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Lesson Transcript

Chuck: This is the Intermediate Series Lesson 1.
Judith: Willkommen.
Chuck: Welcome. This is our very first lesson in our intermediate series.
Judith: The new intermediate series will teach you vocabulary and grammar that go beyond beginner knowledge.
Chuck: Hold on, don’t run away. The series will be very entertaining. You see, we’re going to use German songs to teach you.
Judith: Every lesson we will look at one original German song and take it apart, practicing German with it and gaining useful vocabulary.
Chuck: Today’s song will be Männer by Herbert Grönemeyer. It’s an oldie but a goodie and most people in Germany have heard of it. This one has the advantage of being quite easy. So, Judith, play the song already.
Judith: Unfortunately copyright issues prevent us from playing the song right here. If you want to hear the full song, you have to get it from somewhere else, like maybe a friend’s CD collection. But if you can’t, then we also include a link in the lesson description and this link will direct you to a site where you can download the full song as a legal MP3. Now we’ll go through the lyrics of this song bit by bit and see what they say.
Chuck: Note that the lessons of the Intermediate Series won’t have a separate vocabulary section. We’ll just explain the words and expressions as we go. The Learning Center will, of course, contain a selection of words to practice.
Judith: Ok, here we go. The first couple of lines are Männer nehmen in den Arm, Männer geben Geborgenheit, Männer weinen heimlich.
Chuck: Ok, I think that’s enough for now. So, Männer nehmen in den Arm, “men takes in the arm”?
Judith: “Men hug”. In den Arm nehmen is an expression meaning “to hug”.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: Do you know Geborgenheit?
Chuck: No.
Judith: Geborgenheit is a feeling of security like when somebody hugs you.
Chuck: Ok. How nice…
Judith: So now it should be clear, this part. Men hug, men offer a feeling of security and men cry in secret. The next part is Männer brauchen viel Zärtlichkeit und Männer sind so verletzlich. Männer sind auf dieser Welt einfach unersetzlich.
Chuck: Ok, so what is - so you said Männer brauchen viel Zärtlichkeit.
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: What does Zärtlichkeit mean?
Judith: Zärtlichkeit is “tenderness”. Can you relate to that?
Chuck: Not sure…
Judith: Ok, is the rest clear? Männer sind so verletzlich.
Chuck: Verletzlich?
Judith: “Vulnerable”. Verletzen is “to hurt somebody” and verletzlich is “somebody that can be hurt easily”.
Chuck: Ok. And unersetzlich?
Judith: “Irreplaceable”. It’s the same structure as with the word before, you know? verletzen - “to hurt”, verletzlich - "easy to hurt”. Ersetzen - "replace”, ersetzlich - "easy to replace” and unersetzlich - "irreplaceable”.
Chuck: Ok, nice.
Judith: This way you can learn a lot of new vocabulary at the price of one. Now the next couple of lines. Männer kaufen Frauen, Männer stehen ständig unter Strom, Männer baggern wie blöde.
Chuck: Ok, hold on a minute. Männer kaufen Frauen, that means “men buy women”?
Judith: Exactly. That’s what he says.
Chuck: Männer stehen ständig unter Strom, “Men stand standing under electricity”?
Judith: “Men are always under electricity” meaning they’re always ready to rush out and be active and do something.
Chuck: Oh, ok. I'm ready to rush out and get a beer.
Judith: I know, but we have to do this lesson first. Do you understand baggern in the next line?
Chuck: No.
Judith: Baggern is “to flirt”.
Chuck: So “men flirt like crazy”.
Judith: Yes, and then Männer lügen am Telefon, Männer sind allzeitbereit, Männer bestechen durch ihr Geld und ihre Lässigkeit.
Chuck: Männer lügen am Telefon is clear, “men lie on the phone”, sind allzeitbereit, “are always ready”, bestechen durch ihr Geld und ihre Lässigkeit …
Judith: Bestechen is “to bribe” or “to captivate”, it’s a play on words here.
Chuck: I thought Besteck were like utensils that you eat with.
Judith: Yeah, but bestechen is a verb. It’s not related because there’s a ch and not a ck.
Chuck: What does that mean?
Judith: “Bribe” or “captivate”.
Chuck: Ok. And ihre Lässigkeit?
Judith: Well, lässig is casual, nonchalant “cool” and keit makes it a noun of course. And then we have the chorus - Männer habens schwer, nehmens leicht, außen hart und innen ganz weich, werden als Kind schon auf Mann geeicht, wann ist ein Mann ein Mann?
Chuck: So “men have heaviness”?
