Articoli

10 German words that every language should have

They say that the language of a nations reflects its culture and mentality, even more so if there are words that can’t be directly translated in other languages.

 

These are precisely the most interesting words to study or observe with attention because they allow us to really grasp a different culture and norms. So here are 10 beautiful and intricate German words to learn:

#10 SCHILDERWALD

A forest of road signs. So many road signs that you’ll get confused by all the directions indicated and get lost.

#9 KOPFKINO

To have a mental movie going on. Well, to whom did it never happen? Imagining in our head the best and worst scenarios we would say.

#8 LUFTSCHLOSS

In English we would say “to build castles in the air”. Something desired, but far away from reality: a project or idea that can be hardly achievable.

#7 SCHNAPSIDEE

That crazy idea that you will get in a moment of absolute euphoria, at times caused by an excessive consumption of alcohol. Genius ideas that might reveal to be a total disaster or an acclaimed success.

#6 AHNUNGSLOSIGKEIT

The lack of knowledge, opinions, awareness. According to the context it might indicate being naive, ignorant or ingenuity.

#5 FINGERSPITZENGEFUEHL

An immediate awareness and empathy with our surroundings, that allows us to respond promptly and diplomatically.

#4 STREBEN

The origin of the term resides in the German romantic period, when this word indicated the detachment from everyday life to reach that intangible level of perfection. Today the term indicates the effort and determination required to fullfill one’s ambitions.

#3 GEBORGENHEIT

Most of the dictionaries translate this term simply as “certainty”. In reality there are many more nuances that go over and across the meaning of this word: an incredible combination of certainty, protection and intimacy derived from relations with others, in particular your family.

#2 VERSCHLIMMBESSERN

Making a situation worst in the attempt of making it better. Like trying to fix that bad haircut at home on your own..

#1 WANDERLUST

The desire to leave. That uncontrollable itch that makes you want to travel and explore the world, see new places and make new experiences.

————

Are you getting intrigued by the German language or wish to refine your vocabulary? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes! 

5 German expressions that you won’t forget easily

Are you studying the language of the devil and you don’t know to which saint to turn to anymore? No panic! We put together an exhaustive list of common German expressions that you will hardly forget. So close your grammar books and follow us!

 

1. Arschgeige (r. Arsch = ass, e. Geige = violin); literal translation, dipstick / dipshit/ arsehole

The typically German mastery of composing and using of composite words is known throughout the world. Our teutonic hosts have invented all sorts of these, both when sober and under the influence of susbstances. Arschgeige belongs to the second group.

2. Arschbombe (r. Arsch = ass, e. Bombe = bomb); literal translation, cannon ball

We continue the list of composite words with “ass”. And no, it is not referring to the effects of lactose on your flatmate, but to the jumping in the water in a cannon ball.

3. Arschloch (r, Arsch = ass, s. Loch = hole); literal translation, asshole / twat and so on

Yes, if you hear someone calling you an Arschloch you have every right to get mad.

4. Ich habe die Nase voll davon; literal translation, my nose is full / I’ve had enough

From the ass to the nose. This nice and colorful expression is used to describe situations, people, places, things, cities, etc. of which one has had enough of. It is a highly versatile and effective expressive.

5. Null – acht – fünfzehn; literal translation, zero – eight – fifteen

Did you know? Even with numbers you can say so many things in German. Especially if their combination refers to a heavy machine gun used by the German army in World War I. Surely you will have seen it in some documentary or vintage movie, but what you may not know is that in 1914 the infantry’s army’s automatic weaponry was about 12,000 more than the one in the other armies. The Germans were so fond of using the model number as an expression to indicate not an erotic position, but a mediocre person. Evidently the gun did not work very well.

 

Cover Photo: © Nina Helmer CC BY-NC ND 2.0


Want to learn German in a vibrant environment? Look no further and check out the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes by clicking here!

Brad Pitt nominated as testimonial of the German language in the world. Here’s why.

Throughout his career Brad Pitt has been called a lot of things, but surely he missed the title of being “a promoter of the German language”.

When not busy with the big screen or with humanitarian actions, the actor added another talent to his extensive curriculum. We are talking about the nomination to the tile of Sprachwahrer for the year 2014, an initiative promoted by the notorious German newspaper “Deutsche Spachwelt”. The award was given to someone that has demonstrated its dedication to the language, giving it value and merit. We can therefore define them as “language promoters”.

