Dialogue

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Vocabulary

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Entschuldigung apology, excuse me, I’m sorry
Sie you (formal)
ich I
wer who
sein to be
nein no
nicht not
aus from

Lesson Notes

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Grammar

In this lesson, you have seen a generous amount of “ich bin” (I am) and “Sie sind” (you are, formal). If you have access to the extra material, you have even heard “du bist”, the informal equivalent of “Sie sind”. All of these are forms of the verb “sein” (to be), which is irregular in German, just like in English.

Here is a table with all the present tense forms:

sein to be
ich bin I am
du bist you are (informal)
er ist / sie ist / es ist he is / she is / it is
wir sind we are
ihr seid you are (plural)
sie sind / Sie sind they are / you are (formal)

As you can see, the formal “Sie sind” (you are) is the same form as “sie sind” (they are), except for the capital letter that indicates respect. The formal form in German will always correspond to the “they” form (3rd person plural).

Some examples of this very useful verb in action: Ich bin Michael. – I am Michael. Du bist schön. – You are pretty. Er ist Student. – He is a student. Sie ist aus England. – She is from England. Es ist nicht gut. – It is not good. Wir sind Freunde. – We are friends. Seid ihr bereit? – Are you ready? Wer sind sie? – Who are they? Wer sind Sie? – Who are you (formal) ?

Cultural Insights

Use “Entschuldigung” as the equivalent of either “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry”, for example when:

* getting somebody’s attention
* trying to move through a crowd, thus asking them to step aside
* stepping on somebody’s foot
* really screwing up (in that case you’d use further expressions in addition to just “Entschuldigung”)

Do not say it when somebody tells you sad news. Germans do not apologize for things that are not their fault, such as a friend not getting a job. Rather, you’d express encouragement there. In severe cases however, such as somebody’s mother being sent to the hospital, you can say “Es tut mir leid” (It pains me; I am chagrined) as a way of commiserating.

The formality of the conversation may seem a bit odd to you, seeing that John and Michaela have known each other through e-mail, but John wasn’t absolutely sure he was talking to Michaela and so he had to make sure he was being polite to this stranger. Using informal language on this occasion already would have been like saying “Hey you, are you Michaela?” and would probably have provoked an annoyed reaction. Especially older people are very sensitive when it comes to how you address them, because they expect to be shown respect, and using formal language is the easiest way of saying “I respect you” in German. That is why sometimes even people who have known each other for a long time use ‘formal’ language with each other.

Generally, you should only use informal language with a new acquaintance if:

* you are talking to somebody under 18
* you and the person you’re talking with are both around student age
* you and the person you’re talking with are relatives

In all other cases, you should wait till you are asked to switch to informal language – it’s up to the older person or the one higher in rank to do so or not. Your boss or teacher will certainly never ask you, as that would diminish his authority in the eyes of everybody. However, even regular acquaintances don’t switch to using first names nearly as quickly as they do in the USA. If you just start by addressing a stranger informally, he may feel offended as you seem to treat him like a child. That being said, as a foreigner you certainly have some leeway in case you should forget.

Grammar

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Below is a list of the grammar points introduced or used in this lesson. Click for a full explanation.

Position des Verbs im Satz
Position of the verb in the sentence
Introduced
Höflichkeit auf Deutsch
Politeness in German
Introduced

Lesson Transcript

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INTRODUCTION
Judith: Hello, ich heiße Judith.
Chuck: Hi, I’m Chuck. This is Beginner series Lesson 1.
Judith: Sie hören GermanPod101.com.
Chuck: You are listening to GermanPod101.com.
Judith: Willkommen.
Chuck: Welcome.
Judith: This is the very first lesson of our new beginner series.
Chuck: The beginner series is for you if you have little prior knowledge of German. If you just want to brush up on what you’ve learned or if you’re looking for a comprehensive introduction to the German language.
Judith: If you don’t know any German and haven’t studied any other foreign language before, you may want to start with the newbie series instead, because we’re going to take a closer look at grammar here.
Chuck: Grammar? We’re going to do grammar. I think I got to get out of here.
Judith: Don’t run away. This is not going to be a high school class. It’s all going to be interesting and fun.
Chuck: GermanPod101.com’s programs are based on the latest scientific findings in order to make learning as effortless as possible.
Judith: Apart from the free podcasts, there’s also a wealth of materials at GermanPod101.com that can help you with your studies. For example, transcripts, summaries, different types of exercises and reference materials. Check it out.
Chuck: Now, let’s get started with our first dialog. This dialog takes place at Dusseldorf Airport, one of the largest German international airports. I will play the role of John Williams, an American man who has just arrived with the plane from New York.
Judith: And I will play his German pen friend, Michaela Wucher, who came to pick him up at the airport.

