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German Tenses: All You Need to Know

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First of all, what is a verb? 

Together with nouns, verbs are the most important part of any sentence. They’re words that we use to describe actions (singen – to sing), states of being (existieren – to exist), or occurrences (entwickeln – to develop). They have to agree with the subject, which represents who or what is performing the action. 

Basically, every type of sentence requires a verb to be complete. This is why it’s so important to give them due attention when learning a foreign language—especially German! Today, we’ll talk about German tenses and how to correctly apply them to verbs.

A Man Studying Using His Laptop

German verbs are one of the most challenging aspects of learning this beautifully complex language, but don’t worry. We’ll have a look at the main rules you need to know in order to use German verbs with no problems! 

In particular, we’ll look at the main verb tenses in German and how to conjugate them for both regular and irregular verbs. 

Does this all sound a bit complicated? Don’t worry. We’ll try to explain each concept thoroughly in the following paragraphs. By the time you finish reading, you’ll know how to form German tenses, when to use each one, and more!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. The Use of Tenses in German
  2. Present
  3. Past
  4. Future
  5. German Tenses: A Summary

1. The Use of Tenses in German

The tenses of a verb are used to express when an action takes place, so they make all the difference when talking about the three concepts of present, past, and future. 

In the German language, there are six main verb tenses:

1. Present (Präsens)

2. Present perfect (Perfekt)

3. Past simple (Imperfekt/Präteritum)

4. Past perfect (Plusquamperfekt)

5. Future (Futur I

6. Future perfect (Futur II)

Let’s look at each of these tenses in more detail with examples of how to conjugate them.

A Simple Clock against a White Background

2. Present 

The present tense, or Präsens in German, is the most used of all the German verb tenses. It can be used to talk about present actions or future actions that have already been determined. This tense can actually be used to express concepts in three equivalent English tenses: the present, the present continuous, and the future (“will” and “going to” constructions). 

We use the German Präsens to express…

  • …a fact or condition in the present, or an action that takes place in the present.

Das ist Andreas.
That’s Andreas.

Jeden Montag geht er zum Fußballtraining.
He goes to football training every Monday.

  • …an action that gives information on the duration of something. (Note that in this case, English uses the present perfect.)

Er spielt schon seit zwei Jahren Fußball.
He’s been playing football for two years.

  • …a future action that is already determined to happen. (In English, we can use the future or the present.)

Nächste Woche hat seine Mannschaft ein wichtiges Spiel.
His team will have an important match next week.

A Football Stadium

To conjugate regular verbs in the present tense, we simply remove the infinitive ending -en and add the following endings according to the subject:

Personal PronounPresent Tense EndingConjugation of Lernen (To Learn)
Ich (I)-eich lerne
Du (You) [s]-stdu lernst
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)-ter / sie / es lernt
Wir (We)-enwir lernen
Ihr (You) [p]-tihr lernt
Sie (They)-ensie lernen

Remember, however, that verbs can be irregular. This is the case for two of the most used verbs in German: sein (to be) and haben (to have). Have a look at the table below to see their conjugation in the present tense:

Personal PronounSein (To Be)Haben (To Have)
Ich (I)binhabe
Du (You) [s]bisthast
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)isthat
Wir (We)sindhaben
Ihr (You) [p]seidhabt
Sie (They)sindhaben

3. Past

To convey events that happened in the past, we have three available tenses in German: the simple past, the present perfect, and the past perfect. Let’s look at when to use these and how to conjugate them!

A- Simple Past

In German, the simple past tense is usually referred to as Imperfekt or Präteritum, and it’s mainly used in writing. The majority of speakers prefer to use the present perfect instead, unless they’re trying to be formal or are telling a story. All the same, knowing this tense will be extremely useful if you want to be able to read books, magazines, and newspapers in German. 

All regular German verbs in the simple past follow the same pattern, so once you learn it, you’ll be able to conjugate all of them! 

To form the Präteritum, just remove the ending -en and add the following endings according to the subject: 

Personal PronounSimple Past Tense EndingConjugation of Lernen (To Learn)
Ich (I)-teich lernte
Du (You) [s]-testdu lerntest
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)-teer lernte
Wir (We)-tenwir lernten
Ihr (You) [p]-tetihr lerntet
sie/Sie (They)-tensie lernten

Of course, there are still irregular verbs that do not follow this pattern—you’ll just have to recognize them and memorize their endings by heart! Don’t worry, though: with time and practice, this will come as second nature!

