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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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What’s the Best Way to Learn German? [Quiz]

Are you thinking about learning German? Before you book German lessons, it’s important to know what style of learning best suits you.

You might benefit, for example, from using images to help memorize German vocabulary words. Or perhaps you’re more of an auditory learner who likes using sound and music to learn concepts.

Determining the best way to learn German will enable you to find a teacher who can cater to your particular learning style. What’s more, it will help guide you throughout your studies.

Take the quiz below to determine the best way to learn German for you!

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Now that you know the best way to learn German, go for it! Learning a foreign language–in particular German–has many advantages from better cognitive abilities to more job opportunities.

german beers

The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Guide to German Beers [Infographic]

german beers

When you think of Germany, beer is often the first thing that comes to mind. After all, Germany is one of the most beer-crazed countries in the world.

In fact, Germany is ranked third in the top 20 beer drinking countries, with each person consuming 115.8 liters of beer per year. What’s more, there’s an estimated 1,200 breweries in Germany alone.

And did we mention the world’s biggest celebration of beer—Oktoberfest—is held in the German city of Munich?

German Beers: Presentation, Quality, and Taste

Germans take drinking and brewing very seriously. Germans pride themselves on using only the highest quality ingredients, which is evident in the deliciously crisp and hoppy taste.

There’s even a strict purity law, named Reinheitsgebot, which dictates that German beers may only contain hops, malt (barley), yeast, and water.

Whereas in the U.S., most bartenders don’t pay attention to temperature and pour—Germans do. German beers are always served cold (but never too cold) in the appropriate glass or mug with a head of white foam.

According to Germans, to achieve the perfect head, draft beer can’t be properly poured in less than seven minutes.

German Beers: History and Culture

Beer is considered a huge part of the German history and culture. In the early middle ages, German monks brewed beer to pass time. Quickly, merchants and traders began to brew their own beer and the rest is history.

Culturally, beer is what brings many regions together. In fact, what region a person comes from is often identified by the beer he or she drinks.

During the summer months, Germans flock to beer gardens and beer halls to sit back, relax, and enjoy German beers with friends. The rest of the year is also spent celebrating with drinks.

If you call yourself a beer enthusiast, then brush up on your German beer knowledge with the infographic below.

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Now that you’ve learned everything there is to know about German beers, here are a few German vocabulary words and phrases you can use next time you order a Helles or a Pilsner at the pub.

German Beer Vocabulary

  • Ein Bier (a beer)
  • Ich trinke gerne ( I would like to drink…)
  • Ein Bier, bitte ( A beer, please)
  • Dunkel (dark)
  • Hell (light)
  • Prost (cheers)
  • Die Brauerei (brewery)
  • Kneipe (pub)

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Common German Phrases and Etiquette Tips for Dining Out

common german phrases

Do you want to explore what Germany’s restaurant scene has to offer? Below, German teacher Tyler S. shares some common German phrases and etiquette tips to ensure you have a delicious and enjoyable meal…

Imagine you’re in Germany dining out for the first time. You excitedly enter through the restaurant’s front door, take a quick look around, and wait at what appears to be the host stand.

If you wait to be seated in this manner, you’ll be waiting a long time. In almost every German restaurant, it’s customary that you seat yourself before the wait staff begins serving you.

This is just one example of the cultural differences between American and German restaurants. If you have never dined out in Germany, then you may be surprised by how many other differences there are.

To avoid miscommunication or an unpleasant dining experience, it’s important to learn common German phrases and etiquette tips for dining out.

Below are some quintessential tips you’ll need to know to enjoy your dining experiences in Germany.

Seating

As previously stated, it is customary that you seat yourself in a German restaurant. If you’re unsure if a table is occupied, you can check by using the following common German phrases.

  •   Entschulding, ist dieser Platz frei? (Excuse me, is this seat unoccupied?)
  •   Entschulding, ist dieser Tisch frei? (Excuse me, is this table unoccupied?)

Tables are often larger and longer in size, which means you may be joined by others if your table is larger than your dining party.

