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Top 10 German Culture Faux Pas to Avoid When Traveling

Are you planning a trip to Germany? Like every country, Germany has its own set of unique customs. Something that you’re used to doing in America might be considered rude in Germany.

To avoid coming off as an ugly American or bumbling tourist, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the German culture.

Lucky for you, we’ve enlisted several German travel bloggers to help round up the top 10 German culture faux pas to avoid when traveling.

1. Take it easy on the drinking

“One of the best parts about the Germans? They love and know how to party! Can we blame them? The beer in this country is so good, any visit just isn’t a real visit without having a Maßkrug in your hand while singing and dancing. This doesn’t mean however, one should overdo it,”said Derek and Marc of The Migrant Expats.

“Being publicly intoxicated is a major no-go. In most cases meandering drunks are met with a distasteful grimace from the locals, in others, being too drunk could lead to arrest and heavy fines.”

2. Never ask for tap water

In the United States, it’s common for restaurant-goers to ask for a glass of tap water. In Germany, however, requesting tap water is a big no-no. Why?

The German word for tap water is “Leitungswasser,” which means plumbing water. Obviously, one doesn’t want to wash down their sauerkraut with a glass of plumbing water.

3. Don’t step out of line

When in Germany, be on your best behavior. Germans are extremely punctual and well-mannered. Showing up late, losing your cool, or raising your voice are all considered rude and thoughtless.

If you step out of line, don’t be surprised or offended if someone corrects your behavior, as this is very common in the German culture.

4. Get used to using a fork

You better think twice before picking up that piece of pizza or pretzel with your hands. Germans never eat with their hands with the exception of breaking off a piece of bread. Even French fries are eaten with a fork!

When in doubt, use a fork when eating. Another tip, when you’re finished with your meal, place your knife and fork side by side (not crossed) to signal that you are done. 

5. No one cares that you’re American

“If you’re from the U.S. and you plan on visiting Germany, please keep one thing in mind: No one cares that you’re American. When I first arrived in Germany, I thought I would stand out as a foreigner, like, obviously. I assumed my aura was a blinding fireworks display of stars and stripes with bald eagles soaring overhead. I thought I would be special here, and not just when I opened my yap and made with the Yankee talk, but also by my appearance, my clothes — hell, just the sweet nectar of freedom seeping from my pores — would be enough to out me as an American. Nope. Nobody noticed, and nobody cared,” said Orin G. McGillicutty of Oh God, My Wife Is German.

“Germans are a very well-traveled people. They get a lot of paid time off work, and they often spend it visiting other countries. Also, it’s typical for them to live a few years abroad for education and professional training, especially in the U.S. This is why, when you visit Germany and your American nationality comes up in conversation, it’ll have all the social clout of table salt.”

6. Skip the small talk

Contrary to popular belief, Germans are actually a quite talkative bunch—they just don’t like meaningless small talk. Germans are known for being very direct, which shouldn’t be mistaken for rudeness or coldness.

When having a conversation, speak clearly and precisely. If you say to someone, “Hey, how’s it going?” don’t be surprised if they go into a 10-minute spiel about how they are. Germans interpret this common English greeting very literally.

7. Don’t even think about jaywalking

“Germans are world-renowned for their order rules and they certainly know how to follow them. For instance, expect to wait at the crosswalk until the green man (Ampelmann) gives you the go ahead or feel the wrath of the older citizens. One rule I cannot get used to are the mandated quiet hours,” said Alex Butts of Speaking Denglish.”

“Quiet hours occur all day Sunday and Monday through Saturday from 13:00 – 15:00 and after 22:00. During these hours, you cannot vacuum, mow the lawn, or play music too loud. If it can be heard outside your apartment or car, it is considered disturbing. This seems reasonable and for the most part it is – that is until your neighbor complains that you are talking too loudly on your balcony.”

8. Know when to knock and when to applaud

In the U.S., people clap for a number of different reasons—and sometimes for no reason at all. In Germany, however, clapping is reserved for the theater or a concert.

In schools, it’s common for students to knock on their desks to applaud a lecture or presentation. In fact, applauding in this type of setting is considered negative. Knocking is also a common form of greeting used in German pubs.

