German Lessons


German Travel Vocabulary, Part III

This week, we'll conclude our lessons on travel vocabulary. So, you've decided what kind of trip and mode of travel, and you've booked your accommodation. Now it's time to consider your itinerary and activities. The types of activities you plan on your trip will also depend on your destination, of course. Cities may offer the opportunity to visit museums or famous historical sites, go to markets, or go shopping:


...aber die kleine Stadttour würde ich gerne machen.

...but I would gladly do the small city tour.

Caption 47, Rollendes Vergnügen: Segway-Touren

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Jedes Jahr kommen an die 5.000 Besucher ins Museum.

Every year nearly 5000 visitors come to the museum.

Caption 25, Flipperautomaten: Kunstwerke für flinke Kugeln

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Das ist eine Sehenswürdigkeit in Köln: der Kölner Dom.

This is an attraction in Cologne: The Cologne Cathedral.

Caption 8, Nicos Weg: Ich war schon in Berlin

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Hier findet der Markt nämlich täglich statt.

Because here, the market takes place every day.

Caption 16, Reisen: Ein Tag in Freiburg

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Sie hat Bock auf Shopping, also in die Stadt.

She feels like shopping, so it's off to the city.

Caption 23, Cro: Bye Bye

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Being in nature, whether on the coast or in the mountains, offers its own program of sports or relaxation. In a recent newsletter, we already had the noun das Sonnenbad, but some people like to be a bit more active.


Dieses Naturreservoir ist zu Fuß in nur gut zwei Stunden zu erreichen.

This nature reserve can be reached by foot in just over two hours.

Caption 6, Die letzten Paradiese Die Schönheit der Alpen

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Ich soll wandern gehen, ich soll segeln oder surfen.

I should go hiking, I should go sailing or surfing.

Caption 15, Nicos Weg: Freizeitstress

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Aber es ist perfekt, um ans Meer zu fahren und baden zu gehen.

But it's perfect for going to the sea and going for a swim.

Caption 39, Deutsch mit Eylin: Das Wetter

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Beach-Volleyball hört sich an wie ein Freizeitvergnügen, ist aber seit 1996 olympisch und ein knallharter Profisport.

Beach volleyball sounds like an enjoyable free-time activity, however, since 1996, it's an Olympic and a tough professional sport.

Captions 3-4, Olympische Spiele: Beachvolleyball

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So many options! Now all that's left is to pack. If you're flying, you will need to check whether it's possible to check a bag, or whether you'll have to make do with Handgepäck. The noun das Gepäck is a general word for luggage or baggage, or you can say der Koffer to refer to a suitcase.


Wir packen jetzt unseren Koffer.

Now we'll pack our suitcase.

Caption 9, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Reisevorbereitung

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And if you're flying, there's one more thing you'll need to do...


Um später Zeit zu sparen, checkt Olcay online ein.

To save time later, Olcay checks in online.

Caption 67, Galileo Zug vs. Flugzeug: Von München nach Berlin

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Gute Reise!


Further Learning

Check out our travel videos on Yabla German. Do you have an upcoming trip or vacation? Consult all three lessons, and write down five sentences about how you will get to your destination, where you will stay, and what activities you would like to do.

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Odd German Animal Names, Part I

Once you've been speaking a foreign language long enough, you tend to associate the name of something with whatever that name represents, and no longer notice how really strange that name might be. As we know, German tends to string words together to make new words, and many animal names are constructed this way. If we look at the root words of many of these animal names, however, they look pretty odd!


Er spricht das Faultier Sid.

He speaks (the voice-overs for) the sloth Sid.

Caption 6, Rheinmain Szene: Hochheimer Weinfest

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If you combine the adjective faul with das Tier, you have a "lazy animal." That's a pretty logical name for the sloth, which is known for its very slow movements.


Ein fremdes Murmeltier ist ins Revier eingedrungen und wird verjagt.

A strange marmot has intruded into the territory and is chased away.