If you would like to “break the ice” with a group of strangers at your table, it is always nice to ask:

  • Entschulding, könnten wir uns hier setzen? (Excuse me, could we sit here?)

Ordering Beverages

Make eye contact with the wait staff to receive service. Avoid excessive waving or yelling as this is considered very rude.

When the server approaches your table, he or she will most likely take your drink orders by asking you one of the following questions:

  • Was haben Sie gerne? (What would you like?)
  • Was trinken Sie gerne? (What would you like to drink?)

In most American restaurants, it’s common to order tap water. In Germany, however, people only drink mineral water. In fact, if you ask for Leitungswasser (tap water), you’ll be met with strange looks.

Below are various common German phrases and words to help you order a beverage.

common german phrases

Requesting Food

From Schnitzel to Apfelstrudel, there are dozens of delicious German dishes that you’ll want to try. Each region has it’s own specialty dishes, so be adventurous when ordering.

Also, make sure you’re patient with your server, as the German dining experience is much more relaxed and courses are not rushed. Use both your fork and knife to eat almost all foods. Pay attention to how your dining party is eating and copy their mannerisms if possible.

To order something to eat, use the common German phrases and words below.

common german phrases

Paying the Bill

When paying the bill, be sure to tell your server how much you’re paying when you hand them the money.

  • Bezahlen, bitte. (The bill, please.)
  • Ich zahle… (I’ll pay…)

Traditionally, the one who invites the dining party out is the one who pays. If you’re getting separate checks, make sure your server knows by using the following common German phrases.

  • Bitte, alles zusammen. (All together, please.)
  • Getrennte Rechnungen, bitte. (Separate checks, please.)

Paying with a credit card can be a risky, as most establishments only take cash. Having some Bargeld (cash) on you is a great way to save yourself trouble. If you’re in doubt, however, you can ask a staff member the following questions:

  • Akzeptieren Sie Visa? (Do you take Visa?)
  • Akzeptieren Sie Discover? (Do you take Discover?)
  • Akzeptieren Sie MasterCard? (Do you take MasterCard)

Tipping is required by law in most cases and included in the bill’s total. This is usually within the range of 10%-15%. In Germany, most people will leave an extra tip on top of the bill’s total if they received satisfactory service. If you don’t need change when tipping, use the common German phrase:

  • Es stimmt so. (Keep the change/the rest is yours.)

Another helpful tip, don’t leave your tip on the table in Germany. Make sure your server has it or he or she may not end up receiving it.

By learning German vocabulary and etiquette tips, you’ll have a much more enjoyable time dining out. Here’s to your great dining experiences in Germany!

Zum Wohl! (Cheers!)

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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How to NOT Look and Act Like an American Tourist in Germany

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Are you planning a trip to Germany? One of the keys to staying safe and not getting sucked into tourist traps is to blend in with the culture. In other words, when in Germany, do as the Germans do.

Most American tourists don’t realize that there are certain things they wear that make them stick out like a sore thumb. A large backpack or fanny pack, for example, screams tourist.

But it’s not just what American tourists wear, it’s also what they say and do. Certain gestures or greetings, for instance, can be easily misconstrued.

Take the A-OK hand gesture. While in the U.S. the gesture is accepted as a signal that someone’s “okay” or “in agreement,” the gesture is actually considered vulgar in Germany.

As you can see, it’s important to read up on German customs and familiarize yourself with the culture to avoid getting into a sticky situation.

So how can you blend in with the locals? We’ve interviewed several German travel bloggers to come up with a list of 10 tips and tricks on how to avoid looking like an American tourist in Germany.

1. Avoid Flashy American Logos

“The key to not looking like a bumbling tourist in Germany, or anywhere in Europe for that matter, is to avoid wearing certain things that scream “I’m a tourist.” You don’t have to be a total fashionista, but there are things you can do to tone down the tourist in you and help keep you safe from would be pick-pockets and con-artists,” said Cheryl Howard, travel expert and creator of cherylhoward.com.

