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Technisches Englisch (16)


Everybody has something to repair. Before buying new, call your sparky.
Everybody has something to repair. Before buying new, call your sparky.

Lucy: Uncle Jack, someone has left a message on the answerphone. A lady wants you to stop by at her home to check on some things like her oven and a floor lamp she canʼt assemble. She sounded pretty desperate.

Jack: Oh, certain women always sound desperate when somethingʼs wrong with their household appliances. I think they do that on principle to make it very urgent for us to stop by. Who is it?

Lucy: It was Mrs Brown. She said that you know her and her address.

Jack: Oh yes, I know her indeed. You could get the impression that with her everything is always a matter of life and death. And the thing is that she always stands next to you and wants to know exactly whatʼs going on and expects you to explain everything in great detail. But Iʼll hop right into my van and see whether sheʼs at home now and what I can do for her. I need to go into town anyway and so I might be back before midnight.

Lucy: That sounds rather time-consuming. Good luck with Mrs Brown, Uncle Jack.   When Jack arrives at Mrs Brownʼs house, she is very happy to see him.

Mrs Brown: Oh, the sparky, how wonderful Jack that youʼve found the time to stop by. I didnʼt expect to see you so soon. It was only this morning that I left the message on your answerphone.

Jack: You were lucky that my niece Lucy retrieved the message and so I thought Iʼd come and take a look on my way into town. So, tell me, whatʼs up?

Mrs Brown: Iʼm really sorry Jack, but this time I have several devices that are worrying me. First of all, the lighting in my oven doesnʼt work. I would have asked my husband to take a look, but heʼs all fingers and thumbs and couldnʼt do anything anyway. But except for the lighting, the oven works perfectly all right.

Jack: Letʼs have a look what weʼve got here. Itʼs most likely a defect light bulb. Oh, I see, itʼs a rectangular oven lamp in the left oven wall.

Mrs Brown: Could you explain to me how to do it, Jack, so that I could replace it myself next time?

Jack: Of course, I can. We must isolate the oven from the mains, first of all. And be careful not to put any weight on the oven door. So, Iʼm hanging out the left oven runner as you can see. And now Iʼm unclipping the protective glass carefully from the support. The next step is replacing the bulb and pressing the protective glass into place again. Last but not least, Iʼm fixing the oven runner again. Here you go! By the way, you can find such heat-resistant bulbs in electronic specialist shops.

Mrs Brown: Good to know this. I couldnʼt even find the light in the oven when I was looking inside.

Jack: Thatʼs why I always have a torch with me.

Mrs Brown: Well, you know, nowadays itʼs so hard to tell whether something is worth being repaired or not. Our kids, for example, treat most of their belongings as practically disposable. They donʼt think twice about tossing and replacing it. And this also applies to expensive gadgets like their mobile phones. They always tell me that nothing is made for eternity and that the overall battery life of mobile phones is limited so that people have to invest their money again and again in new ones. Isnʼt this a crazy world?

Jack: Couldnʼt agree more.  I think there should be minimum product quality and durability standards and perhaps tax relief should be offered on long-lasting and easy-to-repair products as a measure against premature obsolescence. Consequently consumers, on the other hand, should also buy more sustainable, that is long-lasting and easy-to-repair products. But in my opinion thatʼs still a long way to go.

Mrs Brown: But how can I tell whether something is a long-lasting product or not?

Jack: Iʼd suggest that you look at the price which is often a good indicator of the productʼs durability. Such appliances, of course, have a higher price. Or look at the guarantee period and what types of repair are covered. You might also think about an extended warranty for the appliance. Itʼs mostly cheaper to repair high-end appliances than to buy a new one apart from being eco-friendlier. If the guarantee or legal warranty period has expired, itʼs worth getting in touch with someone like me to find out how much a repair would cost. This could also be cheaper than having it repaired by the manufacturerʼs customer service center.

Mrs Brown: But what about cheaper products and their repair when theyʼre out of warranty?

Jack: There is a so-called 50-percent rule that you might want to apply when deciding on whether to repair or to replace. This rule says that if an appliance is more than 50 percent through its life span and the cost of the repair is more than 50 percent of the cost of buying new, then you should replace it. The life expectancy number, however, very often varies for different appliances.

Mrs Brown: I see what you mean, Jack. Iʼm glad to have you in the neighbourhood, who can stop by any time for some advice or repair if necessary. Look at this floor lamp here. Iʼve wanted to have one for such a long time and so I bought it the other day when I saw it in a store. But now I find it really hard to assemble. Understanding the instruction manual is already very complicated. So, I thought you might be faster doing this for me.

Jack: Youʼre very lucky, Mrs Brown, that I donʼt have any more appointments today, otherwise I would have to take it to my workshop to assemble it. But letʼs see what I can do. First of all, let me remove the parts from the box and its packaging. Here are the lamp head, the gooseneck and lamp shaft in the plastic protective pieces, the lamp base, power cord as well as the plug, the parabolic grid diffuser, the bulb and last but not least the switch together with the screws and tightening tools.

Mrs Brown: What a lot of pieces, but let me have a look now at how you assemble all that so that I could do the next one when this one has to be replaced one day.