The actor, that has distant German origins, is in fact one of the most famous German scholars as well as a regular visitor of the country. We recall Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” of 2009 that was shot in the studios of Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam. Estimator of the Teuronic art, he expresses with enthusiasm his passion for the language by saying “I like German, I even find it beautiful and melodious” as reported in Kölner Express.

The title is, however, very controversial and amongst the other formidable contenders we remember: Monika Gruber, the German cabaretist famous for her politically correct linguistic manipulation, Heike Diefenbach and Michael Klein with their battle fought with words and petitions, working towards an ideological and free scientific language. Last but not least Johannes Singhammer, vice-president of the German Parliament, appointed for his tireless actions in promoting the German language.

Amongst the winners of the previous editions we remember the Deutsche Bahn (the German railway), Loriot (a famous German comedian, in 2011) e pope Benedetto XVI (in 2005).

Photo © Red Romero Ramos CC BY SA 2.0


Wish to become like Brad and get nominated yourself as “promoter of the German language”? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes in the heart of Berlin by clicking here!

 

How to memorize 18 German words without getting a headache

German continues to be a source of inspiration in many ways. The fact that it is still a cryptic language for many is not a novelty.

Learning German is for many an impossible task due to, amongst other things, the many consonants placed close to each other and the rigid pronunciation of words. The structure of the sentences, the syntax, still puts the most talented Germans in crisis. The Germans themselves often admit that they do not know the meaning of a term and therefore use the famous Richard Porson’s saying that “life is too short to learn German.”

German words

To make the whole thing even more grotesque is the (in)famous German morphology with its endless composite words, one of which has even entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest word in the world: Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften (companies that provide legal assistance). And if long words were not enough, then there are those that in a few syllables contain a myriad of different meanings, impossible to synthesize in English in one word. Here is a list of the most bizarre and astrus ones selected by the site Fluentu!

 

18. Ohrwurm= earworm [for instance when you hear a song on the radio and can’t get it out of your mind throughout the whole day]

 

17. Fernweh= longing for a distant and unknown place

 

16. Kummerspeck= literally, grief bacon, in context it is having an emotional belly [or the need to eat to console your belly following a disappointment]

 

15. Innerer Schweinehund= inner pig/dog [it is that very powerful animal that lives within us that we must overcome when we have to do unpleasant things, like paying taxes and going for a jog at 6am before work]

 

14. Fremdschämen= feeling shame for someone else

 

13. Torschlusspanik= panic of the closed door [it is commonly employed to address a woman whose biological clock is ticking]

 

12. Treppenwitz= staircase joke [it occurs when the right joke comes to your mind when it’s too late, as if you have a pleasant meeting on the stairs and you have no time to say the right thing]

 

11. Lebensmüde= life tiredness

 

10. Weltschmerz= pain of the world

 

9. Weichei= soft egg [N.B. never say that to a waiter in Germany, for the actual meaning of the term is to address someone that is cowardly and has “soft balls”]

 

8. Backpfeifengesicht= face you would like to slap

 

7. Erklärungsnot= need to explain [have you been punished and didn’t even have the time to realize it? Then claim your Erklärungsnot!]

 

6. Sitzfleisch= seat meat [a character trait, to have big shoulders. For the German collective imagination it is like having a sac of meat on your seat due to an excessive state of boredom]

 

5. Purzelbaum= tumble tree [Somersault! Roll on the floor as if you were a piece of tree trunk]

 

4. Dreikäsehoch= three, cheese, above [a term for children employed towards that kid in the class that is taller compared to others, as tall as three pieces of cheese on top of another]

 

3. Zungenbrecher= tongue twisters [read about hilarious German tongue twisteres here]

 

2. Schattenparker= shadow parker [are you trying to be smart and park your car in the shade to protect it from the heat? This term is not actually meant as a compliment, but more as an insult]

 

1. Kuddelmuddel= unstructured mess

 

If you read until here and now your head is fully of screws and you are thinking that the German language is like a witty mosaic, an unstructured mess, then this is the word that you need right now.