“First and foremost, avoid fanny packs like the plague! Another tip is to not wear sports jerseys or baseball caps from a home sports team. If possible, also avoid wearing clothing from a chain store with large and recognizable logo placements.”

2. Don’t Ask for Tap Water

While in U.S. it’s perfectly fine to ask for tap water at a restaurant, it’s a completely different story in Germany. Yes, German tap water is perfectly safe to drink—but when eating out, Germans always drink bottled water with or without carbonation.

If you want to blend in with the locals and avoid being gawked at in a German restaurant then don’t ask for tap water.

3. Watch Where You Walk

Germans are sticklers when it comes to obeying the rules of the road. And there’s nothing they hate more than jaywalkers. In fact, the German police have set hefty fines for breaking jaywalking laws.

“Germans drive on the right, which means walk and cycle on the right too. There are dedicated bike lanes and you will get run over if you stand in them,” said Sarah Donovan of Dasher Life. “Bicycles rule over any other mode of transport!”

If you really want to stick out like a sore thumb, then walk across the street when the pedestrian light is red—just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

4. Leave the Sneakers and Flip-flops at Home

What’s a surefire way to spot an American tourist? Just look at their feet! In the U.S. it’s common for men to wear clunky basketball sneakers and women to wear flip flops while running errands around town. Germans, however, tend to wear much sleeker and dark-colored footwear.

While it’s perfectly acceptable to wear flip flops to the beach or sneakers while hiking, Germans would never think of wearing athletic shoes or flips flops into town. When travelling abroad, it’s best to pack sensible flats or loafers.

5. Skip the Small Talk

In the U.S., it’s common for people to strike up a conversation with the mailman or grocery clerk. Germans, however, are not fans of chit chat. While they will greet people with a “Guten Tag” (Good day) or “Guten Abend” (Good evening), you’ll rarely see Germans engaged in small talk nor will you hear them speaking loudly.

“Try not to take it personally when people are blunt with you. If you come from a more expressive or service-oriented culture, many of your public interactions (with, for example, cashiers) will seem curt or downright rude!” says Tatiana Richards Hanebutte, an American expat living in Germany and creator of Tatiana In Flux.

“But it’s not you; Germans tend not to mince words, and many of my Deutsch friends have told me that engaging in small talk feels insincere to them. So if it feels like you’ve been given the cold shoulder, try not to get too huffy. Just say “Danke” (or not) and keep it moving!”

6. Don’t Drink Excessively

While Germany may be home to the most delicious beers, that doesn’t mean you should drink excessively. Public drunkenness is greatly frowned upon in Germany.

When a local sees a large group of loud people stumbling around, they automatically think tourists.  And don’t even think about getting into one of Berlin’s clubs if you’re tipsy; these establishments are notorious for turning away groups of drunken tourists.

7. Respect Others Privacy and Personal Space

Like Americans, Germans value their privacy and personal space. When waiting in line, avoid standing super close to people. You should be able to extend your arm to its full length without touching the person in front of you.

Also, when in conversation you’re expected to be at least an arm’s length away. If you’re having a conversation with a German, don’t ask any personal questions about his or her job, spouse, or income, as this is considered very rude.

8. Always Keep Cash on You

Chances are you’re going to be picking up a few souvenirs during your trip. Before you travel to Germany—or any country for that matter—it’s important to research whether or not the majority of stores prefer credit cards or cash. Or else you’ll be that American tourist holding up the entire line because you don’t have any cash.

“Carry cash! Plastic will not get you far in Germany. There are still many stores and restaurants that only accept cash, making it Germany’s favorite way to pay. Also, having a few coins will come in handy when you realize that most places require you to pay somewhere between 50 and 70 cents to use the bathroom,” says Courtney Martin of Welcome to Germerica.

9. Try to Learn the Language

Don’t assume that everyone in Europe knows how to speak English. If you’re speaking English loudly to concierges, shopkeepers, servers, and taxi drivers it’s a dead giveaway that you’re an American tourist and makes you more susceptible to scams.