Jack: Good idea, Mrs Brown, Iʼll try to explain it in every detail so that youʼll be able to still remember it in a couple of years. (Chuckles) First of all, Iʼm setting the lamp base on the floor and Iʼm inserting the lamp shaft over the base support part until the screw holes line up. Now Iʼm inserting the screw and using the tightening tool to turn it clockwise for tightening. Next, Iʼm attaching the lamp head gooseneck to the shaft, tucking the wire into the shaft until the screw holes line up here as well. And again Iʼm inserting the screw and using the tightening tool for turning it clockwise. For attaching the parabolic grid diffuser, Iʼm now removing the protective plastic bag, Iʼm inserting the plastic pegs at the bottom of the grid diffuser into the openings near the bulb socket. The last step is snapping the tab into place. If you now plug the lamp into the outlet, we can turn it on and see if it works.

Mrs Brown: Oh yes, let me do this, Iʼll just have to move it over there.

Jack: Wait a minute, donʼt lift the lamp by the gooseneck. Lift it by the shaft, please.

Mrs Brown: Oh Jack, come on, I know this. Look, how bright it is. Wonderful, well-done!

Jack: Iʼm glad you like it. Here in the instruction manual you can see some troubleshooting tips and you also have a three-year limited warranty for it. So, keep the invoice because when thereʼs a defect in materials and workmanship within these three years from the invoice date, the company will repair or replace defective parts at no charge to you. This, of course, does not include any damage, defect or failure resulting from accidents or if you destroy it externally, modify it or misuse the lamp.

Mrs Brown: What are these troubleshooting tips all about?

Jack: Well, these are mostly a reminder to always check the simple things first before calling for help. There is an old saying: ʻWhen you see hoof prints, look for horses, not zebrasʼ. In the case of this lamp here it means, for example, is it plugged in and does the receptacle have power? Or if the bulb wonʼt come on, how old is the bulb, is the bulb connected securely to the socket or has the plug come loose perhaps.

Mrs Brown: Oh, thank you so much, Jack. What I like about your service is that you always take the time to explain things to me. Youʼre a really patient person. I know some people who donʼt regard this as a matter of course.

Jack: Thatʼs no problem, Mrs Brown, if Iʼm not too busy. So, you were really lucky today.    



Last time we started with the Present Simple which is used to talk about habits, things that happen regularly, facts, laws of nature, schedules and timetables. Todayʼs subject is the Present Continuous/Progressive (Verlaufsform der Gegenwart).

  • Forming of the Present Continuous/Progressive:
  • For most verbs: the present simple of ʻto beʼ = ʻamʼ/ ʻisʼ/ ʻareʼ + verb + ʻ-ingʼ
  • I am ( Iʼm) working at the moment.
  • For verbs ending in ʻ-e ʼ, drop (weglassen) the ʻ-e ʼ + ʻ-ingʼ
  • Heʼ s writing a letter now.
  • For some verbs, double the final consonant (Mitlaut/Konsonant am Ende) + ʻ -ing ʼ
  • We are stopping this now.
  • They are currently travelling to Austria.

Negative sentences and questions:

  • For negative sentences: ʻnot ʼ has to be used.
  • I am not (Iʼm not) working at the moment, Iʼm driving home.
  • He is not (he isnʼt) writing a letter.
  • We are not (arenʼt) going home now.
  • For questions only the word order (Wortreihenfolge) has to be changed.
  • Are you having lunch at the moment?
  • Why are you going home now?
  • Arenʼt you watching TV?

Use the Present Continuous/Progressive:

  1. to talk about events that are happening now.
    • Iʼm now plugging in the cord.
    • Are they currently meeting a new customer?
    • He isnʼt telephoning, heʼs talking to the boss.
  2. to talk about events that are happening in the current period (jetziger Zeitraum).
    • Iʼm reading a book by Grisham. (Ich lese derzeit ein Buch von Grisham)
    • Is he learning a new programming language?
    • They arenʼt doing an internship this month.
  3. to talk about fixed arrangements (feste Vereinbarungen) in the future.
    • Iʼm flying to New York tomorrow.
    • Weʼre meeting next week to sign the contract.
    • What are you doing tonight? We are going to the theatre.

Fixed arrangements can be social or travel arrangements where it is necessary to buy plane tickets, make an appointment for a meeting or buy theatre tickets for example before the event. Watch out! So-called stative verbs (Zustandsverben) are mostly not used in the continuous form, because they donʼt describe an action but more a state or something permanent. Such stative verbs are: like, love, hate, want, need, know, understand, remember, seem.

  • I love animals.
  • They want to buy a new car.
  • She understands the situation very well.

Signal words for the Present Continuous: currently, now, at the moment, today, listen!, look! etc.

Signal words for the Present Simple: always, never, often, sometimes, usually, regularly, every year, on Sundays etc.  

Comparison of Present Simple and Continuous

  • What do you do? (Was machen Sie beruflich?)
  • Iʼm an electrician. I do repairs and maintenance.
  • What is he doing? (Was macht er gerade?)
  • Heʼs assembling a lamp for one of his customers.
  • I usually go to the cinema on Friday (habit = Gewohnheit), but this weekend Iʼm visiting my parents. (fixed arrangement)
  • Listen! Someone is playing the piano. (current situation)
  • Yes, itʼs Mary, she always plays at this time of the day. (regular activity)
  • Iʼm learning Spanish (current period of time), but it seems to be a difficult language. (seem = stative verb).

So much for today. You can find more exercises for practising on the many websites for English learners on the internet. Simply enter, for example, ʻexercises Present Simple or Continuousʼ, youʼll get many results. Donʼt forget: practice makes perfect! And itʼs a good idea to also practise the easier things. In this way, you already know them when itʼll get more complicated perhaps. So, stay tuned!  

Vokabelliste »Troubleshooting«

zu Teil 17                

Über die Autorin
Sabine Barz

English communication-skills trainer


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