Here’s a table with the conjugations of sein (to be) and haben (to have) in the simple past tense. These verbs are often used not only in writing, but also in speaking. 

Personal PronounSimple Past of Sein (To Be)Simple Past of Haben (To Have)
Ich (I)warhatte
Du (You) [s]warsthattest
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)warhatte
Wir (We)warenhatten 
Ihr (You) [p]warthattet
Sie (They)warenhatten

Note that although haben is an irregular verb, it actually uses the same endings as regular verbs. It simply changes its stem from -b- to -t-. Verbs like this are called mixed verbs and, even though there aren’t many, they’ll stick in your mind for this peculiarity!

B- Present Perfect

Just like in English, the present perfect tense (Perfekt in German) is composed of two parts: 

1) The present tense of an auxiliary verb (“have” in English, haben or sein in German)

2) The past participle of the verb you’re conjugating (for example, “learned” or gelernt)

  • Ich habe gelernt. (I have learned.)

In German, we form the past participle by adding the prefix ge- to the third person singular.

  • Infinitive: lernen → Third person singular: er lernt → Past participle: gelernt

This works with all regular verbs. 

Usually, we choose haben as an auxiliary verb when forming the Perfekt. But if we’re describing a condition or a movement, or are conjugating the verb sein, we would use sein as the auxiliary verb. 

  • Wir sind in den Supermarkt gegangen. (We went to the supermarket.)
  • Sie ist gestern krank gewesen. (She was ill yesterday.)

A Couple at the Supermarket

Personal PronounPresent Perfect of Lernen (To Learn)
Ich (I)habe gelernt
Du (You) [s]hast gelernt
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)hat gelernt
Wir (We)haben gelernt
Ihr (You) [p]habt gelernt
Sie (They)haben gelernt

Personal PronounPresent Perfect of Haben (To Have)
Ich (I)habe gehabt
Du (You) [s]hast gehabt
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)hat gehabt
Wir (We)haben gehabt
Ihr (You) [p]habt gehabt
Sie (They)haben gehabt

C- Past Perfect

The Plusquamperfekt (Past Perfect) expresses actions that took place before a given point in the past. It’s the German equivalent of the English past perfect tense (I had learned). We use this tense in storytelling, combined with the simple past, to talk about something that happened before a past event.

Like in English, we form it using the simple past of the auxiliary verb (“have” in English, haben or sein in German) and the past participle of the verb you’re conjugating (for example, “learned” or gelernt).

Personal PronounPast Perfect of Lernen (To Learn)
Ich (I)hatte gelernt
Du (You) [s]hattest gelernt
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)hatte gelernt
Wir (We)hatten gelernt
Ihr (You) [p]hattet gelernt
Sie (They)hatten gelernt

Personal PronounPast Perfect of Haben (To Have)
Ich (I)hatte gehabt
Du (You) [s]hattest gehabt
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)hatte gehabt
Wir (We)hatten gehabt
Ihr (You) [p]hattet gehabt
Sie (They)hatten gehabt

4. Future

As we’ve mentioned, we can often use the present tense to talk about set events in the future. What happens, though, when we want to talk about an intention or an event in the future we’re not sure about?

In German, we have two future tenses: Futur I and Futur II.

A Woman Writing Something at a Wooden Desk with a Typewriter

A- Futur I

This tense is comparable to the English “I will ___” or “I am going to ___.”

In German, we use it to express:

  • A future intention
  • An assumption about the future
  • An assumption about the present

To conjugate it, we need the finite form of werden and the infinitive form of the verb.

Personal PronounFutur I of Lernen (To Learn)
Ich (I)werde lernen
Du (You) [s]wirst lernen
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)wird lernen
Wir (We)werden lernen
Ihr (You) [p]werdet lernen
Sie (They)werden lernen

Personal PronounFutur I of Haben (To Have)
Ich (I)werde haben 
Du (You) [s]wirst haben 
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)wird haben 
Wir (We)werden haben 
Ihr (You) [p]werdet haben 
Sie (They)werden haben 

B- Future Perfect

The Futur II (future perfect) expresses the idea that an action will have been completed by a particular point in the future.

