out of 45 on her test in math.
  4. Her parents __________ a notice of her failing grade from the school this morning.
  5. Ingo and Timmy ___________ detention (Nachsitzung in German) this afternoon because they were fighting.
  6. Principal Ingrid Younker____________ a superintendent of the school last week. She ___________ the post when Mike Kuntz retires at the end of the school year.
  7. The school _________ no coverage by the media. Nevertheless, it ____________ popular place for students to go to.
  8. The teacher ____________ tired and decided to go home.

 

C. Now translate the sentences in B. into German. Notice the difference between English and German in terms of the use of become and bekommen?

 

D. Translate the following sentences from German into English. Please note that there are some variants possible. Pay attention to the verb tenses as well.

  1. Der Angeklagte bekommt eine Freiheitsstrafe von drei Jahren und eine Bußgeld von 20,000 für seinen Tat.
  2. Patrick wurde als Chefkoch im Restaurant vor einem Jahr ernannt .
  3. Die Eltern haben die gute Nachricht von ihrer Tochter über ihre Geburt gestern.
  4. Mein Computer wird langsamer. Ich weiß nicht was mit ihm los ist!
  5. Hilfe! Meine Frau bekommt ein Kind und wir sind verfahren! Kann jemand uns helfen?

 

Author’s disclaimer: The story of the Russian police officer in Saxony is entirely fictitious; however the phrase “My woman is becoming a baby!” was actually said during an English oral test at a school in Germany.  The names of the students, the teachers involved, as well as the place and name of the school were omitted to protect their identities. Inquiries on these are not desired.

 

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All They Want is Stuff: The Use of Stop-Gaps in English Part I

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Willow Creek Bridge in Mason City in the 1950s: New Bridge on the Left, Antique 1800s Bridge on the Right. Photo courtesy of Iowa Department of Transportation

This article is co-produced with sister column, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles in connection with a project being constructed.

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Stop-gaps. Each language has its set of stop-gap words that people use, either as a substitute for a word they were looking for (but couldn’t find it), or as a bridge in the conversation with the purpose of avoiding a pause and revealing their insecurities in communicating with other people. Many of us are guilty of using these stop-gaps, both in our native tongue as well as when learning a foreign language. Here are some examples of how they are used in English:

  1. In connection with the picture above, I had my final conversation with my grandmother back in January 2007 about her community’s strive to destroying historic buildings and bridges, including a bridge near her home and a high school that used to be a haven for theatricals. Her reaction to the city’s plan to tear down the high school: “All they want is stuff!”  Difficult to replace stuff with new or modern things, but she was opposed to modernization, fighting all the way up to her death three months later.  Highly spirited woman I admired. 🙂 ❤
  2. A former college classmate goes off on a tangent over a teenager’s excessive use of “like.” Example: “I was like great. We could like meet at like 7:30 at like the theatre. Would you like that?”  Overhearing this in a restaurant, she paints a vivid reaction on facebook.  Geil! 🙂
  3. A college professor stresses the importance of not using thing in a paper and was appalled to see at least 10 of these words in a 25-page paper in English. That student bawled his eyes out while receiving a failing grade, using that as one of the main reasons justifying the need to rewrite it.  The professor was Czech and his student was from Saxony, who had spent time in Iowa as a high school exchange student, by the way. 😉

But the underlying question is which of these stop-gap words are really informal and used for personal communication, and which ones are formal and can be used  for formal purposes as well as for research papers? In connection with a project being conducted at a university in Jena, a question for the forum is being introduced for you to think about. All you need is two minutes of your time to answer the following questions:

frage für das forum

1. Which of these words do you use the most in terms of verbal communication?

 

2. Which of these words do you use the most in terms of written communication?

3. Which of these words do you think are considered stop-gaps and used for informal communication?

4. Which of these words do you think are NOT stop-gaps because of their use in formal communication?

5. Why do you use stop-gap words in English?

For the first two questions, only one word applies; the next two has a limit of five possibilities and the last question has more than one answer possible. Each one has an option where you can add other words and items that are not on the list.  You have until 16 May, 2016 to vote. The results and some exercises will come in June. In case of any questions, please feel free to contact Jason Smith at the Files, using the contact details in the website under About.

The purpose of the questionnaire is to find out how often these stop-gap words are being used and why they are used. Already there have been discussions about this subject and even the author has put together a worksheet on this subject for use in college (that will be presented in the June article). It will help linguists and English teachers find ways to modify the use of stop-gaps and (especially for the latter) encourage students of English to use other alternatives and widen their vocabulary. Interesting is to compare the use of stop-gap words in English with that of other languages, including German- one of the words has been used here in this article.

Can you figure this one out and find the English equivalent? 🙂

 

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