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Lesson Transcript

Chuck: Chuck here upper intermediate season 1 lesson 17. Can you right a formal German letter? Hello and welcome to germanpod101.com the fastest, easiest and most fun way to learn German.
Judith: I’m Judith and thanks again for being here with us for this upper intermediate season 1 lesson.
Chuck: In this lesson, you’ll learn how to write a formal German letter.
Judith: This conversation takes place at a German office.
Chuck: The conversation is between Mrs. Bayer and Frank Jones.
Judith: The speakers are in a business relationship, therefore they’ll be speaking formal German.
Chuck: Let’s listen to the conversation.
Jones: Frau Bayer, können Sie mir in der Mittagspause kurz helfen? Ich möchte ein Zeitschriften-Abo kündigen und ich weiß nicht genau, wie ich das formulieren muss.
Bayer: Ja, kein Problem. Wir formulieren den Brief, bevor wir in die Mensa gehen.
Jones: Super, vielen Dank.
Bayer: Herr Jones, wollen wir jetzt kurz die Kündigung schreiben?
Jones: Ja, bitte! Ich habe auch schon etwas vorbereitet…
Bayer: Ah, gut. Dann lesen Sie doch mal vor….
Jones: Okay…. Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,….
Bayer: Die Anrede ist schon mal gut….
Jones: Ich möchte mein Abo von „Haus und Hund“ kündigen. Bitte sagen Sie mir, wann ich dies tun kann. Mit freundlichen Grüßen, Frank Jones.
Bayer: Hmm, also die Anrede und die Verabschiedung sind richtig, aber den Text dazwischen müssen wir etwas verändern.
Jones: Okay. Gibt es da besondere Formulierungen?
Bayer: Ja. Normalerweise schreibt man „Hiermit möchte ich mein Abonnement der Zeitschrift 'Haus und Hund' zum nächstmöglichen Zeitpunkt kündigen.“
Jones: Ja, das hört sich viel besser an.
Bayer: Außerdem sollten Sie noch schreiben „Bitte senden Sie mir eine Bestätigung der Kündigung zu und teilen Sie mir das Datum des Vertragsendes mit.“ Und dann kommt die Verabschiedung…
Jones: Okay…..Danke für Ihre Hilfe!
Jones: Mrs. Bayer, could you help me a little during lunch? I would like to cancel my subscription to a magazine, and I don't quite know how to phrase it.
Bayer: Sure, no problem. We'll compose the letter before we go to the lunchroom.
Jones: Great, thanks.
Bayer: Mr. Jones, shall we write that cancellation letter now?
Jones: Yes, please! I already have something prepared...
Bayer: Oh, good, then read it out for me.
Jones: Okay...Dear Sir or Madam, ...
Bayer: The salutation is already pretty good.
Jones: I would like to cancel my subscription to "House and Dog". Please let me know when I can do this. Yours truly, Frank Jones.
Bayer: Hmm, so the start and the end are correct, but we need to change the text in between.
Jones: Okay, is there a certain way to say it?
Bayer: Yes. Normally one writes "I would like to hereby cancel my subscription to the magazine 'House and Dog' at the earliest possible convenience"
Jones: Yes, that sounds much better.
Bayer: Besides that, you should also write "Please send me confirmation of the cancellation and the date at which the contract will end." And then you put the conclusion of the letter.
Jones: Okay, thanks for your help!
Judith: Yes it’s probably time to talk about contracts because….
Chuck: Not contracts.
Judith: In Germany, people plan ahead more and this is reflected in the contracts. Very often, contracts can only be cancelled three months in advance or [zum Quartalsende].
Chuck: It’s really evil. They really get foreigners with this, be very, very careful. I mean I’ve talked to other people too, from other countries and we are all like, “aaaaw the contracts are so horrible here with the auto renewing and stuff”.
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: So anyway [zum Quartalsende] would mean for the end of each quarter meaning that the contract will end exactly at the end of each quarter but you need to send in your cancellation a designated number of weeks before.
Judith: Yes and penalties are harsh. For example phone contracts tend to automatically extend for a full year if you don’t cancel on time.
Chuck: Yes, that kind of hit me like two or three times. Yes and the phone companies have big sticks and not being nice, not letting you cancel a day after the deadline. Well because they give you cheap or new equipment with each new contract.
Judith: When signing a contract, be sure to look for the cancellation and alternate renewal clauses. The key word is [verlängern] which means to extend in this context [verlängern].
Chuck: Note that this also applies, not just for telephone, but also like trained discount cards and magazines, newspapers and basically…
Judith: Magazines and newspapers you can cancel several times a year usually but phone contracts, no.
Chuck: Okay.
Judith: If you find that you have to cancel some months in advance, then it’s worthwhile putting a sticker in your diary, maybe a week before the deadline so that you have time to send out the letter.
Chuck: Very often the key date is the one where the cancellation letter actually arrives the company and not when you send it off.
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: And I’d really recommend sending it [Einschreiben] as in registered mail. So then the companies can’t claim that they didn’t receive the letter because, well registered mail gets you a confirmation that they did receive it and what date they received it.
Judith: It costs a bit more to send but it will save you a lot of money if the contract does not renew.
Chuck: It’s a whole lot cheaper than hiring a lawyer.
Judith: And if you are not sure when you need to cancel your contract, just write [Zum nächst möglichen Zeitpunkt] it’s a more formal way of saying [sobald wie möglich] and of course you need to send the cancellation request with plenty of time to spare them.
Chuck: Yes. Let’s take a look at the vocabulary for this lesson. The first word is;
Judith: [Abonnement, Abo]
Chuck: Subscription or a standing order.
Judith: [Abonnement, das] and the plural is [Abonnements, Abos]
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [kündigen]
Chuck: To cancel or to give notice.
Judith: [kündigen]
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [formulieren]
Chuck: To phrase word or formulate.
Judith: [formulieren]
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [vorbereiten]
Chuck: To prepare.
Judith: [vorbereiten] and the vor splits off.
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [Text]
Chuck: Text.
Judith: [Text, der] and the plural is [Texte]
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [verändern]
Chuck: To change.
Judith: [verändern]
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [hiermit]
Chuck: Herewith or hereby.
Judith: [hiermit]
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [nächstmöglich]
Chuck: Earliest possible, next possible.
Judith: [nächstmöglich]
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [Zeitpunkt]
Chuck: Point of time, date or moment.
Judith: [Zeitpunkt, der], plural is Zeitpunkte.
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [Bestätigung].
Chuck: Transformation.
Judith: [Bestätigung, die] and the plural is [Bestätigungen].
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [zusenden]
Chuck: To send to.
Judith: [zusenden] and the [zu] splits off.
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [Vertragsende]
Chuck: Expiration of the contract.
Judith: [Vertragsende, das]
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [mitteilen]
Chuck: To inform or communicate something.
Judith: [mitteilen] and the [mit] splits off.
Chuck: Next.
Judith: [sich verabschieden]
Chuck: To say goodbye or take leave.
Judith: [sich verabschieden]
Chuck: Let’s have a closer look at the usage for some of the words from this lesson.
Judith: The first word is [die Kündigung.]
Chuck: Cancellation or notice of cancellation.
Judith: It’s of course related to [kündigen].
Chuck: To cancel.
Judith: And then we saw the phrase [Wollen wir...]
Chuck: Do we want to?
Judith: Yes literally do we want to but the meaning is more like shall we? For example in this startup we had [Wollen wir jetzt kurz die Kündigung schreiben?]
Chuck: Shall we quickly write the cancellation notice now?
Judith: And [die Formulierung] phrasing is of course the noun related to [formulieren]
Chuck: To phrase.
Judith: And [die Verabschiedung]
Chuck: Leave taking or discharge.
Judith: Is the noun related to [sich verabschieden]

