How to Learn German Fast

How to Learn German Fast: 10 Learning Hacks & Shortcuts

How to learn German fast

Want to know how to learn German fast? Different sources say it could take anywhere from 400-1200 hours to learn the language.

A number of factors will affect the amount of time it takes you to reach fluency in German. Your native tongue, your availability to practice, and your method of learning are just a few.

Do you plan on taking German lessons with a private tutor? Are you trying to learn with simply an app to help you? Or, are you immersing yourself in the German culture? Whatever your learning style, there are a few tips and tricks that will undoubtedly speed up the process of mastering German.  

Here, we’ll share 10 learning hacks that will show you how to learn German fast. Follow these tried and true shortcuts and you’ll be fluent before you know it.

How to Learn German Fast – 10 Learning Hacks

1. Play Charades

If you were dropped by parachute without any resources or local knowledge into a random city in Germany, you would quickly find that the most important skill for your survival would be the game of Charades.

You can learn any language simply by using gestures to get a native speaker to say the words you’re looking for.

Stephen Krashen, leading expert in the study of language acquisition, argues that perceiving meaning is the most important and effective way to acquire any language. When you use gestures in association with words, you are doing this in its purest form.

Next time you’re practicing your language skills with a German speaker and you don’t know the right word or phrase to say, use body language. Point to things or do descriptive motions to get them to say the words you want to learn, and you’ll find yourself naturally learning much quicker.

how to learn german fast

2. Get Real Immersion

The best way to get complete immersion in the German language is to move to a German-speaking country, but making friends who speak German near you can also create very real immersion situations.

Don’t be shy about asking people in your social circles to help you have German-only conversations. Find Facebook groups for German speakers or use sites like Meetup to participate in language exchange experiences near you.

There are also dozens of places to find a language exchange partner online, such as italki. Any of these sites would be a valuable resource for learning German quickly. 

3. Find a Language Tutorhow to learn German fast

Working with a German tutor will not only help you learn faster, but it’ll ensure you’re learning German correctly. Your language tutor should be someone you feel comfortable speaking in front of. Here are some more of the key characteristics to look for in a tutor. Your German tutor should…

  • Be invested and excited to help you learn.
  • Encourage you to speak more in your target language.
  • Be available to meet up on a regular basis.
  • Hold you accountable to reaching your goals.

TakeLessons language teachers are an excellent resource for learning German fast. Teachers are available for both online and in-person German lessons.

4. Go on a Language Adventure

There are a few everyday activities that lend themselves extremely well to learning a new language. Some examples are cooking, coffee runs, grocery shopping, and watching sports. The vocabulary required to do any of these activities “in German” is fairly elementary.

Choose one of these language adventures to do with a friend and make a commitment to only speak in German. If you’re not at that level yet, keep 90% of the talking to “charades.” This will help you acquire fundamental language skills in an easy and fun way.

5. Make a Plan

how to learn German fast

Having a plan, although it takes some time and mental energy to create, will greatly increase your chances of success at speeding up the process of learning German.

Ask your language tutor to help you make a plan for how you’ll master the German language. Understanding the learning process is what tutors do for a living, and the right tutor will be able to help you focus your goals into a realistic plan of attack.

Keep in mind that fluency will take 400-1200 hours of practice depending on your learning methods and how much effort you’re able to put in.

Sit down with your instructor and make a plan that you can accomplish in 6 to 12 months. Aim for a plan you’re excited about and one that you believe in!

SEE ALSO: 50+ Fun Facts About Germany You Didn’t Know

6. Use Mnemonics

Studying mnemonics accelerates the learning process immensely. Here are a few of our favorites for learning German.

  • “Est Ten Ten” helps you remember the endings when conjugating regular verbs. Ask your German instructor to explain how it works! Trust us… it’s magic.
  • Word visualizations. Come up with quirky explanations for why German words sound the way they do. For example, the word for “deer” is “der Hirsch.” You could say that “deer” are very quiet, so if you want to “hear” (or “Hir-” them) you have to say “shh” (for the “-sh” ending). This may take a little longer in the beginning, but will increase your recall dramatically in the long run.
  • Gender symbols. When you learn German nouns, you must learn the genders that go with them. Pick an image or symbol to associate with each gender and picture it in your mind. For example, the masculine pronoun “der” is pronounced much like the English word “deer,” so you can picture all masculine nouns with deer antlers on them. This little trick is an excellent memory aid.

7. Play Some More Games

how to learn German fast

To learn more vocabulary in a fun way, find a game that you like and play it with some other German speaking friends. Here are a few ideas.

  • Apples to Apples. This fun game will help you learn essential nouns and adjectives. You can buy the German version known as “Äpfel zu Äpfel” or you can make your own cards for any set of words you want to study!
  • 20 Questions. The word order of German questions can be a little confusing since it differs from English and there are several different types of questions. Have your language tutor explain how to phrase a certain type of question, then write 20 questions using that sentence structure for some extra practice.
  • The Wikipedia Game. Play this intermediate-advanced game alone or with a friend. Go to Wikipedia and choose the German language option, then use the Random Page tool (called “Zufälliger Artikel”) twice and try to go from one article to the other only by clicking links within the articles. No translation tools allowed!

8. Know What you Need to Knowhow to learn German fast

In language study, it helps when you know what you need to know in order to accomplish your goals. Your language goals will differ from other students depending on why you’re learning German.

Whether you’re learning the language for business or pleasure, try to focus on one topic at a time. Here’s one way you can prioritize the skills you’ll need to learn.

  1. Gesticulation – being comfortable talking with your hands
  2. Nouns and verbs relating to topics you care about
  3. Glue words – prepositions and conjunctions
  4. Essential grammar – tenses and word order of special phrases like questions
  5. Grammar details – word order, declension, special tenses, etc.
  6. Accent

Some would argue that accent is actually the most important since it affects how you hear the whole language. But if you’re in “emergency mode” and you need to learn functional German ASAP, start with #1 on this list and work your way to the end.

9. Digitally Immerse Yourself

In the digital world, it’s easy to immerse yourself by changing the language settings on your computer’s operating system, your phone, your email account, and all your social media pages.

One key recommendation: only convert platforms that you are very familiar with and don’t have to perform important functions on a regular basis. Making the switch can really slow some processes down, so if you’re already trying to tackle a new project and you have to deal with a language barrier as well, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot.

If, however, you’re pretty familiar with a program and you want to learn all its vocab in German, switch it over and keep a dictionary app open so you can look up the words you don’t know.

10. Hit the Books

how to learn German fast

Books are the best way to learn new vocabulary and grammar. They’re inexpensive and extremely valuable for increasing your understanding of German.

Get advice from your language tutor on an appropriate book for your level. It can also be fun as an adult to pick up a German picture book for kids. It’s amazing how much you can learn from them, even after you’ve reached basic fluency.