Lesson conversation

John: Entschuldigung! Sind Sie “Michaela Wucher”?
Michaela: Nein, ich bin nicht “Michaela Wucher”. Wer sind Sie?
John: Ich bin John Williams. Ich bin aus Pennsylvania.
Michaela: Ahhh! Sie sind John Williams! Ich bin “Michaela Wucher”, but it is pronounced Michaela Wucher.
John: Oh, Entschuldigung!
English Host: Now, the dialect will be read slowly.
John: Entschuldigung! Sind Sie “Michaela Wucher”?
Michaela: Nein, ich bin nicht “Michaela Wucher”. Wer sind Sie?
John: Ich bin John Williams. Ich bin aus Pennsylvania.
Michaela: Ahhh! Sie sind John Williams! Ich bin “Michaela Wucher”, but it is pronounced Michaela Wucher.
John: Oh, Entschuldigung!
English Host: Now I’m going to read the dialog alone and Chuck is going to give you the translations.
John: Entschuldigung! Sind Sie “Michaela Wucher”?
Chuck: Excuse me! Are you Michaela Wucher?
Michaela: Nein, ich bin nicht “Michaela Wucher”. Wer sind Sie?
Chuck: No, I am not “Michaela Wucher”. Who are you?
John: Ich bin John Williams. Ich bin aus Pennsylvania...
Chuck: I am John Williams. I am from Pennsylvania...
Michaela: Ahhh! Sie sind John Williams! Ich bin “Michaela Wucher”, but it is pronounced Michaela Wucher.
Chuck: Ahhh! You are John Williams! I am “Michaela Wucher”, but it is pronounced Michaela Wucher.
John: Oh, Entschuldigung!
Chuck: Oh, sorry!
KEY VOCABULARY AND PHRASES
Chuck: We have heard the word “Entschuldigung” twice in this dialog. Judith, could you summarize when it is appropriate to say?
Judith: Well, “Entschuldigung” is the equivalent of either “excuse me” or “I’m sorry”. For example, when you want to get somebody’s attention, as John did in this dialog. He said, “Entschuldigung” to get the person’s attention when he was trying to talk to her to find out if she was his pen friend. And of course, you can also use “Entschuldigung” when you’re trying to move through a crowd. And then if you use “Entschuldigung” in the sense of I’m sorry, you could use it when you’re stepping on somebody’s foot or even when you’re really screwing up. Well, when you’re really screwing up, you’d probably use further expressions in addition to just “Entschuldigung”, you could say “es tut mir leid” or other words.
Chuck: But you shouldn’t say it when someone just tells you bad news. German’s don’t apologize for things that aren’t their fault, such as a friend not getting a job. Rather, you’d express encouragement there. In severe cases however, such as a death in the family, you can say, “es tut mir leid” which means, “It pains me.” as a way of commiserating.
Judith: That’s exactly right. So be sure not to use “Entschuldigung” when somebody tells you a sad news, a main point you need to remember.