Make an effort to learn some common German words and phrases, such as “please,” “thank you,” and “do you speak English.” Not only will learning German help you fly under the radar, but it will also make your trip more enjoyable, as you won’t have to fumble in your travel dictionary every five seconds to look up a word.

10. Don’t Flaunt Your Guidebook

Pulling out a large map or guidebook in the middle of a busy street is another way to get yourself pegged as an American tourist.

“Of course, not flaunting your Germany guidebook always helps. If you’re using a guidebook, keep it hidden in a bag or a purse as much as you can. In this way, you’ll avoid looking like a tourist. And as an added bonus, you might just find some interesting sights you wouldn’t have otherwise seen!” says Sara Janssen of A Different Piece of Sky.

Following the tips and tricks above will help you blend in with the locals, which will not only keep you safe from scammers, but will also make your time in Germany more enjoyable. Safe travels!

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German Vocabulary Words and Phrases for Sports [Slideshow]

german vocabulary

Are you a big sports fan? Below, German teacher Tyler S. teaches a lesson in German sports culture and common German vocabulary words and phrases for sports…

If you take a trip to Germany, you’ll quickly learn how important sports are to most people. Germany is full of sport enthusiasts from die-hard soccer fans to the occasional handball player.

In fact, the German Embassy recently released a report stating 27 million Germans are members of a sports club and 12 million pursue sports individually. That means that almost one out of every two Germans is interested in sports!

There are many benefits to learning about Germany’s sports culture. Not only is it a fantastic way to travel and exercise, but it is absolutely one of the best ways to meet new people and make friends.

When I was an exchange student in Germany, I had an incredibly easy time meeting people at soccer events in Munich for the FC Bayern soccer team. I highly suggest attending sporting events if you get the chance during your travels.

The following sections highlight the most popular German sports that a common traveler would most likely encounter. Afterward, there is a slideshow that teaches you the basic German vocabulary words and phrases you will need to have a conversation about sports.

Soccer

German culture and soccer are practically inseparable. It is by far the most popular sport in Germany, with over 25,000 clubs and 170,000 teams devoted to soccer. Likewise, Germany’s top-level soccer association (the Bundesliga) has the highest average attendance for any soccer association in the world.

One of my favorite soccer destinations that I love to visit in Germany is the Allianz Arena, which is the architecturally impressive home of the FC Bayern Munich team that can seat over 70,000 spectators. If you are a fan of soccer, you will have a hard time finding a better place to experience the sport than in Germany!

Handball

Like soccer, Germany is a major hub for handball enthusiasts. In fact, Germany is officially recognized as the birthplace of handball (or der Handball), and many Germans find great enjoyment in playing this sport as it continues to gain popularity.

The German Handball Association (the Handball Bundesliga) is considered by many Germans to be the one of the most competitive professional sports leagues in the world.

During my travels throughout Germany, it was very easy to meet somebody who was interested in handball and strike up a conversation. If you have never played handball before and you are in Germany, give it a try! It is a fun experience you will not regret.

Ice Hockey

Believe it or not, ice hockey is considered to be one of the top three most popular sports in Germany. Like handball, the sport made its official debut in Berlin in 1888, and now almost every German city has an ice hockey team.

The official league for ice hockey in Germany is called the Eishockey-Oberliga and includes approximately 14 different teams, including the Eisbären Berlin and the Hamburger Freezers.

Basketball

Although not nearly as popular as Fußball, basketball is recognized as the fourth most popular sport. Once banned during World War I and II, basketball began to swiftly gain popularity in Germany in the late 1970’s.

The highest-ranking basketball league in Germany is called the Basketball Bundesliga, comprised of 18 national teams that compete for Germany’s national champion title.

The popular German athlete Dirk Nowitzki, who currently plays for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA, caused many Germans to take an interest in basketball as a spectator and amateur sport.