The “Kleiner Bär” is a really good series to start with. Another great novel for students is “Monsieur Ibrahim und der Blumen des Koran.” It’s a really interesting story with a lot of good reading challenges.

Now you know how to learn German fast with these 10 shortcuts. Mastering any new language can be a challenge, but if you’re not afraid to jump into the deep end and ask for help when you need it, you’ll learn much more quickly.  

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10 Incredible German Festivals You Can’t Miss

10 Incredible German Festivals You Can't MissGermany is a fun place to visit because of its fair share of holidays and festivals. In this article, teacher KeriAnne N. J. will tell you about 10 festivals in Germany that’ll make you want to pack your bags and travel there soon…

 

“Life is a festival only to the wise.” Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote.

Germany certainly seems to understand how to throw a fantastic festival! Over 10,000 festivals are hosted in Germany in a single year alone. It’s one of the greatest places to explore some of the world’s largest and strangest festivals.

From the exciting celebrations of Karneval, to the acclaimed Munich Opera Festival, to the spectacular lights of the Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas Market) – there’s always something in Germany’s festivities calendar to suit interests and tastes of all kinds. Let’s take a look at these 10 incredible German festivals…


1) Karneval (Mid-February)

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Karneval begins in the 40 day period before Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Typically, Karneval is a time to party and enjoy music, food, and dance. Costume balls, masks, masquerade balls, parades, and other such festivities take place throughout the country, much like our Mardi Gras festival here in the United States or Carnaval do Brasil in Brazil.

The festivals widely vary, according to each towns’ local traditions. Karneval is one of the oldest celebrations in the world, dating back to the 13th century. Carnevale di Venezia, the original celebration originating in Venice, eventually spread north to European countries, such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and even France.

Three Parts of Celebration

In Germany, there are three different parts to the celebration; they include: Karneval, Fasching, and Fastnacht. Each are part of the pre-Lenten observance, and each has its own unique tradition that reflects the different regions, customs, and cities of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Generally speaking, Karneval is used to represent the area known as the Rhenish, or Rhineland. It’s the celebration of carnival in the northwest region of Germany. Fasching represents the celebrations in Austria and South Germany.

The biggest festival day is the Rose Monday parade. In northern Germany, Braunschweig holds one of the largest parades out of any other cities in all of Germany. This parade dates back to 1293. Fastnacht represents the festivities in the Swabian and Swiss regions of northern Europe.

*For more information about Karneval, Fasching and Fastnacht, click here.


2) Munich Ballet Festival (Early April)

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Munich Ballet Festival is perhaps one of the busiest times of the year for the Bavarian State Ballet (Bayerische Staatsballett).

This ballet company, along with other international ballet companies, comes together to perform in week-long performances that premiere new works. These works are created by some of the world’s most modern and innovative choreographers, and contemporary works are created for this special ballet festival in mind.

This festival of ballet has recently become one of the most prestigious events in all of Europe, drawing visitors from all across Europe and beyond. Guest performers and highly-skilled dancers grace the stage in new world premieres, which are often choreographed by some of the most elite and famous choreographers from around the globe.

*For more information about the Munich Ballet Festival, click here.


3) Thuringia Bach Festival (April – May)

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Thuringia Bach Festival (Thueringer Bachwochen) specializes in the baroque music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Various concerts are performed at authentic sites around Thuringia. This music festival is not only enticing to music lovers, but to tourists alike. The Bach festival includes a wide variety of concerts during the festival; solo organ concerts, Bach Cantatas sung by professional choruses from all around Germany, professional vocal soloists, chamber ensembles, and solo instrumentalists.

The festival features international Baroque music superstars, such as soprano singers Emma Kirkby and Dorothee Mields. Other Baroque solo instrumentalists, such as violinist Bjarte Eike, violoncellist Harriet Krijgh, and pianist Magda Amara, take the stage in glorious performances of Bach’s greatest works.

Audiences enjoy observing and listening to musical instruments in their original, well-tempered tuning in Bach’s time. Concerts are held at some of the most beautiful and ornate churches in all of Germany, including Thomaskirche and Traukirche.

*For more information about performances and concerts at authentic venues, click here.


4) International Dixieland Festival, Dresden (Mid-May)

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The International Dixieland Festival in Dresden boasts over 350 Dixieland jazz musicians yearly.

Visitors and musicians alike enjoy the open air events held on the Elbe River. Patrons enjoy catching the Dixie Parade and watching street performers. Performers from all around the world perform for sold-out audiences as they enjoy outdoor performance venues, such as German riverboat tours. Their music lineup includes dixieland, jazz, boogie woogie, and bigbands.

This festival offers concert versions of songs played by solo musicians, performances for children, and events specially designed with families in mind. Musicians offer live entertainment in a fun, festive, and laid-back environment. Musicians also like to wear costumes in order to engage the listeners, adding to the festive atmosphere.

*For more information about performances and various events visit, click here.


5. Rhein in Flammen (May – September)

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Rhein in Flammen (Rhine in Flames) is a spectacular sight of fireworks illuminating the vineyards and castles along the banks of the Rhine River.

Locations in Germany include Bonn, Koblenz, Oberwesel, St. Goarshausen, and Rüdesheim. Hop aboard a brightly illuminated boat to view the spectacular pyrotechnic show along the Rhine. Up and down the shore are live concerts, outdoor fairgrounds with rides and games for the entire family, drinks, food, and much more entertainment and nourishment. Musical performances include the genres of acoustic rock, country rock, American folk, musical comedy, bossa nova, modern jazz, Deutsch pop, and swing jazz.

*For a list of events, locations, and musical entertainment, click here.


6) Rock am Ring and Rock im Park (June)

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Rock am Ring and Rock im Park (Rock in the Ring and Rock in the Park) are two of the largest rock festivals in the world, with crowds reaching 160,000 people annually.

These festivals take place simultaneously over the course of three days in both Nürberg and Nuremberg. Many of the performing artists appear at both venues, performing to vastly large audiences. International artists camp out in tents at each venue, making for hundreds of campsites at each venue.

Superstar rock musicians, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Korn, Deftones, Black Sabbath, and many others perform to audiences made up of people from around the globe. People visit Germany solely for this event and they enjoy new bands as well as popular favorites.

*Check out the list of artists and performing lineups here and here.


7) Munich Opera Festival (June – July)

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The Munich Opera Festival is held yearly at the Bayerische Staatsoper Haus (Bavarian State Opera House) in Munich.

The Munich Opera Festival was founded almost 140 years ago. It’s one of the oldest and most comprehensive opera festivals in the world today. The Opernfestspiele (Opera Festival) consists of all of the previously-staged operas performed during the past year and always concludes with an opera by Richard Wagner, such as Die Walkure or Gotterdammerung.

Fan favorites, including Die Zauberflote, Il Trovatore, and Don Giovanni, are just some of the operas that have been performed at past festivals. Professional opera singers grace the stage in fully-costumed staged productions with elaborate stage sets. Opera soloists from around the world join the productions to sing some of the grandest music ever written and entertain audiences of all ages.

