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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

moving to germany

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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10 Reasons Why Learning to Speak German is Worth the Pain [Infographic]

People often say that German is one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn—and they’re right! Learning how to speak German can be quite difficult, especially for those who aren’t yet fluent in other foreign languages.

So what makes learning German such a challenge? People are most intimidated by German grammar and pronunciation. Complex German cases and gender rules can easily trip up the most seasoned language learner.

Just because learning German can be challenging, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try. In fact, learning German is well worth the pain and effort. Below are 10 reasons why you should learn how to speak Deutsch.

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Now that we’ve convinced you to learn German, it’s time to get started. There are a number of ways in which you can learn how to speak German. From online lessons to German YouTube channels, there’s a style that fits everyone’s needs and preferences.

So what are you waiting for? Learn how to speak German today and start reaping all of the benefits above!

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Learn German Grammar: Guide to Masculine, Feminine, and Neutral Nouns

learn german grammar

Learn German grammar with this helpful guide to forming masculine, feminine, and neutral nouns from German teacher Tyler S

Whenever I begin German lessons with a new student, I provide a brief summary of “grammatical gender” within the first three lessons. This usually involves me comparing the three German words der, die, and das.

While terminology like “grammatical gender” may sound daunting, don’t let that deter you from being able to learn German grammar. With a little practice, it’s actually easy to learn how to identify whether nouns are masculine, feminine, or neutral.

If you want to learn German grammar at maximum speed, it’s very important that you learn the tricks to memorizing grammatical gender. Every time you learn a new German vocabulary word, you’ll need to have a system for memorizing its grammatical gender.

If you do not know the grammatical gender of a word, then you won’t be able to use it and/or speak German correctly. It’s simply one of those unavoidable tasks you must master when learning German.

What Exactly is “Grammatical Gender”?

Grammatical gender is the term used to describe the three traditional categories that each German noun belongs to. The labels used for the three categories in German are masculine, feminine, and neutral (or neuter).

If you’re someone who has trouble identifying the gender of a noun, have no fear: there are many easy rules to help you identify a given word’s category.

learn german grammar

You can tell a word is masculine if…

1. The noun refers to a male being or an animal that is male 

  • der Vater (father)
  • der Hahn (rooster)
  • der Löwe (lion)

2. The name of a day of the week

  • der Montag (Monday)
  • der Dienstag   (Tuesday)
  • der Mittwoch  (Wednesday)

3. The name of a month

  • der Januar (January)
  • der Februar (February)
  • der März (March)

4. The name of a season

  • der Herbst (Autumn)
  • der Sommer (Summer)
  • der Winter (Winter)

5. The name of a cardinal direction

  • der Norden (North)
  • der Osten (East)
  • der Süden (South)
  • der Westen (West)

6. The noun ends with any of the following suffixes

[-el, -en, -er, -ig, -ich, -ling]

  • der Schlüssel (key)
  • der Wagen  (car)
  • der Zucker  (sugar)
  • der Honig  (honey)
  • der Teppich (carpet)
  • der Lehrling (apprentice)

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You can tell a word is feminine if:

1. The noun refers to a female being or an animal that is female

  • die Frau (woman)
  • die Tante (aunt)
  • die Henne (hen)

 2. The name of plants or plant anatomy

  • die Pfirsich (peach)
  • die Nuß  (nut)
  • die Weide (weeping willow)
  • die Blume (flower)
  • die Orchidee (orchid)

3. The noun ends with any of the following suffixes

[-age, -e, -ei, -heit, -keit, -schaft, -ie, ik, -in, ion, -tät, -ung, -ur]

  • der Courage (courage)
  • die Katze  (cat)
  • die Sämerei (seed store)
  • die Schönheit (beauty)
  • die Fertigkeit (ability)
  • die Freundschaft (friendship)
  • die Familie  (familie)

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You can tell a word is neutral if:

1. The noun is in the diminutive form and has either the “-lein” or “-chen” ending

  • das Brüderchen  (little brother)
  • das Schwesterlein (little sister)
  • das Buchlein  (little book)
  • das Schweinchen (piggy)
  • das Kätzchen  (kitty)

2. The name of a city used with an adjective

  • das historische Eichstätt  (historical Eichstätt)
  • das alte München (old Munich)

3. The name of a country used with an adjective

  • das übervolkerte Tokyo (overpopulated Tokyo)
  • das moderne Frankreich (modern France)

4. The noun ends with any of the following suffixes

[-tum, -ment, -ium, -um]

  • das Christentum (christianity)
  • das Instrument  (instrument)
  • das Helium  (a type of secondary school in Germany)
  • das Praktikum  (date)

The ability to learn German grammar is critical. If you take just a couple of minutes to read and memorize the examples above, you’ll be able to successfully identify the grammatical gender of 99% of German nouns. There are, of course, some irregular German nouns, whose category must be memorized.