 

Do not be discouraged, German is a very charming language and with some commitment everyone can succeed in mastering it. And studying German is also a good way to overcome the sense of Lebensmuedigkeit and stop using google translate which, let’s say it, never gets it right. And additionally to be taken for a Schattenparker that doesn’t commit does not please anyone. In the end, there are surely other Weltschmerz that are worse than learning German. After a thousand Kummerspecken overcome thanks also to the strength that you have gained by experiencing the Torschlusspanik, you can go out with your German friends and also take their order when you go to the restaurant. And this time without any of them feeling Fremdschämen for you.

You can finally be totally proud of having overwhelmed your Innerer Schweinehund. It is the same feeling of when, as a child, you felt so powerful after succeeding in a new intent. When you felt that you stood out like a Dreikäsehoch. You have gone a long way and now you have your Sitzfleisch. After a thousand nights spent on a thousand absurd Zungenbrecher until they become actual Ohrwurm. You will not be considered a Weichei anymore, and surely this time you will be able to talk to your new neighbors without fear of falling into any Treppenwitz. Except if it’s your girlfriend, in that case you’d risk a proper Backpfeifengesicht. Be careful not to combine any Kuddelmuddel or to use your Erklärungsnot!

If after all this you still want to stay and do not experience any sea sickness or Fernweh, there is nothing left to say or do than return to your inner child and gain thousands of well earned Purzelbaum!

Cover photo: © Alexandre Normand CC BY SA 2.0


Want to learn German in a vibrant environment? Look no further and check out the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes by clicking here!

50 steps to become the perfect Berliner

Today we would like to talk about a very special book, How to be German (in 50 easy steps). It is an unpretentious manual whose intention is to transform the reader in a perfect teutonic mutant, with all the merits, tribulations and idiosyncrasies that derive from it. Supported by ironic illustrations for each step it is written in German and English.

The approach is utterly ironic and amusing, and the 50 steps to follow span from the Apfelsaftschorle to German bureaucracy, to the much-hated GEMA to living bio, the fines on public transport, all the way to the beloved Kartoffelsalat. It also talks about the sacredness of Tatort on Sunday evenings and the importance of greeting cards for any special occasion. A spiritual compilation that has cheered my first U-Bahn trips and most often ripped me off in laughter in the religious silence that reigns on wagons, stirring up the discreet curiosity of my taciturn traveling companions who, after having looked at the title in cover, understood the reason of so much hilarity and would often exchange a smile.

The author, Adam Fletcher, is a Cambridge blogger and marketing expert who has been in Berlin for some years now; on his official page he describes himself as “a writer, an amateur chocolate eater and a professional napper,” as well as author of three enjoyable volumes such as “A Picnic for Perverts” (2012), “The Hipster Guide” (2013) and “Denglish for Better Knowers” (2014). After the tragicomic closing of Neukölln’s Hipstery store, Adam continues to write his satirical pieces and sell his line of gadgets through e-commerce, narrowing the target and type of products that he and his partner smuggle under a single, exhaustive label: “things that make us laugh.” The kit of the perfect Berliner hipster is one of the most genius and hilarious finds I have ever found. Take a look at yourself, if you do not believe it.

15. «MAHLZEIT!»

German has the reputation of being a pragmatic and literal language. Both nouns – like the nipple, for example, that was renamed with the romantic Brustwarze (“wart on the chest”), and the too explicit Antibabypille – and some of its expressions, which sometimes seem to describe not a mood or a state of mind, but the mysterious mechanics of an invisible car: “Es mennuft” (“works”), “Es geht” (“goes”), “Es passt” (“its fits good, it adapts”) , “Alles in Ordnung” (“all in place”).

This can serve as an appetizer, intrepid Ausländers, but to become real Germans you must learn to use the most pragmatic and disconcerting greeting of all – “Mahlzeit!”, Translated with “have a good meal!” or more literally with “meal time”. I had just arrived in Germany and while I was sitting in the canteen for lunch, my colleagues walked by the door and said to me, “Mahlzeit! ». Mahlzeit? Mahlzeit? Lunch time? Well, no doubt! That I’m eating is obvious. Right now I am clearly and loudly swirling a potato salad. I’m chewing, don’t you see? I know it’s a bit early for lunch, but I admit I missed breakfast. Do not judge me, have pity, please!