9. Don’t wish someone an early birthday

Germans and Americans celebrate birthdays in a similar fashion—but with one exception. Never wish a German a happy birthday or give them a card or present before their birthday. This is major no-no, as it’s considered bad luck.

Speaking of birthdays, it’s tradition to pour flour on top of someone’s head on their 16th birthday and crack eggs over the head of someone turning 18.

10. Respect a German’s privacy

Germans greatly value their privacy and personal space. Never ask someone to give you a tour of their home; 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 individual.

Also, the topics of money and family are off limits, as Germans tend to be extremely private when it comes to their personal lives. Surprisingly, however, Germans enjoy talking about politics!

Most Germans will understand if you make an innocent mistake. Chances are they’ve made one or two mistake while traveling to a foreign country themselves. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to brush up on the German culture and language before traveling aboard.

 

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Header 3 Easy Exercises to Improve Your German Vocabulary

3 Easy Exercises to Help Improve Your German Vocabulary

Header 3 Easy Exercises to Improve Your German Vocabulary

Establishing a solid German vocabulary foundation is key. Memorizing a long list of words, however, can be difficult–not to mention frustrating at times. Below, German teacher Noel S. shares three easy exercise to help students improve their German vocabulary…

The sensation of accelerated learning that students experience when they begin to successfully use new concepts or skills generates confidence, so much that we know our opportunities for achievement are limitless. Using newly learned vocabulary words will definitely provide that same effect!

The question is, how can we make sure to get the most benefit from our learning efforts? We want to add German vocabulary words that will actually be useful and the best way to do that is to practice. Below are three easy exercises to help you improve your German vocabulary.

Exercise 1:  Make a Compliment

Everyone loves a compliment, so let’s learn vocabulary words related to delivering a nice comment to another person; then practice using them with other people. Start with a sample sentence like the one below:

Example:

  • English: That hat complements your (formal) style very well.
  • German: Dieser Hut ergänzt Ihren Stil sehr gut.

Next, learn German vocabulary words for various articles of clothing you could mention besides a hat. Then practice using these words in the sentence above, which contains the formal use of the possessive adjective “your.” Make sure to adjust the nominative demonstrative article to match each new vocabulary word’s gender. Remember, masculine is dieser, neuter is dieses, feminine is diese, plural is diese.

Alternative German Vocabulary Words:

  • die Schuhe (shoes)
  • die Hose (pants)
  • das Hemd (shirt)
  • die Jacke (jacket)

You can add more variety to the conversation by using the informal compliment structure as seen in the example below. Make sure to change the possessive adjective to the accusative case (masculine = deinen, neuter = dein, feminine = deine, plural = deine.

Example:

  • English: I like your watch.
  • German: Ich mag deine Uhr.

Alternative German Vocabulary Words:

  • die Halskette (necklace)
  • das Auto (car)
  • das Haus (house)

Ex 1- 3 Easy Exercises to Improve Your German Vocabulary

Exercise 2:  Matching Advertisements with Customers

Advertisers spend most of their resources trying to connect their products with buyers.  Read each German advertisement’s tagline below, translate the underlined keyword, then match it with the appropriate target customer.

Advertisement Taglines

  • “Unsere Saiten sind das Beste”
  • “die schönsten Glückwünsche zum Ruhestand
  • Fotos für Sedcard, Kataloge, oder andere Medien”
  • “Aquapark Spaß für Groß und Klein
  • “Für ein romantisches Abendessen

 

Target Customer

  • Der Alten
  • Mode-Model
  • eine Familie
  • unges Paar
  • Gitarrist

Ex 2- 3 Easy Exercises to Improve Your German Vocabulary 3

Exercise 3:  Group Activity

Pretend your group is tasked with managing a retail cookware store. First, delegate one position to each person; for example, a salesperson for bakeware, knives, coffeemakers, pots and pans, barbecue, and formal dining ware.

Then, take turns assuming the role of a customer asking for help to purchase a certain item. The salesperson responsible for that section will have to recognize the German vocabulary word, and respond by saying, “Ich kann Ihnen helfen!” (I can help you!”).