Caption 36, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten

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In this case, however, it makes less sense. The verb murmeln means "to mumble," thus leaving us with "the mumbling animal." Marmots are not, however, known for mumbling, nor for speaking clearly, either. The name derives from an Old High German word murmunto, which itself is derived from the Latin word for "mountain mouse." That's one big mouse!


Da haben wir aber wirklich Glück gehabt mit der Köchin. Trampeltier. Aber eine gute Köchin.

We were really lucky with the cook. Clumsy oaf. But a good cook.

Captions 36-38, Marga Engel schlägt zurück: Arbeiten für den Feind

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In this case, we are dealing with the slang usage of animal names. Thus the word that is used for a Bactrian (two-humped) camel in formal German is used here to impolitely mean somebody who is clumsy. If you break the word down, the verb trampeln and the noun das Tier are put together to make "trampling animal." But the name actually derives from the dromedary, the one-humped camel, which in Middle High German is tromedar. Say it for a few centuries and eventually it will sound like Trampeltier. Language evolution is grand, isn't it?


Further Learning
Let's conclude the lesson today with the rest of the odd animal names that end with -tier: das Stinktier, das Gürteltier, das Schnabeltier, and das Maultier. Maybe you already know these German animal names, but if you don't, try translating the first half of each word and combining them. Then try and guess what animal is meant! You can also go to Yabla German and watch the videos listed above to find out more about these animals in context.

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German Travel Vocabulary, Part II

This week, we'll continue our work on travel vocabulary. The last lesson looked at words related to booking and traveling to a destination, so let's pick up there, and continue with types of accommodation.


When you book a trip, there's the question of both die Hinreise (the outward journey) and die Rückreise (the return journey). Depending on your mode of travel, you may instead talk about die Hinfahrt and die Rückfahrt for bus or train travel, or der Hinflug and der Rückflug for a flight. You can also say die einfache Fahrt for a single ticket, and der Gabelflug for a trip with multiple stops. Most of the time, however, you will be booking a round trip ticket:


Hin- und Rückfahrt kosten fünfzig Euro, und du musst nicht umsteigen.

A round trip costs fifty euros, and you don't have to change trains.

Caption 22, Nicos Weg: Bahnreisen

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Part of planning your trip is selecting accommodation (die Unterkunft), which is generally based on your chosen destination and budget:


Mit Hotel, Jugendherberge und Kapelle ist das achthundert Jahre alte Hospiz heute das Tor ins Innergschlöß.

With a hotel, youth hostel, and chapel, the eight-hundred-year-old former hospice is today the gateway to Innergschlöß.

Captions 26-27, Die letzten Paradiese: Die Schönheit der Alpen 2

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...und vor allen Dingen mit dem Komfort einer Ferienwohnung.

...and, above all else, with the comfort of a vacation home.

Caption 11, Glamping: Camping mit Stil

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Hierzulande hat zwar noch nicht jeder Campingplatz den Glamping-Faktor, aber schon im kommenden Jahr soll es in Deutschland soweit sein.

Here in Germany, admittedly, not every campground has this "glamping" factor, but it should already be available in Germany in the coming year.

Captions 34-35, Glamping: Camping mit Stil

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You will have to choose whether you require ein Einzelzimmer, ein Doppelzimmer, or ein Mehrbettzimmer, which is more often found at youth hostels and may involve bunk beds. At some types of accommodation, you can choose between die Halbpension, which includes breakfast and dinner, and die Vollpension, which includes all meals. More common, however, is a simple Übernachtung mit Frühstück


Für ein Einzelzimmer zahlt man siebzig Euro die Nacht.

For a single room you pay seventy euros a night.

Caption 32, Berlin: Indoor-Camping im „Hüttenpalast“

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Inklusive Halbpension, die Ihre Frau selber kocht.

Including half board, which your wife cooks herself.

Caption 54, heute-show Schule, Geschäfte, Urlaub: Leben in Zeiten von Corona

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In Germany, you may also find consider die Pension or das Gästehaus, which are generally smaller and less formal than a hotel. Of course, there is at least one mode of travel that eliminates the question of where to stay:


Mit dem Wohnmobil durch Luxemburg zu fahren bedeutet inzwischen, sich entscheiden zu müssen.