Only then do you understand that it is not a question. It’s a redundant, clumsy disguised statement, like a kid playing and stealing clothes from its parents, a form of greeting. So, for the sake of integration, over time you will start using it too. At first, it will sound a little bit weird, but I assure you that after a while you will find it rather fun, especially since in many regions of Germany you can use it at any time of the day. You can call someone at 4 am when you know for sure that they are still sleeping and wish them “Mahlzeit!” Brilliant. Perhaps you are wondering why you can’t add the -zeit suffix to other activities to create new and original greetings. But German literacy begins and ends just when you start to grasp its meaning. Glove is Handschuh (“hand shoe”), but do not dream of calling the Kopfschuh hat (“head shoe”). Do you see someone drinking? You can not wish him “Trinkzeit!”. You neighbours are having sex and don’t even bother covering up the moans? It is not admissible to ring the bell and wish them a warm ‘Fickzeit!’

Only «Mahlzeit», understood?

(Adam Fletcher and Ingo Herze, How to be a German/ Wie man Deutscher wird, Verlag C.H.Beck oHG, München 2013, pp.23-24)


Want to learn German in a vibrant environment? Look no further and check out the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes by clicking here!

 

Small vademecum to handle German without performance anxiety

Let’s start with a basic assumption, which to the ear of many will sound redundant: German is a difficult language. Fascinating, mysterious and that gives lots of satisfaction if handled with the same audacity and wonder of the first explorer of an ancient Khmer temple. But notoriously, irremediably and damnly complicated. For their own admission, Germans often love to repeat amongst themselves “Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache” (“German language, difficult language”), alluding to the challenges and idiosyncrasies that one of the most spoken mother tongues of Europe poses. Not to a German speaker, ça va sans dire, that he will almost certainly have learned to spell “Uberraschung” even before the word “Mom”. The problem arises when a foreigner, with greater or lesser goodwill, approaches the arcane and often indecipherable complexity of this idiom – an idiom extremely logical, schematic and intuitive for some, too obscure and deterrent for others.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that German, like other Indo-European languages, has both fusional and agglutinative traits. Which are not strange food intolerances or incurable diseases, but large containers where languages are organized in lists and classified according to morphological phenomena that have led to the formation of words over time. The difficulty in learning German is that in some ways it is a language that tends to flex (the grammatical cases and the declination of nouns and adjectives are a clear example) and at times tends to condense (see words of disproportionate length, formed by the addition of prefixes and suffixes to a lexical or verbal root). If we add to this the unclear identification of the gender, the fact that the conjugated verb or the participle – hence the key of everything – are placed very often after a forest of complements and at the end of a kilometer long sentence, the presence of a hostile and multifunctional auxiliary as werden and not to mention the use of at least five different mechanisms for the formation of plural names… well, it is not surprise if the beginner’s reaction will be one of outmost panic.

Don’t despair, and most importantly don’t give up, if at the restaurant you will be facing three objects that can be associated to three different grammatical genders on the same table: der Löffel (the spoon, masculine), das Messer (the knife, neutral) and die Gabel (the fork, feminine). The first instinct will be probably be to want to throw the table in the air, scream at the waiter whilst emitting undignified sounds and run as far as possible from so much linguistic confusion. But it is not by running away that you will be able to solve the problem. If you really want to feel like the master of your own destiny and of your future communications in the teutonic land, you will simply need to change your approach to a language that is not that harsh after all. So no more feeling lost, aspiring Germanophones, and keep in mind that:

– There is no obstacle that constant studying can’t overcome

Studying, studying, studying. Whoever has arrived to Berlin, or in Germany at broad, with a linguistic repertoire limited to a guten Morgen and Dankeschön will better look for a school or a valid method to approach this language seriously. In Germany there is a classification of learning levels (based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) starting from the A1, the basic step, and arriving at C2, the highest level, which presupposes an excellent mastery of the language. The achievement of each level implies the frequency of two intermediate modules: the A1 level, for example, is achieved with the frequency of A1.1 and A1.2. A constant study of the language implies that to the 100 hours of frontal lesson for each module, at least as many hours should be dedicated to an individual study, following the debatable advice of learning and memorizing at least 10 new words per day. If math is not an opinion then this brings us to the conclusion that to reach a discreet language level which can be considered the B1 it is necessary to dedicate at least 1.200 hours of sweat and tears. There is no other way, it is the only investment possible to achieve satisfactory results. A very popular but improbable motto says that life is too short to learn German. I am more inclined to believe that those who are convinced that they can go without studying German have a short life in Germany.

