When I look at websites of German companies, I can generally tell if a native speaker wrote the English version. One of the most common mistakes made by Germans when writing in English is the use of reflexive pronouns. 

Überzeugen Sie sich selbst von den Vorteilen unseres Produktes. 

Convince yourself of the benefits of our product. 

As a fluent German speaker, I know that the original version was ‘Überzeugen Sie sich’, but in English, we don’t use reflexive pronouns in this way (mich, sich, dich, euch). A reflexive pronoun is used with a reflexive verb. In the above example, ‘convince’ is the reflexive verb and ‘yourself’ is the reflexive pronoun. 

You probably learned in school that we don’t say ‘I wash me my hands’, and I’ve rarely heard a German use simple verbs such as wash, sit, or annoy with a reflexive pronoun. Weirdly though, some words such as ‘convince’ are often used in this way on German websites. 


Ahh, Deepl!

When I read ‘convince yourself’ on a German website, I presume that the company used machine translation or a German translator for their English texts.

How to use ‘convince correctly

You can convince yourself of something, such as ‘I convinced myself that I could be a successful pop singer, but I had to admit that I was wrong’. I’d translate this sentence as ‘ich habe mir eingeredet, dass …‘.

But ‘Convince yourself of the benefits of our product‘ – that is simply wrong.

Ok, so maybe most of your customers aren’t native speakers of English, so it might not matter. But even then – from a marketing perspective, it’s not ideal. A customer reading the above sentence would think, ‘Why should I convince myself. That’s your job to convince me!’

Use convince in a way to actually convince your prospects

Here’s how I would write that sentence – and what I’d add to make it more persuasive.

Find out how our product helps you save time and money when creating and publishing content for your website.

I’ve spelled out what the product helps the customer do (create and publish content), and I’ve been specific about the benefit (save time and money).

Follow my LinkedIn Newsletter

I chose the name of my LinkedIn newsletter – Verloren in Übersetzung – quite deliberately, my tongue firmly in my cheek. (For non-native speakers, ‘tongue in cheek’ is a humourous or sarcastic statement that is said in a serious way but isn’t meant to be taken seriously.) The literal translation of idioms always amuses me. 

So, if you understand only train station, follow my newsletter to bring your English to the foreman.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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