Here’s a fun fact about Munich: The Weihenstephaner Brewery has been operating since 1040, making it the world’s oldest brewery. For more facts like this, have a look at our article 50+ Fun Facts About Germany You Didn’t Know.

*For performance schedules and ticket information, click here.


8. Festival-Mediaval (September)

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The Festival-Mediaval is a reenactment of the medieval period in living history.

The festival takes place annually in Selb and includes things like performances of medieval music, witches, beggars, theatre troupes, a medieval market with vendors, a fire show, and many people in medieval costumes roaming the fairgrounds. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at archery, now’s your chance.

The festival also offers workshops in metal working, craftsman wares, dancing, and early Renaissance musical instruments. Festivities included at the medieval fair are food, merchandise, jousting, and medieval music and games. Bands and musicians from all around the world play at this festival and delight audiences of all ages with their medieval and Renaissance-inspired music. The festival holds a medieval music concert at the Christuskirche (Christ Church) at the end of the festival.

*For more information on days and times of events daily, click here.


9. Oktoberfest (September – October)

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Oktoberfest is a 15-day-long festival celebrating the harvest of Bavarian beers, wines, and food.

Oktoberfest is one of Germany’s most famous festivities and one of the world’s largest fairs. Over six million people come to celebrate the harvest of beer in order to drink, eat tasty pretzels and German sausages, and engage in general festivities. Music performances by internationally-recognized accordion players delight audiences of all ages.

Concerts, accordion competitions, craft and ware vendors, traditional folk dancing, German music, German foods, and German beers all make for an enormously fun and festive annual event. The German biergartens (beer gardens) make for a colorful and festive atmosphere for people to enjoy celebrating the delicious culture of Germany.

If you want to be prepared for Oktoberfest, including knowing how to order beverages, find a seat, and ask for help, check out our article on 20 Useful German Phrases for Oktoberfest.

*For more information about Oktoberfest festivities, click here.


10. Weihnachtsmarkts/Christmas Markets (December)

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Weihnachtsmarkts are magical Christmas Markets that open during the Advent season all over Germany.

Almost every German village and city has it’s own version of these special Christmas markets. Often, these markets give tourists and locals a reason to brace the chilly weather and come out to enjoy food, fun, and festive vibes. Visitors can shop and browse for the perfect Christmas gift at the local vendors, many of whom sell handcrafted wares, toys, ceramics, and jewelry.

A bright Ferris wheel and some cheery hot mulled wine, called glühwein, are just the things to get you into the holiday spirit. Hot chestnuts and tasty pastries made from local vendors make for an unforgettable and delicious adventure. These Christmas markets have become so popular that other countries have started celebrating their own Christmas markets annually. Some of the biggest markets are in Munich, Berlin, Nuremberg, Munster, Lubeck, Heidelberg and Stuttgart.

Here’s an interesting fact: The tradition of the Christmas tree started in Germany during the Renaissance. It was typically decorated with apples, nuts, and other foods. For more facts like this, check out our article on 15+ Things You Didn’t Know Were Invented in Germany.

*For more information, contact each cities’ website for dates and locations.


Conclusion

Have you started packing your bags yet? If you’re planning on visiting Germany at any time, you have no excuse not to attend one of these German festivals! Just make sure that you’re familiar with the language, at least on a basic level. To start learning travel phrases, you can look at our article 10 Must-Know German Expressions for Traveling Abroad.

If you’re interested in learning more German, scheduling lessons with a private German teacher would be the best option. You can even schedule online German lessons if that’s more convenient for you. There are many ways to learn a new language, but just remember no matter what you choose – consistent practice is key. Study a little German everyday and soon you’ll know more than you did before. Happy learning!

 

Do any of these festivals look interesting to you? Have you been to any of them? Comment below with your thoughts!

KeriAnne NJPost Author: KeriAnne N.J.
KeriAnne teaches classical piano, opera voice, musical theater, and more in Brandon, FL and through online classes. She received a bachelor’s degree in Voice Performance at CSU Fullerton and has been teaching for about 20 years. Learn more about KeriAnne here!

 

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10 Cool Facts About Germany in the Wintertime

10 Cool Facts About Germany in the WintertimeThinking about visiting Germany in the winter? Prepare for lots of fun seasonal events and cultural nuances! In this article, overseas traveler and language teacher Carol Beth L. shares 10 cool facts about Germany that are unique to the wintertime…

 

Perhaps you’re already familiar with what Germany has to offer; delicious beers, a rich history, and fun holidays. But did you know that Germany offers different activities and traditions in the wintertime? These are experiences that you can’t get during the summer, fall, or spring seasons. If you’re looking to travel to Germany, consider the following reasons why winter in Germany is a great time to go!


1) Greetings

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In the wintertime, you’ll be greeted differently by passersby on the street. If you’re there on Christmas, the traditional Christmas greeting is “Froehiliche Weihnachten.” The traditional New Year’s Greeting is “Frohes neues Jahr.” This is the standard way to say it, but be prepared for regional variations depending on exactly where you plan to visit. For instance, “Frohes neues Jahr” might become “Gesundes neues Jahr,” or “Prosit neue Jahr.”


2) Trees

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Be prepared to see a Christmas tree or two! Christmas trees were first associated with Germany. They’re said to have caught on after they proved resistance to fire when Father Boniface was preaching to the German tribes. The spruce became associated with the tree of life and with life in general in the religious plays performed for peasants in medieval times. Christmas trees were un-decorated early on; decorations are said to have begun when Martin Luther placed lit candles on his Christmas tree, representing stars in the sky.


3) Markets

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Following the Christmas theme, you’ll want to visit a Christmas market! The first markets began in 1393 to provide basic supplies, but gradually became more festive in-line with seasonal celebrations. Now, most large cities and many smaller ones host a market of their own.

Look out for nativity scenes, nutcrackers, toys, ornaments, and seasonal foods such as dried plums, mulled wine, gingerbread, and bratwurst. If you’re looking for tree ornaments, look out especially for a glass pickle ornament. This is traditionally the last ornament placed on the tree late on Christmas Eve, and an extra present goes to the person who finds it.


4) Treats

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Even if you don’t visit a Christmas market, keep an eye open for some of the seasonal treats mentioned above. Gingerbread houses were first invented in Germany and come up in some of their traditional stories (think Hansel & Gretel, and the later opera by Humperdinck of the same name). Local bakeries may also carry stollen, and other treats may be available in local coffee shops, restaurants, and supermarkets.


5) Calendars

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In addition to the Christmas tree, Germany also pioneered the Advent calendar, with its 24 doors with a treat and some inspiring image behind each one. If you’re in or near Gengenbach during Advent, check out their town hall. It has, for some years now, effectively made itself the largest Advent calendar in the world, with its 24 windows each opening into a different room with a different scene.


