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Lesson Transcript

Chuck: This is Beginner Series, Lesson 5.
Judith: Willkommen zurück!
Chuck: Welcome back!
Judith: I’m glad to see that you’re still following the Beginner Series.
Chuck: Yeah, as if I had a choice.
Judith: I don’t mean you, Chuck. I mean our listeners, of course. I know for myself how hard it is to choose a course and then faithfully study each lesson without getting things get in the way.
Chuck: I envy people who ever do that. For me, the safest to slowly improve my German is to put (inaudible) 0:00:41 in these lessons.
Judith: Listening to them also works. At GermanPod101.com, we are striving to be much more entertaining than your average course so that learning German isn’t something you have to force yourself to do.
Chuck: So when are you going to force me to learn today?
Judith: Today, we’ll look at language issues, that is, how to say which languages you speak, asking people to switch to a different language or to speak more slowly, and the like.
Chuck: All right! So I can get to ask people to switch to English! That sounds really useful.
Judith: Let’s just listen to the dialogue.

Lesson conversation

Heinz: Herr Williams, sprechen Sie Deutsch?
John: Ja, ich spreche Deutsch, nur nicht viel.
Heinz: In meinem Haus sprechen alle Deutsch.
John: Sprechen Sie kein Englisch?
Heinz: Nein.
John: Dann sprechen Sie bitte langsam. Ich verstehe langsames Deutsch.
Chuck: Now this time, we’ll read it slowly.
Heinz: Herr Williams, sprechen Sie Deutsch?
John: Ja, ich spreche Deutsch, nur nicht viel.
Heinz: In meinem Haus sprechen alle Deutsch.
John: Sprechen Sie kein Englisch?
Heinz: Nein.
John: Dann sprechen Sie bitte langsam. Ich verstehe langsames Deutsch.
Chuck: Now this time, he’ll read the sentences and then I’ll translate.
Heinz: Herr Williams, sprechen Sie Deutsch?
Chuck: Mr. Williams, do you speak German?
Heinz: Ja, ich spreche Deutsch, nur nicht viel.
Chuck: Yes, I speak German, just not a lot.
Heinz: In meinem haus sprechen alle Deutsch.
Chuck: In my house, everybody speaks German.
Heinz: Sprechen Sie kein Englisch?
Chuck: Do you speak no English?
Heinz: Nein.
Chuck: No.
Heinz: Dann sprechen Sie bitte langsam.
Chuck: Then please speak slowly.
Heinz: Ich verstehe langsames Deutsch.
Chuck: I understand slow German.