Lesson focus

Chuck: To take one’s leave or say goodbye. The focus of this lesson is formal language. Like any language, there are different registers of language in German, at the very least there is informal spoken German, formal spoken German, informal written German and formal written German. Each of these sound more formal than the previous. So spoken German is almost always less formal sounding than written German.
Judith: There are only a few rare occasions where spoken German can be more formal than written German. For example when someone is making a speech at a public ceremony. The first thing that comes to mind thinking about informal and formal German are of course the forms [du] versus [Sie]. These are by far not the only changes though.
Chuck: Oh, so what are some of the indicators of more formal German?
Judith: Well for one thing the conjunctive is used more frequently, especially the conjunctive one and also the genitive is used more frequently, in informal German, you have a lot of construction with [von] and also just occasions to use the genitive not so many nouns one after the other, Ah really this is another thing that’s a good indicator of formal German is that there are lots of nouns instead of verbs. Nouns used instead of verbs, nouns used instead of sub-clauses, everything turns into a [un, igkeit] whatever. Also the passive is more frequently used and less personal constructions especially when they are setting up a rule, they are not saying you must but it is required that, something like that. And the use of less common words, the less common words which are more specific than the words you’d use in spoken German.
Chuck: Okay, okay I’m going to have to stop you here. I think that’s quite enough. How about some examples?
Judith: Yes, I have a few examples. For example, in formal German you’d write [Bitte veranlassen Sie die Kündigung dieses Vertrags].
Chuck: Instead of what?
Judith: Instead of [Bitte sorgen Sie dafür, dass dieser Vertrag gekündigt wird] so you see [veranlassen] is similar to [dafür sorgen] but not quite it’s more specific and [Kündigung] is a noun instead of [dass dieser Vertrag gekündigt wird] but [gekündigt wird] will be passive. It’s just not as formal as the first tense.
Chuck: Can it get even less formal?
Judith: Yes you could say something like [Bitte sagen Sie Ihrer Sekretärin, dass sie diesen Vertrag kündigen soll] then you don’t use the passive and [sagen] is even less formal than [dafür sorgen] and you are going down to the really easy registers.
Chuck: You know it quite doesn’t sound possible in a letter there.
Judith: No, no you cannot write that [Bitte sagen Sie Ihrer Sekretärin, dass sie diesen Vertrag kündigen soll] now it’s impossible. It gets the point across, it’s the way you can communicate when your German is really bad, don’t write like that, they will take advantage of you. Okay another example, in formal letters and contracts, you will often find a phrasing like [eine Änderung ist dem Vertragspartner sofort mitzuteilen].
Chuck: Literally a change has to be communicated immediately to the contracting partner.
Judith: Yes, in less formal German you’d say [Wenn sich etwas ändert, müssen uns dies sofort sagen], it’s still formal German it’s just not hyper formal like the previous phrasing.


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Judith: [Also bis nächste Woche].