– The spelling and pronunciation of German can be quite intuitive

Unlike other languages like French, and apart from a few phonemes and diphthongs that can be easily memorized, German is read as it is written. And this makes it easier to pronounce it and spell it correctly. When the constructs will seem too difficult and the adjective declination will make you panic, you can always refresh your self-esteem on the basis of phonetic progress. It will be the first conquest in your climb over the legendary teutonic giant, and will also support you through dark times. Of course, these are also the first, tragic telephone conversations in German, a topic that deserves a post for its own.

– Verbal times have a much simpler use than Romance languages

In German it is absolutely normal to use the present time to express a future action, so that a phrase like “Tomorrow I will go to the theater” is a grammatically correct statement and also accepted in the written use. In addition, in the majority of Germany, but actually at the south of the so-called Weißwurstäquator (the imaginary equatorial of the white sausage marked well on the Danube path), 99% of speakers prefer the use of the Präteritum / remote past than the Perfekt / past, since it easier to memorize. Try to make a confrontation with the endless sequel of Italian, French, and Spanish verbal times, and then we can talk about it.

– There is an underlying logic and you can see it

All German nouns are written in uppercase: even Mark Twain, in his disheartening attack on the astrusive German language , was forced to admit that it was a good idea. In German there is a strict and stringent logic; once the verb prefixes are learned, at least in 60% of the occurrences, it will be incredibly easy to understand the meaning. When you will assemble genres and cases, be certain that you will almost certainly feel the concreteness and pragmatic nature of this language. Legend has it that the old (and rather unfair) stereotype of Germans who are devoid of any sense of humor arises precisely from the exaggerated precision of German language. But do you want to deny the dragging hilarity of a straightforward and unequivocal expression like “das kannst du deiner Oma erzählen” or “Go tell your grandmother?”. Germans do not need subtle hints: they go straight to the point.

-Playing with words and neologisms

The tendency to agglutinate that we aforementioned (which is also the primary cause of panic attacks registered on German soil, especially among foreign speakers, when confronted with innocuous words such as Elektrizitätswirtschaftsorganzingswirtschaftsorganisationsgesetz) can actually become a weapon to exploit to your benefit. Do not be overwhelmed by the number of letters! If you really want to apply an arithmetic approach to the language, divide the long word into its individual components, sum up their meanings until you get the overall one, subtract the anxiety and multiply the satisfaction of having understood without too much effort the sense of those forty-four letters. Not to mention that if your limited knowledge of German prevents you from completely expressing a concept, you will always be able to coin a new words without being treated as a crazy person but more as a great innovator and original language experimenter.

– Get germanized

The internet universe now offers the most complete and fun platforms that can help you integrate to your conventional and on-paper study of German some very efficient methodology. But above all it integrates a fundamental component: the entertainment. Amongst the various sites consulted during study hours and after scrolling the numerous tutorial or pseudo-educational proposals on YouTube, I’ve found and continue to find a lot of fun Get Germanized, the channel designed and created by Dominik Hannekum, present and active daily also on Facebook and on Twitter. Through a very direct and informal approach the channel becomes a sort of navigator that helps beginners to navigate among the difficulties of the basic German grammar. By deciphering the lexical curiosity of the slang, the most entertaining approaches that you may listen to in a club in Berlin, proverbs, untranslatable words, the small obsessions and thousands of other cultural nuances that are absent from the aseptic study of an idiom. It is absolutely advice to dispel with a smile the dreadful and unjustified fame of a labyrinthine language, that can prove to become incredibly fascinating.

 

This short account does not claim to be exhaustive or universal, but only aims to introduce you with a bit of more optimism to your descent into the Hochdeutsch. Each expedition might seem impossible at the beginning, and you are a small explorer setting off to discover a linguistic and mythological treasure. So arm yourself with courage, a good dose of initiative and remember that … “Mit Geduld schafft man alles,” with patience you win everything.

 

Nothing left to say than to wish you for a good trip.

 

And if you are living in Berlin and looking for a well taught German course, look no further can check out the classes offered at Berlino Schule here!

Four German words that have no direct translation

It’s called Found in Translation and it is a very interesting graphic project realized by Anjana Iyer, presented in occasion of the initiative 100 days Project (The repeating of a creative task for 100 consecutive days and recording of each days efforts).

