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30 German Proverbs and Idioms to Speak Like a Native

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Proverbs are popular sayings that provide a little dose of wisdom—a truth that is, sometimes, so obvious that it’s overlooked. 

If you really want your language skills to shine, knowing some popular German proverbs is a great way to start. And of course, it will also help you fit in with the German locals and better understand their culture!

The German City of Bremen

In Germany, there’s a great variety of wisdom-infusing sayings—whether we’re talking about a lot of sausages, some bears and rabbits running around in forests, or some serious-sounding, deep stuff! 

As we say, “There is no time like the present.” So let’s get to it. These thirty popular German proverbs will add versatility and color to your spoken language, so that even locals will mistake you for a native.


Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. 6 Funny German Proverbs
  2. 8 German Proverbs About Food and Drinks
  3. 6 German Proverbs Related to Nature
  4. 10 Beautifully Wise German Proverbs
  5. Conclusion

1. 6 Funny German Proverbs

Let’s face it, Germans are not known for being the most humorous people in the world… I can assure you, though, that they do have some pretty funny proverbs they like to use! 

Laughter is the best medicine,” we say in English, so let’s start by having a look at some lighthearted German-language proverbs and idioms!

Wer rastet, der rostet.

Literal translation: He who rests grows rusty.
English equivalent: You snooze, you lose.

To remain true to their engineering and car-building reputation, when Germans get lazy or inactive…they get rusty! This will make it harder to start being productive again. 

Krummes Holz gibt auch gerades Feuer.

Literal translation: Crooked logs also make straight fires.

If you’re cold during the German winter, crooked logs will be just fine…no need to find perfect ones. So stop looking for perfection and make do with what’s available!

People with Christmas socks getting warm in front of a fire

Des Teufels liebstes Möbelstück ist die lange Bank.

Literal translation: The devil’s favorite piece of furniture is the long bench.
English equivalent: Never leave until tomorrow what you can do today.

In German, to put something “on the long bench” means to put it off until later. This proverb warns us to be careful about procrastination, because you don’t want to mess with the devil’s favorite piece of furniture!

It also has an alternative version, closer to the English equivalent: Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen. (Literally: “What you can get done today, don’t move it until tomorrow.”) 

Selbst ist der Mann. / Selbst ist die Frau.

A Man Holding a Drill

Literal translation: Self is the man. / Self is the woman.
English equivalent: Self do, self have.

This is your proverb if you like DIY. Say it to yourself (or to a friend) after you’ve managed to do something without help from anyone. It’s pretty empowering!

Ich kriege so eine Krawatte. / Ich kriege so (dicken) einen Hals.

Literal translation: I get such a tie! / I get such (thick) a neck.
English equivalent: It really annoys me / winds me up!

Both variants are often accompanied by the gesture of putting a hand around one’s own neck.

In Germany, apparently, you get a necktie or a thick neck when something annoys you. Personally, I do understand the comparison…do you?

Bis über beide Ohren verliebt sein.

Literal translation: To be over both ears in love!
English equivalent: To be head over heels in love.

Just change the head and heels for both of your ears, and it means you’ve found someone really, really special!

2. 8 German Proverbs About Food and Drinks

Food might not be the first thing you think about when planning a trip to Germany, but the country has as much of a food culture as anywhere else in Europe. The cuisine is tasty, original, and different in every region.

A Plate of German Food

As you can imagine, you’ll find a lot of sausage-related idioms. But you’ll also find German food proverbs talking about cookies, soups, and (of course) beer! 

Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen.

Literal translation: To play the offended liver sausage.

This one could actually have been in the previous section, but here it is: If you’re behaving like an offended liver sausage, it means you’re throwing a tantrum or overreacting to something. The good thing is that being called a liver sausage might make you forget what you were on about, and just laugh it out!

Der Hunger kommt beim Essen.

Literal translation: Appetite emerges while eating.

According to this proverb, you’ll only realize how hungry you are after you’ve started eating. But the proverb can apply to other things, too. For example, do you want to learn German but don’t feel so hungry for it? Start learning and the appetite will come!

Sich die Wurst vom Brot nehmen lassen

Literal translation: To let someone take the sausage off your bread

This is a warning to stand up for yourself. Don’t let anyone take the sausage off your bread. You’re too good to be taken advantage of. 

Das ist mir Wurst.

Literal translation: That is sausage to me.

I warned you about the sausage content, so don’t complain. If something is ‘sausage to you,’ it means you couldn’t care less about it! (Which is strange, as Germans do seem to care about sausages…)

Um den heißen Brei herumreden

Literal translation: To talk around the hot soup/porridge
English equivalent: To beat around the bush

Well, what do you do when the soup’s hot and you can’t eat it just yet? This phrase is used when someone is talking and talking, without ever getting to the point. 

Du gehst mir auf den Keks.

Literal translation: You’re getting on my cookies.
English equivalent: You’re getting on my nerves.

Use this phrase when someone annoys you, as if you were eating a cookie and they tried to take it out of your hands!

Das ist nicht mein Bier.

Beer in a Mug

Literal translation: That’s not my beer.
English equivalent: That’s not my business.

This phrase is used when you don’t want to get involved in something you have nothing to do with. Not your beer, not your problem!

Dienst ist Dienst und Schnaps ist Schnaps.

Literal translation: Work is work and liquor is liquor.

Germans are known to be very diligent workers…but there’s no mixing of business and pleasure! Everything has its time. So work hard, play hard!

3. 6 German Proverbs Related to Nature 

If you’ve been to Germany, you’ll certainly know how important it is for the locals to spend some time in touch with nature. This is reflected in the proverbs they use in their daily lives. 

Bears, horses, rabbits, and forests…here we come!

Da steppt der Bär.

A Black Bear in a Tree

Literal translation: There steps the bear.

You can use this phrase when referring to a party you really want to go to. If even the bears will start dancing, it means it’s gonna be good! Be careful, though, as it’s often used sarcastically!

Wenn der Reiter nichts taugt, ist das Pferd schuld.

Literal translation: If the rider is no good, it’s the horse’s fault.
English equivalent: A bad workman always blames his tools.

Someone who has done their job poorly will always try to blame it on outside circumstances (in this case, poor horses), rather than admit their lack of skills. 

Wer zwei Hasen auf einmal jagt bekommt keinen.

Literal translation: He who chases two rabbits at once will catch none.
English equivalent: He who follows two hares catches neither.

Concentrate on one task at a time, or you’ll end up not doing either of them properly.

Kümmere Dich nicht um ungelegte Eier.

Literal translation: Don’t worry about eggs that haven’t been laid yet.
English equivalent: Don’t cross your bridges before you come to them.

In other words, don’t worry about problems before they arrive. Be them eggs or bridges, just chill for now. 

Du siehst den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht.

Literal translation: You don’t see the forest for all the trees.

Several Trees in the Forest

This is something along the lines of the Zen proverb: “When the sage points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger.” Look beyond and see the bigger picture! And also, don’t think too much; just see what’s there, the obvious!

Bäume wachsen nicht in den Himmel.

Literal translation: No trees grow into the sky. 

This German saying suggests that there are natural limits to growth and improvement. So actually, don’t reach for the sky…

4. 10 Beautifully Wise German Proverbs

This is the longest list, so let’s admit it: Germans are pretty wise. Yes, they like to be funny sometimes, enjoy their food and drink, and love to spend time in nature. But when it comes to philosophical statements, they have no rivals! 

After all, German philosophers and thinkers are some of the most famous around the world. It’s easy to see why, if they’ve grown up repeating these beautiful German sayings. 

Let’s look at some of these German proverbs and their meanings in English. (Although they just sound wiser spoken in German!)

Aller Anfang ist schwer.

Literal translation: All beginnings are hard.

This one is pretty self-explanatory: Beginnings can be very hard, but it will get easier.

Anfangen ist leicht, Beharren eine Kunst.

A Man Studying Late at Night

Literal translation: Starting is easy, persistence is an art.

Hmm…apparently, starting can be the easy part and keeping it up the hard bit. Let’s say it depends on the situation! 

Man muss die Dinge nehmen, wie sie kommen.

Literal translation: You have to take things the way they come.

We all know life never happens exactly as we expect it to. So relax, and try to accept whatever comes. Make the best of it, rather than always wishing for things to be different. 

Übung macht den Meister.

Literal translation: Practice is what makes a master.
English equivalent: Practice makes perfect.

Practice, practice, practice! It’s the only way to master virtually anything. 

Wer A sagt, muss auch B sagen.

Literal translation: He who says A also has to say B.

If you commit to something, commit all the way!

Taten sagen mehr als Worte.

Literal translation: Actions say more than words.
English equivalent: Actions speak louder than words.

In German, actions don’t necessarily speak louder…they’re just more chatty!

Aus Schaden wird man klug.

Literal translation: Failure makes smart.

Nobody likes to screw up, but failure is necessary for learning. If you don’t make mistakes, you’ll never get better!

Das Billige ist immer das Teuerste.

Literal translation: The cheapest is always the most expensive.

This is a philosophical way of inviting you to invest in quality, and not only in terms of money. If something is too cheap or too easy to get, it will probably end up costing you much more later on!

Erst denken, dann handeln.

Literal translation: First think, then act.

Wise and clear. Think before you act!

Gut Ding will Weile haben.

Literal translation: Good things take time.

If you’re an impatient person, we have bad news for you. Germans believe that if you want something to be done well, you need to wait for it. In other words: take your time, enjoy the process, and don’t rush things! 

5. Conclusion

“All good things must come to an end.”

But it’s not really the end, is it? There’s so much more to learn about the German language! 

As they say, “Practice makes perfect.” So keep practicing your German skills on GermanPod101.com! With all the features we offer (podcasts, videos with transcriptions, word lists, a dictionary, and more), you’ll pick up this beautiful and interesting language in no time. 

And remember: What makes a master? Practice, practice, practice!

Which of these German proverbs or idioms is your favorite, and why? Let us know in the comments!

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Visit Berlin: The Top 10 Places to Walk, Learn, and Relax

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Have you ever visited a city filled with an eclectic mix of cultures, history, and wonderful sights, as well as a vibrant creative life? If the answer is no, then you should start thinking about a trip to the German capital. Even John F. Kennedy, the U.S. President, loved it! 