The standard customer statement is, “Ich möchte ___ kaufen.”  Review the vocabulary words, then put them out of sight.  Split into teams if you’d like, and award points for correct answers.  Here’s the German vocabulary word bank:

  • ein Messer (a knife)
  • eine Tasse (cup)
  • ein Bachblech (baking sheet)
  • die Bratpfanne (frying pan)
  • ein Besteck (silverware set)
  • einen Fleischhammer (meat hammer)
  • einen Schleifstein (sharpening stone)
  • eine Tischdecke (tablecloth)
  • einen Teekessel (teakettle)
  • den Zuckerguss (icing, frosting)
  • einen Suppentopf (stockpot)
  • eine Zange (barbecue tongs)

 

Ex 3- 3 Easy Exercises to Improve Your German Vocabulary

 

Learning German vocabulary doesn’t have to be painstakingly boring. Work with your German tutor to come up with different exercises in addition to the ones mentioned above. Remember, you won’t be able to hold a conversation very well if you don’t have a solid foundation of words.

 

Noel SNoel S. teaches German and music lessons in Beachwood, OH. He minored in German during his undergraduate studies and holds a Masters degree in music from Dusquesne University. Noel has been teaching since 2001. Learn more about Noel here!

 

 

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5 Fun German Vocabulary Games for Kids

german vocabulary

Do you want to keep your child or student engaged while learning German vocabulary? Below, German teacher Kimberly F. shares five fun games children can play to help memorize their German vocabulary…

A great way to enforce and practice vocabulary with kids–and students of every age for that matter– is to play fun and engaging games as a group. This way, students can learn from one another, discover new words, and review what they already know. Below are five German vocabulary games your child or student can easily play.

1. Pictionary

One student will draw out a word from the vocabulary list on the board, while the other students try to guess the word.  The first one to call out the correct word (in German, of course!) gets a point. Creating an association between a visual reference and the German vocabulary word is extremely helpful for retaining new words.

For example, a student might recall another student’s drawing of a house and remember the word das Haus more quickly than just by reading it in a German vocabulary list.

2. Scrabble

This game is played exactly the same as the English version, except you can only use German words!  This allows students to see and recall words in a new way.  Also, it encourages the student to think of words they wouldn’t usually use, because they have a limited set of letters to work with.

In ordinary circumstances,  for example, a student might not think of the word Maus (mouse), but they will if they have those specific letters in the game.

3. Charades

If your child or student needs help mastering verbs, then this game is perfect. Start by having one student act out an action word, then have the other students guess the German verb the student is acting out. You can work on conjugations by imposing a rule at the start of the round (i.e. only infinitive forms of the verb, only ich forms, etc.).

4. Scene Game

This one is a bit less self-explanatory than the others, but just as effective. One student chooses a scene (i.e. the café, the beach, or the amusement park) and writes that word on the board. Then, the others must list all the German vocabulary words they know that relate to that scene. Students should include verbs, nouns, and proper nouns to get a more complete practice.

A student, for example, could choose the scene der Strand or “the beach.” Words that associate with that scene can include: das Wasser (water), der Badeanzug (swimsuit), der Hut (hat), and die Sonnenbrille (sunglasses).

5. Fairy Tale Fill-In

One student tells a well-known story or fairy tale and leaves out easy words. Someone else must then fill in the word in German. For example, if the student was telling the story of Cinderella, they could say, “And then Cinderella left, accidentally leaving behind her ___.”  The answer is obviously “shoe,” so the other student must answer, “Der Schuh.”

Learning a second (or third!) language fluently can be challenging when all the student can do is read or write in that language. Games allow for another aspect of learning – reinforcing the vocabulary through multiple senses. Working together through games allows for communication practice, cooperative learning, and the addition of visual and auditory learning.

In the end, the best way to become fluent is to think in that language, and games help with that goal. Remember, learning German is supposed to be fun.  So gather up some friends, and give these games a try!

KimberlyF.

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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Top 4 German Grammar Tips and Tricks

Top 4 German Grammar Rules, Tips and Tricks

Top 4 German Grammar Rules, Tips and Tricks

When you’re learning a new language, grammar is often the most difficult part to master. This is because you have to learn complex rules that are completely different than your native language. Below, German teacher Jonathan B. shares some tips and tricks on how to master German grammar…

German grammar will throw most non-native speakers for a loop. Below are my top tips and tricks that I’ve learned from years of German schooling, traveling, and hosting German travelers. I’ll start with some pointers that will get you out of trouble fast and move toward tips that will help you master the language. Let’s get started.

