Sayings with Scriptural Backgrounds

When the Old Testament was translated from clerical Latin into the common spoken languages in the 16th century, it had a profound effect on European spoken languages and literature. Many of the phrases derived from this work are so common that people are often not even aware of the source. Here are some examples of phrases with a scriptural background that German and English languages use in everyday speech.


Und 1995 hatte ich dann die erste Ausstellung zu diesem Thema. Es werde Licht.
And in 1995 I then had the first exhibition on this theme. Let there be light.
Captions 17-18, Malerei: Benno Treiber


Essen kann er auch in Ruh'. Vater drückt ein Auge zu.
He can eat in peace. Father turns a blind eye.
Caption 4, Der Struwwelpeter: Ausschnitte


Selbstverständlich, wie auf meinen eigenen Augapfel.
Of course, like the apple of my eye.
Caption 11, Abenteuer und Sport: Fallschirmspringen


Hochmut kommt vor dem Fall.
Pride comes before the fall.

Caption 24, Eva erklärt: Sprichwörter


Worte zu Asche und Staub zu Staub.
Words to ashes and dust to dust.
Caption 46, Luxuslärm: Interview


The above is a play on the usual saying "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."


Further Learning
Be sure and see the latest Yabla video Eva erklärt: Sprichwörter for a selection of more German phrases on Yabla German

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Speaking German in Brazil

The German language is not nearly as widely spoken as some other languages, like Mandarin Chinese or Spanish, for instance. According to a list of languages spoken around the world on Wikipedia, German is the 11th most-spoken language on the planet, with 89 million speakers or about 1.27% of the world population. Still, many people are surprised to hear that German is an official main language in six countries. Let's start with the obvious: 


Deutschland geht es gut, auch wenn das nächste Jahr ohne Zweifel schwieriger wird als dieses.
Germany is doing well, even if next year will undoubtedly be more difficult than this year.
Captions 44-45, Angela Merkel: Neujahrsansprache


And in second place, Austria:


Am nächsten Wochenende werde ich in Österreich sein.
Next weekend I will be in Austria.
Caption 49, Konjugation: Das Verb „sein“


Followed by Switzerland: 


Der Rhein entspringt in den Alpen, in der Schweiz.    
The Rhine has its source in the alps, in Switzerland.
Caption 12, Unterwegs mit Cettina: an der Rheinfähre


So far, so good. Most people know that German is spoken in the three countries listed above, but have no idea where to go from there. Let's start with the small country of Liechtenstein: 


Die Schweiz, Deutschland, Liechtenstein, Österreich und die Niederlande.
Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, and the Netherlands.
Caption 15, Unterwegs mit Cettina: an der Rheinfähre


And in place number five:


Ein scharfer Abschluss einer überraschend interessanten Reise durchs unbekannte Luxemburg.
A spicy ending to a surprisingly interesting journey through unknown Luxembourg.
Caption 62, Reisebericht: Luxemburg


The national language of Luxembourg is Luxembourgish, but German is also an officially recognized language. And the last country where German is, surprisingly for some, considered a nationwide, co-official language: 


Vor allem aus Belgien… kommen immer mehr Campingfans.
Above all from Belgium… more and more camping fans are coming.
Captions 38-39, Reisebericht: Luxemburg


French and Flemish are the dominant languages in Belgium, but some districts near its eastern border with Germany speak predominantly German. German is also a co-official language in provinces of some other countries, including South Tyrol in Italy, the Opole and Silesian districts of Poland, and the Espírito Santo, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul districts in Brazil


Further Learning
Read this article on Wikipedia about places where German is spoken throughout the world, and look for further examples of where these countries appear on Yabla German.

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A Fraction of the Time

This week we are going to review one aspect of telling the time in German that should be easy for intermediate and advanced German speakers, but a bit tricky for beginners. The telling of time in German uses quarterly divisions: Viertel (quarter), halb (half), and in some German dialects, drei viertel (three-quarters). 


For 15 minutes past the hour, you use Viertel nach


Heute morgen um Viertel nach sechs ist die Nationalmannschaft in Frankfurt gelandet.
This morning at a quarter past six, the national team landed in Frankfurt.
Caption 16, Umfragen: Nach der WM


For a 15 minutes before the hour, you use Viertel vor


Es ist Viertel vor acht.
It is a quarter till eight.
Caption 22, Lydia erklärt: die Uhrzeit


In American English, when the clock reads 1:30, it is called "one thirty", but the informal British English equivalent is "half one." For native British English speakers, the German rendering of 1:30 can be especially confusing: 


Es ist jetzt halb eins.    
It is now twelve thirty.
Caption 23, Jenny zeigt uns: Das Heidelberger Schloss


So as you see, the British English "half one" is 1:30, but the German halb eins is 12:30. You just have to remember that when halb is used in telling time, it is always going a half hour back in time.