6) Christmas Day

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Expect Santa to come a little bit early during winter in Germany! St. Nicholas comes on December 6th in Germany, not on Christmas Day. Here’s another fun bit – he leaves candy in children’s shoes. That’s not to say there won’t still be plenty of Christmas fun to be had on December 25th!


7) Churches

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If you like celebrating Christmas in a religious fashion, try attending a Christmas Eve service at Berliner Dom. If you’re not particularly religious, or if you just like classical music, try the Church of Our Lady in Munich, which has holiday music and concerts. Munich also hosts a Christmas Village in its Royal Residence in addition to the Tollwood Winter Festival.


8) Events

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Though there are many traditions centered around Christmas, there’s still lots of fun to be had after Christmas. For New Year’s, look up the local public New Year’s festivities. For example, if you’re in Berlin, try showing up at Brandenberg Gate for an open air party. There are New Year’s parties going on all over the place!


9) Skiing

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Germany is a wonderful place to ski! The snow is thick and lush in the mountains during wintertime. Choice locations include the German Alps and the Black Forest in south and southwest Germany. Most ski resorts are centered around southern Germany, with a few scattered through eastern and central Germany. Be sure to check around for the best prices on equipment and lodging before you settle on a place.


10) Karneval

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If you’re in Germany in late winter, look for Karneval celebrations. These are a bit akin to Mardi Gras festivals. Like Mardi Gras festivals, Karneval celebrations are a chance for some fun before the season of lent begins. Zany costumes, loads of good food, and thousands of happy people are what you’ll experience at Karneval celebrations.


Now you know that there’s a LOT to do during winter in Germany. Before you pack your bags and go, be sure to look at German expressions for traveling abroad. You don’t have to know the entire language to have a good trip, so why not know the basics? If you’re looking to learn more German, however, a private German instructor is the best way to develop a deep understanding of the language. Keep up the learning and don’t be afraid to search for help!

 

Do any of these facts make you want to visit Germany in the wintertime? Yes or no, comment below!

CarolPost Author: Carol Beth L.
Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!

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german pronunciation

5 Basic Rules of German Pronunciation [Audio]

german pronunciation

Mastering a German accent can be difficult. Below, German teacher Tyler S. shares the five basic rules of German pronunciation as well as audio to help you practice…

Learning the proper pronunciation of the German alphabet can often feel like an overwhelming task.

However, there’s no need to panic, as it’s only a matter of time and practice until you learn how to speak German.

To make learning how to speak German easier, we’ve summarized the five basic rules of German pronunciation. Note that each rule has audio so you can practice as you go along.

Let’s get started with learning German pronunciation!

1. German vowels are not the same as English vowels.

The very first German pronunciation hurdle that I help most of my students overcome is learning German vowels. This is a challenging task simply because German vowels differ significantly from English.

Here are some audio clips of myself pronouncing each German vowel belonging to the sound inventory of Modern Standard German.

As you listen to the examples below, please take extra time to practice the sounds that do not have an English equivalent.

  • a =“ah” as in father

  • e =“eh” as in hair

  • i =“ee” as in week

  • o =“oh” (no English equivalent)

  • u =“oo” as in spooky

  • ä =“eh” as in every

  • ö = (no English equivalent)

  • ü =(no English equivalent)

  • au =“ow” as in how

  • eu/äu = “oy” as in toy

  • ei =“ai” as in Thailand

2. The “stress” of a given word is placed on the word’s first syllable.

Although it may come naturally to a native speaker of English, some students experience difficulty with German word stress.

When I mention the notion of word stress, I am referring to how some vowels (or syllables) within a word are pronounced with greater duration and intensity. This means the vowel is pronounced longer and louder if it is stressed.

In German, a word’s stress almost always falls onto the word’s first vowel (or syllable). I’ve included a small list of words as examples below. Each word’s stress is enclosed in parentheses:

  • (Au)to= car

  • (En)gel = angel

  • (Häu)ser = houses

3. The German letter “ß” is pronounced like the English “s” sound.

Although the symbol, “ß”, was derived from the Greek alphabet, Germany adopted it to represent the English “s” sound.

This is probably because the German letter “s” can vary in the two sounds it represents. The actual name of the letter is the “eszet”.

One final note: this symbol is often found in old German words rather than recent neologisms. See examples below:

  • der Spaß = fun

  • reißen = to rip

  • genießen = to enjoy

4. The German Letter “s” is pronounced like the English “z” in most cases.

Whenever the letter “s” occurs at the beginning of a German word, and is followed by a vowel, it is pronounced as if it were the English “z”. It also is pronounced in this way when it occurs between vowels. See examples below:

  • Siegfried = Siegfried (the first name)

  • sehen = to see

  • das Wesen = being (as in human being)

Whenever the letter “s” occurs at the end of a German word (or after the last vowel within that word), it is pronounced as in the English “s”. Likewise, if you see a double-s occur within a word, it is also pronounced like the English “s”. See examples below:

  • der Preis = price

  • die Post = post office

  • das Essen = food

5. The German sound “ch” is not equivalent to the English sound “sh”.

This is one easy correction you can make to your German pronunciation to develop a good, understandable German accent.

There is actually no true English equivalent to this sound either. It just takes practice and a keen ear when listening to German.

I recently learned a great trick for helping beginners pronounce the German “ch.” Practice the laughing sound “heeheehee” out loud. Notice how your vocal chords are vibrating when you laugh.

In order to make the “ch” sound, you have to allow air to flow through your vocal chords without vibrating. If you do this, you will automatically make the sound “ch”. Please refer to the following audio clip for some helpful examples:

Taking the time to listen to the audio clips above and practicing is a recipe for significantly improving your German pronunciation.

Ich hoffe, Sie haben viel gelernt! Bis das nächste Mal! (I hope you learned a lot! Until next time…)

Photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simoes

Tyler S.Post Author: Tyler S.
Tyler S. teaches in-person German lessons in Minneapolis, MN. He received his Bachelor’s degree in German and linguistics from the University of Minnesota, and has experience working as a teaching assistant and private tutor with TakeLessons since 2008. What’s more? He can speak 7 different languages! Learn more about Tyler here!

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german vocabulary list

German Vocabulary List for Back to School

german vocabulary list

Are you planning on studying German this school year? Get a head start with this German vocabulary list created by German teacher Tyler S

It’s that time of year again when students in both the United States and Germany are getting back into the swing of things.

If you plan on studying Germany this year or you’re already taking German lessons, the following German vocabulary list will be indispensable in your studies.

If you take the time to study school-related German vocabulary, you’ll have a much easier time functioning in the classroom.

Wortschatz fürs Klassenzimmer

(Vocabulary for the Classroom)

Memorizing the Germany vocabulary list below will not only improve your comprehension in German, but it will also enable you to strike up a friendly conversation about life in the classroom:

Useful German Phrases for the Classroom

Now it’s time to learn some useful German phrases related to school. Anyone who is taking a German class this school year can benefit from this German vocabulary list.