Judith: “Have a hard time”.
Chuck: Ok. And “They take it easy?” “They take it light”?
Judith: “Take it easy”.
Chuck: “Take it easy”, ok. Außen hart und innen ganz weich. “Are hard on the outside and soft on the inside.”
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: Werden als Kind schon auf Mann geeicht. I’ve seen that word before. What does it mean?
Judith: Eichen is “to calibrate”.
Chuck: Oh, ok.
Judith: So already as a kid, you know the little boys have different activities than little girls. At least in Germany it is, but I think it’s universal, is it?
Chuck: I’d say so.
Judith: And then the central question which appears several times in the song. Wann ist ein Mann ein Mann?
Chuck: “When’s a man a man?”
Judith: Männer haben Muskeln, Männer sind furchtbar stark, Männer können alles.
Chuck: So Männer haben Muskeln, “men have muscles”, Männer sind furchtbar stark, “men are crazy strong”.
Judith: “Terribly strong”.
Chuck: Ok. Männer können alles, “men can do everything”.
Judith: Männer kriegen nen Herzinfarkt und Männer sind einsame Streiter, müssen durch jede Wand müssen immer weiter.
Chuck: So “men get a heart attack”?
Judith: Yes. I think it’s funny that it comes right after Männer können alles.
Chuck: Männer sind einsame Streiter, so “men are lonely fighters”.
Judith: Yes, any kind of men.
Chuck: Müssen durch jede Wand, müssen immer weiter. So “they have to go up against every wall”?
Judith: “Goes through every wall”.
Chuck: Alright.
Judith: They don’t care if they can walk around it, they have to go through it.
Chuck: I was thinking of that movie Gegen die Wand, not durch die Wand.
Judith: Oh, ok. Then we have the chorus again, but we won’t retranslate it. You can always look it up in the PDF. And then, let’s see, Männer führen Kriege, Männer sind schon als Baby blau, Männer rauchen Pfeife.
Chuck: So Männer führen Kriege is “men lead wars”, “are as nice as baby”?
Judith: No. “Men are blue already, as a baby”, meaning that little boys are getting little blue clothes, but it’s a play on words again because “blue” in German can also mean “drunk”.
Chuck: Ok. And “men smoke pipes”.
Judith: Yes. Männer sind furchtbar schlau. Männer bauen Raketen. Männer machen alles ja ganz genau.
Chuck: Männer sind furchtbar schlau. “Men are terribly clever”.
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: “Men build rockets and they do everything exactly.”
Judith: “Very thoroughly”, yes. Wann ist ein Mann ein Mann? Central question, again. And the last answer, Männer kriegen keine Kinder, Männer kriegen dünnes Haar, Männer sind auch Menschen.
Chuck: “Men can’t have babies, men get thin hair, men are also people.”
Judith: “Men are humans too”. Something I always wondered, but he explains it in the next sentence - Männer sind etwas sonderbar. Then we have again what we already heard before - Männer sind so verletzlich, Männer sind auf dieser Welt einfach unersetzlich.
Chuck: Männer sind etwas sonderbar, that is “somewhat special”?
Judith: No, not “special”. “Strange” or “weird”. Sonderbar.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: That’s how he explains, they are humans but they are strange. And again saying “they’re vulnerable and they’re irreplaceable”, in his opinion anyway. And the chorus again, and that’s the song.
Chuck: Alright.
Judith: Whenever we’ve gone through the whole song in this intermediate series, we will discuss culture and grammar for a bit.
Chuck: Like now.
Judith: Yes, now is such a time. Today’s cultural point is about men in Germany, and may I greet our resident expert on the subject, Chuck Smith.
Chuck: Yeah. Well, I am a man in Germany.
Judith: What can you tell us?
Chuck: So men and women are relatively equal in Germany.
Judith: Relatively. I still see a discrepancy in salaries and top positions, but then Eastern Germans also earn significantly less than Western Germans.
Chuck: Yeah. Men are expected to leave their seats for, say, an old lady who comes into a crowded bus.
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: Or to help carry stuff or lift luggage to put in the compartments.
Judith: Yes, I guess you’ve seen that on the train.
Chuck: Yeah, it happens occasionally.
Judith: One thing that’s unusual though is for men to open doors for women. I hear it’s still the case in some countries, but over here it’s like… I can’t remember when was the last time that somebody opened the door for me. And another thing is that most women would now object to men paying their bill when they’re eating out together, except if it’s their boyfriend. For example, I have a friend from Syria and she’s living in Germany now, and whenever she goes back to Syria then she can’t pay her own meals anymore because whoever she’s eating out with always feels obliged to pay her a meal. It’s really annoying her. Well, that’s not the case in Germany. So what would you say it’s the etiquette for men? Is there anything special you need to pay attention to?