Lesson focus

Chuck: Wow. How likely is it that Mr. Wucher wouldn’t know any English?
Judith: It’s quite likely, actually. In Germany, English is a mandatory subject at school for at least five years, seven if you want to go to university, but the results are not much better than the results of Spanish teaching in the USA. Some people managed to come out of it with a very good level of English, but a lot of people simply forget what they learned, unless they really have to use English often.
Chuck: So let’s say I’m an American tourist and I don’t know enough German to get by. Who could help me?
Judith: Students and businessmen are your best bet; students, because their memory of English class is probably fresh; and businessman, because most companies will require you to speak decent English if you want to get in the higher ranks.
Chuck: And ordinary people? I mean, they took several years of English at some point. They couldn’t have forgotten that entirely.
Judith: Not all of them took English. Don’t forget that eastern Germans were taught Russian at school instead of English. Really, it is possible to forget the language entirely, especially if you learned it because you had to rather than because you wanted to, or if you never really learned it in the first place. That is why it is so important to seek out opportunities to hear or use the language until you are somewhat fluent in it. Once you are somewhat fluent, you won’t forget it as easily anymore but until then, your knowledge of the language is always a bit shaky. You can’t just stop your studies entirely for half a year and then expect to easily go back to where you were.
Chuck: What about studying another language at the same time?
Judith: That is not normally a problem. It is the norm in Germany actually. Students start learning English in primary school or 5th grade by the latest. Once they are in 7th grade, they have to study another language in addition to that. Usually, their choice is between French and Latin. Then in 9th grade, they can optionally study yet another language and another again in 11th grade. I personally studied four foreign languages at school this week, and I can tell you it’s not a problem to study several languages at the same time, although it’s probably easier if you’re already at the intermediate level in one language by the time you start on the other.
Chuck: So once you’re at an intermediate level in, say, German, then you can start another like Japanese or Italian or…
Judith: Spanish or Korean.
Chuck: Wait a minute, don’t we know of a good place to study that?
Judith: Of course! You just go to SpanishPod101.com, JapanesePod101.com…
Chuck: Or maybe KoreanPod101.com?
Judith: No, that’s KoreanClass101.com.
Chuck: Okay.
Judith: Also, FrenchPod101.com, ArabicPod101.com. There’s plenty of choices.
Chuck: All right. So anyway, let’s get back to studying some German. Here’s the vocabulary of this lesson.
Judith: The first word is sprechen [natural native speed].
Chuck: “To speak.”
Judith: Sprechen [natural native speed].
Chuck: “To speak.”
Judith: Deutsch [natural native speed].
Chuck: “German.”
Judith: Deutsch [natural native speed]. Englisch [natural native speed].
Chuck: I think they get this one already. It means “English”.
Judith: Englisch [natural native speed].
Chuck: “English.”
Judith: Let’s have this in a sentence. For example, I could say “Ich spreche Deutsch”.
Chuck: “I speak German.” Ich spreche Englisch.
Judith: “I speak English.”
Chuck: Also notice that when this is written, that ends in –sch.
Judith: Yes. That’s the only difference between the spelling of Englisch in German and English in English. Now the next word is alle [natural native speed].
Chuck: “All or everybody.”
Judith: Next is kein [natural native speed].
Chuck: “No”, as in not any.
Judith: Kein [natural native speed].
Chuck: “No” as in “ich spreche kein Deutsch.”
Judith: We don’t hope that. “I don’t speak any German.”
Chuck: But notice that you can’t use this in response to a question like, “Sprechen sie Deutsch?”
Judith: Then you would say, “nein.” The next word is bitte [natural native speed].
Chuck: “Please.”
Judith: Bitte [natural native speed].
Chuck: “Please.”
Judith: Bitte sprechen sie Englisch.
Chuck: “Please speak English.“
Judith: Bitte sprechen sie kein Deutsch.
Chuck: “Please speak no German.”
Judith: “Please don’t speak German.” Next word is langsam [natural native speed].
Chuck: “Slowly.”
Judith: Langsam [natural native speed].
Chuck: “Slowly.”
Judith: And finally we have verstehen [natural native speed].
Chuck: “To understand”.
Judith: Verstehen.
Chuck: “To understand”. So I could say, “Ich verstehe Deutsch aber du sprechst oft nicht langsam genug.” So, “I understand German but you often don’t speak slowly enough.”
Judith: I tried to speak slowly but it is hard for me. Anyway, you made one small mistake in that phrase. It should be “du sprichst”, not “du sprechst”.
Chuck: But with the word “sprechen”, isn’t it?
Judith: Yes. This is hard to explain. Some German verbs have this unhealthy habit of changing their vowel, usually from a short E to a short I sound. It’s an irregularity that is hard to predict but the verbs are not completely irregular because the endings stay the same and only the “du” and “er, sie, es” form change vowels.
Chuck: Okay. You certainly confuse me a bit here. Could you give me an example?
Judith: Well, sprechen is a very good example. Its forms are sprechen…
Chuck: “To speak.”
Judith: Ich spreche.
Chuck: “I speak.”
Judith: du sprichst
Chuck: Ah, that’s “you speak”. That would informally to one person.
Judith: It is “du sprichst” with an i sound. Then, another form that changes its vowel “Er, sie, es spricht”
Chuck: “He she or it speaks.”
Judith: Now it’s back to normal for the rest. Wir sprechen.
Chuck: “We speak.”
Judith: Ihr sprecht
Chuck: “You speak.”(informally to several people)
Judith: Sie sprechen
Chuck: “They speak” or “you speak” (formally to one or several people). So if I want to say “Sarah speaks English”, that’s “Sarah spricht Englisch?”
Judith: Yes. Correct.
Chuck: And to ask somebody whether he speaks English, I could ask, “Sprechen sie Englisch” or “Sprichst du Englisch” informally?
Judith: Yes, that’s also correct.
Chuck: Okay. But how would I ask someone to speak English, I mean not asking whether he speaks it but just politely requesting him to speak English?
Judith: That will be “Bitte sprechen Sie Englisch.” You take the polite form and switch the verb and the subject around like in a question.
Chuck: “Bitte sprechen Sie Englisch.” But that sounds so formal. Isn’t there a more informal way to say this?
Judith: The informal form is simply “Sprich” instead of “sprechen sie”. You leave out the pronoun entirely and take a very average form a verb, just the bare stem without any ending.
Chuck: With that stupid vowel change.
Judith: Yes. Unfortunately, the vowel change is kept. Here’s some more examples with regular verbs. “Arbeiten Sie länger!” becomes “Arbeite länger!”.
Chuck: “Work longer”. I don’t like the sound of that.
Judith: “Machen Sie eine Pause!” or informally “Mach eine Pause!”
Chuck: Now that’s better, “take a break”. I wouldn’t mind someone ordering me to do that, even if they do forget to say “bitte.”
Judith: Bitte kommen Sie nach Deutschland!”, informally “Bitte komm nach Deutschland!”
Chuck: Yeah. You should come to Germany. It’s a nice country, especially when it comes to work hours and holidays. Speaking of which, isn’t it about Feierabend now? I really like that German invention.
Judith: Feierabend is the word for the end of the workday. I don’t think American English even has a word for that but it’s a big concept in German.
Chuck: Yeah. Feierabend is what the German shop owner will say to you when closing the door in your face. Feierabend über alles.
Judith: The word “Feierabend” consist of “Feier” – celebration, and “Abend” – evening.
Chuck: It means that evening is yours for partying. “Machen wir Feierabend”. Let’s call it a day and go partying.
Judith: Okay, okay, I get you’re not so subtle hints. Just one more lesson to today’s dialogue and we’re done.
Heinz: Herr Williams, sprechen Sie Deutsch?
John: Ja, ich spreche Deutsch, nur nicht viel.
Heinz: In meinem Haus sprechen alle Deutsch.
John: Sprechen Sie kein Englisch?
Heinz: Nein.
John: Dann sprechen Sie bitte langsam. Ich verstehe langsames Deutsch.
Chuck: Okay, Feierabend. Yey!
Judith: Okay, Feierabend. Thank you for listening to GermanPod101.com.
Chuck: If you have any questions, feel free to use our forum or post a comment on today’s lesson. See you again soon!
Judith: Bis bald!