I think the awkwardness is that English has a lot of German roots and thus German sounds like people at a Renaissance faire faking old-timey speech. "I am called not Hans, rather Karl." (Works especially well with du phrases if you translate them as thou: "Hast thou thirst?")
I agree with you markbooth. These exercises are good for learning how the Germans construct their way of saying it. In English, we would drop the sondern altogether. I would never say "My name isn't Hans, but Karl." I would say "My name isn't Hans. It's Karl." or it could be said the way you suggest, but what works in German with sondern is not only awkward in English, it's simply not used the same way by native English speakers.
NB: One uses sondern only if the antecedent is negated.
Leaving aside the whole "ich heisse" doesn't literally mean "my name is"--the purpose of this exercise is to teach us a contrasting conjunction, so you have to use a conjunction in the translation. In this case, the conjunction is "but" or "but rather." (You still couldn't use "but rather it's Karl" because that's not what the German says.) The object isn't to translate into the most colloquial form of speech, just as it isn't always to translate literally. The object is to use the best possible English that still keeps the intent of the German clear--even if it sounds a little clunky to us. Eventually, the goal is not to be translating at all, but to be thinking in German.
English isn't my native language, but I have found such examples in Internet: "I am called not to comfort or success but to obedience", "I am called, not to serve myself, but to serve others", "I am called not to be preoccupied with the world", "I am called not just as an individual but as a member of a community".
May I say "I'm called not Hans, but Karl"? Or phrase "I'm called not..." is used only for religious texts?
Okay, the literal translation, word-for-word, is Ich heiße nicht X... = “ I am not called X..”. However, a conversational equivalent expression in English (that is, what people in real life actually say) would be, “My name is not X...”. Literal translation sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t. Not every sentence or expression can be directly translated into another language.
Please read through the comments in future, as this has already been asked answered:
We use keine before nouns
Yes, that is correct, however "kein" is essentially equivalent to "nicht ein" or "not a", which is why we use "nicht" here and not "kein". Essentially with "kein" you would be saying:
"I am not called a Hans, but Karl!"
When looking at a translation, it's almost always better to try and look at the big picture rather than translate word for word.
The most literal translation of the German sentence (whilst remaining correct strictly from an English speaking perspective) is the following:
I am not called Hans, but Karl!
Here we can match up the German sentence to the English quite well, which would look something like the following:
- Ich = I
- heiße = am [...] called
- nicht = not
- Hans = Hans
- sondern = but
- Karl = Karl
Now, once we have our literal translation, we can look at the English sentence and see if there is a more natural way of wording it. Typically "one's name is" is more common than "to be called", and as the two sentences:
My name is not Hans, but Karl!
I am not called Hans, but Karl!
Are identical in meaning, it can then be accepted that the preferred translation of the German translation uses the "one's name is" construction, rather than the "to be called" construction; which doesn't allow for a literal, word-for-word translation.
That's why I would always recommend having some flexibility and using your intuition when working on a translation, because remember; German doesn't and shouldn't cater to making sense from an English speaking perspective, nor vice versa.
Apologies for the delayed response.
Yes. I would put it several rungs below my two suggestions in terms of frequency (i.e. how often you would expect to hear a native/fluent speaker say the sentence), but it is perfectly acceptable English, and a great example of what a German sentence can sound like when "nicht" is placed directly in front of an object, rather than at the end. This isn't actually the best sentence for this from a German language perspective, but I think it can be extrapolated quite nicely.
If we take the three different sentences from our comments, and remove "but Karl" from the ends, we get the following:
- My name is not Hans.
- I am not called Hans. &
- I am called not Hans.
The first two, sound fine or 'complete' as they are, and, as a listener, I don't feel the need for additional information, or have the expectation that the speaker is going to add anything further. The same cannot be said for the last sentence. At best, it sounds incomplete, at worst, it sounds as if the speaker is announcing that his name is "Not-Hans". As in "Hello, Not-Hans Knoblauch, but you can just call me Not-Hans".
It's this 'incompleteness' that often gets unknowingly transported, when people misplace "nicht".
If we take a sentence in English like "Don't eat the pudding.", a lot of learners might be tempted to translate that to:
Iss nicht den Nachtisch.
Which has the same feeling of incompleteness as the sentence "Eat not the pudding" (without the Shakespearian feel, however). Both sentences need an 'answer':
Iss nicht den Nachtisch, sondern die Vorspeise.
Eat not the pudding, but the starter.
And this 'answer', this "but", will always be "sondern" in German. Always.
To neutralise this incompleteness, we could also just move "nicht" to the end:
Iss den Nachtisch nicht (weil da Gift drin ist).
Don't eat the pudding.
Apologies for the essay, Eric. This wasn't aimed at you, your sentence just made me realise that we also have sentences that sound incomplete if "not" is placed directly before the object it is negating. Thanks!
Agreed, but the point of this exercise is to help us know when to translate "but" to "sondern" rather than "aber", and with your more natural sentence, we lose that opportunity altogether.
Obviously the ideal solution would be to have used another sentence with "sondern" that does translate naturally to English; but unfortunately we can't always get what we want.
Okay, regarding this particular sentence I would say with "aber" it simply sounds incomplete. Whenever you want to say "not this BUT this", then "sondern" is always your choice. With "aber" this sentence would only work with something like this (in my mind):
„Ich heiße nicht Hans, aber Karl, der wird immer Kevin genannt!“
"I'm not called Hans, but Karl, he always gets called Kevin!"
So, hopefully you can see that "aber" is used to kind of move away and make another point, whereas "sondern" tells you exactly what the "right answer" is, right after telling you the "wrong answer".
Though it's pretty contrived (and I certainly wouldn't call it 100% natural) I hope it gives a better idea of the difference between "aber" and "sondern"; at least regarding this particular sentence.
I think it's a bit strong to say it doesn't make sense, but I agree, that "...it is Karl." is better than "...but Karl." -- or more specifically -- it's what I'd be more likely to say (if my name were Karl and someone had just called me Hans), and what I'd expect to hear more often.
However, it wasn't until I read your comment that I even thought about that wording, so from my perspective it really isn't a big deal.
That is certainly not wrong, as the convention is to use "ss" where "ß" isn't available, and is in fact the way it would be written in Standard Swiss German, as they don't use "ß" at all.
However, I wonder if they marked it wrong because they offer those buttons near the text box for the special characters. That would be a new precedent, as I always thought they allowed the conventions for avoiding the special characters, but who knows.
To quote myself in response to a similar comment on this thread:
I am not called Hans, rather Karl : marked wrong, please can someone explain why?
It sounds a little odd to my ears, and I certainly wouldn't use it, but if a significant English-speaking populus would, then it should be reported and accepted accordingly.
The third time in succession, or have you tried that answer over a longer span of time (like weeks or months)? I can only think that an answer that was marked wrong at the beginning of an exercise and right at the end would be due to a bug.
On another note, do you know if there was a note mentioning there was a typo in your answer? As using a "C" instead of a "K" at the beginning of "Karl" is only one letter, they usually let those answers through when the rest of the answer is correct, with the mention that there was a typo in your answer.