Here are some common expressions to add to your Wortschatz (vocabulary):

  • In welcher Klasse bist du?” (What grade are you in?)
  • “Ich bin in der zehnten Klasse.” (I’m in 10th grade.)
  • Ich habe die Prüfung bestanden!” (I passed the test!)
  • “Wann ist die Hausaufgabe fällig?” (When is the homework due?)
  • “Mein Lieblingsfach ist…” (My favorite subject is…)

If you want to customize the German phrases above, try inserting a specific subject. Here’s a quick list of the various school subjects.

  • Biologie (Biology)
  • Chemie (Chemistry)
  • Deutsch (German)
  • Erdkunde (Geography)
  • Englisch (English)
  • Geschichte (History)
  • Kunst (Art)
  • Musik (Music)
  • Mathematik (Math)
  • Sport (Physical Education)

The German Grading System

Did you know that grading systems can differ given the country in which they originate? When I was a newly arrived exchange student in Germany, I remember being surprised to learn that the grading system differed from America’s A-F system.

There were two main differences between the two grading systems. First, there is no A-F letter system in Germany because they use numbers instead of letters to represent grades. The number “1”, for example, is the best score you can receive, and a “6” is the equivalent of an “F”.

Secondly, it seemed much more difficult to attain a “1” in a class in Germany than it is to receive an A. As a result, there tend to be less A’s and a much higher level of B’s in a student body.

So, if you are normally an A-student in the United States, don’t be surprised if in Germany you tend to get 2’s. This is simply due to differences in the way German culture grades their students on their work.

This back-to-school German vocabulary list will save you frustration in during your German studies. Studying this list will enable you to have a much easier time participating and understanding your teacher.

Viel Spaß beim Lernen dieses Jahr! (Have a great time learning this year!)

Tyler S.Post Author: Tyler S.
Tyler S. teaches in-person German lessons in Minneapolis, MN. He received his Bachelor’s degree in German and linguistics from the University of Minnesota, and has experience working as a teaching assistant and private tutor with TakeLessons since 2008. What’s more? He can speak 7 different languages! Learn more about Tyler here!

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german slang

10 Commonly-Used German Slang Words and Phrases

Take a break from your textbook to learn some fun German slang words and phrases outlined by German teacher Trevor H. below…

Every language has its own set of unique slang words and phrases, even German! While traveling throughout Germany and/or speaking with natives, you’re bound to encounter some German slang words and phrases.

Oftentimes, these words and phrases aren’t outlined in your German study books, which is why we’ve gathered up some of the most common German slang words to ensure that you’ll be able to carry casual conversations with natives.

Below are some fun, and often hilarious, German slang words and phrases.

1. Super!

Don’t confuse the word “super” with “Suppe,” which sounds almost exactly the same. Used much in the same way we use it in English, “super” is a word I’ve heard the most since learning German.

Schedule a meeting: “Super!” Show off a guitar riff: “Super!” Make a hole-in-one while mini-golfing: “Super!” Just remember to pronounce that “s” as an English “z.”

2. Na?

Na” is an informal way to say “hello.” Use it in place of the American slang phrase, “Yo, how’s it going?” You can even say it as a response to itself. Add in “alles Klar” if you really want to be verbose.

3. Naja

This German slang word is one that I use most often. It’s used the same way as “well…” is used at the start of a sentence. It gives you a little extra time to think about what case the articles of the following sentence will be in.

4. Auf jeden Fall

This is a great way to wrap up a thought. It’s also easy to assimilate, considering how similar “auf jeden Fall” is to the English phrase “in any case.” Change “jeden” to “keinen” and all of a sudden it means “in no case.” This is a very useful German phrase to add your repertoire.

5. Prost!

If you have any desire to go to Oktoberfest or any pub for that matter, you should definitely learn this German slang word. It’s used just like “Cheers!” is used in English. You may also want to brush up on a drinking song or two.

6. Fett

Fett” literally means “fat,” but just like the American slang word it can take on positive connotations. You can use it like “cool” in English. For example, “Das Gitarrenriff ist fett!” or “That guitar riff is cool/fat!”

7. Alda/Alta/Alter

Chances are you’ve heard the word “dude” once or twice. Here’s your opportunity to use the German version. “Alter” literally means “old one,” so reserving it for friends is probably a good idea, as you don’t want to offend anyone.

8. Sie gleichen sich wie ein Ei dem anderen.

This German slang phrase is the equivalent of the English idiom “two peas in a pod.” Although, this German phrase means something more along the lines of, “They seem like each-other like one egg resembles the others.”

9. Zwielichtig

This German slang word is fun to say. “Zwielicht”–which literally means twilight– is meant to describe something or someone as “shady” or “dodgy.” For example, “Er is ein zwielichtigen Kerl,” or “He’s a shady guy.”

10. Mach’s Gut

Rather than say “Auf Wiedersehen!” or “goodbye,” use the German slang phrase “Mach’s Gut.” This is a less formal way of saying goodbye, which is literally translated to “make it good.” However, it means something along the lines of “have a good one.”

Hopefully you’ll get a lot of use out of these German slang words and phrases. I know I certainly have.

If you’re looking to learn more German slang words and phrases, ask your German teacher or speak with a native German! The more you speak to natives the easier it is to learn the language and culture.

And with that I’ll leave you with one more: “Ende gut, alles gut.” All’s well that ends well.

Trevor H.Post Author: Trevor H.
Trevor H. is a German instructor in El Cajon, CA. He studied German in college and has been teaching the language for more than 10 years. Learn more about Trevor here!

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useful german phrases

20 Useful German Phrases for Oktoberfest

useful german phrases

The world’s biggest celebration of beer, Oktoberfest, is right around the corner. In a couple of days, thousands of thirsty people will travel to Germany’s capital of Munich to celebrate all things beer.

Before you head off to Munich, you might want to learn some German. After all, you’re going to be mingling with locals and traveling throughout the city.

Learning a few useful German phrases will not only help you get around easier, but it will also enable you to make the most of your time in Germany.

So, if you’re planning to attend this year’s Oktoberfest festivities, brush up on your German language skills and impress your friends with these useful German phrases.

Ordering Beverages

useful german phrases

While ordering beer at Oktoberfest is fairly easy as each tent only offers one brand of beer, it doesn’t hurt to learn how to politely order a beverage. Here are a few useful German phrases for requesting a drink.

  • Ich trinke gerne…” (I would like to drink…)
  • Ein Bier, bitte.” ( A beer, please)
  • Welches Beir haben Sie?” (What kind of beer do you have?)
  • Wieviel kostet ein Bier?” (How much is a beer?)

Finding a Seat

useful german phrases

Searching for an unoccupied seat in a packed beer tent is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. So when you do find an open spot, you better grab it fast! Below are a few useful German phrases for seating.