To form this tense, we need the finite form of werden, the past participle of the full verb, and the auxiliary verbs sein/haben.

Personal PronounFutur II of Lernen (To Learn)
Ich (I)werde gelernt haben
Du (You)wirst gelernt haben
Er/sie/es (He/she/it)wird gelernt haben
Wir (We)werden gelernt haben
Ihr (You plural)werdet gelernt haben
Sie (They)werden gelernt haben

Personal PronounFutur II of Haben (To Have)
Ich (I)werde gehabt haben
Du (You) [s]wirst gehabt haben
Er / Sie / Es (He / She / It)wird gehabt haben
Wir (We)werden gehabt haben
Ihr (You) [p]werdet gehabt haben
Sie (They)werden gehabt haben

5. German Tenses: A Summary

As you’ve seen, learning how to use verbs and verb tenses in German can be tricky, but it’s certainly one of the most important aspects of learning this beautiful and interesting language

We hope that this post helped you gain some insight into German tenses and how to use them properly to talk about the past, present, and future!

If you want to learn more about verbs and conjugations and have access to much more German learning material, visit GermanPod101.com. Here you’ll find lessons for all levels, grammar material, vocab lists, podcasts, dictionaries, blog posts, and more!

What are you waiting for? Start learning and practicing German with us—you’ll be able to master the use of German verbs and tenses in no time at all! 

Before you go, let us know in the comments if this article helped you. Do you feel ready to tackle the challenge of German verb tenses, or do you still have questions? We look forward to hearing from you!

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How Long Does it Take to Learn German?

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What dedicated language learner could pass up an opportunity to spend endless days studying German and all its nuances? Unfortunately, in our society, time is money and the reality of things can be quite different. Most of us just don’t have the time to study languages at our leisure. 

Because time is such a constraint, there’s an important question to ask yourself before beginning to learn this beautiful language: How long does it take to learn German?

Mark Twain said: “A gifted person ought to learn English in 30 hours, French in 30 days and German in 30 years.” But it might not take quite that long!

I’m sure we all instinctively look for the fastest and easiest ways to learn new things. Being efficient with our time allows us to start practicing and using our new skills much sooner, so we can find a better job, travel abroad, or better communicate with a loved one. 

Learning a foreign language is always an amazing and fulfilling process, though often arduous. By learning to understand, speak, and think in a different language, we not only add a new skill to our repertoire but we also change the very way we see and interact with the world.

It’s understandable that you’d like to know for certain how long this marveolus language learning journey will take you, so that you could make plans and form solid expectations. The reality is, however, that there’s no one best way to learn German and there’s no set timetable for it! 

Everyone learns differently, and how long it takes to learn German will depend on many factors. 

In this article, we’ll explore some of the factors that will affect your learning and how you can speed it up as much as possible!

Hourglass against a Dark Background
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. Experience
  2. Learning Style
  3. Approach
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?
  5. How Our Website Can Help

Experience

One of the most important factors to take into account when considering how fast you can learn a language is your personal experience with languages

The Language(s) You Speak

What’s your native language? And what other languages do you speak? 

Yes, this might actually be a defining element in how quickly you’ll be able to pick up the German language. If you’re a native (or near-native) English speaker, you’re in luck! German and English actually share the same roots and forty percent of German vocabulary is similar to English vocabulary!

If you’re a native speaker of a Semitic language like Arabic, on the other hand, it might be a little trickier to learn German—but all the more challenging and rewarding! So, don’t be discouraged. Just be aware that your native English-speaking classmates might have a bit of a headstart…but that doesn’t mean they’ll learn it better than you!

Several Language Learning Textbooks

Your Previous Language Learning Experience

Have you ever learned another language before?

If you already speak a foreign language fluently, or were raised bilingual, it may be easier and quicker for you to learn German. Several studies have now proven that bilinguals find it easier to learn a third language. This is because they already have experience learning and using a second language, and are thus more accustomed to the entire process.

Even if you’re not bilingual, having studied and learned a foreign language at some point in your life will help. Having fluency and skill in one language will help you gain fluency and skill in another, even if the two languages are unrelated! 

Your Previous Grammar Knowledge

One of the first steps in learning a foreign language is finding out how it’s built and how it works. This is usually done by studying its structure and grammar. 

