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7 Easy Steps for Talking Like a German

Germany Languages
by Olga Mecking Jan 15, 2016

1. Use plenty of euphemisms: don’t say that something tastes awful, say it’s “needing of getting used to” — gewöhnungsbedürftig. Don’t say you’re afraid of heights. You’re nicht schwindelfrei (“not free of dizziness”). Never call someone crazy, they’re verhaltensauffälig, “behaviourally noticeable”. Can you think of more examples?

2. Just like the Dutch, combine words into longer, better words, but be more creative. Any word will go with any other word to create masterpieces like “Legfreedom” (Beinfreiheit), “Forestsolitude” (Waldeinsamkeit) and “Damagejoy” (Schadenfreude) or my favorite Fingerspitzengefühl (“Fingertipfeeling”).

3. Work on your pronunciation: for example “z” is pronounced “ts”, and v like “f”. S is always “z”, unless of course it’s a double “ss”, then it’s “s”. If it’s located at the beginning of the word, it’s sh. Remember that there are three ways to pronounce an r: some Germans pronounce their r’s with a kind of gargly sound made at the back of the throat. Some roll their R’s like the Spanish do. And at the end of the word, the R is pronounced more like an A. Got it? If not, watch this video of The Blues Brothers singing “It’s cheaper to keep her”.

4. The English Alphabet is boring so add a few letters to make it more exciting: ü (to pronounce that, purse your lips to say “oo” and try to say “ee”), ö (do the same but with o and e), ä (pronounced like e in heaven), and ß (so called scharfes s, “sharp s” and pronounced like a soft “s”).

5. Learn to use cases. There are four cases: nominative, genitive, dative and accusative. For example, my name is Olga, and let’s say, even if not entirely correct, that I’m die Olga (because I’m female). So, for example, Olga’s blog, that’s der Blog der Olga. If something’s for me, it’s for die Olga. And if you’re going somewhere with me, it’s with der Olga. Be happy that I am a female because with male or neuter nouns your life will be much more difficult.

6. Everything has a gender: masculine, feminine and neuter. You’d think that, like in English, these genders are applied to people and animals only. But Germans attach genders to anything and the way they do it is utterly and completely random. For example, a spoon is masculine (der Löffel). A knife is neuter (das Messer), the fork is feminine (die Gabel). You’ll have to learn it by heart, sorry, can’t help you here.

7. Good news: You already speak like a German: you probably know words like Schadenfreude, Angst, Ersatz, Leitmotiv and Kindergarten. Now, just keep working at ersetzing (“substituting”) all the other English words for German ones.

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