At the heart of the illustrations of this graphic designer from New Zealand are words that have a unique and original meaning which exists only in one language. There is no direct translation, more words are required and at times, as she did, also a nice drawing. It is through these that she tries to explain the meaning of these untranslatable words in other languages.

Rightly so amongst this list there are also some German words. Do you know of a word that is capable of conveying the German Fernweh, or so the longing of a place one has never been to? And of the German Schadenfreude, the “pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune”? And what about that face that you would like to slap that in Germany is simply address through as Backpfeifengesicht? We too have forests, but perhaps since we never had the Grimm brothers we never felt the need to describe the feeling of being alone in amongst the trees as Germans did with Waldeinsamkeit.

————————————–
Do you wish to learn German or perfect your knowledge? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes in Berlin here!

5 absurd rules of the German language that once mastered make you feel complete

It’s not enough that it is a language with thousands of inflexible grammatical rules, with words that have a difficult meaning to perceive and sounds at times almost impossible to pronounce. German, despite its reputation of being a rational language, at times presents cases when these rules are not rationally justified and lead to absurd paradoxes. And for us wretched born under another mother tongue, but have to learn how to live with German, there is nothing left to do than to fight against these absurdities every day.

1. The gender of certain nouns

Skirt is male, girl is neutral. For English speakers this is a very confusing situation and the only way to survive out of it is to forget the universal the and simply accept the ambiguous gender assignment for German nouns. Although there are certain exceptions, for instance words that end in -ung are always feminine and those that end in -er are masculine, most of the nouns articles have to be learned by heart because there are no rules to rely upon. And in this condition of anarchy yes, you will have to learn by heart every single common noun of things, animals and so on. Wouldn’t it be nice if the gender was at least deductible from the meaning of the word? Yes, but no: because a skirt is male, and a girl is neutral.
Not to talk about the chaos caused when universal nouns that belong to the collective imagery not only have a gender in the German world, but also a quite confusing one. So then we have the moon (der Mond- M), the sun (die Sonne- F) and death (der Tod-M), as we learned from that famous scene of a chess match against death in the swedish movie The seventh seal. Yet again, this is a different story…

2. Two-digit numbers

Counting in German is easy, but only until 20. Because from 21 onwards a tremendous rule kicks in by which numbers are read at “reverse”. It’s not twenty one, but one-and-twenty (einundzwanzig), it’s not twenty two but two-and-twenty, it’s not sixty seven but seven-and-sixty. Reading the number from the tenth before the unit forces a different way of thinking. In certain workplaces in Germany, those characterized by a majority of non-Germans, reading numbers in this way is forbidden. So to pronounce numbers in a way that is clear and understandable to everyone has led to the forming of a sort of baby talk by which you have to pronounce every digit once: 83 is eight-three, 98 is nine-eight… The problem arises when a German client calls you in and you get a 17 digit Amazon order pronounced overturned and at the speed of light. At that point there is nothing left to do other than rolling up your sleeves and getting to work…

3. Dates

The problems with German numbers aren’t over. For unexplainable reasons, these people invented an entirely original way of reading the years of a date. First thing, the first two digits are separated from the last two. So far so good, as we have the same system in English. In German however amongst the two groups of digits they place a hundert (hundred). Neunzehnhundertzweiundneunzig. The again, why hundred? Possibly because it implies the calculation 19×100=1900 (obvious much?), or possibly because it is a way to distinguish dates from normal numbers. The choice is however debatable. For our luck the dawn of the new century saved us all: from 2000 onwards they gave up to read zweitausend, zweitausendeins, zweitausendzwei… Twothousand, twothousand and one, twothousand and two…

4. Separable verbs

Verbs in English have a preposition. In German instead the prepositions are stuck directly to the verb, thus creating a myriad of countless words that have the same root but different meanings, filling up the already well-supplied dictionary. In this way the same verb can mean everything and the opposite of everything: nehmen (to take), according to the prefix it has at the front may mean to accept (annehmen), to remove (entnehmen), to lose weight (abnehmen), to gain weight (zunehmen), to behave (benehmen)… Combined with the fact that almost all of these prefixes are separable from the verb, and that often the separate prefix may be moved at the end of the sentence, make it so that you can never know what a person is trying to say until he utters the last word. An example?
“Ich gebe die Aufgabe… ab.” I hand in the task.
“Ich gebe die Aufgabe… auf.” I give up the task.

