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Superheld des Monats – Don't grill me on it. Von


He’s a fixer, a doer, a mechanic of sorts. But he doesn’t work with engines or machinery, rather the broken parts of the English language. 

Dave Grill is one of those trainers whose “can do” attitude saw him relocate from the U.S. to Germany at age 45 and start a brand new career from scratch.  Dave joined NATIVES in 2007 and has not looked back since. 

An English trainer, proof reader and editor, Dave welds his linguistic and people skills resulting from years of teaching, and working in businesses such as warehousing together to provide much more than a ‘language’ class: it is a hybrid lesson in learning, linguistics, psychology and philosophy. 

Dave’s linguistics passion also stems from the linguistics courses he studied at Marburg University when he came to Germany. For him the passion in teaching language comes from looking at language as ‘language mediation’, which is an organic process. “You can’t drink from the word ‘cup’ but you can drink from the cup.” So is it fair to say that learning and teaching languages is not a monolithic process?  “I tell my students that it is a mistake to think that there is an English word for every German word. For example, Sehnsucht in German and saudade (longing for something ) in Portuguese do not really have a direct English correlation, it is not one-to-one”, says Dave. Testament to Dave’s NATIVES nickname, “Syntaxman” he is currently reading Ray Jackendoff’s seminal book “Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution”. 

Coming from a country such as the US, which was built by immigrants, and from its heterogeneous culture has lent itself extremely well to being able to work in such a multicultural team at NATIVES.  Dave notes, however, how impossible it is for many English-speaking expats in Germany “to turn off their cultural perceptions”. 

For Dave, the biggest difference between German speakers and English speakers is the way in which they communicate. While the cultures are very similar, Germans are “more geradeaus”. Dave gives the great example of that stock standard German phrase “Das geht nicht” (that is not possible) by remarking that no English speaker in a business meeting would utter such a phrase.  “English speakers are more circumlocutive and would say instead ‘That’s a great idea, maybe that can work, we need to see if that can work in the future’. We apologise for things more often and Germans are more straight-forward, at least in North Hesse compared with say, southern Germany.” 

Dave loves good ‘cawfee’ and enjoys cooking slow-cooked food such as chilli con carne or feijoada (a Portuguese bean stew).

This article was written by guest author, Petra Zlatevska.

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