German Vocabulary Words and Phrases for Sports

Now it’s time to learn some useful German vocabulary to help you spark up a conversation about sports. Below are some of the most common German vocabulary words and phrases you will need to discuss sports auf Deutsch:

This article is not an exhaustive list of all the great sports there are to try in Germany. There is still a large variety of less common sports, such as bobsledding, biathlon, ski jumping, rugby, and cycling. My advice is to be adventurous and participate in a sport you enjoy during your travels!
Study these German vocabulary words and phrases and you’ll be chatting with German natives about sports like a pro.
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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Top 5 German Books for Language Learning

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Are you looking for the perfect book to supplement your German lessons? Below, German teacher Tyler S. shares his favorite German books for beginner and intermediate students…

When working on your foreign language skills, it is absolutely vital that you surround yourself with helpful resources. This can be accomplished simply by watching your favorite television show in a foreign language, or switching your iPod over to that language.

For most students, however, this can be as easy as opening a book.

Books continue to be a leading–and relatively inexpensive– resource for language learners, as they tend to provide credible information that’s easy to understand. I know I have had great success using books as part of my tutoring curriculum.

Below is a list of my top five favorite German books for language learning:

1. 501 German Verbs, by Henry Strutz

Germans are sticklers when it comes to grammatical correctness, in particular proper verb conjugation. Conjugating verbs in German can be difficult, as there are many complex rules one must follow. This German book is an excellent reference for learning essential German verbs. The verbs featured are fully conjugated (in all possible forms), which I believe is the greatest value.

If you practice memorizing these verb forms, you can use that knowledge to conjugate other German verbs. What’s more, this book is highly recommendable because each conjugation is accompanied by a detailed explanation, which helps to clarify how the language uses tenses.

2. Bilingual Visual Dictionary, by Dorling Kindersley Limited

If you’re more of a visual learner, then this book if perfect for you. This resource–which has helped countless students I have tutored– is the ultimate vocabulary trainer. The book organizes German vocabulary words into various different themes, such as der menschliche Köper (the human body) and Gemüse (vegetables).

What’s more, the book includes the grammatical gender of each word (if applicable), which I consider indispensable when learning German grammar. Lastly, it is most useful for foreign travel because of it’s compactness. I have used it myself on my travels, and I highly recommend it to German learners of all stages!

3. German: A Self-Teaching Guide, by Heimy Taylor & Werner Haas

This German language book is one that I found at my local library, and helped take my German from an early beginner’s level to a solid intermediate level. The best part about this book are the exercises, which clearly demonstrate complex grammatical topics.

What’s even better is the book provides all the answers, so students can check their work to ensure they’re on the right track. This book will not only teach you key grammatical concepts, but it will also provide you with exercises to test  your understanding. 

4. German for Children, by Catherine Bruzone

It wouldn’t be a complete list of the top German books if I didn’t include an educational option for students ages 5-13. This book retains a five-star rating on Amazon.com, and it is a personal favorite of mine for keeping children engaged. It includes two CDs with audio exercises that guide students through the entire course.

The book includes games, activities, songs, and interactive puzzles that make learning German fun and easy. Children are generally so entertained by the book’s activities that they will take the time to learn German on their own!

5. The Everything Learning German Book, by Edward Swick, MA

The Everything Learning German Book can be used to supplement any student’s skill level. The book is written in an entertaining format because it submerses the reader into different culturally relevant scenarios. Topics include ordering food using phrases such as “Ich möchte ein Berliner, bitte”, or asking how much an item costs by inquiring “Wie viel kostet der Käse?”

The book also includes thorough explanations of essential German grammar rules, including spelling, punctuation, appropriate language format for writing e-mails, and many other exercises.

I tell all of my students that there is no better way to supplement their German lessons than to read German books. Write down new vocabulary or things you don’t understand, and then discuss them with your tutor afterward.

Tyler S.Post Author: Tyler S.
Tyler S. teaches in-person Spanish and French 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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5 Movies That Will Help You Learn to Speak German

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Do you want to switch up your German language lessons? Below, German teacher Kimberly F. shares five popular movies that will help students learn to speak German…

Are you looking for some exercises to supplement your current German lessons? When learning to speak German, one of the best exercises you can do is watch German films.

