December 24th, 2007

Mistakes in English by native German speakers

I have a German character, around 1920, who emigrates to the US.  His English is fairly good, but not amazing.  My question is, what grammatical mistakes are common amongst Germans speaking English?  I'm specifically referring to things like structure and word use, because writing out a heavy German accent in prose would be rather annoying to the readers, I think.

The knowledge I have so far is:
- use of "become" instead of "get", because of the word 'bekommen' which means 'get' in German.
- differing, more fluid sentence structure, which would lead to sentences that don't actually make sense in English 
- a bunch of specific examples, which are, well, only good for specific examples, of usage of words in not-quite-correct contexts (taken from transcripting conversations with Germans)
- a 24-hour clock, which could lead to confusion.

Any other examples of 'rules' by which mistakes could be made would be extremely helpful!  I'd like to get as many opinions as possible, because sometimes coming up with "if I didn't speak the language so well, what mistakes would I make?" is rather difficult.

ETA: Thanks so much!  You guys definitely gave me loads of stuff to work with. <3

Mourning in European culture

Hi guys

Story setting: Near future London.
Search efforts: Various combinations of 'Europe', 'mourning', 'culture', 'ritual', 'gathering', etc. Also read the relevent Wikipedia articles and checked the memories section here : )
I've also read up on mourning culture in various religions, such as Judaism and Christianity. I've read about shemria in Judaism, where someone stays with the body, but that isn't quite what I'm looking for.

This is one of those 'passing reference' things. We have a group of seven or so people hanging around in an apartment after the death of one of their close friends. It's the middle of the night, and one of them asks why they're all in the same place, seeing as only two of them actually own said apartment. Another character says something like "This is the way people deal with death in (insert European country here)". For clarification: the body isn't in the apartment with them.

My question: in what European countries (if any) is it usual for people to gather in one place directly after a death to wait out the time until the funeral together? These people don't have to be blood relatives, either of each other or of the deceased.

I'm not even sure if this is a common practise anywhere. But I'd be very grateful for anything anyone could tell me, or if anyone could point me in the right direction for further research.

Thank you!

Long distance listening devices & Exams in photography

Two questions:

First question:

I have a question who's listening to a conversation occuring in a cafe.  The listener is outside and I don't really want him using one of those ridiculous looking parabolic listening devices or whatever. I would much prefer something more like the laser microphone. Now, there's the window which is kind of in my way (pun not intended), so... is it plausible to  have him using a laser mic from outside?  Or am I either stuck with the parabolic? If my listener was hiding inside the cafe to listen, would the laser mic be very noticeable? I can't seem to find the useful information on limitations to these devices. I understand it's hard to set up laser mic and such and the vibrations have to right, but...I don't really get technology. And the character doesn't have time to set up any listening devices at the table beforehand. but...meh...ideas?

Second question:

Another character of mine is a photography student (oh how cliche, I know, I know, please spare me haha anyway...) so what kind of courses would he take and what kind of questions would appear on exams in these courses? I've found things on course and course details, but I  have no idea what questions actually are given by professors. (These don't necessarily have to be bound to photography, any info on art students and paper exams would help!)

Thank you in advance to anyone that points me in the right direction. *A thousand kisses from Madrid!*

P.S. question to mods: what tag does this belong to?