1. Know When it’s OK to Cheat

It’s rare that you’ll ever met a non-native German speaker with perfect grammar. There’s two reasons for this:

  • German grammar takes intense study to master, which most people aren’t willing or able to do.
  • Most situations don’t call for perfect German grammar.

Remember that German has an evolving language family just like English. The southern region of the United States, for example, has a variety of accents. Similarly, there are many varieties of German accents, including Plattdeutsch, Bayerisches Deutsch, Switschisch Ditsch, and Hochdeutsch.

Strict Hochdeutsch grammar is expected in academic and business settings. In casual settings, however, I have found that most Germans are thrilled that you actually took the time to study their language! In fact, many Germans from regions with a strong dialect use grammar variants all the time, so you as a traveler are not alone.

If you’re learning German for yourself or because you want to travel, you might want to consider taking a few German lessons with an expert who speaks Hochdeutsch. If you’re getting on a plane tomorrow that lands in Berlin, here’s a list of German grammar rules you need to know (in order of importance):  Nouns and vocab first, conjugation and word order second, cases and gender last.

2. Borrow From English

Remember that German and English are related languages. Believe it or not, the everyday street talk of English speakers around the world is based mostly on German vocabulary. Use this to your advantage by looking for German words that look and mean the same as they do in English, also known as cognates.

In English, for example, we have the verb “drinking,” which is similar to the German word “trinken.” Likewise, when the verb is conjugated for different cases and tenses, the sound changes are parallel. See examples below.

  • English: I drank water
  • German: Ich trank Wasser
  • English: I had drunk water
  • German: Ich habe Wasser getrunken

Below are some more examples of German/English cognates:

  • Singen: to sing
  • Formalizieran: to formalize
  • Sinken: to sink
  • Stinken: to stink
  • Tanzen: to dance

There are many more words like this, so keep your eyes out! Beware, however, because there are also false cognates that don’t follow the conjugation patterns.

3. Die Wortstellung: The Verb-At-The-End Rule

If you’re going to focus on one German grammar rule, pick this one, as it’s often the most difficult for students to remember. Study it long and hard until you understand it inside and out!

In almost all types of sentences, all verbs other than the main verb go to the very end of the sentence. See example below:

  • English: I would like to eat ice cream.
  • German: Ich möchte Eis essen.

See how the word “eat” is placed at the end of the sentence? Now take a look at another sentence.

  • English: I went walking in Berlin once.
  • German: Ich bin einmal in Berlin spazieren gegangen.

Again, the subject “Ich” comes first, then the main verb. Because of the tense, we use “bin” as the main verb and put “spazieren gegangen” at the end.

There are many other things to know about word order in German, but verb-at-the-end is the main rule that will help you learn German grammar.

4. Study Noun Gender Rules

Genders in German are the hardest to learn. Luckily, however, it’s also the least important aspect of grammar. Most languages don’t have as many genders as German, and keeping track of a gender for every noun is enough to keep you busy. Then again, knowing your genders makes your German really ‘top shelf.’

For a non-native speaker, there are two keys to remember:

  1. Treat the gender as part of the word. When you learn to say the word “car,” learn it as “das Auto” rather than just “Auto.
  2. Study gender rules! They are numerous and picky, but they save an enormous amount of time. One rule can save you from having to memorize hundreds of noun genders, so it’s totally worth it.

I’ll give you just a few to start with…

  • All plural nouns become feminine: This is the primary gender rule that can affect meaning. Some nouns can not be distinguished between a plural and a non- plural form. For example, the word for “window” is “das Fenster” and the word for “windows” is “die Fenster.” Then again, this rule has no exceptions so it’s easy to remember.
  • Almost all rivers outside of Europe are masculine: Seems nitpicky, eh? Yet think of how many noun genders you don’t have to memorize now. The one common exception is the Thames in England, which is die Themse. Otherwise, you have der Nil, der Amazonas, der Yukon, der Mississippi, etc.

There are many more German grammar tips and tricks like this that will help you save time and get you to grammar perfection much faster. It’s always best to review and expand on these tips with an experienced teacher who knows the language and can guide you to your goals!