In some German dialects, instead of saying Viertel vor, they say drei viertel or "three quarters." In dialect, 12:45 could be drei viertel eins instead of Viertel vor eins


Note too that for grammatical reasons, Viertel nach and Viertel vor are capitalized, but halb and drei viertel are not. It is also important to note that the word Uhr, in this context the equivalent of "o'clock," is not used when telling the time with time divisions. At 10 o'clock you say it is zehn Uhr, but at 10:15 you simply say it is Viertel nach zehn, omitting the word Uhr.


Further Learning
Watch the video Lydia erklärt die Uhrzeit on Yabla German to review the proper telling of time in German.

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In the Bucket

We've all heard the English idiom "to kick the bucket," which means "to die." There are various theories about where the phrase originated from, the Oxford English Dictionary mentioning that the Old French word buquet was a beam on which animals were hung by the feet after being slaughtered, hence "kicking the bucket." The closest to this idiom in German is probably ins Gras beißen, or literally "to bite into the grass," which itself is a close parallel to the English idiom "to bite the dust," again meaning "to die." 


There is, however, a German idiom relating to the word "bucket" with negative connotations:


Dann ist das ganze Lied im Eimer.
Then the whole song is in the bucket.
Caption 29, Monsters of Liedermaching: Kleiner Zeh mit Ansage


Wenn Thorsten beim HSV nicht genommen wird, ist seine Karriere im Eimer.
If Thorsten is not accepted at the HSV his career will be in the bucket.
Captions 18-19, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor


If someone or a situation is im Eimer, it means he or she or the situation is completely ruined. According to the Duden Dictionary, Eimer in this case is alluding to der Abfalleimer, or trash can. Der Eimer is also German slang for an old ship or an old car. This has English parallels in the slang expression "rust bucket" for an old boat or an old car.


Further Learning
Look for further examples of Eimer on Yabla German and see more examples of how this word is used in a real world context. 

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Are you crazy?

You probably fall well within the standard psychological definitions of a sane person, but it's possible nevertheless that, at some point, somebody might accuse you in German of being bonkers, nuts, whack, cuckoo, psycho, mad, cracked, bonkers, potty, barmy, mental, unhinged, or just plain crazy. If you are familiar with a few of the German adjectives on the topic, you will be better prepared to react calmly and rationally, belying the accusation by the very coolness of your manner. 


Sag mal, spinnst du?
Tell me, are you crazy
Caption 58, Mama arbeitet wieder: Papa ist weg


The verb spinnen in formal usage is the spinning of wool, but  "are you spinning?" is a slang idiom for "are you crazy?"


Bei euch piept's wohl! 
It's really chirping with you!
Caption 41, JoNaLu: Prinz Dreckspatz


The verb piepen in its standard usage means to make a high, whistling sound like a bird, but bei jemandem piept es is a slang idiom for suggesting they are crazy. 


Hast du eine Macke oder was? 
Do you have a defect or something?
Caption 6, Einsatz für Christophorus: Gehwegradler


The noun die Macke in formal usage is "defect," but in casual use eine Macke haben means to be crazy, to "have a screw loose" so to speak.


Further Learning
Some formal German adjectives referring to a loss of sanity include irrsinnig, psychotisch, geistig behindert, and geistig gestört. The term geisteskrank was a formal term in decades past, but is now considered outdated. As in English, there are very many informal or slang adjectives, including verrückt, wahnsinnig, irre, blödsinnigblöd, and bescheuert, to name a few. Go to Yabla German and see how they are used in a real world context, but be careful how you use these words out there. The person you are accusing might really be crazy, after all!


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Sie liebt dich, yeah, yeah, yeah

The classic rock band the Beatles played a lot in Hamburg at the start of their career and thus felt it was important to release some of their first recordings in German too. The song "She loves you" was also released in 1964 as "Sie liebt dich," and you can listen to it here. The expression is also the climax of a classic fairy tale:


Oh, Biest! Ich liebe dich. Es ist mir egal, wie du aussiehst.
Oh, Beast! I love you. It doesn't matter to me how you look.
Caption 84, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Schöne und das Biest


And another classic German expression for being in love:


Ich habe mich in dich verliebt.
I've fallen in love with you.
Caption 31, Filmtrailer: Keinohrhasen


The phrase in sich verlieben is one of the times when the German preposition in has the noun following it in the accusative case. In the Berlin dialect, it is often in the dative case (ich liebe dir, ich bin in dir verliebt), but this is not good High German. Let's stick with ich liebe dich and ich bin in dich verliebt!


Nacht, mein Schatz. Ich hab' dich vermisst.    
Good night, my precious. I've missed you.
Caption 4, Mama arbeitet wieder: Die Trennung


Der Schatz is a classic German term of endearment, but it also means "treasure." When I lived in Germany as a teenager, I often heard male American soldiers using the dialect version of the word, Schatzi, to accost unfortunate female passers-by. The word "schatzi" is even included in a number of American dictionaries as an acceptable English word, evidence of a relatively recent addition of a German word into English. And of course, if you love someone, you miss them (vermissen) when they are gone.


Further Learning
Look for further examples of lieben and verlieben on Yabla German and see how they are used in a real world context. PS The Beatles also released a German version of  "I Want to Hold Your Hand" as "Komm, gib mir deine Hand"...

