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Lesson Transcript

Chuck: This is Intermediate Series Lesson 17.
Judith: Willkommen.
Chuck: Welcome to the 17th GermanPod101 Intermediate Lesson.
Judith: In GermanPod101’s intermediate lessons we are looking at interesting German songs and using tehm to learn vocabulary and grammar.
Chuck: So which song are we going to do this time?
Judith: Ich war noch niemals in New York by Udo Jürgens. This is a very famous song from the 70s, everybody has heard it.
Chuck: I wasn’t ever in New York. Well, I guess I couldn’t express the same sentiment but let’s listen to see what it’s about. As usual, the lesson description on GermanPod101.com contains a link to a site where you can listen to part of the song or buy it as a legal MP3. So let’s look at the text now.
Judith: Und nach dem Abendessen sagte er.
Chuck: “And after the… And after dinner he said…”
Judith: Lass mich noch eben Zigaretten holen gehen.
Chuck: “Let me go get some cigarettes.”
Judith: “Just quickly”. Noch eben. Sie rief ihm nach, nimm dir die Schlüssel mit.
Chuck: “She called him, take your key with you”.
Judith: Yes. And rufen alone is enough to say a call or a shout. Ruf ihm nach, nachrufen is you can see he’s moving away and she calls something while he’s moving away. That’s the sense of nach in this sentence. Ich werd inzwischen nach der Kleinen sehn.
Chuck: “I will meanwhile the kids see”?
Judith: Der Kleinen, now you have to know German cases. Nach der Kleinen, nach comes with dative so der Kleinen is dative, it’s derived from die Kleine, nominative. So “the small one”, but a feminine small one as in “little daughter”.
Chuck: Alright.
Judith: So “I look after the daughter meanwhile”. Er zog die Tür zu, ging stumm hinaus.
Chuck: “He shut the door and went out mute”?
Judith: “Silently”. It can also mean “mute”. Ins neonhelle Treppenhaus.
Chuck: “In a neon bright staircase.”
Judith: “Into”.
Chuck: Ah, right. Ins.
Judith: And I hear that “staircase” is not a perfect translation for Treppenhaus cause Treppenhaus is for example in a building with several apartments, the area where you have just stairs leading to the different apartments. So it’s not the stairs themselves, it’s the stairwell if you want.
Chuck: Yeah, I guess so.
Judith: Es roch nach Bohnerwachs und Spießigkeit.
Chuck: “It smokes…”
Judith: “Smells”. Nicht rauchen. Roch is derived from riechen.
Chuck: Ah, “smells”, ok. “Smells like Bohnerwachs and Spießigkeit.”
Judith: Bohnerwachs - "floor wax”. The stuff that you use, yeah.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: And Spießigkeit, I believe we had spießig before. It means, you know, boring conformism.
Chuck: Ok. Sort of like all those other German lessons out there, right?
Judith: I'm not sure whether you would say it of the lessons, but of people you can say they’re very spießig.
Chuck: So the people who are giving you the lessons.
Judith: Und auf der Treppe dachte er, wie wenn das jetzt ein Aufbruch wär.
Chuck: “And on the stairs he thought, “If this were an outbreak”? No…
Judith: “Departure”, aufbrechen is like “to depart” for a trip. Der Aufbruch. So “what if this was a departure?” Ich müsste einfach gehen, für alle Zeit. Für alle Zeit is repeated.
Chuck: “I must simply go for all time, for all time.”
Judith: Yeah. “I would simply have to go”, müsste. It’s not ich muss. Ich muss gehen – “I have to go”. Ich müsste gehen – “I would have to go”.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: And now the chorus. Ich war noch niemals in New York, ich war noch niemals auf Hawaii.
Chuck: “I was never in New York, I was never in Hawaii.”
Judith: Except in English you’re most likely to say “I have never been to New York or Hawaii”. Ging nie durch San Francisco in zerrissenen Jeans.
Chuck: “I’ve never been to San Francisco in ripped jeans.”
Judith: “I’ve never walked through”, in this case he varies it a bit. Zerrissen “ripped” or “torn”. Ich war noch niemals in New York, ich war noch niemals richtig frei.
Chuck: “I’ve never been in New York, I’ve never been truly free.”
Judith: Very good. Ein Mal verrückt sein und aus allen Zwängen fliehen.
Chuck: “To be one time crazy and…”, right?
Judith: Der Zwang, yes. Not Zange.
Chuck: “Pregnant”?
Judith: No, that would be schwanger.
Chuck: Ah, schwanger, ok.
Judith: Zwang, it’s related to zwingen. Do you know the verb zwingen?
Chuck: I think that’s something like “have a purpose or…?