Jonathan B

Jonathan B. is a German language teacher in State College, PA. Learn more about Jonathan here!

 

 

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german vocabulary

31 German Vocabulary Words and Phrases for the Summer [Infographic]

The summer is fast approaching. Below, German teacher Noel S. shares some common German vocabulary words and phrases associated with summer. Practice these words and phrases throughout the summer, and come fall, you’ll have a long list of vocabulary words memorized…

For many people, summer ranks as the best season of the year. After all, what’s better than sunshine, BBQs, and fun outdoor activities? Just because school is no longer in session, however, doesn’t mean that you can let your German lessons and all your hard work go to waste.

Below are some vocabulary words and phrases you can use when speaking in German about typical events that take place during the summer.

To practice these words, you can either print out the graphic below or create flashcards. Whatever strategy you choose, make sure to memorize the definite article so you can learn the word once and be ready to go. Now, let’s dive into the most common German vocabulary words and phrases for the summer!

German vocabulary

Now that you’re familiar with these German vocabulary words, practice them throughout the summer. Not only will you impress your teacher, friends, and family, you’ll also build a solid language foundation and be one step closer to speaking German like a native!

Noel SNoel S. teaches German and music lessons in Beachwood, OH. He minored in German during his undergraduate studies and holds a Masters degree in music from Dusquesne University. Noel has been teaching since 2001. Learn more about Noel

 

 

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German Grammar: Solving False Cognates

german grammar

German grammar can be difficult to master. Below, German teacher Noel S. shares a list of the most common false cognates, as well as exercises you can do to memorize these important words…

Students learning German are often relieved to hear that they already have a “head start” from the many recognizable German words that share the same English meaning, also known as cognates. Cognates are a great for learning German, as students have already developed mental associations with words and their definitions.

However, one must look out for false cognates—two words appearing to be similar or the same, but with different meanings. It’s important that you learn the many German false cognates, or you could make a major linguistic mistake, like I did in the story below.

When I noticed a big bandage on my friend’s elbow, I pointed to it and remarked, “Du hattest einen Abfall!” I had meant to say, “You had an accident!” but what I really said was, “You had a garbage!” – as if he had trash on his arm.

It’s better to advance in your linguistic skills than to make funny mistakes like the one I did above. So, let’s explore the most common German words that look and sound like English words, but have different meanings.

German False Cognates

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the common false cognates above, what can you do to create neural pathways connecting new meanings for these German words? Try making associations with words related to the false cognate in German. For example, Ratten/das Gift (rats/poison) or Fahrt/schön (a nice/beautiful trip).

You can also practice by using these words in a sentence. Complete the following sentences by inserting the correct German word from the word bank below. Try not to look at the English version before trying to figure out on your own which word should be placed in the sentence.

word bank

1. Wir sollen _______ essen. I fühle mich hungrig!

We should eat _______. I feel hungry!

2. _______ ist meinen Rock? Ich kann ihn nicht finden.

_______ is my skirt? I can’t find it.

3. Ich habe die Schweiz besucht. _______war sehr schön!

I have visited Switzerland. ________ was very beautiful!

4. Meine Garage hat Ratten. Ich werde ________ kaufen.

My garage has rats. I will buy _______.

5. Meine Sommerkleidung sind _______er. Ich trage dunkle Kleidung im Winter.

My summer clothes are _______. I wear dark-colored clothes in winter.

 

Don’t be fooled by the false cognates above. Work with a German teacher to find other unique ways of memorizing these common words and perfecting your German grammar!

Noel SNoel S. teaches German and music lessons in Beachwood, OH. He minored in German during his undergraduate studies and holds a Masters degree in music from Dusquesne University. Noel has been teaching since 2001. Learn more about Noel

 

 

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German Grammar

5 Most Common German Grammar Mistakes

German Grammar

Are you struggling to perfect your German grammar skills? When learning a new language, grammar is often the most difficult thing to master. Below, TakeLessons language teacher Tyler S. shares the five most common grammar mistakes to avoid…

Grammatical mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning a new language. We often make grammatical mistakes in our own native languages, but a few hiccups should never discourage you from learning a new language.

Below, we explore the five most common German grammar mistakes that English speakers tend to make. It is far better to tackle these problems now, so that you don’t have to backtrack to correct your German later!