“All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’ [I am a Berliner!]”

But really, why should you visit Berlin? Imagine a hub of history, art, music, and graffiti that attracts millions of tourists annually. Sounds pretty good, right? Follow our Berlin travel guide and rest assured you’ll have an incredible experience. 

We’ll keep it short by describing only the top ten places to visit in Berlin (but don’t worry, you’ll get a bit of everything).

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Table of Contents
  1. When to Visit Berlin
  2. What to Visit in Berlin
  3. Survival German
  4. Conclusion

When to Visit Berlin

In addition to choosing the best sites to visit in Berlin, it’s essential to pick the right season! 

Winters can be really chilly (quite literally freezing!), so the best time to visit Berlin is from May to October. But if freezing temperatures don’t scare you, you can also visit Berlin in winter to experience the lovely capital city during Christmas!

Try to travel during May or June if you want long summer days and more clement weather. September and October will be ideal if you prefer less-crowded museums and streets! 

What to Visit in Berlin

One last thing before we head to our Berlin travel guide: 

Before starting your Berlin adventures (with your shiny-new German vocab), keep in mind that the city is huge! 

It’s five times bigger than Paris (even though it has only a quarter of the population) and, since it was divided for so long, there are a lot of mini-centers scattered throughout the city… It can take up to thirty or forty-five minutes to travel from place to place, so plan your days well!

Without further ado, here’s our list of the best places to visit in Berlin.

1. Museum Island

The Museum Island (Museumsinsel in German) is a complex located in the historical middle of the city—the Mitte—on the northern part of the Spree Island. As you can guess by its name, the island is home to multiple world-renowned museums, including the Pergamon Museum, Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Bode Museum, and the Alte Nationalgalerie. This makes it one of the most instructive and interesting places to visit in Berlin. 

If you like learning about history, archaeology, and art, you could spend a whole week wandering around this amazing complex of museums in Berlin, which is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Mitte, even though it’s very touristy (and not the most authentic location in Berlin) still offers a bit of everything. Once you’re done checking out the museums, you can stop by one of the area’s cafes or restaurants for a quick bite and caffeine boost, shop for souvenirs to take home, or check out the local clubs.

While there, you can also visit the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), which is located right next to the Altes Museum. Like so many other buildings in Berlin, a bomb destroyed it during WWII. However, its restoration started in 1975 and, even though it took a good while (it was only completed in 2002), the result is surely impressive! You can enjoy its façade, navigate its immense interior, or even climb up to the dome to marvel at the beautiful sights of central Berlin from above.

2. The Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstatte Berliner Mauer)

You can’t go to the German capital without paying a visit to the Berlin Wall…or at least what’s left of it! The Berlin Wall divided the city in two for twenty-eight years until it was finally brought down in 1989. 

One of the most famous places to visit in Berlin, the Memorial at Bernauer Strasse is an open-air exhibition that chronicles the wall’s history and displays an entire mile of the original wall. Here, you’ll learn about how the wall divided the capital and affected its citizens.

3. East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery

If the Berlin Wall Memorial wasn’t enough, and you want to learn more about the history of this city and the wall that shaped the lives of its citizens for almost thirty years, I strongly suggest that you also visit the East Side Gallery. 

Here you’ll find the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin wall…but it’s not just a wall anymore! It has become one of the world’s largest open-air galleries. 

Its colorful artworks, painted right on the wall by a huge range of international artists, are based on themes of freedom, anti-oppression, and political satire, bringing recent history to life. 

The gallery is located in an open public space and it’s accessible at all times. Just behind the gallery, you’ll find a small lawnfield with access to the Spree River, where you can take a rest after your exhausting day.  This area is definitely one of the best sites to visit in Berlin!

4. Brandenburg Gate

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

The Brandenburg Gate (Branderburger Tor) was once a gate into the city. Today, it’s one of the top attractions in Berlin and a great emblem of peace. 

Designed in 1791, the Neoclassical gate stands 26 meters (about 85 feet) high and was inspired by the acropolis of Athens. The original sculpture was actually destroyed during World War II, and then replaced in 1969 by an exact replica made in West Germany. 

The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most important symbols of Berlin and it offers one of the best views of the city, by both day and night.

The Brandenburg Gate is located at the Pariser Platz (Paris Square), where you can find many embassies. Directly next to the Brandenburg Gate, you’ll find the American and French embassies; go farther down the street, and you’ll also come across Russian and British embassies. 

Also, fans of pop music can visit the Adlon Kempinski Hotel, located right in front of the Brandenburg Gate. This is where Michael Jackson once presented his youngest child to the public.

5. Unten Der Linden

This boulevard, the name of which literally translates as “under the Linden trees,” is one of the main arteries and favorite avenues of Berlin. 

Brandenburg Gate is the perfect starting point to visit this avenue, which stretches for 1.5 km (just under a mile) to reach Schlossbrücke (Castle Bridge). Some of the city’s most important buildings and landmarks are located in the area.

You can take a blissful walk along the boulevard, which will take you through Pariser Platz. You’ll find the magnificent Neue Wache and the public square Bebelplatz, which is home to the Berlin State Opera, the Humboldt University of Berlin, and the Roman Catholic St. Hedwig’s Cathedral. Next, you’ll reach Schlossbrücke, a bridge that leads to Museum Island.

6. Mauerpark

A Large Karaoke Event at Mauerpark

If you’re visiting Berlin over the weekend, Mauerpark is a destination you shouldn’t miss. Every Sunday, Berlin’s most famous Flohmarkt (flea market) takes place here, filled with antics, used clothes, hip brands, and food tracks offering food from all around the world! 

If you’re lucky, you’ll also experience an open-air karaoke at the amphitheatre located next to the flea market, where people gather to sing their favorite songs in front of dozens of people. If you’re not interested in karaoke, you can also listen to professional musicians practicing and playing throughout the park.

It’s a great place to go, even if you can’t make it on Sunday. On sunny days, the park is usually full of people having picnics, spraying graffiti, or playing basketball in the designated areas.

One more thing we haven’t mentioned yet: The park has a little slope which offers a beautiful view over Berlin’s skyline. And—this is the best part—on top of the slopes, you’ll find swings that literally allow you to swing above Berlin’s roofs!

7. The Holocaust Memorial (Holocaust-Mahnmal)

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is another place you must visit in Berlin. As you can tell by its name, it commemorates one of the saddest episodes of WWII

The memorial itself is an architectural gem that challenges the very notion of commemorative monuments. It’s made up of 2,711 concrete slabs of various heights that, placed next to each other, create numerous passages for visitors to walk through. 

The information center is located underneath the monument, on the southeast side. Here, you can learn about the National Socialism movement and the extermination policies carried out between 1933 and 1945. You will also be able to read the Holocaust testimonies of numerous persecuted Jews and learn about their stories before, during, and after the torment.

8. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

If you feel like you want to learn more about the Holocaust at this point, and you want to get away from the city for a little while, this is a must-see location. It’s located in Oranienburg and is accessible via a one-and-a-half hour train ride from the station Lichtenberg in the eastern part of Berlin.

Sachsenhausen (KZ Sachsenhausen) was one of the most prominent death camps in Nazi Germany. More than 200,000 prisoners were kept here from 1936 to 1945.

What’s special about this place is that, three months after WWII ended, it became a Soviet Special Camp used to lock away Nazi prisoners and political prisoners who did not agree with the Soviet Union ideals. As you explore the facility, you’ll surely feel a shiver go down your spine as you discover the atrocities committed by both parties over the years. It is surely an instructive and moving experience.

9. The Reichstag Building

This historic building is the seat of the German Parliament (German Bundestag). Established in 1894, it has a classical façade crowned by a large modern dome. As it’s located on the border of East Berlin, the Reichstag was separated from the Brandenburg Gate by the Berlin Wall for nearly twenty-nine years. 

In 1990, it was restored by Norman Foster and quickly became one of the most iconic symbols of Berlin.

Today, the area around the Reichstag Building became a governmental district. One of the other more-prominent buildings that can be found in the area is the Kanzleramt (Chancellor Office), which faces the Reichstag Building.

10. Tiergarten

Last but not least, take some time to reflect on all you’ve seen and learned in Berlin, and take a deep breath in one of the most beautiful parks in the German capital.

Tiergarten (literally: animal garden) is the perfect spot to temporarily step into nature and get away from the bustling city. 

You can enjoy a picnic, lie in the sun (maybe even in the company of a squirrel, if you’re lucky!), or get lost in walking meditation on one of its many pathways…

Survival German

Now that you have a better idea of where you want to visit on your trip to Berlin, it’s time to answer a key question: Can you visit Berlin without speaking German?

While most people in Berlin will understand and speak some English, there are a lot of day-to-day interactions you’ll need to face in order to make your itinerary happen. You never know when you’ll need to use some German, so I’ll leave you with some German survival phrases just in case! 

Good day!
Guten Tag! (gooh-ten tahk!)

Good evening!
Guten Abend! (gooh-ten ah-bent!)

Goodbye!
Auf Wiedersehen! (ouf vee-der-zey-en!)

Please. / You’re welcome.
Bitte. (bi-te)

Thank you.
Danke. (dân-ke)

Excuse me.
Entschuldigung. (ênt-shool-dee-goong)

My name is…
Ich heiße… (iH hays-e…)

Pleased to meet you.
Freut mich. (froyt miH)

Conclusion

I hope this Berlin travel guide will make it easier for you to enjoy all that the vibrant and diverse city of Berlin has to offer. Which location on this list do you most want to visit, and why? 

Remember, if you want to feel like a real Berliner while you explore the most interesting places in the German capital, knowing a little German will surely help! Once you attain a strong level of spoken German, it’ll be easy for you to talk with locals and make your adventure even more unforgettable.

You can achieve this through the language podcasts, videos with transcripts, word lists, and more that GermanPod101.com provides. Create your free lifetime account today to start learning German in the fastest, easiest, and most fun way possible.

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What’s with All The English Words in German?

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German learners often have to put up with native speakers who only ever speak English to them.

After all, if you go up to a stranger in Berlin and start speaking English only, there’s a good chance you’ll hear English in response – often quite fluent English at that!

But it’s not enough that you have to speak excellent German in order to get people to speak German with you at all.

You’ve got to speak the right amount of English as well. Hence, our English words in German list. 