In doing so, not only will you be able to hear correct pronunciation, but you’ll also pick up on the proper use of German vocabulary words.

Below are five German films that will help you speak German whether you’re a new or advanced German language enthusiast.

1. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)

Rated PG, this classic German Art House film follows the well-known story of the vampire better known to Americans as Dracula. The film not only showcases German language in an easy-to-follow story-line, but it also displays the generic features of a West German Art House film.

It’s written and directed by the famous Werner Herzog and stars Klaus Kinski in the title role. There is a second version of the film in which the actors speak English (Nosferatu the Vampyre), but that would be cheating!

2. In weiter Ferne, so nah! (1993)

This fantasy romance film, which is rated PG-13, explores the lives of angels who watch over newly reunited Berlin and hear the thoughts of its inhabitants.

Directed by Wim Wenders, this particular film is a sequel to his Der Himmel über Berlin (1987) and stars the well-known American actor Willem Dafoe as well as Nastassja Kinski. This film is both touching and entertaining, exploring both ethereal and colloquial German vocabulary.

3. Vaya Con Dios (2002)

While the title might not sound German, this film is most definitely a German film. The comedy, Vaya Con Dios follows the story of three German monks who are forced out into the modern world.

Since the plot centers around a road trip, the film explores many different parts of Germany and comments on modern German culture. It’s poignant and a little strange, bringing a new sort of “melancholic” comedy to German cinema.

4. Ein Freund von mir (2006)

Two men become the most unlikely of friends in this drama-comedy. A quiet car insurance executive must learn to deal with his loud, nosy coworker. Together, they discover things about themselves and about life.

This film serves its purpose well, exhibiting contemporary German phrases and vocabulary for students. It also shows off one important aspect of the German culture–automobiles.

5. Woman in Gold (2015)

This film is not completely in German, but just enough to make it a great transition movie for those just beginning to learn German.

Starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, the film follows the true story of Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee living in America, who is trying to reclaim the Gustav Klimt painting that was stolen from her family during WWII. The film delves into German history, Austrian culture, and the Germanic art scene.

These five films span a wide variety of German-language cinema, sure to please almost any German language student. Watching German films is just another step in your German language journey, which can be complemented by private lessons.

KimberlyF.Post Author: Kimberly F.
Kimberly F. teaches German, Italian and singing lessons in Hicksville, NY. She received her Bachelor of Science in Music Performance from Hofstra University, and her Master of Music from Bard College. Kimberly has been teaching students since 2007.  Learn more about Kimberly here!

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Celebrate German-Style: Ultimate List of German Holidays and Festivals

While Germans are known to be quite reserved, they love to celebrate and take pride in their holiday traditions. Like many countries, Germans have their own set of unique traditions, from placing clean shoes in front of the door on St. Nicholas Day to chicken dances at Oktoberfest.

If you’re planning on traveling to Germany, you might want to brush up on these traditions and customs. This guide is intended to help you learn everything there is to know about Germany’s major holidays and festivals.

german holiday

Taking place the night of December 5th-6th, St. Nicholas Day marks the beginning of the Christmas season. On the eve of the fifth, children are expected to clean their shoes and leave them outside the front door for St. Nicolas to come fill them with chocolates, oranges, and nuts. Children who behave badly are likely to find a stick in their boot.

The story behind this tradition is that St. Nicolas, the patron saint of children, sailors, students, teachers, and merchants, was known as a protector of children who would anonymously give gifts. Today, St. Nicholas goes by several different names, such as “Belsnickle,” “Ruprecht,” and “Pelznickel.”

Learn German vocabulary: Schuh (shoe), Geschenk (gift), Kinder (children), Schokolade (chocolate)

german holiday

Christmas is considered one of the biggest German holidays. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Germans celebrate what’s called “Advent.” You’ll find traditional Christmas markets that sell handmade toys and decorations set up throughout towns.