5. The rigid position of the components of a sentence

I often thought that writing a phrase in German is like playing a tetris. Yes because in this language every component of the sentence has its own rigid position that must be respected, which also varies according to the type of sentence: when asking a question the conjugated verb has always the first position, in a positive sentence it has the second position, in a subordinate sentence it occupies the last position (and here we go back to the aforementioned problem by which until the person in front of you has pronounced the last word one can’t know what he means). But not only. The subject will always occupy the first position in a positive sentence unless, usually, you want to start with an adverb for instance, which in that case requires to make an inversion. And so on. The strange thing is that this is a feature of languages that don’t have cases, whereby the role of the components of the sentence is defined by their position. German decided instead to keep both: cases and positions. The best part will be when you’ll move to the most advanced grammar rules and find out that there is also a predetermined order to position the various complements. It is called TeKaMoLo and no, it is not a new generation medication, but it’s the key to remember the order of the complements: Temporal (when), Kausal (why), Modal (how) and Local (where).

Photo: “Practicing my old school writing for German class” © Alper Çuğun – CC BY SA 2.0

——————-
Do you wish to learn German or perfect your knowledge of the language? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes in Berlin here!

Bud Spencer, Di Caprio, Michael Fassbender: 15 celebrities that unexpectedly speak German 

It’s true, actresses, actors and singers have a talent when it comes to the recognition and reproduction of sound.

German however remains a language that few people, at least in the past generations, decided to learn unless it was for work reasons. What follows is a list (partly inspired from the one made by Smosh) of American, but not only, celebrities that can modestly speak German, as the videos demonstrate.

Bud Spencer

The actor from Naples was a real star in Germany, as so was his colleague Terrence Hill. His autobiography reached the vectors of sale a few years ago. All his movies were distributed in cinemas and in the ’70s it was common to find him on German TV to promote his movies. He studied German in school in Italy and never failed to demonstrate it, as this video shows.

 

Sandra Bullock

The Oscar winning actress with The Blind Side, and for a few years the most paid actress in the world, is the daughter of a German singing teacher, herself the daughter of a missile scientist that lived in Nuremberg. It was in Baveria that her father, the American John Bullock, at the time serving the American army, met her mother and began a love story lived through the States and Germany. Although she was born in Arlington, Sandra Bullock lived in Nuremberg until the age of 12.

Chris Pratt

The Guardians of the Galaxy start learned (well) German in school. The father, American, has German origins, but not only: as he himself admits in the past he nurtured a true passion for Goethe’s language.

Leonardo Di Caprio

On the one hand, as his surname discloses, he has Italian origins. On the other hand, from his mother’s side, German grandparents. It was his grandmother, from a small town close to Düsseldorf, that taught the Oscar winning actor that he uses at times to make his German audience smile.

Mark Strong

One of the greatest “supporting actors” of this century, the excellent Mark Strong has an Austrian mother, but not only. He studied law in Munich’s university for one year prior to dedicating himself completely to acting, his passion since youth.

Kirsten Dunst

The American actress holds to this day her German citizenship. The father was in fact a doctor from Hamburg that moved to the States and her mother (that has Swedish origins) worked for Lufthansa. German is thus a family affair for the Dunst family

Paul McCartney

McCartney learned German in school as a child. It became useful when the band, unknown at the time, made Hamburg its continental base, performing there any time they had the chance. The first time was in 1960 when, as reported here “Allan Williams, owner of a music cafè in Liverpool had to organize a tour in Germany for “Derry and the Seniors”, a Liverpool-based rock band. But things went wrong and Williams was forced to find a substitute band in a short amount of time. He asked The Beatles, whom no one at the time heard of, that immediately accepted”. Bild also talks about it here

Terrence Hill

Unlike Bud Spencer, Terrence Hill (aka Mario Girotti) speaks German both because he studied it and because his mother came from Dresden. It was there that, along with a chemist father working for the Schering, he moved when he was 4 in 1943, in the midst of the second world war. He lived there until 1945 with his grandparents in the close Lommatzsch, prior to returning to Venice, his father’s city.

Gene Simmons (Kiss)

The singer of the band Kiss was born in Israel (his real name is Chaim Witz). His mother, a Hungarian jew, lived through the time of concentration camps. He spoke German and taught it, and his son today speaks Hebrew, Hungarian, German and English

Vladimir Putin

From the man of KGB to Dresda, eastern Germany, both before and after the fall of the Wall, Putin could have not not known German….