You see, if you’re going to take part in German society at this point in the 21st century, you’ve got to reckon with the fact that Germans are international enough to already speak English at a high level.

German-speakers from Cologne to Zurich can even be found sprinkling choice English turns of phrase into their speech with other Germans! In fact, this is a phenomenon so widespread that it even has its own name: Denglish, from Deutsch + English.

Most media coverage of Denglish is either heavily critical of the whole concept or just goes over a couple of words you should be aware of. However, it’s not going away, and so it’s better to learn it well when you can!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Introduction to Denglish
  2. Denglish Examples
  3. Loan Words vs. Denglish
  4. How These Names are Said in German
  5. English Words Derived From German
  6. Conclusion

Introduction to Denglish

Many Different Books

German and English are, of course, related languages. They’re both part of the West Germanic branch of Indo-European languages, and there’s a ton of shared vocabulary between the two languages just by virtue of this part of their history. Adapting English words to German doesn’t often take a lot of mental gymnastics.

However, there’s a distinct difference between these “old roots” and new English borrowings into German. 

German was actually a really well-respected international language of science and philosophy for many centuries in Europe, surpassing the English language in popularity in many aspects. 

It wasn’t until around the 1960s to the 1980s that English started becoming the “international language” even in Germany. This took shape slowly, but by the time of the fall of the Berlin wall, many West Germans were regularly using English words in their conversations even with other Germans. After the wall fell, everyone started following suit. 

Today, English is still seen as quite prestigious in German culture. Many Germans take pride in the fact that a majority of the population can speak English well enough to get by – plus at least one other language thanks to the German primary and secondary education systems

That’s not even counting the influence of the Internet. Although German is well-represented on YouTube, the sheer amount of English-langauge content overpowers it on Youtube, Instagram, and other social media. Just from interacting with this kind of media, Germans get comfortable with plenty of English words and they even feel comfortable introducing them back into their own informal German use.

Today, a mixture of German and English (or Denglish) is no longer the mark of imperfect German or English that it once was. It’s a cultural marker. 

Denglish Examples

A Woman Looking Down at Her Cell Phone and Smiling

With all this adoption into the German language, you might expect that these words would be preserved in their original meanings as a mark of difference from German. Although that’s often the case, it also happens that the opposite occurs: a word comes originally from English but has shifted its meaning after being adopted into German. 

Probably the best-known example of that phenomenon is the word das Handy. This is clearly an English word in origin as German words don’t end in -y like that, but instead of an adjective meaning “useful,” this word is a noun meaning “mobile phone.” And it’s not like how in English people refer to your “phone,” your “cell phone,” or your “mobile” – it’s all Handy, all the time. Many Germans even insist to English speakers that the word must be the same in English too!

Up next is the word das or der Evergreen, meaning “classic song that never goes out of style.” The German word for “a tree that is green all year” is actually a direct translation of the English – immergrün.

In the same vein, the word der Oldtimer refers to a classic car, not an old person – that’s an alter Hase “old rabbit.”

This extends to verbs as well. Trampen means “to hitchhike,” which makes sense if you’re familiar with older literature about people riding the rails (probably where the term came from!) and anturnen does not mean to turn something on, but is a word meaning “to get hyped.”

Another common way of implementing English words into German is creating compound words out of an English and a German word. This might sound like creating a Frankenstein monster, although due to the relation between English and German, this works actually fine. An example of such a word is die Teamarbeit or “teamwork,” which consists from the English word “team,” and the German word Arbeit meaning “work.” 

Loan Words vs. Denglish

A Manager Smiling and Standing in Front of Some Office Workers

In German, there are also a ton of words borrowed directly from English, often with the English pronunciation kept totally intact. These loan words have the same meaning in German and English and would be understood by listeners even without any German knowledge.

And in fact, there are hundreds.

Plenty of them pop up in the business world as trendy alternatives to pure German words. One such example of an outdated word is die Besprechung which has been replaced in the business jargon by its English equivalent – “meeting.” 

In the same way, die Leitung has turned into der Manager

You can take a bunch of English verbs related to computers and e-mail and simply conjugate them as if they were German to begin with – so you’ll have googlen, forwarden, clicken, downloaden, and so on instead of what you might find in a dictionary. A lot of Germans find this really annoying, but it really does happen all the time. Just check out a couple of German YouTube channels to see how people talk about tech and software in German, since there’s not really any textbook that can help you with this kind of vocabulary.

How These Names are Said in German

Someone Playing a Playstation with a Blue Controller

Interestingly enough, most pop culture from other countries is dubbed into German instead of just coming with subtitles. Dubbing is a huge deal in German film culture, and usually one actor sticks with a single dubbing target for their entire career.

Because of this, movie and TV series titles are localized into German in their entirety, as it’d be a bit weird to have a whole cast and high-quality dubbing but with a foreign-language title.

Star Wars becomes Krieg der Sterne “War of the Stars” while Lord of the Rings is translated directly as Herr der Ringe. Many German learners have loved Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen “the Philosopher’s Stone,” in both book and movie formats.

Fun fact: Sometimes Germans tend also to keep English names, since it appears “cool,” but they would change the name for the German market. So in Germany you won’t find for example Marvels “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” but instead you can watch “The Return of the First Avenger.”

These cool-sounding German names are unfortunately the exception rather than the rule. For quite some time in the 1980s through the 2000s, German dubs came with totally different titles from the original films – so the Dreamworks Animation classic “A Bug’s Life” ended up as Das große Krabbeln “the big crawling!”

Brand names such as Starbucks, McDonalds, and Burger King are simply spoken as normal German words, with German accents of course. Sometimes, a brand like “Xbox One” will be said exactly as it is in English, but the “Playstation 4” would be pronounced as Playstation Vier. There’s not really a system to this; it’s just something you have to pick up over time.

English Words Derived From German

German Apple Strudel with a Scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream

The exchange of ideas and vocabulary didn’t just happen in one direction between the English and German languages. Thanks to a great deal of migration from Europe to the United States in the 19th century, many Americans can trace their roots back to the German Old Country, and with it their heritage languages as well.

Although there has been cultural exchange between Germans and residents of other English-speaking countries, Americans seem to have picked up the most words related to German food.

Therefore, everybody from New York to Los Angeles knows that a Strudel is a pastry with fruit filling, a Bratwurst is a barbecued sausage, a bagel is a round and chewy roll with a hole in the middle, a pretzel (originally Brezel) is a long and thin piece of sourdough tied in a knot, and a delicatessen is where you go to buy all of these things!

Philosophy and sociology have benefited from German terms as well, such as übermensch or “superman,” or wunderkind “gifted child.” Even the everyday word Kindergarten comes from German, literally meaning “child garden!”

Conclusion

Earlier in this article we said that there isn’t really a good way to study Denglish. And it’s true, you won’t find many resources that treat it seriously.

This is even a good thing, because anyone who compiles a serious dictionary at this point is going to regret it a few years later when dozens of terms have become outdated and dozens of new ones have entered the language.

The best way to keep on top of these trends, therefore, is to attain a good level in German with a high-quality and holistic German resource like GermanPod101.com.

In addition to providing helpful grammar guides and cultural notes, GermanPod101 will get you ready to tackle real-life German and real-life Denglish as well! Try it out today and see how accessible all forms of the language can be!

How many of these English words in German were you surprised to find on this list? Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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A Brief German Culture Overview

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“Culture” is a tricky word. It often comes up when talking about a foreign country, and all the different rituals and handicrafts immediately spring to mind. Woven baskets! Wooden shoes! Pretzels!

The truth is, you have just as much culture as anybody else in the world. Culture is all about what you perceive as normal and what your society expects as a baseline—and that can be surprisingly different from place to place.

We’ve created this guide to get you up to speed on the German culture basics and to give you a better understanding of life in German-speaking countries. Let’s dive in.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Values and Beliefs
  2. Religions in Germany
  3. Family and Work
  4. Art
  5. Food
  6. German Beer
  7. Traditional Holidays
  8. Conclusion

1. Values and Beliefs

Recycling Bags for Plastic, Paper, and Glass

In German culture, values and beliefs are at the core of society. Germans value the concepts of control, community, and privacy, and these cultural elements are the driving force behind the lives and work of much of the population.  

Germans prefer to live an organized life. This is where the stereotype of Germans absolutely needing to be on time comes from. If you arrange your day into time blocks for this and time blocks for that, and then a train is late or traffic prevents you from getting to lunch on time, it’s going to make you upset!

For this reason, it’s considered quite odd and even rude to just drop in on a friend or neighbor unannounced. Always give people time to work events into their own schedules.

Germans also put a lot of importance on the feeling of belonging to a community. In neighborhoods, people take care of their own gardens so that everyone’s garden will look nice and reflect positively on the community as a whole. Germans are also very careful about recycling and protecting the environment. If you don’t separate your garbage and recycling into several different bins, you’ll definitely get some ugly muttering and hateful looks.

Privacy is an extremely big deal in Germany (as well as Austria). You’re probably familiar with Google Street View, right? Did you know that there’s a big Germany- and Austria-shaped hole in the Street View map of Europe? This is a reflection of how unwilling Germans are to let corporations take hold of their private data, a characteristic that some people have linked to the totalitarian regimes of Germany’s past that filed away every little data point for future exploitation.

At the same time, though, Germans are quite comfortable with their own bodies. Public nudity is not seen as shameful or criminal, though it has declined in recent years (no doubt due to the rise of privacy-intruding technology). There are still many nude beaches in Germany and a large Freikörperkultur or “nudity culture.”

2. Religions in Germany

A Church in Germany during a Snowy Winter

The history of Germany is more or less the history of Europe, given that Germany is centrally located and in its various political incarnations has been massively influential in regional affairs.

European history experienced a massive shift when a particular German-speaker, a monk named Martin Luther, started the Protestant Reformation in the early sixteenth century. His writings caused an enormous schism in the Church and set the stage for literally centuries of conflict between Protestants and Catholics.

As such, it may not surprise you to learn that in German culture, religious beliefs are predominantly Lutheran Christian!

There are also a number of Catholics (particularly in Southern Germany) as well as an increasing number of Muslims. Starting in the late twentieth century, there has been more and more immigration into Germany from Muslim countries, bringing the percentage of Muslims in Germany to 4.4 percent. Starting in 2015, there was a relatively large increase in the Muslim population (though it still represented just over one percent of the total population), and many Germans viewed this negatively.