On Christmas Eve, it’s customary for people to decorate their Christmas trees and attend church. (Fun fact, the Christmas tree originated in Germany!) On Christmas Day, time is spent visiting extended family and eating a traditional meal, featuring dishes such as apple and sausage stuffing, red cabbage, and potato dumplings.

Learn German vocabulary: Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas tree), Kirche (church), Spielzeug (toys), Familie (family)

german holiday

Germans celebrate New Year’s Eve, also known as Silvester, much like Americans do—except Germans have a few traditions of their own. For example, when the clock strikes midnight, fireworks or fire crackers often go off. What’s more, people give each other four-leaf clovers, as a symbol of good luck for the coming year.

Whereas in the U.S. it’s customary for those at home to watch the ball drop on TV, German television stations broadcast the same comedy sketch, titled “Dinner for One,” year after year. Molybdomancy (Bleigießen) is another German New Year’s tradition, in which small lead figures are melted in a spoon and poured into a bucket of cold water. The shape the lead makes is then used to predict the future.

Learn German vocabulary: Feuerwerk (fireworks), feiern (celebrate), Fernsehen (television), Frohes neues Jahr (happy new year)

german holiday

As perhaps one of the most well-known German festivals, Oktoberfest takes place in late September and continues into early October. Thousands of people from across the world travel to Munich to drink German beer and taste traditional foods, such as Schweinebraten, Reiberdatschi, and Weisswurst. The festival also has a variety of attractions, such as games, rides, and parades.

So what’s the history behind this popular event? Back in 1810, the citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the grounds in front of the city gates to celebrate the marriage of Crown Price Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The people of Munich decided to make the celebration an annual event, and the rest is history.

Learn German vocabulary: Ein Bier bitte (one beer, please), Spiele (games), Menschenmenge (crowd), trinken (to drink)

german holiday

Held on October 3rd, Day of German Unity marks the anniversary of Germany’s unification, and is the country’s only national holiday. On this day, cities celebrate with festivals featuring food and entertainment for all ages. Unlike other countries, however, Germans don’t celebrate their national holiday with elaborate celebrations.

So what’s the historical significance of this German holiday? Less than one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, East and West Germany came together, and the Cold War was over.

Learn German vocabulary: Geschichte (history), Jahrestag (anniversary), Unterhaltung (entertainment)

german holiday

Germany’s equivalent of Mardi Grais, Karneval or Fasching, is a pre-Lenten celebration that starts November 11th and ends on Ash Wednesday. The carnival season starts with “Women’s Carnival,” in which women dress up in costumes and cut off the ties of men.

Next up is Rose Monday, in which marching bands, dancers, and floats parade down the street and throw goodies to the crowd. The celebrations end with Shrove Tuesday, on which costume balls are held throughout Germany.

Learn German vocabulary: Kostüme (costume), tanzen (to dance), Musik (music), Spaß (fun)

german holiday

Taking place on May 1st, May Day is a celebration to welcome spring. The German holiday is filled with lively music and dancing. It’s customary for towns to set up a Maypole, a tall wooden pole that is decorated with colorful ribbons and flowers in the town’s public square. In some regions of Germany, boys will deliver a Maypole to the home of a girl they fancy the night before.

Centuries ago, it was believed that witches held rituals the night before May 1st, so citizens lit fires and danced to ward off evil spirits. These traditions later turned into the customary lighting of bonfires and the raising of the Maypole.

Learn German vocabulary: Blumen (flowers), Frühling (spring), Feuer (fire), Übel (evil)

german holiday

Germans and Americans celebrate Easter in a similar fashion. The four-day weekend starts with Good Friday, when many families eat a traditional fish lunch. The weekend continues with Easter Saturday, where people typically browse the markets for decorations.

In some northern regions of Germany, people will light bonfires to chase away the dark spirits of winter. Similar to the U.S., Easter Sunday is spent attending church and hunting brightly-colored Easter eggs.