Chuck: I’d say it’s like in the States, when you meet someone you would shake hands or you might kiss a woman on both cheeks, but definitely not to a man.
Judith: Yeah, we have a special word for men that kiss men on both cheeks. It’s schwul. Chuck, what would you do if you went to visit your mother-in-law? Avoid the visit altogether, right? No, what I want to say is that a very common gift for men to bare is flowers here. For this purpose there are flower shops at a lot of street corners and you can get a bouquet of flowers there to bring. Basket of colorful bouquet to avoid any interpretations.
Chuck: You might also want to bring wine when visiting someone.
Judith: Yeah, maybe. Chocolates are not as common but they are also appreciated. Now let’s move on to today’s grammar point. Because I notice we’ve been talking so much and we haven’t actually done anything serious.
Chuck: That’s fine.
Judith: No, it’s not because this series is also for improving your German. It’s not just about having a good time listening to German music.
Chuck: Alright. If we have to do grammar, let’s do it.

Lesson focus

Judith: Today’s grammar point is when to use which article, the indefinite article or no article. For the indefinite article there is one thing to be said - it only exists in the singular. If you have a plural noun then you definitely don’t use the indefinite article, you don’t use any article. We found this, for example, in every line of the song, almost every line, he said something like Männer sind something. And that’s the prime example because he’s talking about an indefinite collection of men, men in general, and there’s no article because it doesn’t exist. And you’re using the indefinite article mostly when something is mentioned for the first time. And the second time you would use the definite article. For example, Ich sehe einen Mann vor einem Geschäft. Der Mann versucht in das Geschäft einzubrechen. So you noticed in the first sentence I introduced the man and the shop. In the second sentence I talk about them again, I used a definite article. Can you think of any other opportunities to use the indefinite article?
Chuck: Ich bin ein Programmierer?
Judith: Well, you would say Ich bin Programmierer but the idea is the same. When you’re talking like a definition, ein Software Engineer ist ein Programmierer.
Chuck: Oh, like that. Ok.
Judith: When you’re talking about the profession in general. And no article - you already mentioned - is when you’re talking about yourself, your job, your nationality, titles, job names, locations, other names, you don’t use any article.
Chuck: So it’s Ich bin Amerikaner?
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: I guess if I were to say Ich bin ein Amerikaner, then I would be that cookie that you have in Germany, right?
Judith: Yeah, pastry. It’s like a half sphere which is flat on one side and covered in sugar glazing. I like it.
Chuck: In New York we have black and white cookies, which are the same but they’re black and white, whereas here they’re just white.
Judith: Yeah. Well, you can get all black ones. They’re called black Americans.
Chuck: Right. Berliner is a pastry and, wait, there’s Danish as well, right?
Judith: No, we don’t have Danish as a pastry. That’s English. In English you have something that’s called “a Danish” and it’s pastry.
Chuck: Ok, what’s with all these geographical locations being pastries?
Judith: There’s also some that are sausages. For example, Frankfurter.
Chuck: Oh, right.
Judith: Or Thüringer.
Chuck: Frankfurter we already have in the States too.
Judith: Yeah. And of course “hamburger”, but that has nothing to do with Hamburg. Let’s get on with the lesson. This is going way off. So maybe another case where you don’t use any article would be with abstract nouns or feelings or nouns of a general meaning like Geborgenheit. Männer geben Geborgenheit. You don’t say geben eine Geborgenheit or geben die Geborgenheit. You just say Geborgenheit because it’s a feeling and also an abstract thing. And nouns of a general meaning I mean something like Strom, “electricity”. This is nothing abstract, but it’s still a very general meaning that you can’t actually count or anything. And also in a lot of expressions consisting of a noun and a verb you don’t use an article, like in Gefahr sein.
Chuck: “To be in danger”.
Judith: Or Hilfe leisten.


Chuck: “To provide help”. And if you need help with this lesson you’re of course welcome to post a comment underneath the lesson or you could take a look at the PDF.
Judith: For intermediate lessons, the PDF will contain the full German song lyrics, an English translation of them and summaries of the grammar, cultural point and vocabulary, of course.
Chuck: And a link to where you can hear it.
Judith: Of course.
Chuck: But I can’t wait to hear how you like this approach to intermediate German. Please tell us what you think.
Judith: Yay. Yummy feedback!
Chuck: See you next week!
Judith: Bis nächste Woche!