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Where it's at!

A preposition is a type of word that express spatial or temporal relations. Here is a list of known English prepositions. There is no set of rules for learning prepositions, and the prepositions from one language often do not translate directly into another. It's best to learn English prepositions by getting used to using them in context. Today, let's take a look at the preposition "at."


The preposition "at" can be used to express the time of day: 


And at three o'clock the Queen comes on and she gives her speech.
Caption 24, Christmas traditions: in the UK


Or to indicate a place: 


As you can see behind me, we are at Buckingham Palace.
Caption 1, In London with Lauren: Buckingham Palace


Or to indicate an activity or proficiency with something:


So I'm very good at working as part of a team.
Caption 34, Business English: The job interview


Or very commonly when mentioning an email address. The "at symbol" (@) in an email address is also called... at!


You can email us at
Caption 50, The Egoscue Clinic of Austin: Exercises for low back pain


Further Learning
Search for examples of the preposition "at" on Yabla English to see them used in a real-world context. 

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Happiness is...

In the last lesson, we discussed the uses of das Unglück, often translated as "misfortune" or "bad luck" in English. Let's take a happier approach this week and look at some of the uses of das Glück and some words related to it. Das Glück is often translated as "lucky," especially when combined with the verb haben:


Mann, da hab' ich noch mal Glück gehabt!
Man, I was lucky again!
Caption 32, Die Pfefferkörner: Cybermobbing


Das Glück can also mean "happiness": 


Und wie lange dauert überhaupt das Glück?
And how long does happiness last after all?
Caption 6,  Die Toten Hosen: Ertrinken


Glücklich is an adjectival variant of das Glück


Glücklich und zufrieden legten sie sich anschließend zur Ruhe.    
Happy and satisfied, they afterwards lay down to rest.
Caption 62, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten


Der Glückwunsch can be translated as "congratulations" or "best wishes": 


Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!
Heartfelt best wishes on your birthday!
Caption 22, Mama arbeitet wieder: Kapitel 3, Papa ist weg


Further Learning
There are dozens of German compound words that are formed with the noun das Glück, among them der Glücksbringer, die Glückseligkeit, der Glücksgriff, das Glücksspiel, and die Glückszahl. See if you can guess what these words mean without using a dictionary, and then go to Yabla German and see how they are used in a real world context. 

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Luck in Misfortune?

The German noun das Unglück is often translated as "misfortune" or "bad luck" in English:


König Priamos erklärte, es würde Unglück bringen.
King Priam said it would bring bad luck.
Caption 51, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Das Trojanische Pferd


But das Unglück can also be an accident or a disaster: 


Es war ein großes Unglück mit dem Vulkanausbruch in Island.
It has been a big disaster with the volcano erupting in Iceland.
Caption 3, Reisen: während des Vulkanausbruchs


There is also an idiomatic usage of das Unglück


Wir haben Glück im Unglück, dass wir jetzt ein paar Tage länger hier in Spanien sein dürfen.    
We have luck in misfortune that we may now spend a few more days in Spain.
Caption 24, Reisen: während des Vulkanausbruchs


The rendering as "luck in misfortune" is literal, but the idiom is akin to the English "a blessing in disguise," when good things come out of seemingly bad occurrences. 


Further Learning
But let's not end this lesson on a sour note, instead let's give it das Happy End or das Happyend (a German pseudo-anglicism for a "happy ending"). The opposite of das Unglück is das Glück, which can be translated as "happiness," "good luck," or "good fortune," among other happier words. Do a search for the word Glück on Yabla German and see how the different contexts of its usage can help you understand it better in a real world context. 

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The Message or the News?

The German noun die Nachricht is often translated into "message" in English, such as a message left on your voicemail:


Sie haben eine neue Nachricht.
You have a new message.
Caption 27, Die Pfefferkörner: Gerüchteküche


In a slightly confusing twist, both the singular and plural form of die Nachricht (plural: die Nachrichten) are often translated into "news" in English: 


Die Nachricht von der schlafenden Prinzessin verbreitete sich in vielen Ländern.
The news of the sleeping princess spread throughout many countries.
Captions 57-58, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Dornröschen


Gute Nachrichten für Hessens Wirtschaftsminister Tarek Al-Wazir. 
Good news for Hessia's Minister for Economic Affairs Tarek Al-Wazir.
Caption 1, Frankfurt wird Handelszentrum: für die chinesische Währung Yuan


This may seem odd, but the reason that the word is translated the same regardless of whether it is singular or plural in German is that the word "news" is a mass noun in English. The Oxford dictionary defines a mass noun as "A noun denoting something that cannot be counted (e.g., a substance or quality), in English usually a noun that lacks a plural in ordinary usage and is not used with the indefinite article e.g. luggage, china, happiness."


Further Learning
Do a search for the word Nachricht on Yabla German and see how the different contexts of its usage can help you understand whether it's best to translate this word as "message" or "news," as well as decide when you should choose die Nachricht or its plural die Nachrichten when using it to mean "news."

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