Learn German vocabulary: Eier (eggs), Markt (market), Sonne (sun), Farbe (color)

german holiday

The Dom Fun Fair, held in Hamburg, is one of the biggest fairs held throughout Germany. Held three times a year during the summer, spring, and winter, people from all over the country flock to Hamburg to eat, drink, play games, and enjoy rides.

The history behind this festival dates back to 1329, when citizens of Hamburg would organize a market located in front of the Cathedral (Dom) at the beginning of each season.

Learn German vocabulary: essen (to eat), Sommer (summer), Saison (season)

Many of the holidays in the U.S. are also observed in Germany. Germans, however, have certain customs and traditions that make these holidays unique.

If you’re traveling to Germany, consider participating in these traditions, or attending one of the festivals, to really get a feel for how Germans celebrate their culture!

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Speak German

Top 5 YouTube Channels That Will Help You Speak German

Speak German

Are you looking for an alternative way to learn German? Or, do you simply want to supplement your current German lessons? Learning how to speak German has never been easier, thanks to the many online resources available today.

In particular, YouTube has emerged as a popular platform for students who want to learn how to speak German. YouTube is a great learning tool, as it lets you try tutorials from a wide variety of instructors and enables you to learn on your own time.

There are tons of German YouTube tutorials that teach students everything from common German expressions to important German grammar rules. With so many YouTube channels available, however, it can be difficult to find the best one that suits your needs.

Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up the five best YouTube channels that will help you learn how to speak German and everything in between.

1. Get Germanized

Why we like it: Who said learning German had to be boring? Get Germanized is a German language learning channel that takes a fun approach to learning.

“With Get Germanized learning becomes fun and therefore easier. I’m trying to make the videos/lessons as entertaining as possible, while still conveying lots of helpful information so that you can achieve the best results,” said Dominik Hannekum, German native and creator of Get Germanized.

With over 100,000 subscribers, the channel teaches users everything from German culture to German grammar. New video lessons led by Hannekum himself are posted every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

Favorite video: “Learn the 7 Easiest German Phrases”

2. Deutsch für Euch (DFE)

Why we like it: If you’re looking for some instructional videos to supplement your in-person German lessons, look no further than Deutsch für Euch.

“What makes DFE special are the in-depth, yet accessible grammar explanations combined with a casual and entertaining tone and the genuine communication I maintain with my audience. Those three things are very important to me and I find that’s also what most viewers appreciate. It’s a win win!” said Katja, creator of Deutsch für Euch.

With close to 80,000 subscribers, DFE has an array of short instructional videos covering a wide range of beginner topics, such as German greetings and German pronunciation.

Favorite video: “The Past Tense in German”

3. Easy Languages

Why we like it: Easy Languages takes a very unique approach to teaching. The channel teaches students how to speak German in everyday situations through street interviews.

In one episode, for example, interviewers take viewers on a shopping trip throughout Münster, and they explore different German vocabulary words. This channel is great for learning proper German pronunciation, as it features native German speakers. Don’t worry if you’re a beginner student; there are English subtitles to assist you.

Favorite video:  Check out this video to learn German shopping terms.

4. Girls4Teaching

Why we like it: Learn all about German numbers, verbs, and phases with Girls4Teaching. German tutor, Eva slowly walks students through tutorials covering a wide variety of topics from German language to German culture.

You can tune in to the channel to learn some new concepts or simply brush up on your existing German language skills. Either way, this channel is great for those who want simple and straightforward overviews.

Favorite video: “The Alphabet”

5. Deutsch Happen

Why we like it: If you really want an in-depth explanation of complex German language concepts, then check out Deutsch Happen. Review German writing, vocabulary, idioms, and other topics with host Kirsten Winkler.

Winkler does a great job of organizing lessons so that they are easy to follow and understand. What’s more, her use of graphics makes complex concepts more comprehensible.

Favorite video: Check out this video on how to conjugate the verb “to have.”

Learning how to speak German isn’t as hard as it seems, especially when there are so many resources that you can leverage. Whether you want to learn the language on your own or supplement your German lessons, browse through these YouTube German tutorials to see which one strikes your fancy!

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