  • Entschulding, ist dieser Platz frei?” (Excuse me, is this seat unoccupied?)
  • Entschulding, ist dieser Tisch frei?” (Excuse me, is this table unoccupied?)
  • Entschulding, könnten wir uns hier setzen?” (Excuse me, could we sit here?)

Requesting Food

useful german phrases

There are tons of delicious foods sold at Oktoberfest, such as pretzels, bratwurst, and the traditional roasted chicken. Most of the foods items are written in Bavarian, so use these useful German phrases to help you order.

  • Ich hatte gerne…” (I would like…)
  • Die Speisekarte, bitte.” (The food menu, please.)
  • Ich bin Vegetarier.” (I am a vegetarian.)
  • Was empfehlen sie?” (What do you recommend?)

Toasting and Greetings

useful german phrases

There’s a lot of toasting that goes on at Oktoberfest. Chances are you’ll meet a group of new friends that will want to wish you well and vice versa. Below are some useful German phrases for cheersing your new friends.

  • Freut mich, dich kennenzulernen.” (Nice to meet you.)
  • Prost.” (Cheers)
  • Zum Wohl.” (To your health)
  • Wie geht es dir?” (How are you?)
  • Bis dann.” (See you later)

Asking for Help

useful german phrases

Chances are you’re going to have a few questions while you’re at the festival; for example, where the bathroom is or what time the tents close. Use these German phrases to help you get the answers you’re looking for.

  • Wo ist die Toilette?” (Where is the bathroom?)
  • Ich brauche Richtungen.” (I need directions)
  • Kannst du mir helfen.” (Can you help me?)
  • Sprechen sie Englisch?” ( Do you speak English?)

When you’re on the plane or in the car en route to Oktoberfest, review these useful German phrases as they are sure to come in handy on your trip!

To learn more about the festival and it’s history-and why it takes place in September instead of October-  check out this article from Argos Multilingual.

If you’re not very familiar with all the different types of German beer, check out the “The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Guide to German Beers [Infographic]“.

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fun facts about germany

50+ Fun Facts About Germany You Didn’t Know

fun facts about germany

Are you planning a trip to Germany? Twenty-five million people visit Germany each year to explore its picturesque scenery, quaint towns, and delicious foods.

From Berlin to Munich to Hamburg, there are a ton of German cities to explore. What’s more, Germany is home to some of the most spectacular celebrations and festivals, such as Oktoberfest and Carnival.

There are so many fun facts about Germany that it’s hard to even count. So we’ve narrowed it down to 50+ fun facts about Germany that you might not know.

Before you jump on the plane to embark on your German adventure, review the following fun facts about Germany.

fun facts about germany

  • Before Berlin, there were five other German capitals including, Aachen, Regensburg, Frankfurt-am-Main, Nuremberg, and Bonn.
  • Those who hate daylight savings time (DST) can blame the Germans, as they were the first to adopt it in 1916.
  • Although the population is on the decline, Germany boasts the largest population in the European Union with 81 million people.
  • If you look at a satellite image taken of Germany at night, you can clearly see where East and West Germany used to be. That’s because the majority of the street lights on each side were installed before the wall came down, and appear as different colors due to the bulbs’ chemical makeup.
  • Almost one-third of Germany is powered by renewable energy, such as solar panels and windmills. Germans consider the amount of energy that the average American uses to be sinful.

fun facts about germany

  • German is the official language of five countries, including Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein.
  • German is the third most commonly taught language in the world.
  • In German, the word “danke” or “thanks” actually means “no.” So next time someone asks you if you would like a drink, make sure you say “bitte” or “please,” as this means “yes.”
  • The German alphabet has more than 26 letters. The German pronunciation of these extra letters,  ä, ö, ü and ß, doesn’t exist in the English language.
  • There are two principal divisions of the German language: High German, or “Hochdeutsch,” and Low German, or “Plattdeutsch.”

fun facts about germany

  • Most Germans believe that open windows will cause illness, such as achy joints or the flu. Because of this, the window panes stay tightly shut even in the most beautiful weather.
  • Germans consider it bad luck to celebrate birthdays early. They believe in a philosophy that roughly translates into “don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”  An early congratulation for a birthday reminds the recipient that he or she could die before the actual date occurs.
  • In Germany, it’s thought that if you bury your deceased dog under your doorstep it’s ghost will guard the house.
  • Rather than wave to your German friends, greet them by knocking on the table. It’s believed that knocking on oak is good luck because the devil isn’t able to touch the “holy” wood.
  • Whatever you do don’t cheers with water. Doing so, means you’re wishing death upon your drinking buddies, and you definitely wouldn’t want to do that.

fun facts about germany

  • The Weihenstephaner Brewery just north of Munich has been operating since 1040, making it the world’s oldest brewery.
  • There are 1,300 beer breweries in Germany, producing over 5,000 types of beer. No wonder why Germans are the world’s second biggest beer drinkers.
  • In Germany, beer manufacturers  are required to follow the purity law, also known as “Reinheitsgebot,” which allows only water, barley, and hops to be used in the production of beer.
  • 6.7 million liters of beer is consumed at Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, which ironically takes place in September.
  • Germans order their beer very differently. To order a single beer, raise one thumb. If you want to order two beers, raise your first finger. Be careful not to confuse your fingers and thumbs unless you want order the whole pub a round of drinks!

fun facts about germany

  • The capital of Germany, Berlin, is nine times larger than the city of Paris, and actually has more bridges than Venice.
  • Germany has the world’s narrowest street in the city of Reutlingen. Called “Spreuerhofstrasse,” the street is approximately one foot wide at the narrowest point, and nearly twenty inches wide at the widest.
  • Love the good outdoors? Approximately one-third of Germany is still forested.
  • Germany has close to 700 zoological gardens, wildlife parks, aquariums, and animal reserves. The Berlin Zoological Garden is also one of the world’s largest zoos, with 84 acres and 1,500 species of animals.
  • There are over 20,000 castles in Germany, most of them being at least 100 years old. Many of these castles were turned into museums, hotels, or cultural art centers for people to enjoy.

fun facts about germany

  • Germans are sticklers when it comes to following the rules. This is especially true when it comes to the rules of the road. While it might be okay to jaywalk on the streets of New York City, you’ll get nasty glares if you illegally cross the street in Germany.
  • Germans can be quite direct. In fact, they have no qualms about calling you out for unknowingly or knowingly making an inappropriate comment or gesture. Try not to take offense to this, as Germans do it to each other as well.
  • While it may be normal for you to chat with the mailman or your next door neighbor, Germans aren’t fans of small talk. They don’t see the point in making meaningless pleasantries. Although, they will greet people with a “Guten Tag” (Good day) or “Guten Abend” (Good evening).
  • If you don’t want to get the evil eye from your waitress and other restaurant-goers then never ask for tap water at a German restaurant. The German word for tap water is “Leitungswasser,” which means plumbing water. Gross.
  • Like Americans, Germans like their privacy. Don’t greet someone with a hug unless you are close friends and stay at least an arm’s distance or more away when having a conversation with another person.