 

Mistake 1: Incorrect Use of “der”, “die”, or “das

 

Problem:

When I tutor German, this is the topic that requires the most attention and practice to understand. English has no true equivalent to der, die, or das. They’re all the same word in English: “the.” In German, each noun (person, place, or thing) belongs to a grammatical gender.

These three genders are masculine, feminine, and neuter. The word der corresponds to the masculine category, die corresponds to the feminine category, and das corresponds to the neuter category. In order to be grammatically correct in German, you need to memorize the gender of each noun.

Example:

  • INCORRECT: Der Katze ist weis. (“The cat is white.”)
  • CORRECT: Die Katze ist weis. (“The cat is white.”)

*The sentence above is incorrect because Katze is a feminine noun in German and therefore should receive die.

Solution:

Every time you learn a new noun (person, place, or thing), memorize the grammatical gender of the word. It will always be masculine, feminine, or neuter. There are certain systematic noun endings that give away the noun’s gender. Click here to learn more!

 

Mistake 2: Misuse of Case System

 

Problem:

In English, the word “I” refers to the subject in the sentence, and the word “me” refers to the direct object in the sentence. German works the same way, in that the subject in a sentence is said to be in the nominative case, and the direct object is the English equivalent to the accusative case. Just like using “I” and “me” incorrectly in English can sound like nails on a chalkboard, it is much easier to make the same mistake when learning German.

Example:

  • INCORRECT: Du liebst ich. (“You love I.”)
  • CORRECT: Du liebst mich. (“You love me.”)

Solution:

Take the time to memorize the four cases of German: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. Watch this video for more information:

 

Mistake 3: Wrong Verb Ending

 

Problem:

For English speakers, it is almost always more difficult to learn the verb endings of another language. The English language is much less complex than most other languages when it comes to verb conjugation. In German, there are more verb endings than in English, which can make things tricky for a beginner student.

Example:

  • INCORRECT: Du hat das. (“You loves me.”)
  • CORRECT: Du liebst mich (“You love me.”)

 Solution:

Memorize verb conjugation endings and which pronoun (“I”, “you”, “he”, etc.) matches up to each individual verb ending. Pay attention to the difference among verb tenses, because this affects which verb endings you use (for example, verb endings in the present tense vs. the simple past).

Practice verb conjugation out loud! This helps you memorize endings much faster. My favorite reference for German verbs is “501 German Verbs” by Henry Strutz. It includes 501 verbs that show all possible conjugated forms for each verb featured in the book.

 

Mistake 4: Incorrect Sentence Order

 

Problem:

Although there are many complexities to German sentence order, there are two basic rules that all students must be conscious of. The first rule is that in any normal declarative sentence with only one verb, the verb is always the second element in the sentence.

 Example:

  • INCORRECT: Ich das sehe. (“I that see.”)
  • CORRECT: Ich sehe das. (“I see that.”)

The second rule is similar: If there is more than one verb in a sentence, then the rest of the verbs must all come at the end of the sentence.

Example:

  • INCORRECT: Ich mag machen das. (“I like that to do.”)
  • CORRECT: Ich mag das machen. (“I like to do that.”)

 Solution:

Complete writing and reading exercises that force you to practice this skill. Make a pen pal or meet with a conversational partner who can practice with you and can correct your mistakes if necessary.Read this article for more information.

 

Mistake 5: Wrong Case Following Preposition 

 

Problem:

And last but not least, this tip holds the key to the single most effective way to improve your German across the board. This is because prepositions are extremely common in everyday language. Most beginner to intermediate students frequently use the incorrect case of a given preposition. You have to remember that every German preposition requires the noun it follows to be in a specific case.

 Example:

  • INCORRECT: Ich gehe zu der Restaurant. (“I’m walking to the restaurant.”)
  • INCORRECT: Ich gehe zu den Restaurant. (“I’m walking to the restaurant.”)
  • CORRECT: Ich gehe zu dem Restaurant. (“I’m walking to the restaurant.”)
  • INCORRECT: Ich gehe zu des Restaurants. (“I’m walking to the restaurant.”)

 Solution:

Memorize this venn diagram, showing which grammatical case each preposition requires:

 

Getting a handle on these common German grammar mistakes early on will help you grasp the German language better and faster. Work with your German instructor on various exercises to help you practice avoiding these mistakes. Viel Erfolg bei dem Lernen! (I wish you great success in learning!)