This slight demographic shift has prompted a recent national conversation about heritage, faith, and immigration. Many Germans have more open-minded attitudes about these things now than they did before.

3. Family and Work

In German culture, family life is stable and families tend to be on the smaller side, with two parents raising one to three children. Most families in Germany live in relatively large houses in commuter towns and suburbs, though the city centers of the largest cities are packed with dense apartment blocks for students, singles, and younger couples.

Fewer and fewer women in Germany are choosing to marry and have children in the first place, actually, leading to a demographic crash that’s worrying many economic forecasters. This is due to women wanting to have more of a career for themselves instead of caring for children—though both the German and Austrian governments have mandated Mutterschafts (“maternity leave”) and Vaterschaftsurlaub (“paternity leave”).

Speaking of careers, what is German work culture like? 

When it comes to work, Germany remains an economic powerhouse in manufacturing, engineering, and technical innovation in general. All universities in Germany offer free tuition, so the workforce gets more and more educated every year.

Work culture in Germany is the envy of many other nations. Although business can still be quite formal, several weeks’ worth of vacation every year is considered the norm. And because of the German love for well-run societies, businesses that force their employees to work overtime are looked down upon as exploitative.

4. Art

The Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany

The art created by German-speaking people over the years is practically without peer. You’ve got your Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, and Bach to start with—and if you’re a classical music aficionado, you have literally hundreds more to choose from.

Architecture is also a big thing in Germany. A lot of the country’s architectural heritage was destroyed during the war, so what you have in many cities is a mixture of surviving pre-war buildings, twentieth-century utilitarian architecture, and new eco-conscious buildings from the twenty-first century.

Germans, Austrians, and the Swiss all share a love of art and an appreciation for music. Practically any city you go to has at least one museum open to the public for zero cost, and you can usually find just as many tourists as locals at the exhibits.

5. Food

A Plate of Bratwurst with Mashed Potatoes

German culture and food go hand in hand.

Although many Europeans have German relatives, you don’t tend to see a lot of German (or Austrian, or Swiss) restaurants in foreign countries. Too many people might go their whole lives without ever really knowing what “German cuisine” entails.

On the whole, German food is heavy with lots of meat and sauce. Meats are generally cured, pan-seared, or roasted (as opposed to fried or deep-fried). Germans also enjoy thick and rich black bread full of healthy grains.

In fact, the “healthy” part is really important.

Many Germans like organic food and are willing to pay a premium on Bio– whatever that prefix may apply to. Groceries are significantly cheaper in Germany compared to many other countries, with bread, cheese, vegetables, and meat all coming in at rates that make it easy to buy nutritious food at any income level.

Some famous German foods you might have heard of include Bratwurst (pan-fried sausages of all types), Brezel (“pretzels”), and Strudel (fruit-filled pastries).

There’s a local Berlin specialty called Currywurst as well, which is a simple bratwurst with curry-flavored sauce and french fries. It’s considered a local delicacy, and if you haven’t had one, most people would say you’ve never really been to Berlin!

Maybe you already knew this, but one of the most popular dishes worldwide originated in Berlin! In the 1960s, Germany invited many Gastarbeiter (“guest workers”) from other countries to help rebuild the nation after the war. Many of those guest workers were from Turkey, and since they had started to settle down in Germany, they also brought their regional dishes. One of those was the Döner Kebab. While the dish is originally of Turkish origin, the popular Döner sandwich is said to have been first sold in Berlin in the early 1970s by Turkish immigrants. Today, some of the world’s most famous Döner Kebab shops are localized in Germany.

As for German food culture, Germans don’t tip more than about ten percent for good service at restaurants, but they do tend to stay at restaurants for a while and enjoy their meals. People don’t eat family-style; they order one plate for themselves and share if needed. Germans love Italian food more than any other foreign cuisine, though sushi might be a close second.

Has this little taste of German food started to whet your appetite? Head over to our vocab lists and lessons about German food for more information and practical vocabulary:


6. German Beer

A German Woman Drinking a Beer during Oktoberfest

Actually, German beer deserves its own article, but since it’s an integral part of German culture, we just had to mention it here. 

Do you know of any other nation that has laws about how beer can be brewed? The Reinheitsgebot (literally, “purity order”) is a law that regulates which ingredients can be used for brewing beer, and its tradition goes back to the sixteenth century. 

The original Reinheitsgebot said that beer could only be brewed using Wasser, Gerste, und Hopfen (“water, barley, and hops”). Even though the law changed a bit over the centuries, you can find a regulation in modern legal texts which says that an alcoholic beverage which does not consist of the three previously mentioned ingredients, and was brewed in Germany, can’t be called Bier (“beer”). 

Saying that beer is an integral part of German culture isn’t an exaggeration. It’s the German’s favorite beverage, and there are even festivities dedicated to beer, such as the Oktoberfest (literally, “October celebration”). There are around 1600 breweries in Germany, many of them run by monks in cloisters. 

And one more fun fact for you: Did you know that the legal age to drink beer in Germany is sixteen?

7. Traditional Holidays

Several People Holding the German Flag

Germany was never colonized by a foreign power, so there’s not really a “German Independence Day” that gets celebrated.

However, Germany was split up into East and West Germany for pretty much the entire second half of the twentieth century. When the two halves reunited on October 3, 1990, it was cause for immense celebration. Every year, Germans commemorate Tag der deutschen Einheit (“German Unity Day”), on which a different German city hosts a special event by the German political leaders and holds festivities for everyone to take part in.

Austria’s equivalent is the Nationalfeiertag (“National Holiday”) on October 26 to mark a return to sovereignty in 1955. 

Also, in German-speaking regions, New Year’s Eve is celebrated as Silvester, a second religious holiday separate from New Year’s Day where people set off fireworks and celebrate with lucky pigs in Vienna—yes, really

    → For more information on a variety of German celebrations, visit the German Holidays section of our blog!

8. Conclusion

How much did you learn about German culture and traditions from reading this article? How does German culture compare with that of your country? Let us know in the comments! 

Culture is always hard to fully understand when you’re on the outside looking in. Are you wondering how to experience German culture and finally lift that veil? Learning how to speak excellent German is a great place to start!

When you study German with GermanPod101, you’ll get cultural notes in every lesson, plus extra information about cultural norms you’ve got to be aware of. And once you’re comfortable with the German language, it will be that much easier to deal with the culture because you’ll be seeing it through much more nuanced eyes.

Sign up today on GermanPod101.com and take the plunge into German culture!

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Walpurgis in Germany: Ready to Have a Witchin’ Time?

Witches, sorcerers, costumes, tricks, and superstition…no, it’s not Halloween! We’re talking about Walpurgis night in Germany. 

While you might not associate the beginning of spring with witchcraft and sorcery, this correlation has some interesting roots in numerous European countries. In this article, you’ll learn about the origins of this mystical holiday and how it’s celebrated today. 

Let’s go!

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1. What is Walpurgis Night?

Three Women Dressed as Witches Circled Around a Steaming Cauldron

Walpurgis is a festival that takes place each year, beginning on the night of April 30 and ending on May 1. This festival is also common in a number of other European nations, including Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, and Estonia. 

Walpurgis Night is named after an eighth-century abbess named Saint Walpurgis (also known as Saint Walpurga). She was known for her effectiveness in spreading Christianity, as well as her supposed abilities to deflect witchcraft and heal a variety of ailments. After her passing, people would invoke her in their prayers in the hope that she would keep the witches at bay. 

You see, it was believed that witches and sorcerers would hold a Hexensabbat (Witches’ Sabbath) each year in the Harz Mountains atop Mount Brocken. They were thought to engage in crazy dances and conspire with demons—or even Satan himself—to harm Christians and cause other sorts of trouble. 

In addition to invocations of Saint Walpurga, people would light bonfires on the hillsides and create as much noise as possible to scare away witches. 

Over time, Walpurgis Day became less associated with actual witchcraft, and more and more people perceived this day as a time to reflect on the charms of such superstitions. Today, the holiday is mainly celebrated just for the fun of it, though the superstitions behind it are still strong in some places. 

    → Make sure you also brush up on your Religion vocabulary while you’re at it.

2. German Walpurgis Traditions

While this witch festival in Germany is celebrated in most regions, there are a few towns and regions that have larger celebrations than others: 

  • Thale
  • Goslar
  • Wernigerode
  • Brocken

These areas often have a variety of festivities going on for Walpurgistage (Walpurgis Day), such as dances, comedy shows, and juggling acts. Everyone will be dressed up in some sort of witch or sorcerer costume, broomsticks and all. There are also all kinds of fun stalls, from those selling tasty food to others showcasing arts and crafts. At night, there are fireworks. 

Wherever you go, there’s likely to be a Maifeuer (May bonfire). This is a large bonfire set at night, around which people dressed in costumes enjoy themselves with drinks and songs. A popular activity is called “May jumping,” and it involves couples jumping over parts of the fire that have started to die down. There’s a Christianized version of the bonfire called Easter bonfires. 

Walpurgis is commonly associated with the end of winter and the beginning of spring. People may enjoy taking in the scenery and the warmer weather, and it’s popular to sing a number of May- and spring-related songs. Drinking something called woodruff punch is another common activity; this is a special alcoholic beverage made using white wine, semi-sparkling wine, and a type of plant called woodruff

Walpurgisnacht in Germany is also a time to expect pranks from youngsters. Many of Germany’s youth seize the opportunity to hide personal belongings or spray paint public property. 

The day following the Walpurgisnacht witch festival is Maifeiertag (May Day), and this is when the maypole is erected in many German towns. In bigger cities, this often involves brass bands and even a city fair. Though this is less common nowadays, it’s worth noting that Walpurgis and May Day are associated with leftist riots as well. 

    → Spring Break might be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the rest of spring. 😉 Check out our list of the Top 15 Things to Do Over Spring Break for some inspiration.