Driving through Luxembourg in a motorhome means having to make decisions these days.

Captions 31-32, Reisebericht: Luxemburg

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Further Learning

In addition to watching travel videos on Yabla German, go to a German booking website and do a casual search for flights and hotels in order to see the vocabulary above used in context. For an even more advanced exercise, have a look at this article on unusual places to stay in Germany

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Safe Fun in the Sun

Maybe you live in the Southern Hemisphere, where it's currently winter, but in Northern Germany spring has arrived. We're finally starting to get more sunshine! Der Sonnenschein  is a noun you probably know already, along with some other standards like die Sonnenbrille ("sunglasses," singular in German, by the way!) and die Sonnenblume  ("sunflower"). Let's take a look today at some less familiar compound nouns that use Sonnen- as the root word.


The sun comes up with der Sonnenaufgang:


Wir sind nie vor Sonnenaufgang nach Hause gegangen.

We never went home before sunrise.

Caption 9, Nicos Weg: So feiern wir!

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Hopefully it will be another sunny day (der Sonnentag)! Not be confused with the day of the week (Sonntag), as there are plenty of those with bad weather!


Steh gerade, kerzengerade, lache in den Sonnentag.

Stand up straight, straight as a candle, laughing on the sunny day.

Caption 19, DDR-Fernsehen: Die letzten Sendeminuten des DFF

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But with sunny days comes the danger of sunburn and long-term cancer risks from the rays of the sun: (der Sonnenstrahl, plural die Sonnenstrahlen):


...als die ersten Sonnenstrahlen durch die Wolken blitzten. the first rays of sunshine flashed through the clouds.

Caption 48, Märchen,Sagenhaft: Der standhafte Zinnsoldat

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It's best to protect your skin with die Sonnencreme and der Sonnenschutz and keep under der Sonnenschirm in order to avoid die Sonnenstrahlung:


Aber bitte... benutzen Sie Sonnencreme.

But please... use sun screen.

Caption 52, Unser Universum: Die Sonne

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Auf ausreichenden Sonnenschutz achten, denn durch das Wasser ist die Sonneneinstrahlung nochmal stärker als an Land.
Make sure to wear sufficient sun protection, because the water makes the solar radiation even stronger than it is on land.
Captions 78-79, Stand Up Paddling: 5 typische Anfängerfehler


Hier habe ich einen Sonnenschirm

Here I have a parasol.

Caption 21, Deutschkurs in Tübingen Präpositionen und Artikel

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And then you can go sunbathing—usually expressed in German as ein Sonnenbad nehmen, but here they are "enjoying" sunbathing:


Eine Kolonie kalifornischer Seelöwen hat sich auf ihrem Felsen versammelt, um ein entspanntes Sonnenbad zu genießen.

A colony of California sea lions has gathered on their rock to enjoy a relaxing sunbath.

Captions 18-19, Evolution: Die Küsten

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And at long last, after a nice day enjoying the sunshine, comes der Sonnenuntergang:


Bei mir muss der Held am Schluss in den Sonnenuntergang reiten.

For me, the hero has to ride off into the sunset at the end.

Caption 57, Rheinmain Szene Unheilig: „Der Graf“

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and search for other words using Sonnen- as the root word. You can also go to the DWDS Dictionary and find a long list of words starting with Sonnen-. See if you can guess their meanings before you look them up!

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German Travel Vocabulary, Part I

While many people in Germany have just come back from their Osterferien, people in the United States and elsewhere may already be thinking about trips they might take during summer vacation (der Sommerurlaub or die Sommerferien). This month, we'll devote a few lessons to looking at essential travel vocabulary in German.


You may remember how much trouble Jenny had deciding what kind of vacation to take. In German, a trip to a city is called die Städtereise, but many people like to keep things a bit more low key: 


Ah, klar, ich könnte eine Kreuzfahrt mit dem Schiff machen.