Judith: “To force somebody”, “to make somebody do something”. So Zwang is what you have to do, “compulsion” if you want. And Zwänge is the plural.
Chuck: Zwangzug comes from that, right?
Judith: Zugzwang you mean.
Chuck: Zugzwang, yeah.
Judith: Yes, figured you would know the board game terminology. Zugzwang is when you have to move.
Chuck: Yeah, I learned that in chess terminology when I was younger.
Judith: So translate this line again. Ein Mal verrückt sein und aus allen Zwängen fliehen.
Chuck: “To be once free and…”
Judith: No, verrückt.
Chuck: Ah, “crazy”, yeah. “Everyone’s crazy and let all the necessary stuff fly”?
Judith: No, “to flee from compulsion” it’s what he’s saying.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: But it’s what he meant, what he meant that you translated. Ok, next stanza. Und als er draußen auf der Straße stand.
Chuck: “And as he stood outside on the street.”
Judith: Fiel ihm ein, dass er fast alles bei sich trug.
Chuck: “He feels that…”
Judith: No. Einfallen. Einfallen is “to…” yeah. Hard to translate, actually. It’s kind of like “remember”, except it just comes into your brain without you actively searching for it.
Chuck: So, in other words, he feels that?
Judith: No, der Einfall is the idea. But what’s the verb in English for “the idea”? Yeah. I’ll just accept your translation. I just wanted to make a point.
Chuck: So “He feels that almost everything is a trick”?
Judith: No. Trug derives from tragen, “to carry”.
Chuck: Ah, “to wait”.
Judith: I said “to carry”. Tragen, “to carry”.
Chuck: Ah, that he’s practically carrying everything.
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: Maybe “noticed” it’s a good translation here.
Chuck: Notice?
Judith: “As he’s standing on the street, he noticed that he was carrying almost everything with him.” Den Pass, die Euroschecks und etwas Geld.
Chuck: “The passport, the euro checks and a little bit of money”?
Judith: “Euroschecks” are like travel checks for within Europe.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: Vielleicht ging heute Abend noch ein Flug.
Chuck: “Maybe there’s a flight tonight”. Not literally but…
Judith: Yeah. Er könnt ein Taxi nehmen dort am Eck.
Chuck: “He could take a taxi on the corner.”
Judith: Oder Autostopp und einfach weg.
Chuck: “Or stop by the car”?
Judith: No, Autostopp is “to hitchhike”.
Chuck: “Or hitchhike and go away”.
Judith: “Just be gone”. Einfach weg.
Chuck: Yeah, yeah.
Judith: Ich möchte einfach weg, “I just want away, I don’t care how you know”. Die Sehnsucht in ihm wurde wieder wach.
Chuck: “The… Sehnsucht, the seeing addiction”?
Judith: No, not quite. Nice try. It’s “longing”.
Chuck: Ah, “longing”.
Judith: Sich sehnen is “to long”.
Chuck: I guess that’s as good as the far seeing tower, right? Fernsehturm. Ok. “In him…”
Judith: “The longing in him.”
Chuck: “The longing in him is becoming awake. It’s waking up.”
Judith: “Was waking up again.” Or “woke up again”, as in he used to have that longing, maybe when he was young and then it was buried, and now it’s waking up again. Noch ein Mal voll von Träumen sein.
Chuck: “Just one time full of dreams to be.”
Judith: Again. A little more English translation, please.
Chuck: This is English. You mean I’ve lived in Germany too long? I can’t speak English sentences anymore? We’ll let our listeners decide.
Judith: Ok. Sich aus der Enge hier befreien.
Chuck: “To free himself from the tightness”?
Judith: Narrowness or tightness. Er dachte über seinen Aufbruch nach. And it’s repeated seinen Aufbruch nach.
Chuck: “He thinks about his departure, his departure.”
Judith: Then the chorus again. And then last stanza. Dann steckte er die Zigaretten ein und ging wie selbstverständlich heim.
Chuck: Yeah, “He puts the cigarettes in his pocket and of course goes home”.
Judith: “And goes home as if it was a matter of course.” Wie selbstverständlich. Durchs Treppenhaus mit Bohnerwachs und Spießigkeit. Now’s a chance for you to prove that you remember the vocabulary I just gave you.
Chuck: Or to prove that I didn’t remember the vocabulary you just gave me? “Through the stairwell…” See? I remembered it.
Judith: “With floor wax and broom”.
Chuck: Yes, of course. Why didn’t you let me say it?
Judith: Die Frau rief, Man, wo bleibst du bloß? Dalli, dalli, geht gleich los.
Chuck: “The wife calls out, “Man, where have you stayed…”?
Judith: “Where are you staying?” Yeah, as in “where have you been” or “why is it taking you so long”.