3. Walpurgis in Literature and Theatre

Did you know that Walpurgis night in Germany features in famous pieces of literature and other art forms? Here are just a few examples: 

  • Faust by Goethe
  • The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee

4. German Vocabulary You Should Know for Walpurgis

A Walpurgis Bonfire

Ready to expand your German vocabulary? Here are some of the words and phrases from this article, plus a few more: 

  • Mai / May
    • noun, masculine
  • Hexe / Witch
    • noun, feminine
  • Berg / Mountain
    • noun, masculine
  • Glocke / Bell
    • noun, feminine
  • Besen / Broom
    • noun, masculine
  • Tanz in den Mai / Dance into May
    • phrase, masculine
  • Heilige Walburga / Saint Walburga
    • phrase, feminine
  • Maifeiertag / May Day
    • noun, masculine
  • Maifeuer / May bonfire
    • phrase, neutral
  • Hexensabbat / Witches’ Sabbath 
    • phrase, masculine
  • Walpurgistage / Walpurgis day
    • noun, masculine
  • Aberglaube / Superstition
    • noun, masculine
  • Zauberer / Sorcerer 
    • noun, masculine
  • Maibaum / Maypole
    • noun, masculine

Make sure to visit our Walpurgis Night vocabulary list to hear and practice the pronunciation of each word! 

Final Thoughts

Walpurgis night is a fun holiday with some more serious background. What are your thoughts on this holiday? Is there a similar festival or celebration in your country? 

If you enjoyed this article and would like to continue learning about German culture and the language, then head over to the following pages on GermanPod101: 

If you would like to start making the most of your time studying with GermanPod101, create your free lifetime account today and gain access to tons of fun and practical lessons and materials. Learning German can be a challenge, but you don’t have to go it alone.

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Delicious German Food to Complement Your Studies

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Maybe you weren’t fortunate enough to grow up with German restaurants nearby or German relatives in the family.

If not, you’ve missed out on some amazing food.

German food is soul food by any definition: rich, hearty, and packed with flavor. Anyone who’s been to Germany would probably agree that visiting restaurants was the highlight of their trip!

How well do you know your German food—and how well can you talk about it in German?

In this article, you’ll get to know some brand-new dishes as well as some that you’ve probably sampled before. All the while, pay attention to the words used to describe them and their German names. You might find yourself picking up some important German vocabulary!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in German Table of Contents
  1. Characteristics of German Food
  2. Must-Try Dishes in German Restaurants
  3. Authentic German Food vs. Overseas German Food
  4. Three Unique German Foods
  5. German Food Vocabulary
  6. Conclusion

1. Characteristics of German Food

Roast Pork with Sauerkraut

Although many people in the United States and England can trace their ancestry back to Germany, there aren’t a ton of German restaurants on the streets of Miami or Blackpool. These people might not even have a great idea of what Germans typically eat!

At this point, you just need two words: Fleisch (“meat”) and Brot (“bread”).

It’s not all they eat, but these two items make up a large part of the traditional German cuisine. Kartoffeln (“potatoes”) make a solid appearance as well, though these aren’t technically an ancient European food.

Germans tend to avoid eating spicy food—they use pepper and vinegar sparingly, and rarely add sauces other than meat gravies. Slowly stewed meats and breaded cutlets often appear on German plates.

Sausages, of course, play a strong role in German cooking. Any German meat market will have more types of sausage available than you knew existed.

As for beverages, Germans don’t have a particularly strong tea or coffee culture, though beer, wine, and cider all flow freely at German restaurants. 

Speaking of which, if you found yourself in a German restaurant right now, would you know what to order? There are quite a few types of German food you need to try!

2. Must-Try Dishes in German Restaurants

German Black Forest Cake

We’ll start off with a Southern German and Austrian specialty known as Spätzle. This is an egg noodle dish usually served with a hearty meat sauce. Once the dough for the noodles is ready, it’s held over boiling water and the drops of noodles are quickly sliced off, cooking nearly instantly as they become submerged.

Ready for dessert already? Some of the most famous German foods are desserts, like the Apfelkuchen (“apple cake”). You can find several variations of this sweet delicacy, such as the Gedeckter Apfelkuchen  (“covered” with graham cracker crumbs and oats) or the Versunkener Apfelkuchen (with the apple bits “sunken” into a rich, spongy dough).

Again from Austria, next up we have the famous Strudel. This is a sort of turnover pie, normally baked with apples and raisins. The secret is to use absolutely paper-thin dough known as phylo, and to brush the whole thing with a small amount of butter before cooking.

You’ve heard of long German words—how about Schwarzwälderkirschtorte? Breaking this down, you can see what it really means: “black-forest-cherry-cake.” This thick, luxurious black cake is a centerpiece at many European bakeries, and that place of honor is well-deserved. For a true Black Forest cake, you need to make the cherry sauce and whipped cream by hand.

3. Authentic German Food vs. Overseas German Food

A German Pretzel

With so many Germans influencing culture the world over, it’s no surprise that lots of people are passingly familiar with German food. The key word is “passingly,” though. Plenty of things have gotten lost in translation as recipes have been handed down from generation to generation over the years. 

So the question remains: What is traditional German cuisine and how does it compare to overseas varieties?

Chief among the foods in question might be the Brezel, or the German pretzel. In Germany, these are huge, curled knots of dough served piping hot with a dip of fresh mustard and sometimes topped with big flakes of rock salt. You don’t see a lot of those overseas, though. The typical “pretzel” that an American knows today is a tiny dried snack that comes out of a bag like a potato chip, baked into a hard crisp.

A schnitzel is another thing that looks a bit different overseas. According to culinary authorities in Austria and Germany, a Wienerschnitzel or Schnitzel Wiener Art (“schnitzel in the Viennese style”) must be made of veal—not pork or chicken. Since veal is about twice as expensive on average as pork and chicken, it’s no wonder people are cutting costs abroad! It should also be served in a light vinaigrette, not the heavy gravy that so many restaurants add.

Sauerkraut has been a popular stereotype of German cooking for generations, even lending its name to a not-very-polite epithet during the war years. It’s actually not a wholly German dish, originating in the Middle Ages from Eastern traders. Today, you can buy sauerkraut by the box in grocery stores all over the world, but few people keep to the simplicity of real German sauerkraut—it’s simply cabbage and salt, aged to perfection with no additives.

Finally, the Kartoffelsalat, or “potato salad,” is a beloved dish at picnics and get-togethers across the United States. It also differs quite significantly from what’s found in actual German restaurants, though. German potatoes tend to be smoother and more golden than potatoes in the Americas, and in preparing Kartoffelsalat, they’re boiled with beef broth for an extremely rich flavor.

4. Three Unique German Foods

German Curried Sausage Meal

Even though some popular German foods have been exported with differences from their original forms, there are still plenty more dishes to be discovered in German-speaking countries. Here are a couple of foods that are pretty hard to find elsewhere!

1.       Weißwurst: Literally “white sausage,” this is a sausage made of veal and bacon, and it’s associated strongly with Southern Germany. It’s quite perishable and usually eaten as a breakfast or lunch food. The most interesting thing is the way it’s served—it’s brought to the table in the water used to cook it!

2.       Sauerbraten: Just as the Wienerschnitzel mentioned above is usually served with vinegar, so too is this marinated roast. The meat is marinated for days at a time in vinegar and wine, and this marinade is later turned into a rich gravy. The whole thing is served with potatoes and red cabbage.

3.       Currywurst: Perhaps you’ve already guessed what the name means after comparing it with Weißwurst above—it’s a curry-flavored sausage! Gastronomically speaking, a currywurst isn’t particularly gourmet. It’s a standard German bratwurst served with a mixture of ketchup and curry powder, often paired with french fries. However, it’s an absolutely beloved fixture of Berlin, and if you ever mention to a Berliner that you’ve never had one, expect to be marched to the nearest Imbiss immediately!

5. German Food Vocabulary

A Group of Friends Eating Out Together

Now that you’re nice and hungry, it’s time for a bit of language practice. Do you know the right way to order food in German?

Believe it or not, when you go to a German café or bakery, the typical way to order is to simply count the things you want.

  • Einmal Kaffee mit Zucker, zweimal Kekse bitte. / “One coffee with sugar, two cookies please.”

The word einmal literally means “once,” so you’re not ordering “one coffee” but “once coffee.” This is just a quirky turn of phrase. If you’re nervous about using it incorrectly, wait for someone else to order and confirm that you’ve got it right.

Although lots of the dishes mentioned in this article so far have been thick with meats and sauces, plenty of Germans are vegetarians. If you are too, it’s good to know how to ask about it.

  • Haben Sie vegetarische Gerichte? / “Do you have vegetarian dishes?”

Although many German words sound a lot like English words, be careful of the false friend Menü. That’s the word for a “set meal,” while the paper with all the foods listed on it is a Spiesekarte.

  • Können Sie etwas empfehlen? / “Do you have anything to recommend?”

And finally, at the end of the meal, it’s always a good idea to mention how good it was.

  • Alles war fantastisch! / “Everything was fantastic!”

6. Conclusion

Has learning about German food gotten you hungry for more knowledge?

Ordering in a German restaurant can be a bit intimidating, but not if you’ve got the right practice materials. The best way to avoid having Germans speak English with you in restaurants is to be confident and speak clearly without stuttering. The more you show that you’re comfortable with the language, the more you’ll be accepted as a proficient German speaker.

And the best way to get there?

Naturally, by having a great resource at your fingertips! At GermanPod101.com, you can follow along with our high-quality podcasts. Our lessons range from those for learners at the raw beginner level to those for more advanced speakers of German. As you learn, you’ll naturally pick up grammar and vocabulary, and then have access to high-quality guides and interesting articles like this one to keep you motivated.

The sooner you start seriously learning German, the sooner you’ll master it. Much like cooking, practice makes perfect. Start today and add German to your chef’s repertoire!

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The Best German Quotes To Spice Up Your Conversations

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German is a language with a long history of great writing. It’s no wonder that there are a lot of excellent quotes that have been passed down through the centuries!

In order to help you become a more eloquent German speaker, GermanPod101 has compiled a list of the best German quotes in several different categories. 

As you study these quotes, you’ll also start to make important connections concerning the grammatical structures being used. The end result? You’ll pick up German grammar without even realizing it!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Success
  2. Quotes About Life
  3. Quotes About Time
  4. Quotes About Love
  5. Quotes About Friendship
  6. Quotes About Food
  7. Quotes About Health
  8. Quotes About Language Learning
  9. Quotes About Football
  10. Conclusion

1. Quotes About Success

A Rabbit Lying in the Snow

He who chases two rabbits at once will catch none.