fun facts about germany

  • Looking for a cost effective college education? Colleges in Germany have been tuition free since 2014, even for international students.
  • Some of the most well-known philosophers were from Germany, including Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche.
  • Germans have made major contributions to classical music with the likes of Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig von Beethoven.
  • Popular fairy tales, like “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” and “Rapunzel,” were created by German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The collection of German fairy tales is commonly know in English as Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
  • Germany hosts some of the largest music festivals in the world, including Rock am Ring, Wave-Gotik-Treffen, and Wacken Open Air.

fun facts about germany

  • In Germany, there is no punishment for a prisoner who tries to escape from jail because Germans believe it’s a basic human instinct to be free.
  • Germany is one of 22 countries that have outlawed the declawing of cats, as they find it to be unnecessarily cruel. Meow.
  • Keep your gas tank full! It’s illegal to run out of fuel on highways.
  • According to German law, an infant’s gender must be obvious by his or her first name. The civil registration office has the right to refuse names that don’t comply with this law.
  • Don’t even think about mowing your lawn or fixing up that old shed on a Sunday afternoon. German law states that Sunday’s are a day of rest and silence. Neighbors are expected to keep quiet and all grocery and other retail stores are closed.
  • In Germany, it’s against the law to address a police officer with the informal “du.” You might want to take one or two German lessons before you arrive to avoid the hefty fine of up to €600.

fun facts about germany

  • The magazine was first invented in Germany in 1663. Called Erbauliche Monaths Unterredungen, the magazine was a literary and philosophical edition.
  • During World War II, Coca-Cola syrup was difficult to import into Nazi Germany. As a result, Germans created the insanely sweet orange soda, also known as Fanta.
  • The Christmas tree was first created in Germany during the Renaissance era. Rather than being draped with illuminate lights, the original Christmas tree was decorated with apples, nuts, and other foods.
  • You can credit the Germans for inventing the accordion, which remains a staple in the German culture.
  • You can thank German entrepreneur Hans Riegel for your love of gummy bears. After seeing trained bears at festivals, the owner of Haribo created the delicious treat.

fun facts about germany

  • Including the Winter Games of 2014, Germany has won a total of 1,681 medals, 547 of them being gold.
  • In Germany, professional soccer games draw in an average of 25,000 fans. That’s one loud stadium.
  • Germany used to be a breeding ground for the world’s best tennis players. Famous players, such as Boris Becker, Steffi Graf, Anke Huber and Michael Stich, were all from Germany. The Deutsche Tennis Bund, which boasts 1.8 million members, is the world’s largest tennis association.
  • Handball, a game in which two teams pass a ball using their hands with the aim of throwing it into the goal of the other team, was first invented in Germany.
  • Many Germans are active in sports clubs. In fact, one in three Germans is a member of the German Olympic Sports Federation.

We hope that these fun facts about Germany have made you even more excited to visit the country or perhaps inspired you to book your flight. Do you have any fun facts about Germany to add to the list?

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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to Germany

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Are you moving to Germany for a job, a significant other, or simply a change of scenery? Whatever the reason, moving to Germany—or any foreign country for that matter—is downright terrifying.

Not only are you away from your closest friends and family, but you’re living in a country you know little about.

Sure you’ve read all the travel books and even learned some German, but nothing can prepare you for the adventure in which you’re about to embark.

Lucky for you, we’ve interviewed several expats who’ve made the brave move to Germany and asked them what they wish someone would have told them before moving to Germany.

Here’s the helpful advice they had to share.

1. Learn the Language Beforehand

moving to germany

“In Germany, German is taught German to German, unless you get a private tutor. I would advise taking a course in your own country to get a base,” says Adriana Kroeller of Changing Plate.

There are many different ways in which you can learn German, whether you choose in-person or online lessons. Whichever you choose, it’s important that you learn some basic German before your big move to help smooth the transition.

2. Everyone Rides a Bike

moving to germany

In Germany, the preferred mode of transportation is biking. In fact, Germany ranked amongst the top five EU countries where people cycle most, according to a survey. When asked what mode of transportation they use most often, 8% of the 27,000 people surveyed in the 28 EU Member States answered ‘bicycle.’

Each town, city, and state has different laws concerning bicycles, and laws are strictly enforced. So before moving to Germany, it’s might be a good idea to brush up on the biking laws in the area in which you’ll be moving.

3. Most German Stereotypes Aren’t True

moving to germany

“Despite their reputations for being cold, Germans are usually very helpful. You just have to ask.  I was very shy when I first arrived, and I think that made things much more difficult,” says Jennifer of American Faultier.

While Germans aren’t ones for small-talk, they are actually quite friendly and willing to help. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask questions—no matter how mundane they may seem.

4. Kiss Your Sunday Routine Goodbye

moving to germany

In the U.S., people will spend their Sundays checking off the many tasks on their to-do lists, such as mowing the lawn, vacuuming the house, and going grocery shopping.

In Germany, Sundays are Ruhetag or “day of rest.” Neighbors are expected to keep quiet and all grocery and other retail stores are closed with the exception of churches, Biergartens, and gas stations.

5. Learning German Isn’t as Easy as You Think

moving to germany

“I think the one thing that would’ve saved me a lot of tears and frustration is if I had realized that stumbling your way through basic social interactions in German is an expat rite of passage. Fluency will take a lot longer than you think,” says Caitlin Travis of Life as an Auslander.

“In my experience, Germans know how hard their language is and they’re more than happy to slow down, listen patiently, and help you fix all your grammatical mistakes. They appreciate your effort.”

6. Start Your Search for Accommodations Early

moving to germany

It can be difficult to find inexpensive accommodations throughout Germany, especially in the major cities like Munich.

“There are lots of things that surprised me about moving to Munich, for one it’s not at all easy to find somewhere to live, it can take months.  If you are moving here with a company life’s a lot easier if you find a relocation agent beforehand,” said Emma of A Bavarian Sojourn.

“Munich is popular for a reason, it’s a great place to work, but even better to live.  Where else can you find a city with so much on its doorstep?”

So, before moving to Germany it’s important to start your search early on. If you want to be extra cautious, you might even want to find accommodation before you arrive in Germany.

7. Germans Can Be Very Direct

moving to germany

“There are tons of things I wish I knew before I moved to Germany. The biggest, however, would have to be researching a bit more about Germans themselves. There are a lot of ways Germans carry themselves and act, which for me was a bit shocking in the beginning. For example, almost all Germans are very direct when speaking with or about something/someone,” said Derek of The Migrant Expats.