Chuck: I get the point, I just can’t translate it.
Judith: Yeah, in English the expression is different. In German it’s wo bleibst du? Wo bleibst du denn?
Chuck: “Where have you been?”
Judith: Not so much “Where have you been?” but “What’s taking you so long?”
Chuck: Yeah.
Judith: Dalli, dalli, geht gleich los. Dalli, dalli is “quick, quick”. Dalli Dalli was also a TV show, so maybe they meant this one. So this line can be understood in two ways. Either “Hurry up, it’s starting soon” or “This TV show, Dalli Dalli, is going to start soon”. I don’t think it matters very much for the interpretation of this song. Sie fragte, war was? Nein, was soll schon sein?
Chuck: “She asked, “Was there anything?” And he said, “No, what should there be?””
Judith: Yeah, “what you think…” And the chorus again. And then we hear some very characteristic instrument playing there. This also speaks of longing. That’s what most people remember the song for. Also at the beginning of the song. So in this song you see that the protagonist, at least, associates the USA with freedom. You know, he says, “I’ve never been to New York, I’ve never been free. Never been to San Francisco and Hawaii”, torn jeans and stuff. And you can see that for him it’s not the kind of freedom as in not being arrested or not living in poverty, but rather the freedom not to have to conform because the contrast is made with this typical German, well, typical for all the Germans lifestyle of just doing the same thing every day, you know, going to work, coming back from work, watching TV. Everybody has this kind of routine and he wants to break free from that so this feels confining to some around the mid-life. Of course the younger people don’t have this regulated lifestyle typically. And I wanted to use this lesson to actually talk about the image of America a bit in Germany, in particular. I’ve seen that this image of America has changed a bit over time. So for a long time the USA was the country of dreams for many, like in this song. Also note not necessarily because of the luxury, I mean East Germans might have longed for American because of the luxury and because of Coca Cola and stuff, but for a lot of people it was just the lifestyle that we associate with America. And this went to some extent, you know, there are people that believe that America was perfect or that their problems would suddenly go away. And this extreme belief - also some people who thought they would have to protest and point out the flaws in America.
Chuck: Yeah, I notice there’s quite a difference between when I came to Germany, for example, I think it was in 2000 or 2001 and recent times. Just the view of Americans - I think it really changed in the Bush administration because…
Judith: Yeah, Bush was hard to understand because he’s very different from what any German politician would be in his beliefs and what he’s doing.
Chuck: And it often feels like he’s not working with anyone, but just doing everything on his own.
Judith: Oh I mean Bush and Cheney, especially, have made a lot of disparaging remarks about Germany. That just offends people without achieving anything for himself, I think he didn’t think about what he’s saying very much. But be that as it may, I think that at the same time people have just also, you know, sobered up about America as in being more able to see what’s going on there, and at the same time they saw that Germany is not as bad as they used to think. You know, Germany is a hard country to love, that’s what everybody will tell you. But people have found that in Germany it’s not actually so bad to live here… I mean we are a first world democracy and standard of living is pretty good, I mean about the same as in America really. Right now rather better because we can buy cheap stuff from America with the euro being so strong. Healthcare is very good here, there’s no poverty, there’s less crime than in America.
Chuck: And a lot more vacation time.
Judith: There are things to like around here. And people have started to discover that and now people feel differently about their country than they used to feel in the 70s or something. The countries may not have changed as much but the view of the people. And so now you find that less people leave Germany to go to the USA and it’s mostly for practical reasons now, like if they got a job there or if they want to study. You know, Ivy League colleges are very popular with those who can afford them. And those who can’t afford them though will prefer to study in Germany because universities are free.
Chuck: Well, not quite anymore but…
Judith: Yeah. A majority are still free, but some have started to charge tuition of 500 euros a semester.
Chuck: Yeah, which is like nothing compared to America.
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: Universities so…
Judith: Just now, with Obama being elected, the travel industry hopes that more Germans will travel to the USA again, that the relations will improve again. You know that Obama was celebrated like a rock star in Berlin…
Chuck: Yeah.
Judith: When he went here during the campaign?
Chuck: We were there and it was about 500,000 people. It was his biggest speech in the whole campaign, it was in Berlin.
Judith: Yes, definitely helped. And McCain, well, there was no question about electing McCain instead because he’s just not the kind of politician that we have here. He’s comparatively far to the right, I mean all of Europe compared to the States is leaning a lot towards the left. For example, nobody dares to challenge the ideas of universal healthcare here or environmentalism, and this means that if McCain challenges that or if other republicans challenges these ideas, then they are far more right than any European politician and nobody can identify with that stance. We just have a very different ideology as a whole.