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!

german online

Top 5 Benefits of German Online Lessons

german online

Many students are hesitant about taking online German lessons. Some believe that online classes are not as effective as in-person lessons, whereas others worry that they might lose motivation if lessons are taken at home. These nay-sayers, however, are misinformed, because there are numerous benefits to taking online lessons. Below, we explore some of the advantages of learning German online.

1. Higher-Quality Instructors

Are there no qualified German teachers in your area or only a limited number of teachers? Learning German online opens the door to hundreds of high-quality instructors. With online lessons, you’ll have a large number of teachers from all around the world to choose from, meaning you can find someone who will offer exactly what you need to progress your language skills.

2. More Flexibility in Scheduling

It is much easier to fit lessons into your busy schedule with online instruction. For example, if you want to learn early in the morning or late at night, you can find a teacher who is willing to give classes at those hours or someone based in a different time zone. Whatever your schedule, you can fit your German classes around your job, school, or other activities. Plus, without a commute to classes, there is no need to factor in travel time.

3. Lower Costs

Traveling to meet with your German teacher can be costly, especially if you have to travel far distances. With online lessons, the furthest you have to travel is to your desk or couch. Plus, with all the materials you need available online, you save on the cost of textbooks.

4. Access to Multimedia

Access to online materials is not only a cost-saver, it is also a great way to enhance your German lessons. For example, you’ll be able to watch videos, listen to audio, read texts or German language blogs, and engage in interactive activities. Your German teacher will help you optimize your use of technology by providing you with the most appropriate multimedia for your level and give you advice as to what to try out for additional study or to supplement lessons.

5. Greater Interaction

Research has found that shy students feel less inhibited when learning online than when in the same room with their teacher. Online classes may help encourage you to speak more and ask questions. In addition, students who are not particularly shy can benefit from the added comfort and lack of distractions gained from being at home.

While you’re feeling inspired to learn German online, start your search for a teacher. The sooner you begin taking classes, the sooner you will gain the language skills that will bring you closer to meeting your personal goals.

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german grammar

German Grammar: Definite Articles 101

german grammar

German grammar can be a difficult thing to master, especially for beginner students. Here, German instructor Kerstin R. shares some simple tips and tricks on learning German definite articles…

As a German instructor, I tell all of my students the same thing over and over again: You need to know your definite articles. If you don’t, you’ll be lost and have a challenging time getting your German grammar right.

German definite articles are much more complex than English articles. German has three definite articles: der, die, and das; whereas English has just one definite article, the. What’s more, in German, each of the definite articles has a gender. See below.

Der

  • Der is used for masculine nouns.
  • Example: der Junge (the boy) and der Ball (the ball)

Die

  • Die is used for feminine nouns.
  • Example: die Frau (the woman) and die Puppe (the doll)

Das

  • Das is used for neuter nouns.
  • Example: das Mädchen (the girl) and das Schwein (the pig)

It’s important to know the definite article of each noun, because the article changes according to the case of the noun. There are four different cases in the German language. See below:

1. Nominative

  • The subject of the sentence
  • Example: Der student lernt Deutsch. (The student learns German.)

2. Genitive

  • The possessive in the sentence
  • Example: Das ist die Tasche des Lehrers. (That is the teacher’s bag)

3. Dative

  • The indirect object in the sentence
  • Example: Ich habe das dem Mann schon gesagt. ( I already told the man that.)

4. Accusative

  • The direct object of the sentence
  • Example: Ich habe einen Tisch. (I have a table.)

The English language has these cases, too (except dative), but here is the big difference: In English, the noun and the definite article do not change depending on its case – but in German they do.

Below are some examples on how the definite articles der, die, and das change into dem, der, dem in the dative case, which is the most difficult, yet vital element of communicating in German.

Der Ball (the ball)

  • Der Junge spielt mit dem Ball.  (The boy plays with the ball.)
  • Die Frau spielt mit dem Ball.  (The woman plays with the ball.)
  • Das Mädchen spielt mit dem Ball.  (The girl plays with the ball.)