Ah, right, I could take a cruise with a ship.

Caption 32, Jenny: Reiseziele

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Strandurlaub bei Windstärke sechs...

Beach vacation with a wind velocity of six...

Caption 42, Traumberuf: Windsurfer

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Once decided, you'll have to plan your trip and make the necessary reservations: 


Ich möchte gerne eine Reise zum Europapark buchen.

I would like to book a trip to Europapark.

Caption 4, Reiseplanung: Anruf bei einem Reisebüro

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In der Hauptsaison empfiehlt es sich zu reservieren.

In high season, it is recommended to make a reservation.

Caption 37, Reisebericht Luxemburg

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Part of the planning is figuring out how you are going to get to your destination. 


Stattdessen mit Bus und Bahn zum Reiseziel fahren.

Instead, travel by bus and train to your destination.

Caption 44, WissensWerte: Tourismus und Nachhaltigkeit

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Also mit dem Auto würde ich heute nicht fahren.

So, I wouldn't go by car today.

Caption 45, Deutsch mit Eylin Das Wetter

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Von dort können Sie ein Auto mieten oder mit dem Bus fahren.

From there you can rent a car or travel by bus.

Caption 13, Reiseplanung: Anruf bei einem Reisebüro

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Damit höre ich manchmal Musik, wenn ich im Zug oder im Flugzeug sitze.

Sometimes I listen to music with them when I'm on the train or on a plane.

Captions 23-24, Deutsch mit Eylin: Denk schnell!

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Auf dem Schiff haben fünfhundertsechzehn Gäste Platz, richtig viel Platz.

There is room on the ship for five hundred and sixteen guests, really a lot of space.

Caption 10, Kreuzfahrtschiff: An Bord der Europa 2

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Hallo, liebe Yabla-Schüler, ich stehe heute hier auf einer Fähre.

Hello dear Yabla students, I am standing here today on a ferry.

Caption 1, Unterwegs mit Cettina: an der Rheinfähre

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Further Learning

More travel vocabulary is coming! In the meantime, we have so many fun travel videos on Yabla German. Just do a quick search and you'll quickly find yourself in HeidelbergInnsbruck, or the Alps! You may want to also check out this video on tourism and sustainability.

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But what's the catch?

You're probably familiar with the saying "But there's a catch..." According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it means that there is a "concealed difficulty or complication" in a situation. There is a similar saying in German, but instead of the noun for "catch," it uses the German word for the noun "hook": der Haken. 


First, let's take a look at the pronunciation. You want to really open your mouth wide with an "ah" sound when pronouncing this word:


Im Wort „Haken“ ist das „A“ lang.

In the word “hook,” the “A” is long.

Caption 32, Deutsch mit Eylin: Das Alphabet

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Now let's take a look at how  der Haken  is used idiomatically in the form einen Haken haben:


Dieses Kompliment seiner Frau ist schön, hat allerdings auch einen Haken.

This compliment by his wife is nice, however, it also has a catch.

Caption 19, Theater: Mörderische Phantasien

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Die Sache hat einen Haken.

In this matter, there's a catch.

Caption 24, Küss mich, Frosch: Die Zeiten haben sich geändert

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You can also use the form ein Haken an etwas sein:


Ein Haken an der Sache ist der Preis: In der Hauptsaison zahlt eine vierköpfige Familie für die Lodgesuite am Gardasee pro Woche 1.400 Euro.

One catch with the whole thing is the price: During the peak season, a family of four pays 1,400 euros per week for the lodge suite on Lake Garda.

Captions 36-38, Glamping: Camping mit Stil

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Of course, ein Haken is also used in the literal sense to mean "a hook":


Unten am Fluss hängte er zuerst einen Wurm an den Haken und dann die Angel ins Wasser.

Down by the river, he first hung a worm on the hook and then cast the line into the water.

Captions 14-15, Janoschs Traumstunde: Post für den Tiger

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Ein solcher Fall ereignete sich, als sich ein Delfin in den Gewässern von Kona, Hawaii, einem Taucher näherte, weil ein Haken an seiner Flosse hing.