Chuck: Yeah, it was interesting in this sense that they did, well, an unofficial poll, of course. And among the German people and they found that 92 percent supported Obama.
Judith: Yeah, well, that’s because he appears to be the only central candidate because of these beliefs. Because McCain believes in so many things that nobody can imagine here. So with Obama elected people see the similarities again and, of course, America should be praised for seeing beyond color and making the decision just because of his ideas and merits, and electing a candidate for that. I'm not sure it would be possible in Germany. Ok, we have a Eastern German chancellor. That’s the big step forward for Germany.
Chuck: And a woman at the same time. So Eastern German and a woman.
Judith: Yes, well…
Chuck: Don’t know if Germany’s had a woman chancellor before or not.

Lesson focus

Judith: No, we haven’t. it’s the first too. Ok, let’s talk some grammar. Today’s grammar correspondents of tenses as in how they work together. The tenses are used in a different way than in English, in German. For example we have the Perfekt which looks just like the English present perfect. For example, Ich habe gesungen, “I have sung”, it corresponds one to one. Ich “I” habe “have” gesungen “sung”. It’s just the same. And also the Präteritum, the Präteritum looks just like the English simple past tense. Ich sang, “I sang”, the word is even the same, but even though they look the same they’re used differently. In English, the present perfect is supposed to be used for actions that started in the past that are still going on in about a sense. And the simple past is for things that are over, so this song’s title should have been “I have never been to New York”. And in German the title is most definitely “I never was to New York”, and this is because in German the tense does not depend on vague definitions of what’s still going on or not. It’s simply that the Präteritum is used in written texts and the Perfekt is used in spoken German in the vast majority of cases, and there are just some small and extremely common words like war or hatte where Germans can’t be bothered to say Ich bin gewesen or Ich habe gehabt. In spoken German you like the abbreviations, short, short words, crunch everything together.
Chuck: Have you seen those phrases in written German, do you?
Judith: Ich bin gewesen. Ich habe gehabt. No, it’s very, very uncommon. You see them in written when they are talking about a conversation, when you see the written account of a conversation, for example, or just to sound more colloquial. Then writers might use the Perfekt. And similarly people might use the Präteritum to sound more bookish, more literary when speaking. So songs are kind of a weird thing because they’re somewhere in the middle. They’re not really a written medium, they are not spoken either, so you can find songs that use Präteritum like this one, and you can find songs that use the Perfekt, like rap songs for example or hip hop are much more likely to use the Perfekt. Note also that with the word seit…
Chuck: “For” or “since”.
Judith: Which would require the present perfect in English, German uses the present tense. I can give you some examples. In German you would say Ich stehe seit zwei Stunden im Stau..
Chuck: “I’ve been stuck in the traffic jam for two hours”.
Judith: So you see, “for two hours I have been stuck”, but in German we use present tense, ich stehe. And, in fact, if you use the Präteritum there you would imply that something has changed since, like Ich stand seit zwei Stunden im Stau.
Chuck: “I had been stuck in a traffic jam for two hours.”
Judith: And right now you’re already out of it and you’re talking about your experience.
Chuck: So I think the second one would be once you get home and you talk about it. And the other one is if you’re on the cellphone in the middle of this traffic jam, right?
Judith: Yes. Ich stehe seit zwei Stunden im Stau. Definitely, you’re on you cell phone, talking.
Chuck: Which we would never encourage that you do, by the way.
Judith: Traffic jam is understandable why you would want to do that.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: Especially if it’s one that’s moving so slowly that you’re in it for two hours.
Chuck: But they should still use their headset.
Judith: Or free speaking.
Chuck: Yeah.
Judith: Anyway, let’s not lecture about that. I want to lecture about the grammar.
Chuck: I just don’t want anyone to get in an accident out there because of us.
Judith: So traffic jams are actually perfect to listen to GermanPod101 because you can’t talk on your cellphone. Now, English also has another past tense that’s the past perfect. For example “I had thought”, and this is just the same in German, you would say Ich hatte gedacht. And there are two types of future in English – “I will sing” and “I'm going to sing”, one with “will” and one with “going to”. In German we only have one type, werden, so that’s the one that you’ll use for either. Or you could use the present tense, especially if you want to make things seem like they’re about to happen. Anyways, so I think this gives you an overview of the basic tenses and how they’re used. If you still run into problems, please review this lesson’s PDF or just write to us.


Chuck: Yeah. And be sure to write in and ask what song’s going to be next. You’re going to tell us what song’s next, right? I mean they don’t have to.
Judith: No, I'm not going to tell you and I'm not going to answer any written questions either.
Chuck: Emails, emails.
Judith: Hey, it’s all about the surprise.