Whether you have big plans for the future or a few concerns about an upcoming project, you’ll find motivation and inspiration in these German quotes about success!

  • Erst denken, dann handeln. / “First think, then act.”

This first quote needs little explanation—it fits perfectly into the English sentence’s framework. 

  • Taten sagen mehr als Worte. / “Deeds say more than words.”

In English, actions “speak louder than” words; in German, they simply talk more. Remember the comparative structure mehr als (“more than”), as you’ll definitely need it in the future!

  • Wer zwei Hasen auf einmal jagt, bekommt keinen. / “He who chases two rabbits at once will catch none.”

This is a particularly evocative quote if you imagine the wide-open fields of Austria or Switzerland, with rabbits hopping about every which way. If you spend your time switching between your goals, you’ll never catch up to any of them. Could this have something to do with language learning, too?


2. Quotes About Life

What does ‘life’ mean to you? Broaden your horizons with these German quotes about life, and gain some cultural insight.

  • Wenn die Menschen nur über das sprächen, was sie begreifen, dann würde es sehr still auf der Welt sein. / “If people only talked about things they understand, then it would be very quiet in the world.”

Now that you’re learning German, you can finally start quoting Einstein in the original! Yes, this quote is attributed to German-Swiss patent clerk Albert Einstein, and it reflects his well-known traits of curiosity and valuing all people equally.

  • Man reist nicht, um anzukommen, sondern um zu reisen. / “One does not travel to arrive, but to travel.”

Perhaps even more so than quoting Einstein, quoting Goethe is bound to win you points among Germans who know their literature. This quote holds up well, even after several hundred years!

  • Es gibt nichts Gutes, außer man tut es. / “There is nothing good, if you don’t do it.” 

This quote comes from Erich Kästner, one of the most talented German children’s book authors. It might sound very pessimistic at the beginning, but Kästner is saying that you should spread the good things in the world—no one will do it for you.

3. Quotes About Time

Quail Eggs in a Nest

Don’t worry about eggs that haven’t been laid yet.

Time is what binds us to our own mortality, and it’s the topic of many German language quotes. Read through the sayings below and get a better idea of how time is perceived in Germany.

  • Kümmere Dich nicht um ungelegte Eier. / “Don’t worry about eggs that haven’t been laid yet.”

On the surface, this quote might sound similar to “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” But sich kümmern um is a verb construction meaning “worry about” or “be concerned with.” So what this quote really means is that you shouldn’t spend your time thinking about things that are outside of your control.

  • Ehre die Alten, verspotte sie nie. Sie waren wie du und du wirst wie sie. / “Honor your elders, never make fun. They were like you and you’ll be like them.”

It doesn’t quite rhyme in English, but in German, it’s an excellent little couplet that you could imagine being said by a kindly old grandmother. Verspotten is a rather rare word, meaning “to mock” or “to jeer at someone.”

4. Quotes About Love

Are you madly in love with someone? Or maybe you’re a hopeless romantic? Either way, we think you’ll enjoy these German quotes on love!

  • Wenn ein Mann sofort macht, was eine Frau will, bekommt er nicht mehr Liebe, sondern mehr Aufträge. / “When a man immediately does what a woman wants, he doesn’t receive love, but more orders.”

This pithy quote is attributed to the actor Stefan Schwartz, a well-known recurring actor in the famous crime drama Tatort. The word Auftrag (“order”) here denotes the sense of assignments or military orders, which is exactly the sentiment we think Stefan was going for!

  • Liebe ist, wenn aus dem ich und du ein wir entsteht. / “Love is when you and I form a ‘we’.”

The essence of this German quote is preserved in the translation, though this cannot be said of the structure. Aus… entstehen means that out of something else, a second thing arises or forms. In the English translation, it’s an active verb (“we form”), but in German, it happens spontaneously. Also note that in German, the articles are used: out of the “you and I,” a “we” comes to be.

  • Liebe ist der Wunsch etwas zu geben, nicht etwas zu erhalten. / “Love is the wish to give, not to receive.”

Bertolt Brecht, one of the most influential German authors, is mainly known for his political works, which were directed against fascist ideas. But as this quote shows, he also had his soft spot. 


5. Quotes About Friendship

A Group of Women Hugging Each Other

It’s called friendship because with friends, one can accomplish anything.

Friends are one of life’s greatest joys and necessities. Here are a couple of German quotes about friendship that we think you’ll relate to!

  • Menschen, mit denen man lachen, weinen und tanzen kann, sind die Menschen, die das Leben ausmachen. / “People you can laugh, cry, and dance with are the people who make up life.”

This quote is not only heartwarming, but it’s also a great illustration of German grammar. Mit denen could translate to “with whom” in English, but you lose the fact that it’s specifically plural. A more word-for-word rendering might be: “People with whom one can laugh, cry, and dance are the people that make up life.” Also note that German makes great use of commas here, where only two are fully necessary in English. You can usually identify a German writing comments online by their heavy comma usage!

  • Es heißt Freundschaft, weil man mit Freunden alles schafft. / “It’s called friendship because with friends one can accomplish anything.”

A swing and a miss with this translation—it’s built on a pun in German that doesn’t work in English. The German word Freundschaft (“friendship”) ends in -schaft, which is pronounced almost exactly the same way as the verb schafft (“accomplishes” / “creates”). 


6. Quotes About Food 

Who doesn’t enjoy savoring some good food now and then? The following German quotes reflect the country’s passion for hearty dishes and good times.

  • Essen ist ein Bedürfnis, Genießen ist eine Kunst. / “Eating is a need, enjoying is an art.”

Here we can see how the gerund works in German. In English, the concept “eating” takes an -ing ending; in German, we just use the infinitive -en ending to make a noun out of a verb. All nouns formed in this way are neuter (though you wouldn’t know it from this quote). 

  • Eine gute Küche ist das Fundament allen Glücks. / “A good kitchen is the foundation of all happiness.”

Many Germans with good English assume that they can simply use Fundament in English the same way, but we almost never use it as a noun in English. 

7. Quotes About Health

Rusted Wheelbarrow

He who rests grows rusty.

Maintaining a healthy body and mind should be everyone’s top priority, because only in good health can we accomplish other important things. The following German quotes about health offer advice and wisdom on the topic!

  • Wer rastet, der rostet. / “He who rests grows rusty.”

The wordplay in this quote actually carries over into English! This is the kind of thing that would appear on a motivational poster in a German office. It reminds you to never stop striving mentally and to always keep active physically to avoid bad health later on. 

  • Mit der Gesundheit ist es wie mit dem Salz: Man bemerkt nur, wenn es fehlt. / “Health is like salt: you only notice it when it’s missing.”

A perfectly seasoned dish tastes, well, perfectly seasoned. But if salt is missing, it tastes bland. This carries over nicely into the topic of health, as things seem normal until you feel sick. 

You may notice that, in German, there are many more words before the colon than in English. This is because when we make two comparisons like this in German, we literally say: “With the health it is like with the salt.” The English style would be correct too, but getting to a high level in German means understanding when to correctly use each style for the best effect.

8. Quotes About Language Learning

A Woman Studying Outside on the Grass

Nobody that ever did their best regretted it later.

We know that studying can be difficult, especially when other things are vying for your attention. We hope that these German quotes about knowledge and hard work will empower you to continue your studies and advance your language skills.

  • Dumme Gedanken hat jeder, aber der Weise verschweigt sie. / “Everyone has stupid thoughts, but the sage keeps quiet about them.”

This quote by Wilhelm Busch, a German humorist, provides a great example of a verb in German that simply doesn’t exist in English: schweigen. It means “to keep silent,” and when we add the prefix ver– to it, it becomes “to silence.”

When it comes to language learning, you’re probably going to make lots of mistakes. By staying silent and listening or reading more, you’ll pick up the natural patterns of the language and end up speaking more correctly!

  • Aller Anfang ist schwer. / “All beginnings are hard.”

Just from looking at the words, you might be confused about why the German verb is singular but the English is plural. The secret lies in the word aller (“all”). Because it’s in the genitive case, what’s going on here grammatically is: “Every single beginning is hard.” 

  • Niemand, der jemals sein Bestes gegeben hat, hat es später bereut. / “Nobody that ever did their best regretted it later. “

Although this is a quote from George Halas, an American football coach, it’s still well-known in German. It’s completely true, too—it’s impossible to regret trying your hardest at something.


9. Quotes About Football

  • Der Ball ist rund. Das Spiel dauert 90 Minuten. / “The ball is round. The game lasts 90 minutes.”

This somewhat odd quote from Sepp Herberger is extremely famous in Germany; it was even used at the beginning of the film Lola Rennt (“Run Lola Run”). It symbolizes the most basic of theories behind football, and kind of helps to keep people grounded if they get crazy about the sport.

  • Wenn ich merke, dass ich Spiele nicht mehr beeinflusse, keine Tore vorbereite und keine Tore schieße, ist es Zeit einzupacken. / “When I notice that I’m no longer influencing the game, setting up any goals, or taking any shots, it’s time to pack it up.”

It turns out that football quotes can double as life quotes a lot of the time! When you find yourself in a situation where you’re just a passive observer, it might be time to rethink where you ought to be.

10. Conclusion

As you can see, Germans have an excellent variety of quotable quotes to learn. It’s amazing how much vocabulary and grammar you can see illustrated in just a handful of interesting quotations!

GermanPod101.com has several more great pages on quotes, ready-made into lessons for you—and that’s not to mention the videos, written guides, and podcast. The better you know German, the better you’ll be able to recognize and interpret German quotes whenever you see them. Maybe you’ll even end up coining your own!

Which of these German quotes is your favorite, and why? Let us (and your fellow German learners) know in the comments!

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Have Fun Learning With These 10 German YouTube Channels

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The best way to learn German is by letting go and allowing your subconscious to do all the work. 

That might sound a bit too sci-fi for you, but it’s kind of true. 

Think about how German teens nowadays learn English—they sleep through English class in school, then come home and stay up late watching Minecraft videos in English on YouTube. 

Then the world praises Germany for being a multilingual country—but you can do it, too! All you need is a good recommendation. 