If you already have some experience studying grammar and syntax, even in your native language, it will be much easier for you to study the grammar and syntax of a foreign language. 

So, if you plan to start learning German (or another language!), it’s a good idea to have some grammar foundations to build on!

An Asian Woman Studying German

Learning Style

The way you learn and study is another essential aspect that may affect how long it will take you to become fluent in German. 

Your Methods

If you limit your learning to a classroom setting, even if you show up every day, it will probably take you a little longer to learn and feel confident using your language skills. Try to expose yourself to German outside the classroom (or online lesson) and you’ll cut down the time it takes you to learn it! 

Try reading German newspapers, watching films and series in German, and even listening to German podcasts while you drive or cook. Of course, finding a language partner to practice conversing with will also go a long way toward making you fluent faster! 

Your Time

There’s another aspect we haven’t mentioned yet, but it’s the most important of all when asking yourself how long it takes to learn German: The time you dedicate to it!

If you want to learn fast, try to dedicate as much time to learning as you can. 

Daily practice is ideal, and research has actually proven that learners who dedicate an hour a day to language learning—whether studying grammar, memorizing new words, watching a film, or reading a book—learn significantly faster than those who just attend weekly classes. 

And of course, if it’s an option for you, full immersion is best. If you can travel to Germany and live there for a while, that will make a big difference!

A Christmas Market in Germany

Approach

This is quite possibly the game-changer that will determine how fast you learn German. It can really make a massive difference!  

Your Motivation

It really is no secret that staying motivated is essential for learning a foreign language. Why do you want to learn German?

Have this clear in your mind and set weekly (or even daily) goals for maximum efficiency. This will help you stay motivated and interested in learning, and you can remind yourself every day why you’re learning this beautiful language. 

Your Attitude

Keeping your motivation up will make you feel like you’re learning more efficiently, and it will help you maintain a positive attitude during your language learning journey! 

It’s key to see learning as a fun and interesting activity that you’re choosing to do, and not a chore that you’re forced to do.

A Man Expressing Victory

Remember that learning a new language will open your mind and your horizons, and it will give you a great set of skills you can use in your day-to-day life. 

When you think this way, you’ll feel like learning something new every day and the process will be more enjoyable and much faster! 

How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced Level?

So, let’s get to the point. Even though it’s hard to say for sure, we’ve tried to make an estimate of how long it might take you to reach a beginner, intermediate, and advanced level of German. 

Beginner

A beginner speaker of a language will be able to introduce themselves, understand slow and simple spoken language, and ask basic questions (probably making some mistakes along the way!). 

This level is probably enough if you just want…

  • …to be able to greet people. 
  • …to order a meal at the restaurant
  • …to understand when someone talks to you slowly and carefully. 
  • …some basic reading skills. 

You’ll be able to do all these things after about 180-200 hours (level A2) of German classes. This means that if you’re motivated and willing to put in 10-15 hours a week, you can travel to Germany without any worries in just over three months! 

So get studying now, and you’ll soon be having some basic conversations with native speakers!

Intermediate

If you reach an intermediate level, you’ll be able to understand everyday conversation (if spoken clearly), even if you have to ask some questions here and there to keep up. This level will also allow you to… 

  • …watch videos and read the news without major problems understanding the main points. 
  • ask for and follow directions
  • …have basic interactions with locals about familiar subjects. 

We estimate that to achieve an intermediate level in German, you’ll need around 350 hours of study. This means that, if you dedicate around 15 hours a week to practicing your German, you’ll be able to reach this level in just six months! 

Advanced

If you want to achieve fluency, this is what you’re aiming for: advanced language skills. With this level, you’ll basically be able to… 

  • navigate any kind of situation that may arise in your daily life or while traveling.
  • …have in-depth conversations with native speakers. 
  • watch movies without subtitles.
  • …read books in German with no problem.

You’ll be fluent! (Even if there will always be something more to learn about this intricate and beautifully complex language…)

A Woman Studying Late at Night

So, how long do you need to learn German if you want to reach this level of fluency? 

According to the U.S. Foreign Service Institute (FSI), you’ll need about 750 hours of study to become fluent in German. This means that if you study 12-15 hours a week, you’ll be able to speak like a pro in just a year! 

If this seems like a long time, take into account that harder languages like Japanese or Arabic may take up to 2200 hours, three times longer than German!

