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German Xenonyms

A "xenonym" is an external name for a geographical place, the people who live there or the language spoken there. For example, English speakers say "Germany" rather than Deutschland and "Munich" rather than München. The names of many countries in German are very similar to the English xenonyms. However, even if they sound almost the same, the spelling is often different. For example, we see in many names that a C converts to K (Canada is Kanada, Cameroon is Kamerun),  a Z to an S (Zimbabwe is Simbabwe, Zambia is Sambia) or a V to a W (Slovakia is die Slowakei). Of course, this may not be the only difference.


Jetzt ist deine Münze in der Slowakei.

Your coin is now in Slovakia.

Caption 23, Sparefroh-TV - Warum sehen die Euromünzen in jedem Land anders aus?

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Der Kea-Papagei stammt ursprünglich aus Neuseeland.

The Kea parrot comes originally from New Zealand.

Caption 19, Wettlauf gegen den Verfall - Beruf Präparator

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Another common pattern is an -ien ending. You can likely guess which countries SpanienItalienSerbienRümänienSlowenienAustralienSaudi-ArabienTunesien, and Kroatien are!

Hier haben wir zum Beispiel, äh, Rohkaffee aus Kolumbien.

Here we have, for example, uh, raw coffee from Colombia.

Caption 8, Kaffee - Noch von Hand gemacht

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Dabei haben die deutschen Titelverteidiger diese Woche eins zu zwei gegen Tschechien verloren.

And the German title holders lost one to two against the Czech Republic this week.

Captions 6-7, Fußball - U21-Nationalmannschaft

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There is also a small group of countries with names ending in -land in German, which don't necessarily match up with those that have this ending in English. 


Hm, in Griechenland ist es im Sommer sehr heiß.

Hm, in Greece it is very hot in the summer.

Caption 37, Jenny - Reiseziele

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Diese da ist aus Russland und diese hier ist eine alte Polaroid-Kamera.

This one here is from Russia and this one is an old Polaroid camera.

Caption 23, Drei Leute - beim Kofferpacken

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Further Learning
Check out this very thorough list of country names and get memorizing! Concentrate on the country names that sound less like the English versions or are easily confusable. On Yabla German you can see which require a definite article (such as die Slowakei above), as detailed in our previous newsletter, or which require one in English but not in German (such as Tschechien). 

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