In this article, you’ll find ten different German YouTube channels covering a wide range of interests. At the same time, you’ll also see the Internet’s best free German educational resources to help give you a leg up when you’re not quite ready for late-night Minecraft binges.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. How to Learn a Language with YouTube
  2. The 10 Best German YouTube Channels
  3. Conclusion

1. How to Learn a Language with YouTube

A Woman Listening to a Video and Thinking

Just like we said in the intro, you just have to sit back and relax—for about three to five years.

German teenagers have that kind of time, but what about you? You almost definitely want results faster. And you’ll get them!

The secret is to balance a good course that keeps you actively learning new words and grammar with enriching content made by German speakers for other German speakers. 

As you learn more and more nuggets of grammar or vocabulary from your courses, you’ll see those same units pop up again and again in the “authentic” content, and they’ll stick in your mind far more than they would have otherwise.

Slowly but surely, the language will come to you. Here are the best German YouTube channels to keep it coming.


2. The 10 Best German YouTube Channels

1. Kurzgesagt

Category: News/Interest 
Level: Intermediate

Kurzgesagt is known worldwide for its beautiful animation videos in English—it’s the purple one with all the birds. However, kurz gesagt is actually a German phrase meaning “in a nutshell,” and the original YouTube channel was in fact in German. There’s not as much content in the German YouTube videos, and the channel doesn’t have quite as many subscribers, but it makes up for this in its usefulness for learners. 

First of all, the narration is absolutely gorgeous. The narrator has a great deep voice, and it’s soothing to listen to even if you don’t understand what he’s saying at first.

All the videos have captions in German so that you can follow along as you watch and listen. Really getting to know this style of speaking is perfect if you end up taking a standardized German exam, where you’ll have to speak persuasively about the pros and cons of a certain process.

2. Hallo Deutschschule

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLrCFqC2cks

Category: Educational
Level: Beginner-Intermediate

Hallo is one of the more popular German learning YouTube channels, based out of Switzerland. The hook? It focuses rather uniquely on dialogues. 

Most people releasing German content for free don’t have the time or the talent to record lengthy dialogues and sync them up to animations, but that’s exactly what you can expect with Hallo Deutschschule

Interestingly enough, every single video available has subtitles in several different languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. If you know someone who speaks one of these languages and is learning German, send these videos their way! The dialogue-based format means that learners can memorize a back-and-forth exchange at a slow pace and naturally acquire new vocabulary in an easy way.

3. Galileo

Category: Documentary 
Level: Advanced

Galileo has a reputation among Germans for being the network unafraid to take risks. They have a lot of fascinating documentaries about life in “hidden corners” of the globe, including prisons, factories, and shantytowns. If you’re into different world cultures or even lifehacks, you’ll definitely find something interesting to watch on Galileo.

One neat thing about their programs is that they usually begin with a presenter who gives a short summary of the segment. This lets you sort of warm up for what the topic is going to be. As your level improves, you’ll get used to some of the recurring hosts as well. 

Lastly, Galileo shows how Germans still enjoy dubbing, even while being famous for speaking English well. Every time the hosts speak another language, it’s dubbed over in German, giving you excellent immersion.

4. Get Germanized

Category: Culture and Language
Level: Beginner-Intermediate

Domenic, the fellow behind this wildly popular German YouTube series, has made quite a name for himself thanks to his highly energetic personality. 

Once you see the intro a couple of times, it’ll be stuck in your brain forever. He’s got more than eleven hundred videos at the time of this writing, each one breaking down the language in a clever way. 

One of his most popular videos is a 90-minute full German course that lays a decent foundation for future reference—and he’s also known for longer videos (in mostly English) where he explains interesting points about German culture and throws in the odd German word. 

That’s great for someone not quite sure if they want to commit to learning German, but still want to pick up a few phrases here and there.

5. 24h Deutsch

Category: Educational
Level: Intermediate

Ida, your friendly host from 24h Deutsch, guides you through some fascinating points of Intermediate German in her YouTube series. Once you get to the intermediate level, you might feel that there’s so much to learn and so many little details to keep track of, but a good study resource like this will keep you right on track. 

Through a series of short skits and vlog-style videos, Ida explains things about German culture like the odd-seeming store hours mandated by German law. 

Most of her videos unfortunately don’t have subtitles, but she speaks relatively slowly and clearly. Ida is supported by the Goethe-Institut, so her videos have a great standard of production and they’ll keep you coming back to follow the story!

6. maiLab

Category: Science 
Level: Intermediate-Advanced

We’ll start off with the bad news: This German YouTube science channel is sadly on hold at the time of this writing. However, the good news is that it was excellent, and really one-of-a-kind when it came to exploring scientific topics in German. MaiLab was sort of like Kurzgesagt (they collaborated a couple of times) in that it explained difficult concepts about the natural world in a simple way. 

That’s exactly the kind of language that you’ll need for any academic German exam, and so watching Mai’s videos a couple of times will really lock in the advanced vocabulary and speech patterns expected on that kind of test. 

Plus, quite a few of her videos have captions in German for you to copy and paste somewhere else for later study!

7. LanguageSheep

Category: Educational  
Level: Beginner-Intermediate

The first time you hear the name LanguageSheep, you might think it’s a silly little channel for kids. However, take a look at the individual videos and you’ll see a fairly rigorous set of explanations of pronunciation points and grammar difficulties that foreign learners might have.

Particularly interesting here are the segments where a native speaker describes a picture. You’ll need this skill for taking some of the beginner or intermediate standardized German exams such as the A2 or B1 levels, and there are surprisingly few resources that give you examples like these.

8. Gronkh

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFFZI8n-aVU

Category: Gaming
Level: Advanced

Gronkh is the name in the German gaming vlogger community. This is because he doesn’t seem to have any time to do anything except for gaming and editing his videos! He puts out content on a stunningly frequent basis, all with hilarious and thoughtful commentary.

For example, take a look at this video where he plays a remastered version of Skyrim, the 2011 open-world RPG in the Elder Scrolls series. 

You’ll get to hear the German voice dubbing for the game, as well as Gronkh’s commentary. Plus, it runs over 56 hours at the time of this writing, comparable to some TV series—and that’s just one game! He doesn’t add subtitles to his own videos, but you can see captions for some of the in-game audio, and his microphone is good enough to get a good transcription from the automatic YouTube captions.

    → If watching German YouTube gamers sounds like your thing, see our vocabulary list on Talking About Video Games to learn some vocabulary beforehand.

9. Die Merkhilfe

Category: Educational 
Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Getting good at German from hours of video games is possible in theory, but native Germans don’t just spend all of their time on games. The videos on this channel are made for native German students who need help with their ordinary school subjects, explaining what typical high school students need to know. 

These videos fit in the same sort of vein as those from maiLab and Kurzgesagt, but also include a lot of advice about how to write well in German, as well as explanations of concepts in the humanities (such as philosophy). The language used is never overcomplicated, but the subjects certainly might count as “advanced” if you find yourself watching a video about Wittgenstein!

    → GermanPod101.com has a vocabulary list all about School Subjects that you may want to study before watching.

10. GermanPod101 YouTube Channel

Category: Educational
Level: All levels

And here we are: practically the motherlode of German learning content on YouTube. Your schedule might not allow for detailed reading of the GermanPod101 website articles, and you might not yet have found a good time to listen to the GermanPod101 podcast. But surely you can set aside some time for the GermanPod101 YouTube channel. 

Aside from the expected grammar breakdowns and vocabulary lists, there are dozens of hours of listening practice videos where you can hear real-life German situations acted out slowly and clearly with an accompanying animation so that you can follow along. 

3. Conclusion

The best way to learn German through YouTube is to follow a balanced diet. You want to have something guiding you along, and something natural to keep as a goal.

It’s totally fine to watch German videos that you don’t yet understand—in fact, that’s a good idea since you’ll be constantly picking out the few words that you did get and looking for more. 

By studying with GermanPod101, you’ll notice those moments happening more and more frequently. Soon, German will seem like a total piece of cake, thanks to all the features available on the GermanPod101 website (like flashcards and grammar explanations). 

Once that happens, it won’t matter if YouTube recommends videos in German to you. It’ll all be fascinating just the same. 

Which of these German YouTube channels are you most interested in watching? Are there any good ones we didn’t include? Let us, and your fellow learners, know in the comments!

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Dreikönigsfest: The Epiphany Holiday in Germany

Germany is a predominantly Christian nation, with over half of its population identifying as Christian. As such, it should come as no surprise that Christian holidays, such as Dreikönigsfest (Epiphany), are widely celebrated here.

In this article, you’ll learn all about the Epiphany holiday in Germany. Because this is such a special occasion in the country, exploring its origins and traditions will help you become better acquainted with German culture as a whole. 

Let’s get started.

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1. What is Epiphany All About?

Silhouettes of the Three Wise Men Riding on Camels

Epiphany is a religious Feiertag (holiday) on which Christians commemorate the three wise men who followed a bright star to find Baby Jesus. This is an important holiday for Catholic and Protestant believers in the country, and it has public holiday status in the states of Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, and Saxony-Anhalt.

The story behind the Epiphany holiday is as follows:

Three wise men named Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar noticed an unusual star in the sky while they traveled. Amazed by the sight, the trio decided to follow after it and were led to the birthplace of Jesus. Seeing this as the Offenbarung (revelation) of their Savior being born, they offered Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

Many Christians consider this a key event in the story and life of Jesus. During Christmas services a few days prior, many Kirchen (churches) read the story from the Bible or host a play outlining the story. 


2. When is Epiphany?

Each year, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6. However, some churches hold their celebration services on the following Sunday. 

3. How is Epiphany Celebrated in Germany?

A Lantern on the Ground

There are several Feast of the Epiphany traditions in Germany, though the most important is that of the Sternsingers. These Sternsingers are groups of three children who are dressed in attire similar to what the wise men would have worn. They go from one home to another singing hymns and asking each homeowner to donate Gelde (money) to charity. This tradition became less popular for a time, but it regained its prominence about fifty years ago. 

In addition to singing Lieder (songs), the Sternsingers sometimes mark the doors of the houses with special chalk blessed by the town’s local Catholic priest. The inscription includes the letters C, M, and B, and the numbers for the current year. In 2021, the inscription will look like this:

20 * C + M + B + 21

There are two schools of thought concerning the letters used. One is that the letters stand for the supposed names of the wise men (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar). The other is that it stands for the Latin phrase meaning, “Christ bless this house.”