How Our Website Can Help

What are you waiting for? The right time to start learning a new language is now! 

The sooner you start learning, the faster you’ll achieve your language objectives and start speaking German. 

As you consider your options (and the world’s ongoing pandemic), you might wonder how to learn German online. GermanPod101 is a great place to start! 

To keep you motivated and interested (and to make your language learning adventure easy to navigate), we offer all kinds of language learning content on GermanPod101.com. Here you’ll find lessons for all levels, as well as vocabulary lists, dictionaries, and blog posts. 

Above all, how long it takes to learn German just depends on how much time you’re willing to invest. Our courses and resources are specifically designed to give you all the right tools to learn German as quickly and easily as possible, so that your precious time is well-spent!

Whether you’re a beginner who wants a full immersion experience or an advanced speaker who just needs to refine your skills, you’ll find what you’re looking for here.

Before you go, let us know in the comments if this article helped you! Do you feel ready to tackle the challenge of learning German? We look forward to hearing from you!

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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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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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Is German Hard to Learn? Yes – But in a Good Way.

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You might be one of those folks who wishes they knew German.

But wanting to know German is different from learning German or wanting to learn German. The people who just long for the day when they know German are usually the ones asking “Is German hard to learn?”

But here’s the thing. Every language out there is hard in one way or another, even the ones that are close to your native language. Whether the difficulty comes at the beginning of the journey or in the middle, you’re never going to get off easy.

The challenge is the fun of it! And besides, do you really have that much to worry about when it comes to learning German? 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning German Table of Contents
  1. Is it Hard to Learn German?
  2. The Hardest Parts of German
  3. The Easiest Parts of German
  4. Where Should You Start Learning German?
  5. Advice to a New Learner
  6. The Advantages of GermanPod101
  7. Conclusion

1. Is it Hard to Learn German?

Traditional German Tree Image

German has this bad reputation of being difficult. Centuries of students from all around the world have been stuck translating German back and forth from their native languages, usually long and dreadfully boring passages made up to illustrate some grammar rule or another. Hemingway himself studied German and wrote his experiences down in an essay, where he talked about the struggles that English-speakers face when learning this difficult language.

But what makes German so hard to learn?

The only reason that German seems so difficult to people is that it has grammar rules that other languages don’t.

German is a language with relatively high “inflection,” meaning that the words in a sentence change based on their grammatical roles. For example, you have to add different endings to the adjectives and the articles in order to show which part of the sentence is the subject and which is the object.

Like English, German also has a lot of set phrases and verbs that go with specific prepositions. Adding a different preposition or prefix to a verb can change the meaning completely. Just like how, in English, a business can “go under” if the rent prices “go up.”

There’s also the question of pronunciation. After a handful of spelling reforms, German is spoken much like it’s written, but there are some consonants and vowels that don’t exist in English. It’s especially tricky because some of them are almost like their English counterparts, but just different enough to cause confusion.

These factors definitely make it sound like German is a tough nut to crack. Don’t worry, though—with every difficult feature comes an easy one to balance things out. 

2. The Hardest Parts of German

A Kid Stressed about His Homework

Let’s go into a bit more detail on the things that scare people the most. 

Look up any information about why the German language is hard to learn, and the number-one answer is “the cases.” Those are the word changes we alluded to earlier. 

Interestingly enough, German is one of very few European languages in which the article is affected by the grammatical role instead of the noun. Look at any of the Slavic languages or Latin, for instance, and you’ll see that the noun itself has to change!

German has four cases: the nominative (subject of the sentence), accusative (direct object), dative (indirect object), and genitive (possession). Nominative is the “basic” case with the dictionary form of the word, so you can strike that one off your list of things to worry about right away.

The genitive is slowly being phased out, except in formal language and in set phrases, so you only really need to recognize it until you’re an intermediate learner. That leaves just two cases you have to choose from, and honestly, it becomes second nature to think in that sort of “framework” after enough practice. 

3. The Easiest Parts of German

Oktoberfest Decorations

It’s definitely not all doom and gloom here. German is related to English, and that means there are some delightfully easy things about it.

First of all, the verb system. Anybody who’s ever studied a Romance language (like Spanish) or a Slavic language (like Russian) knows that the verbal system in other languages can be very complex. 