Lesson focus

Now the main grammar point in this lesson is the irregular verb “sein” “to be”.
Chuck: The most important forms, the ones spread all over today’s dialogs are “ich bin” “I am” and “Sie sind” “You are” formal.
Judith: For example, “Ich bin Judith” or “Sie sind aus New York.”
Chuck: Here are the complete present tense forms of this verb.
Judith: ich bin
Chuck: I am.
Judith: du bist
Chuck: You are. But informal.
Judith: er ist
Chuck: He is.
Judith: And there’s also the forms “sie ist” and “es ist” that work just the same way.
Chuck: She is; it is.
Judith: wir sind
Chuck: We are.
Judith: ihr seid
Chuck: You are. But notice the “ihr” in this case is the plural “you”, as in you might in here in the south US “y’all”.
Judith: Yes. When you’re talking to several people, that’s when you use “ihr” in German. And lastly there is “sie sind”.
Chuck: “They are” or “You are” formal.
Judith: Yes. You will use “Sie” when referring to somebody and you want to be polite to him. About the same time as when you would address him by the last name. And it’s a little more common in Germany than in the US. So, you can say that the polite forms are exactly the same ones as the ones for third person plural for “they”, “they are” is the same as the polite “you are”. “Sie sind” in both cases.
Chuck: Use the transcript or the grammar bank to see a neat table with these forms. In fact, you can press the center button on your iPod right now in order to look at the transcript.
Judith: Let’s have some example sentences with these forms right now.
Judith: Ich bin Michael.
Chuck: I am Michael.
Judith: Du bist schön.
Chuck: You are pretty.
Judith: Er ist student.
Chuck: He is a student.
Judith: Sie ist aus England.
Chuck: She is from England.
Judith: Es ist nicht gut.
Chuck: It is not good.
Judith: Wir sind Freunde.
Chuck: We are friends.
Judith: Seid ihr bereit?
Chuck: “Are you ready?” Note that that the verb, most at the beginning of the sentence when you make a question, just like in English.
Judith: Seid ihr bereit?
Chuck: Are you ready?
Judith: Wer sind Sie?
Chuck: This can be either “who are they?” or “who are you” formally. Notice that in written German, you could tell which it is by whether the “S” and “Z” is capitalized or not.
Judith: “Z” with a capital “S” is the formal address for “you”. Make it capital to be polite. In letters, you might even find a “du” capitalized.
Chuck: Now, what’s up with this formality stuff? I heard John call Michaela Sie even though they were pen pals.
Judith: Yes, this is right. He did address her formally. John, wasn’t’ absolutely sure he was talking to Michaela. And so he had to make sure he was being polite to the stranger. Using impolite language on this occasion already would have been like saying, “Hey you, are you Michaela?” and would probably have provoked an annoyed reaction, especially older people who are very sensitive about this. Using “Z” is like saying I respect you. That is why sometimes, even people who have known each other for a long time use formal language with each other.
Chuck: Generally, you should only use informal language with a new acquaintance if; you were talking to someone under 18, you and the person, you’re talking with are both around student age, or you and the person you’re talking with are family members.
Judith: In all other cases, you should wait ‘til you are asked to switch to informal language. It is up to the older person or the one higher in rank to do so or not.
Chuck: Your teacher or boss probably won’t ever do so as it would diminish his authority. But even regular acquaintances don’t switch to using first names nearly as quickly in Germany as they do in the USA.
Judith: Good observation. But we talk informally to each other in German, don’t we?
Chuck: Yes.”Wir sind Freunde.” “We are friends.” And you listeners can right to us informally, because you’re our friends too.
Judith: We would love to hear feedback from you. Please leave us a quick comment right under this lesson. Write us an email or use the forms.
Chuck: That would be nice. Now, however, let’s have a quick look at the words used in this dialog.
Judith: We have already talked about the use of “Entschuldigung”, literally meaning “apology”. The next word is: Sie.
Chuck: “You” formal, also notice that when this is written, “Sie” is always capitalized.
Judith: Exactly. To distinguish it from the word for “they” which is also “sie”.
Chuck: Of course, if this is the first word of the sentence, then you’re just out of luck.
Judith: Usually, it’s obvious. Now, the next word is “nein”.
Chuck: No.
Judith: “nein”.
Chuck: No.
Judith: Then we have “ich “.
Chuck: I.
Judith: Be careful with the “ch” sound which you will have to practice a lot. It’s a sound special to German. “ich”
Chuck: I.
Judith: The next word also contains the sound. It is “nicht “
Chuck: Not.
Judith: Nicht.
Chuck: Not.
Judith: Say that after me, “nicht”, “nicht”. Now we have “wer”.
Chuck: Who.
Judith: “wer”
Chuck: Who. “Wer sind Sie?” “who are you?”
Judith: Or “Wer ist Michaela?” “who is Michaela?” “aus” is the next word. “aus“
Chuck: From.
Judith: “aus“
Chuck: From.
Judith: For example, Ich bin aus Deutschland” “I am from Germany.”
Chuck: “Ich bin aus England.”
Judith: You’re not actually from England are you?
Chuck: No. “Ich bin aus America.”
Judith: Where exactly?
Chuck: “Ich bin aus Pennsylvania.”
Judith: Yet, more exactly?
Chuck: “Ich bin aus Harrisburg.”
Judith: Finally. Took me a long while to get that out of you. “Ich bin aus Kamp-Lintfort.” Kamp-Lintfort is a small city. If you want to learn about it, well, you better learn some German because I’m going to present it in the Advanced Audio blog. The first Advance Audio blog will be about my home town, Kamp-Lintfort. So I can say, “Ich bin aus Kamp-Lintfort.”
Chuck: “Sind Sie aus Kamp-Lintfort?”
Judith: Ja, ich bin aus Kamp-Lintfort.
Chuck: “Bin ich aus Kamp-Lintfort?”
Judith: “Nein, du bist nicht aus Kamp-Lintfort.”
Chuck: Now, listen to the dialog again. You now know everything you need to understand it or to take part in a similar conversation yourself somewhere in Germany.
John: Entschuldigung! Sind Sie “Michaela Wucher”?
Michaela: Nein, ich bin nicht “Michaela Wucher”. Wer sind Sie?
John: Ich bin John Williams. Ich bin aus Pennsylvania.
Michaela: Ahhh! Sie sind John Williams! Ich bin “Michaela Wucher”, but it is pronounced Michaela Wucher.
John: Oh, Entschuldigung!

Outro

Judith: That was a fun, a very fun, first lesson.
Chuck: In the next lesson, we will continue to follow John and Michaela, Michaela I mean, of course.
Judith: Thank you for listening. Be sure to check out all the learning tools at GermanPod101.com
Chuck: See you soon.