Michael Fassbender

He was born in Germany, in Heidelberg to be precise, even though he always kept his Irish citizenship. In Bastards without Glory that language learned due to the origins of the father (a known German chef) allowed him to convince Tarantino to give him the role that served him as a trampoline for his career.

Kim Cattrall

The Sex and the City star, although having a well-established career in English speaking countries, in the 80s as she was married to Andre J.Lyson (they then divorced in 1989) lived in Frankfurt.

Karl Urban

The Lord of the Rings star (do you remember Éomer?) and of Star Trek, was born and raised in New Zeland, but his father is German and always spoke to him in his language.

Sarah Chalke

Anyone who watched Scrubs knows this very well: Sarah Chalke speaks very good German. It is the series that mostly insisted on her quality, building up different funny scenarios. Her grandparents from her mother’s side live in Peez, close to Rostock.

Donna Summer

The american singer that passed away in 2012 lived for long in Germany throughout the 70s as she became the protagonist of the theatre version of Hair. There she met Austrian Helmut Sommer with whom she had a child with. This is where here surname comes from (she was born Donna Gaines).

 

© PROGage Skidmore CC BY SA 2.0

—————-

Do you wish to make it one day on this list? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes in Belrin here!

5 TV series that can help you perfect your German

When deciding to learn a new language, the first thing that comes to mind is to find an adequate language course that can ideally fit in our everyday schedule. But what about a good TV series?

Lessons are undoubtedly a fundamental point for departure when learning a language, but at times it might not be enough. Learning a new language means accessing to a new way of thinking, opening our mind to a new culture. Essentially, learning a language implies not only knowledge of the grammatical rules and the lexical, but also knowledge of the so-called pragmatic language, everyday expressions and spoken terms. If one doesn’t have much contact with native speakers, watching TV series in the original language can be a very useful means through which one can learn new expression. Terms that we would otherwise not know of through a strictly theoretical study. For this reason we would like to propose a few German TV series, very different from one another, that might help you further your knowledge of German.

 

1. Türkish für Anfänger

“Kebab for breakfast” is one of the most notorious German productions. The series, which lasted for 3 seasons, it set in Berlin, the German city with the highest concentration of Turkish citizens. The storyline is about an enlarged family made up of a Turkish man and German woman, both with adolescent kids. It is a funny series, that opens a window on Berlin’s multiethnic social fabric. It is suitable both for young people and adults. In 2007 it won the Civis Media Prize in the entertainment category for having promoted the integration of family that have a foreign background.

 

2. Stromberg

Stromberg is one of the most appreciated German TV series. Five seasons that tell the story of Stromberg, a manager of an insurance firm by the name of “Capitol Versicherung AG”. It is the German version of the American series The Office, portraying life in the office in a funny way. This series, however, is not advisable for beginners due to the fact that a lot of the irony derives from word games. It remains nonetheless a rich source of everyday expressions.

 

3. Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten

It is a German soap opera of 1992 that had a 6 million audience count. The story is set in an imaginary neighbourhood in Berlin and it recalls the Australian series The Restless Years. Unlike other soap operas that portray the life of families belonging to a high social background, this one focuses on the life of young people and for this reason it is very appreciated by a younger audience.

 

4. Tatort

Tatort is a police genre TV series. It is the longest one as it has been broadcasted since 1970. The commissioners are at the center of each episode, lasting about 90 minutes. The episodes are quite plausible and, unlike other police series, the various regional broadcasters of ARD are responsible for their territorial spheres and their investigative theme. The series is shot in different cities in Germany. Berlin, Munich, but also in other countries, in Vienna and Lucerne. For this peculiarity it is very useful to learn different accents, to know more of the city and to get an idea of German speaking countries.

 

5. Die Sendung mit der Maus

Der Sendung mit der Maus is one of Germany’s most famous animated series. It was first aired in 1971 and it is intended specifically to a young audience, between 4 and 9 years of age. Following it is also very useful for who doesn’t really know the language and finds more comfort in linear stories. This TV series has been recalled “the school of the nation” precisely due to the way it helps its audience to learn and assimilate the fundamental lexicon in different settings, from history to science.

Cover photo: © Youtube
————————————–
Do you wish to learn German or perfect your knowledge? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes in Berlin here!