In German, the tenses of verbs are made with helping words, like in English. English doesn’t really have a future tense—we just say “I will do.” German doesn’t either: ich werde tun. And although the word order changes around a bit, this holds true even for rarer and “more complicated” tenses.

  • Es wird getan sein.
    “It will be done.”

Also, there are quite a few words in German that are easy to guess the meaning of. English and German    share an ancestor language, so a lot of the basic, core vocabulary comes from the same root. 

Once you hear that Das Buch means “the book” and Das Schwert means “the sword,” these words are super-easy to remember when you see them again. You’ll even unconsciously pick up on the sound changes that connect German and English roots.

And even better, there’s now a second wave of common vocabulary: words loaned from modern English into German! Das Management and Der Computer are just two examples. They mostly come in the form of tech or business words.

4. Where Should You Start Learning German?

Someone Turning Up the Volume

The best way to start learning German is to begin with audio.

German pronunciation is a pitfall for a lot of people, because it has subtle vowel changes from English that are hard to pick up on your own. If you start by listening to German instead of reading it, though, you’ll hear the differences early on.

An easy place to start is with GermanPod101 or a YouTube German-learning series where you can see the German transcript of what you’re hearing. That’s a great way to match each word to its correct sound right from the beginning.

After that, you should go through a quick set of pronunciation drills. YouTube is fine for this, too, though you can just follow the instructions in a German textbook. 

This may sound like a lot of work before you really get going, but laying a proper foundation is absolutely crucial to achieving a good command of German later on. 

There are far too many people out there who started speaking before they were ready, and ended up hitting a wall in the intermediate stage where their constant mistakes continue to hold them back.

Avoid that fate—study methodically at first, and then let loose later on! 

5. Advice to a New Learner

A Woman Reading and Writing Late at Night

Now that you know what makes German hard to learn, have you decided it’s not too bad after all? Great! Here’s some advice for new learners:

Since German has a lot of little things that have to be memorized, just embrace it.

Take a two-pronged approach: set aside a bit of time every day to go over the declension charts and review the core grammar rules. You’ll quickly find that this stuff locks itself into your memory pretty easily. Be patient with yourself and slowly write out the charts over and over until they’re second nature.

At the same time, it’s important to work with real native German material right from the start. Again, GermanPod101 and YouTube are treasure troves for this. You can find interesting content, slow it down, read the transcripts, and break it down into chunks you can understand.

Understanding is way more important than being able to speak right away, because everything depends on your ability to know what’s being said to you or what you’re reading.

Your brain will subconsciously pick up the patterns of natural German speech. This means that when you want to actually speak or write, it’ll be easy because you’ll also know the theory of German grammar.


6. The Advantages of GermanPod101

Obviously, the flagship podcast series from GermanPod101 is the main attraction on our website. With hundreds of episodes covering hundreds of topics, there’s always something new to learn. Plus, it’s all broken down with clear explanations and advice for learners.

Also, don’t miss our excellent grammar and pronunciation guides, where each sound and each case is explained by experts so that you can follow along, no matter your current level.

One huge thing you can take advantage of right now is the GermanPod101 YouTube channel, which has a great series of videos designed for listening comprehension from absolute beginner to advanced.

Each of those videos has slow and clear native-speaker audio acting out dozens of realistic situations, such as buying things in shops, talking with friends, and interacting with people at work. Each dialogue gets played twice, once without subtitles and once with subtitles, so you’ll automatically make the connections you need. 


7. Conclusion

Honestly, the best way to find out if the German language is hard or not is to try learning it yourself. Although there are definitely things you’ll have to spend more time on than others, no language is really “more difficult” overall than any other.

With German, you will have the initial handicap of it taking longer to be able to form simple sentences, especially compared to a language like Indonesian, where the words just fall into place.

However, you’ll also have a huge advantage if you know English, because you have a great base of shared vocabulary and cultural knowledge. That advantage only grows if you know French or another Romance language.

When you get to the more advanced levels, you’ll see your vocabulary grow exponentially because you’ll already have learned all the roots you need to create those impressively long German nouns.

The path begins today. Take the right first step by checking out GermanPod101, and see how far you can go!

If you’re learning the language already, which parts of German do you struggle with most? What things are easier for you? Let us, and aspiring German learners, know in the comments!