Because Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season in Germany, another common activity on this day is to take down all of the Christmas trees and other holiday decorations. Sometimes, an entire community will get together and burn their Christmas trees as a festive group event. 

Finally, some people burn Weihrauch (frankincense), one of the wise men’s gifts to Baby Jesus, to let its smoke cleanse their home. 

4. Epiphany Feast Foods

Food is another big part of the Epiphany celebration in Germany. 

The most famous food item for this day is King Cake. This is a delicious dessert featuring a range of holiday season ingredients: brandy, raisins, vanilla sugar, and the list goes on. 

The night before, on Epiphany Eve, Germans also enjoy indulging in bockbier. This beer is often consumed during holidays, having a rather high alcohol content and a deep flavor.


5. Essential Vocabulary for Epiphany

A Hand Raised Toward the Sky in Light of a Revelation

Now let’s review some of the vocabulary words used in this article, plus a few more! 

  • Kind (Child) – noun, neutral
  • Bibel (Bible) – noun, feminine
  • König (King) – noun, masculine
  • Gelde (Money) – noun, neutral
  • Kirche (Church) – noun, feminine
  • Singen (Sing) – verb
  • Lied (Song) – noun, neutral
  • Feiertag (Holiday) – noun, masculine
  • Dreikönigsfest (Epiphany) – proper noun, neutral
  • Offenbarung (Revelation) – noun, feminine
  • Verkleiden (Disguise) – verb
  • Laterne (Lantern) – noun, feminine
  • Weihrauch (Frankincense) – noun, masculine

You can find each of these words on our Epiphany vocabulary list, accompanied by recorded audio pronunciations that you can practice along with! 

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about Epiphany traditions in Germany with us, and that you feel inspired to keep exploring this rich culture. In addition to Epiphany, Germany celebrates a range of fascinating holidays all year long. To learn about them, check out the following blog posts on GermanPod101.com:

If you’re serious about your German studies, then create your free lifetime account with us today. We provide a number of practical lessons and resources for learners at every level, so you can jump right in wherever you are in your language learning journey. 

Happy learning!

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You And Me Against the World Of German Pronouns

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You already know you need to learn about German pronouns. They’re a small but absolutely indispensable part of learning a new language.

Congratulations – you mostly know them already!

German pronouns are almost the same as the English ones, with just a couple more here and there. You know, plural second person, formal address, all that good stuff like in other European languages.

The only difficult part is, well, the grammar. Each pronoun has several different forms based on what case it’s in. You not only need to know what that means, but you also need to get used to actually making those changes during natural speech.

Since cases are the key to really understanding German pronouns, let’s start with those.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Opening Up The Cases
  2. German Pronouns in the Nominative
  3. Accusative German Pronouns
  4. Dative German Pronouns
  5. Genitive Case
  6. Conclusion

1. Opening Up The Cases

Introducing Yourself

Cases, for all their difficult reputation, are just different forms of words to mark their grammatical function, such as subject or object in the sentence. English shows that only with pronouns: she is the subject form (“she does something”) of an English pronoun, and her is the object (“something happens to her”).

German marks many parts of speech for case, especially pronouns. German has four cases, but that doesn’t mean four pronoun forms – there are overlaps. You’ll see that very quickly.

Traditionally, the German cases are known as Nominative (subject), Accusative (object), Dative (indirect object), and Genitive (possession).

Let’s have a look at an English sentence to illustrate.

         Her brother gave me the book.

Here, “her” is a possessive pronoun. “Brother” is the subject. “Me” is the indirect object. And “the book” is the direct object.

All of these kind of blend together in English, but in German, the parts of the sentence are usually crystal clear.

This, by the way, doesn’t mean German is any better or worse of a language than English for having cases.

It’s simply the way the language developed. Thousands of years ago, every language spoken in Europe had complex cases, but over time, some of them combined and others were lost entirely in different languages. It’s a natural cycle, and in a few more centuries German might lose its cases – or even give them to English!

2. German Pronouns in the Nominative

Woman Looking in Rearview Mirror

“Nominative” is the first German case, used to mark the subject. It’s the basic form of the word, and therefore the simplest to translate directly into English.

Here’s a brief chart of the personal pronouns in English and their counterparts in German, all in the nominative case.

EnglishGerman
Iich
You (informal)du
You (plural)ihr
Wewir
Heer
Shesie
Ites
You (formal)Sie
Theysie

As you can tell, German distinguishes between three different kinds of “you:” Formal, used for talking to strangers older than you or people like bosses or professors; informal, used for friends, relatives, and strangers younger than you, and plural, used when you’re talking to a group of people in an informal setting. When speaking formally to a group, the formal pronoun pulls double duty.

This makes sense from an English perspective too, by the way. A couple of centuries ago, “you” was both the plural and the formal in English, and “thou” was the informal singular. German still makes that  distinction – and even uses ihr to refer to one person in particularly formal or traditional settings, such as an apprentice to their master.

Also take note of capitalization! Only the formal Sie is always capitalized in German, though du is sometimes capitalized in advertisements or in magazines for young people. It can seem a little weird for English speaker to keep ich in lowercase, though naturally that’s balanced out by all the other capital letters floating around in German.

Let’s see some examples!

Sie ist Taxifahrerin.

She is a taxi driver.

Sie sind ein guter Lehrer.

You’re a good teacher.

Sie haben heute viel zu tun.

They have a lot of work to do today / You have a lot of work to do today.

These sentences illustrate how you have to rely on either the verb conjugation, the context, or both to make the meaning clear. Here, though, are some easier ones:

Ich wohne in Belgien.

I live in Belgium.

Hast du Hunger?

Are you hungry?

3. Accusative German Pronouns

One Man Helping Another Climb Mountain

“Accusative” is the case that marks the object. First, the chart for reference.

EnglishGerman
Memich
You (informal)dich
You (plural)euch
Uswir
Himihn
Hersie
Ites
You (formal)Sie
Theysie

Not a whole lot of difference from the nominative case! Less than half change at all from nominative to accusative. And here’s how you know when to make that change.

Whenever you’d say “me” in English to express the same concept, use the accusative in German. Think about a couple of verbs for a moment: “Pat sees me.” “The coach hit me.” Those verbs are going to be accusative in German too, and so look at the examples:

Hast du ihn gesehen?

Did you see him?

Ich werde euch nicht beraten.

I won’t give you (plural) advice.

Magst du mich?

Do you like me?

It’s easy to find lists online of the most common accusative verbs in German. You can also look for set phrases, because many German preposition-verb combinations take a specific case. Thus, for “to think of somebody,” the preposition is always an and the phrase is an jemanden dachten.

Of course, knowing when to use the pronouns is one thing, but learning to actually produce them accurately under pressure is more difficult.

4. Dative German Pronouns

A Weekly Planner

The “dative” case marks the indirect object. In German, some verbs require a dative case pronoun even if you think it would logically be accusative, such as “to help.”

Können Sie mir helfen?

Can you help me?

That’s not mich like we learned before! Take a look at the next chart:

EnglishGerman
Memir
You (informal)dir
You (plural)euch
Usuns
Himihm
Herihr
Itihm
You (formal)Ihnen
Theyihnen

English no longer distinguishes between accusative and dative. Instead, you can think of dative as being something like “to me.” Whenever you want to say “to me” in English, translate it as mir in German.

These pronoun forms, if anything, are used more frequently than accusative forms in everyday German.  Of course that depends on what you’re talking about and what verbs you’re using, but take service German for instance.

Wir wünschen Ihnen einen schönen Tag.

We wish you a good day.

5. Genitive Case

Basic Questions

By the way, what happened to the genitive case?

To be honest, there are in fact genitive pronouns in German, but they’re very rarely used. Here’s a list of those pronouns:

  • meiner “of me”
  • deiner “of you “
  • Ihrer “of you”
  • seiner “of him, of it” 
  • ihrer “of her, of it” 
  • seiner “of it” 
  • unser “of us” 
  • euer “of you”
  • Ihrer “of you “
  • ihrer “of them” 
Person Washing Hands

So fall, all of our charts have been separated by case. That was to make it easier to handle. Crack open any German textbook, though, and you’ll see a nice big chart with every case all at once. 

Now that you’re comfortable with each case at a time, let’s open it up and show off the demonstrative pronouns in every German case.

MasculineFeminineNeutralPlural
Nominativedieserdiesediesesdiese
Accusativediesendiesediesesdiese
Dativediesemdieserdiesemdiesen
Genitivediesesdieserdiesesdieser

This looks surprisingly like the charts for ordinary German articles – so once you learn the case endings for those, you’re good to go here as well!

In written or formal German, the word jener is used to say “those,” while dieser is used for “these.” Jener has the same endings, so it’s not too hard to learn, but the truth is, people just say dieser for both “these” and “those.”

Kennen Sie diesen Mann?

Do you know this man?

Mit der Hilfe meiner Frau, habe ich diese Stelle bekommen.

With the help of my wife, I got this job.

One more important type of pronoun is a reflexive pronoun, used with a huge number of German verbs.  It’s the equivalent to English pronouns like “myself” or “ourselves.” Also, it’s mostly identical to the accusative and dative pronouns we saw earlier, but with one nice simplification.

The only change is that you have to say sich (in both accusative and dative) for the third person. Put another way, “himself,” “herself,” and “itself” all translate to sich in German.

Sie wäscht sich täglich.

She is washing herself everyday.

6. Conclusion 

Improve Listening

You might be thinking, “Do I really have to memorize those charts?”

Well, yes and no. Memorizing the charts and being able to write them by hand does have some real advantages. You’ll be able to compose and revise accurate texts, for one, since you’ll know all the rules by heart.

But developing a feel for the language is just as important.

And that comes with time. It’s a slow process that requires a whole lot of actual German content to be read, watched, and listened to.

Fortunately, you can achieve both goals quite easily right here on GermanPod101.com! We have excellent grammar resources as well as a real treasure trove of vocabulary lists – and that’s not even mentioning our flagship podcast series!

Relax with our German learning material and watch as it slowly becomes second nature to use the correct German pronoun every time.

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments section with any questions you have about German pronouns. We’ll do our best to help!

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