Die Puppe (the doll)

  • Der Junge spielt mit der Puppe(The boy plays with the doll.)
  • Die Frau spielt mit der Puppe. (The woman plays with the doll.)
  • Das Mädchen spielt mit der Puppe. (The girl plays with the doll.)

 Das Schwein (the pig)

  •  Der Junge spielt mit dem Schwein(The boy plays with the pig.)
  •  Die Frau spielt mit dem Schwein. (The woman plays with the pig.)
  •  Das Mädchen spielt mit dem Schwein. (The girl plays with the pig.)

The examples above are for nouns in the dative case. To learn how definite articles change in different cases, ask your tutor to provide you with some examples.

You can see just from these few examples how important it is to know your definite articles. A great way to learn the definite articles is through German blogs, games, German mobile apps, listening to audio books, TV and, most importantly, reading books.

Kerstin R.Kerstin R. teaches in-person German and art lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She has her Master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and is a native speaker of German. Learn more about Kerstin here!

 

 

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Learn to Speak German Using These 5 Pronunciation Tips

Learn to Speak German Using These 5 Pronunciation Tips

Learn to Speak German Using These 5 Pronunciation Tips

Is your German accent on point? Oftentimes, the hardest thing about learning a new language is mastering pronunciation. German tutor, Trevor H. shares his top tips on how to speak German like a native… 

German can be a demanding language to learn. Studying vocabulary and grammar certainly helps, but words and rules can only bring you so far. Mispronouncing words can lead to more confused expressions than a simple grammar goof. So clear that throat, and get ready. Below are five pronunciation tips to help you learn how to speak German like a native.

1. Take it slow

As my guitar teacher always said, “Don’t play faster than you can.” At first, this phrase might seem silly. After all, how could you do something faster than you actually can? We do, however, tend to rush things when learning a new skill.

The truth is, learning how to speak German is like learning English for the first time. You haven’t had the time to absorb the language enough to really have it sink in. So relax, and remember what it was like when you first started to learn English. Take your time sounding out every syllable and word—which brings us to my second tip.

2. Over-enunciate

We native English speakers tend to “eat letters” quite a bit. If we try to clearly pronounce every letter in every word we sound stilted. Don’t believe me? Pronounce every letter in the following sentence: “I’m going to go to the store and pick up some raspberries.”

Did you do it? Chances are it sounded a little strange. By contrast, in German more precise enunciation is not only normal, but it also sounds great. Try it the next time you read German out loud. You’ll notice a marked difference.

3. Master the ü and ö sounds

Ah, vowels with umlauts—ubiquitous in German as they are in heavy metal band names. These sounds do not exist in English and can be a stumbling block for beginner students. Luckily, in this case, it’s a stumble that’s easy to avoid.

For the “ü” sound, say a long “e” sound as in “me” or “we,” but keep your mouth rounded as if you were saying the “oo” sound in “pew.” In other words, say “ee” with an “oo” mouth.

Does it sound funny to you? Perfect. That’s what we’re looking for. Now let’s tackle that pesky “ö” sound.

Much like “ü,” “ö” is based on a sound we’re used to making in English, but changed with a rounded out mouth. In this case, it’s the “eh” sound, like the “e” in “men” or “Glen,” but with an “oo” mouth. So go ahead and try it out.

4. Listen to German regularly

In music, the best way to learn a new style or genre is to continually listen to that particular style or genre. The same notion goes for learning German. In order to speak German with a beautiful accent, you must listen to native speakers. A lot of them. Every day.

There are plenty of websites that feature German speakers. I would suggest something like KiKA (Kinder Kanal). Much like children’s television in English speaking countries, KiKA uses simple language and limited vocabulary. Besides, where else could you discover the bizarre surrealism that is Bernd das Brot?

5. Emulate what you hear

Have you ever mocked the way an opera singer sings? Or tried speaking English with an accent different than your own? This is exactly what you want to do when speaking another language.

People who speak English as a second language have their accent for a reason. You don’t have to feel “weird” about using someone else’s accent, so go ahead and try out your most outrageous German accent the next time you speak German. You may be closer to reaching an authentic accent than you think.

These are just a few tips to make German a little less challenging. If you really want to speak German like a native, nothing helps more than one-on-one human interaction. Joining meetups, for example, is a great way to put into practice what your German instructor has been teaching you.

 

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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