Hopefully, this article gives you the necessary tools you need to learn German grammar. Bis das nächste Male! Auf Wiedersehen! (Until next time! Goodbye!)

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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15+ Things You Didn’t Know Were Invented in Germany

german inventions

Germany is mostly known for its beer and environmental friendliness, but did you know that the country boasts some of the world’s most famous inventions?

Johannes Gutenberg, Ferdinand Porsche, and Karl Benz are just a few of the famous engineers, inventors, and scientists who hail from Germany.

From everyday household items to lifesaving medical devices to luxury automobiles, these German inventors have created some of the most useful inventions, many of which are still used today.

Take a break from your German lessons and brush up on your German culture and history by reviewing these 15 + German inventions–they might just surprise you!

1. Bayer Aspirin

Every time you reach for a bottle of aspirin to soothe your headache, you can thank German chemist, Felix Hoffmann. Hoffmann first created the pain-fighting formula to help his aligning father, and then later patented it in February of 1900.

german inventions

2. Automobile

While there’s speculation around who’s responsible for inventing the automobile, German engineer Karl Benz was the first to create what is the basis for today’s most popular mode of transportation. In 1885, Benz developed the first automobile powered by gasoline.

german inventions

3. Bacteriology

In 1870, Robert Koch discovered bacteria after livestock throughout Europe was affected by a mysterious disease. Without Koch’s discovery, many of the world’s health problems may have continued.

german inventions

4. Accordion

In 1822, German inventor Christian Friedrich Buschmann created the first basic model of the accordion. This beloved musical instrument remains a staple in German culture, and is most often used in German folk music.

german inventions

5. Gummy Bears

After seeing trained bears at festivals across Germany, German entrepreneur Hans Riegel was inspired to create the deliciously sweet, chewy gummy bears in the early 1920’s. Riegel’s candy company, Haribo, continues to make gummy bears to this day.

german inventions

6. Christmas Tree

The tradition of the Christmas tree started in Germany during the Renaissance. Typically, the tree was decorated with apples, nuts, and other foods. It wasn’t until the 18th century when illuminated candles were added.

german inventions

7. Contact Lenses

Dr. Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick, a German ophthalmologist, constructed and fitted what was considered the very first contact lens in 1887. Made from heavy brown glass, Fick tested the contact lenses on rabbits before fitting them to human eyes.

german inventions

8. Jeans

Levi Strauss, a German-American businessman, and Jacob Davis first patented jeans in 1873. Manufactured by Strauss’s company, dubbed Levi Strauss & Co., blue jeans were originally designed for cowboys and miners.

german inventions

9. Kindergarten

Meaning “children’s garden” in German, this early education institution was first introduced by German pedagogy Friedrich Fröbel in 1837. Fröbel’s notion was that young children’s minds should be nurtured and nourished like plants in a garden.

german inventions

10. Printing Press

While Chinese monks are cited as creating the first concept of the printing press, it was German inventor and blacksmith Johannes Gutenberg who introduced printing to Europe. Gutenberg’s “movable type printing” technology enabled the mass production of books.

german inventions

11. Bicycle

In 1817, Baron Karl von Drais invented the Laufmaschine—German for “running machine”— the first commercially successful two-wheeled, human-propelled machine made from wood. The French would later add pedals to the contraption.

german inventions

12. Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny is a figure that originated in Germany in 1682. Traditionally, it was thought that the “Easter Hare” would judge whether children displayed good or bad behavior at the start of the spring season.

german inventions

13. X-Rays

Discovered by German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1895, the x-ray is popularly used throughout the medical community. Röntgen actually invented the x-ray by accident while experimenting with electrical current through glass cathode-ray tubes.

german inventions

14. Record Player and Records

German inventor, Emile Berliner, picked up where Edison left off in creating the gramophone, also known as the very first record player. A gramophone plays records or discs with grooves that are amplified by a needle.

german inventions

15. Mayonnaise

While the French chef of Duke de Richelieu first created mayonnaise in 1756, it was German immigrant Richard Hellmann who brought the classic deli condiment to the masses in 1905. Hellmann later went on to start the popular mayonnaise empire, Hellmann’s.

german inventions

16. Coffee Filters

Amalie Auguste Melitta Bentz, a German entrepreneur, invented the coffee filter in 1908. As a housewife, Bentz was frustrated about over-brewing the coffee, so she experimented with different types of paper and later invented what’s known today as the coffee filter.

german inventions

 

There’s a very good chance that you use one or two of the German inventions mentioned above in your everyday life. Learning about these German inventions is a great way to supplement your German lessons and learn more about the country’s history.

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