ThyDiurnialGerman – Advent Time Table
“Sounding better with Synonyms“
and welcome back to our epic Advent Calendar, day 15.
And today, I want to talk a little about
Sounding better with synonyms
Or more specifically, I want to give you some advice on how to use synonyms.
Are you ready? Here it comes:
Don’t use synonyms!
Well, okay… this is of course a little over the top, but I do want to make case against synonyms, and I have good reason for it.
You see, there has been this trend in the German learning Youtube-Sphere where people make videos with titles like “Nie wieder machen” or “Schluss mit ja” or “Better than danke“, in which they go over a bunch of alternative phrasings.
Which isn’t that big a deal by itself, but the videos also suggest these alternative phrasings are the better pick, sound more “German” and using the original word is boring.
These videos with these titles get a LOT of clicks and pull tens of thousands of views, and people go away from them thinking that they improved their German. And the problem is…
It is NOT TRUE!
First of all, because the large majority of the supposedly better alternatives are phrasings that only apply in a certain specific context.
But more importantly, because native speakers DO NOT use these synonyms in day to day life, contrary to what these channels would have you believe.
Of course native speakers KNOW all the synonyms and can use them in writing or when giving a speech. But in normal day to day life, people tend to use the default. And if they don’t… they will stand out.
Like… think of that person in school or at work who is like a walking thesaurus and always uses unnecessary synonyms… that’s you when you try to use the suggestions in these videos!
Only that you’ll do it with an accent and probably a couple of small grammar glitches, because you’re not a native speaker. Which makes it twice as awkward and unnatural.
Like… you’re putting a couple of Greek columns next to the entrance door of your run down fixer upper.
And this doesn’t really change even once you approach actual fluency.
Using synonyms will make your German sound WEIRD, not GOOD.
Like… there hasn’t been a single time where I was impressed by a learner using a synonym or a “cool” proverb they learned from a blog or video.
And there has also not been a single time, where I was like
“Gee, this person uses machen and ja and nein all the time and the sentences are so short.”
But there were also many times when I talked to someone or read an email and I was like “Oh man, this person is trying WAY too hard.”
And there have been many when I was impressed by someone just speaking normal idiomatic German.
Synonyms have their place and if you need to write an essay, it’s good to know them.
But they’re not something you need to worry about in daily life, at all. Keep it simple, use basic words and short sentences and strive toward doing that properly. THAT’S what will make you sound native.
And THEN you can start carefully and sparsely sprinkling in synonyms. But be subtle about it.
And be very careful with these videos, some of the suggestions are good, others are straight up garbage and are only in there because the creator needed content.
So… that’s my little rant on synonyms and why you shouldn’t use them (and I’m probably a little strict on the matter).
And now I’m of course curious. Do you watch these videos and take notes? Do you try to use synonyms or make complex sentences because you think Germans do it?
Let me know all your thoughts in the comments, have a marvelous day and I’ll see you tomorrow.