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Guard Yourself Against These Common German Mistakes

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Make no mistake—people have been complaining about the difficulty of the German language for centuries. Mark Twain did it then, and you’re probably doing it now.

It seems like the harder a language is, the more pressure we put on ourselves to get it exactly right. That’s even more true when the locals tend to speak English quite confidently. 

But as the Europe of today becomes more and more multicultural, the stigma of “perfect German or bust” is slowly falling away. There’s no need to paralyze yourself with doubt concerning common German mistakes or creating the perfect German sentence, because others in your community are probably dealing with language struggles of their own. 

So if you want to improve your German, you can start first with the beginner mistakes in German that make you stand out the most. That’s what we’ve distilled right here for you in this article!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in German Table of Contents
  1. German Pronunciation Mistakes – The Trickiest German Sounds
  2. Confusing Words
  3. Put That Verb Back Where it Came From
  4. Flex Your Grammar Skills
  5. The Mistake Grab Bag
  6. The Biggest Mistake
  7. Conclusion

1. German Pronunciation Mistakes – The Trickiest German Sounds

Woman Struggling with Complex Math Equation

German definitely has a stereotype of being a “harsh” language. Outside of World War II movies, though, there’s no basis for that! 

It just has sounds that English-speakers aren’t used to. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a matter of accent. Pronouncing German sounds wrong can lead to serious misunderstandings.

For many people, it seems that the most common German pronunciation mistakes have to do with the consonants.

German has two rather throaty “ch” sounds, one called the ich-laut and one called the ach-laut. To distinguish between them, think about where your tongue is placed when you say the vowel in ich and the vowel in ach

The “ch” sound in ich is lighter and made more forward in your mouth. It actually requires the same tongue position as the vowel—you’re basically just whispering that ich vowel. The ach-laut, in contrast, is made more in the back of the mouth, with your throat just a little bit tighter than when you made the vowel sound in ach.

You should know that in some German dialects, the ich-laut does become something more like the English sound “sh,” and people even spell it as isch

The throaty German “R” sound is another rough one for learners, and some even complain about sore throats when reading German aloud. 

If that’s happening to you, relax a bit, since your tongue shouldn’t actually be touching your throat when you make that sound. Do your best with audio or a native instructor, but the most important part is to get the transition sounds right.

That means you need to practice saying words that begin with R, end in R, and have R in the middle. Seamlessly moving from other vowels or consonants than R is a true mark of an advanced speaker. 

2. Confusing Words

Someone Getting Ready to Write in Their Journal

There are, unfortunately, quite a few German words that learners tend to mix up. 

The simplest ones are those that English doesn’t quite have an equivalent for, like machen/tun and wissen/kennen

Machen and tun both mean “to do,” but each word has its own separate collocations and set phrases. Furthermore, tun sounds a bit informal or even juvenile at times, and so you’ll rarely (if ever) see it in formal written German. There’s even a saying: Tun tut man nicht. (“One does not tun.”)

And if this wasn’t enough, the few times you do see tun written somewhere, it will very likely be misspelled. There are a few words in German that even the natives aren’t sure how to spell. That’s why you might come across variants like tuhn, tuhen, or tuen. Indeed, tun sounds like there could be an h or e in-between, but we guarantee that this word consists of only three letters.

Wissen and kennen, similarly, both mean “to know,” but kennen is for people and wissen is for knowledge. 

  • Ich kenne ihn nicht.
    “I don’t know him.”

Trickier still, are the many, many words with prefixes or reflexive components that otherwise sound quite similar. Native English-speakers never had to learn it consciously, but English does the same thing: imagine you’re a learner and you’re trying to keep the meanings straight between “throw up,” “throw out,” “throw off,” and “throw on”!

Writing in German is one of the best ways to master confusing words and avoid common German spelling mistakes in the future. This is because, in speech, it’s too easy to stutter and correct yourself in real time while losing the thread of what you really wanted to say. In writing, though, you can carefully consider each word and lock its meaning into your brain. 

Be careful, though, not to contrast similar-sounding words too much right next to each other. Don’t sit in your chair with your eyes closed and repeat betrunken (“drunk”) and ertrunken (“drowned”) over and over. People will look at you funny, and you’ll only make the mental links between the words stronger.