“See we Americans are raised in a culture filled with sugar-coated statements that only hint at the truth, especially when talking about something we dislike. The Germans are the complete opposite. This isn’t to say Germans are intentionally mean. Rather quite the contrary. Being unabashedly direct is considered polite and is just a cultural difference. I still find myself getting offended every now and again, but honestly, I’ve gotten used to it…for the most part.”

 8. Germans Take Recycling Very Seriously

moving to germany

Germany is Europe’s leader in all things green. Residents are very vigilant about recycling their trash—so much so that they might give you a dirty look if they catch you placing a plastic bottle in the wrong bin.

There are tons of recycling rules that can be confusing for newbie recyclers to understand. So be sure to acquaint yourself with the all of the guidelines. And when in doubt, just ask your next door neighbor!

9. The Paperwork

moving to germany

“I wish I’d known more about the bureaucratic process that one needs to follow upon moving to Germany. I naively thought that once my visa was approved, that’s all I’d need to do. I had no clue about having to register your address with the bürgeramt to get the official paper that allows you to open a bank account, get a cell phone contract etc.,” said Cheryl Howard of cherylhoward.com.

“I’d recommend that anyone who’s moving to Germany read up in advance on how to go about doing this. It may seem overwhelming if you don’t know any German, but that’s why learning German before you get here comes in handy.”

10. Germans Are Proud of Their Culture

moving to germany

Whether they’re from Munich, Berlin, or Hamburg, Germans are extremely proud of what region they come from and uphold long-time traditions.

“What’s one last thing you should know that I perhaps love about this area the most?  How proud Bavarians are of their traditions, much more so than we Brits,” said Emma.

“Here everything is celebrated from bringing the cows down from the mountains at the end of the summer, the bier, the harvests, spring, and of course the glorious Christmas markets. And a lot of the time they dress up to celebrate – tracht isn’t just worn for Oktoberfest!”

Moving to Germany–or any foreign country–can be extremely stressful. Follow the advice above to help make your move less strenuous and more enjoyable.

Have you moved to Germany? If so, share your best advice for moving to Germany below.

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5 Most Common German Pronunciation Mistakes

german pronunciation

Are you having trouble with your German pronunciation? Below, German teacher Tyler S. shares the five most common German pronunciation mistakes and how to avoid them…

Learning how to speak proper German can be difficult. Don’t be discouraged, however, if you feel stuck and can’t figure out how to pronounce certain sounds.

After all, it’s hard to articulate sounds when they don’t exist in your native language.

In this article, I will walk you through the top five most common German pronunciation mistakes that students often make.

Each section introduces its sound(s) as spelt in German, and provides an explanation of pronunciation that includes examples.

1. The sound “z”

One common sound that English speakers have trouble with is the letter “z”. Students often pronounce this letter like the English “z”, as in the word “buzzing”.

This, however, is incorrect if you’re speaking German.

The German letter “z” is pronounced like the English letters “t” and “s” combined, like in the word “cats”. If you want to sound like a German, replace the letter “z” with the English sound “ts”.

See examples below:

  • zwei  (two)
  • der Sturz  (crash)
  • das Flugzeug (airplane)

2. The umlauts “ö”, and “ü”

When it comes to German pronunciation, these two vowels are probably the most difficult sounds to master. However, I have yet to have a student who hasn’t been able to learn how to pronounce these sounds. It is all a matter of practice!

“ö”

This sound doesn’t exist in the English language. However, if you can pronounce the “e” sound as in the English word “every”, you can pronounce this vowel.

Simply make the English sound ”e” as in “every” that I just described. Once your mouth is in this position, all you have to do is round your lips.

See examples below:

  • das Ö(oil)
  • öffnen  (to open)
  • ökonomisch (economical)

“ü” 

This sound also doesn’t exist in the English language, but its easier to pronounce than “ö”.

First, say the English sound “ee” as in “me”. Once your mouth is in this position, you once again only have to round your lips to produce “ü.”

See examples below:

  • über  (over, above)
  • müde (tired)
  • kühl (cool)

3. The sound “ch” and its alternate forms

The German letters “ch” together represent two different spoken sounds depending on which vowel comes before it in a word.

“ich/ech”

If “i” or “e” comes before “ch”, the “ch” makes a hissing sound, almost like a cat. When producing this sound, touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth or your hard palate.

Leave just enough space for air to leak through. The air leaking through this passage between your hard palate and your tongue is what creates the hissing noise.

See examples below:

  • ich (I)
  • mich (me)
  • milch (milk)

“ach/och/uch”

If “a”, “o”, or “u” comes before “ch”, the “ch” makes a harsh noise toward the back of your throat. This sound also sounds like hissing, but it’s produced at the back of the throat instead of using your hard palate.

If you’re having a difficult time, try making the English sound “k”. The trick is the make the “k” sound into a continuous hissing sound by letting air leak through the closure between your tongue and the back of your throat.

Making the sound should feel like gargling water, but your vocal chords should not be vibrating for this sound.

See examples below:

  • das Bach (stream)
  • das Loch  (hole)
  • das Buch  (book)

If you’re still confused about the proper German pronunciation, here’s a video that demonstrates the sounds:

4. The rules of the letter “s”

Most of my students think the letter “s” is the same as in English. They are partially correct. This is another one of those German letters that has two sound values (similar to how “ch” works).

The sound “s” in German can sometimes sound like the English “s”, but most of the time it sounds like the English “z” sound. The steps for deciding which sound this letter represents are simple:

If the “s” comes at the end of a German word, it’s pronounced as the English “s.” If the “s” is not at the end of the word, it’s almost always pronounced as the English “z”.

Lastly, a double-s sequence such as “ss” in a word is always pronounced like the English “s”.

See examples below:

  • der Eis (the ice)
  • sieben (seven)
  • der Esel (the donkey)

5. The rules of “st” and “sp”

The sound sequences “st” and “sp” are special in German. When either of these sound sequences occurs at the beginning of a German word, its pronunciation slightly changes.

This is actually a very easy pronunciation mistake to fix, as most students just need it to be explained to them formally.

If you see “st” at the beginning of a word, it’s pronounced as the English “sht.” If you see “sp” at the beginning of a word, it’s pronounced as the English “shp.”

See examples below:

  • die Straße (the street)
  • der Strand (the beach)
  • der Spaß (the fun)
  • der Sport (the sport)

 If “st” or “sp” is not at the beginning of a word, it is pronounced just like the English “st” in “stop”, or the English “sp” in “spooky.”

If you take the time to study these helpful German pronunciation tips, you can radically improve your German skills. Not to mention it will get rid of an accent that you may have from your native language.

Viel Spaß beim Lernen! (Have fun learning!)

Photo by Alexander Baxevanis

Tyler S.Post Author: Tyler S.
Tyler S. teaches in-person German lessons in Minneapolis, MN. He received his Bachelor’s degree in German and linguistics from the University of Minnesota, and has experience working as a teaching assistant and private tutor with TakeLessons since 2008. What’s more? He can speak 7 different languages! Learn more about Tyler here!

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