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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Anja here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher where I’ll answer some of your most common German questions.
The question for this lesson is: What does ja mean in German and how do I use it?
The German language uses a lot of short, little words in sentences to slightly change the tone. It could be to add emphasis, to make a statement less direct or less harsh, to comfort someone, to acknowledge a fact, to express surprise, and more.
One of these words is ja. Ja normally means “yes.” However, when used in the middle of a sentence, the meaning is different. For example, in the sentence Du sprichst ja auch Deutsch, meaning “You speak German, too,” it cannot be translated as “yes.” There is no direct translation. Here, it’s just emphasizing that the person you’re speaking to can also speak German.
Let’s break it down so you can understand how to use ja more easily.
Let’s use this scenario as an example. A German and a non-German person are talking about an exam they took in German. The German person says, Ich fand den Test einfach, which means, “I found the exam easy.” The non-German person might respond with Du sprichst ja auch Deutsch. meaning “Well of course you would, since you speak German.”
Let’s do another example with Ich geh ja schon meaning “I’m already going.” You would use this sentence if someone has repeatedly asked you to do something. The ja refers to the fact that you know you have been asked a number of times and can be translated as “Okay, okay, I’m going. Stop nagging me.”
The word ja can also be used in the following scenario - Ist ja auch so meaning, “Well, that’s how it is.” This time, the ja makes the sentence sound a bit defiant. For example, If someone says, Du beschwerst dich oft über Staus auf der Autobahn meaning “You often complain about traffic jams on the highway,” the other person might, in a slightly annoyed tone, reply with, Ist ja auch so, “Well that’s just how it is.”
Let’s do one last example. Imagine you’re feeling hungry and you remember there are some cookies in the kitchen. However, when you open the jar, there are none left! You might say, Nanu, die Kekse sind ja schon alle, meaning, “Oh, the cookies are all gone already.” In this case, ja adds an element of surprise.
How was this lesson? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them!
Tschüss, bis zum nächsten Mal! “Bye, see you next time!”