3. Put That Verb Back Where it Came From

Someone Going on a Hike

To a native English-speaker, German word order can seem like one of its quirkiest aspects. 

As you’re probably aware, the verb is the very last element of German relative clauses. 

  • Ich habe einen Ball.
    “I have a ball.”
  • Ich habe einen Ball, der schwer ist.
    “I have a ball that is heavy.”

We’ve put ist (“is”) in the very last spot in the second clause of the second example. That trips up even advanced German students, because when you’re composing a sentence in your head, it’s often unnatural to wait until the end to think of the verb.

Try out some online grammar quizzes in German for a quick refresher of the word order rules. Also, if you do some writing in German from time to time, you should try stepping away from your text and reading it aloud after a break. It will probably surprise you how many little mistakes you find!

Another type of word order mistake in German has more to do with comprehension than production. German articles have several different forms depending on the number and case, but in English, they all get mapped to “the.” 

Have a look at this, though:

  • Dem Mann folgte die Frau.
    “The woman followed the man.” (It was the man that the woman followed.)

In today’s German writing, you won’t come across sentence inversions like this very often, but crack open a book written before the 1920s or so, and this will be everywhere. This example shows that the cases do play an important role in allowing for free word order while maintaining intelligibility. 

4. Flex Your Grammar Skills

Male, Female, and Neuter Gender Signs

You probably already know that the single biggest problem German learners face grammar-wise is the grammatical gender and the word endings that go along with them. Here, we’ll cover common German grammar mistakes concerning this, and how to avoid them.

Although there are a couple of rules you can memorize to make guessing noun gender go a little faster, it’s truly just going to come down to memorization and exposure. Learning German isn’t a race. The longer you spend with it, the more natural the correct noun endings are going to seem.

One thing that can actually help a lot for learning adjectives and article declensions is making study guides. 

Take a selection of intermediate-level German text and explain it, word by word, to a learner who doesn’t know a thing about German. Explain why each word has each ending, and how it relates to the sentence as a whole.

This is the kind of exercise you only need to do a handful of times before you start surprising yourself with how accurate your grammar is.

5. The Mistake Grab Bag

Many learners aren’t quite comfortable with the concept of polite and informal pronouns. To tell the truth, tons of native speakers have a hard time knowing exactly when to siezen “use Sie” or duzen “use du” as well!

There’s also a general shift toward using du more, especially online and especially among young people. However, if you ever take a German standardized test, you’ll be specifically tested on your ability to effectively use both levels of politeness, so make sure you’re equally strong in both.

And although German is considered to be one of the easier languages to spell, there are a few words with irregular pronunciation. These mostly come from other languages.

For instance, the words Restaurant and Fond (“fund”) are from French, and so they end in nasal vowels. Also, Regisseur (“film director”) has a smooth French “zh” sound, but Region has a hard “G” sound.

Finally, the humble word vier (“four”) has a long vowel, but it actually becomes a short vowel in the related words Viertel (“fourth”), vierzehn (“fourteen”), and vierzig (“forty”). Keep a sharp ear out, and you may hear more irregularities!

6. The Biggest Mistake

Man with Tape Over His Mouth

However, all of these little mistakes pale in comparison to one thing that could ruin your German forever—not using it. 

German-speakers aren’t going to bite you if you use a few words wrong or forget an ending. If you force yourself to stay silent even when you hear a lost German tourist asking for directions in your home country, you’re missing out on unequaled practice and the opportunity to make new friends. 

You might have the preconception that German-speakers would be too good at English to ever help you with your German, but that’s really not the case. The more you put yourself out there, the more international friends you’ll make and the better your German will become.

7. Conclusion

Even though practice with native speakers is the only tried-and-true way to really feel comfortable with native speakers, you can still make a strong effort at home. 

That’s where GermanPod101 comes in as a complete solution to all of your German-learning needs—all inside two earbuds. 

Learning German is a slow road, but oftentimes, you look back and marvel at how far you’ve come. Daily practice is the key, and that’s made easy with the podcast episodes, video tutorials, and vocabulary lists you’ll find on GermanPod101.com.

So step right up, and try out GermanPod101 today to start speaking beautiful and correct German as soon as possible!

Before you go, let us know in the comments what German mistakes you make the most often, or how you’ve learned to overcome them. We look forward to hearing from you!

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