One such case occurred when a dolphin approached a diver in the waters of Kona, Hawaii, because a hook was attached to its fin.

Captions 14-16, Die 12 freundlichsten Meerestiere der Welt

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Der Delfin positionierte sich so vor dem Taucher, dass dieser den Haken entfernen konnte.

The dolphin positioned itself in front of the diver so that he could remove the hook.

Captions 17-18, Die 12 freundlichsten Meerestiere der Welt

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You'll note that "hook" is related to fishing. One easy way to remember this idiom is that "catch" is related to catching fish, which can be done with a hook. And that, dear Yabla readers, is der Haken!


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and see the above examples in context. You can also make up some sentences of the saying using the forms einen Haken haben and ein Haken an etwas sein and have your teacher check them.

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Expressing Suspicions and Assumptions in German

We've covered expressing opinions in German, but what about when you believe something to be true, but aren't completely sure? There are many different verbs for expressing what you assume or suspect to be the case. 

The verbs vermuten and ahnen are rather neutral ways of suspecting something, whereas the verb verdächtigen is used primarily in the context of crime or wrongdoing.



Man vermutet, hier ist irgendwas in der Lüftung vom Willy-Brandt-Haus.

One suspects there is something in the ventilation here in the Willy-Brandt-Haus.

Caption 75, heute-show: Die männliche Merkel hat Erinnerungslücken

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Von all dem ahnt man oben nichts, denn die vielfältigen Geheimnisse der Alpenseen bleiben meist verborgen.

Of all of this, you would suspect nothing from above, because the diverse secrets of the Alpine lakes stay mostly hidden.

Captions 31-32, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten

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Sie haben den Chip also nur demontiert, damit wir ihn nicht finden und Sie nicht verdächtigen?

You only took the chip out so that we wouldn't find it and wouldn't suspect you?

Caption 23, Großstadtrevier: Neben der Spur

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The separable verb annehmen, and the verbs vermuten and mutmaßen can all be translated as "to assume." However, it is especially common to use the phrase davon ausgehen


Das ist wahrscheinlich sehr viel Arbeit auch, nehm ich an.

That's probably a lot of work too, I assume.

Caption 39, Der Fotograf: Sven Siegrist

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Er untersucht die genaue Herkunft von Kunstwerken im Museum Wiesbaden, von denen man annehmen könnte, dass sie während der Zeit der Nationalsozialisten unrechtmäßig und illegal ins Haus gelangten.

He is investigating the exact origin of artworks in the Wiesbaden Museum, that could be assumed to have entered the building unjustly and illegally during the Nazi era.

Captions 19-21, Restituierung von Raubkunst: aus der Nazi-Zeit

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Ich gehe mal davon aus, dass wir circa sechzig Prozent internationale Schüler haben werden.

I am assuming that we will have around sixty percent international students.

Caption 85, Strothoff International School: Interview mit dem Rektor

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Lange gingen Astronomen davon aus, dass die Asteroiden Überbleibsel einer kosmischen Katastrophe, Bruchstücke eines zerborstenen Planeten irgendwo zwischen Mars und Jupiter seien.

Astronomers long assumed that asteroids were small remnants of a cosmic catastrophe, broken pieces of a planet blown apart somewhere between Mars and Jupiter.

Captions 17-19, Unser Universum: Asteroiden - Gefahr aus dem All?

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Further Learning
It being Monday, use the examples above and others on Yabla German to construct a few sentences about your expectations for the week. What do you assume will happen the same way it always does? What do you suspect might be different?

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Subjects, Fields, and Disciplines

We know you're learning German, but what other subjects have you studied? Even if you're not currently in school, it's always interesting to talk with people about what they studied, and which subjects are still relevant to their lives today. 



First, we can start with the natural sciences and the applied sciences, respectively called die Naturwissenschaften and die angewandten Wissenschaften in German. 


Jan hat heute seine Physikarbeit zurückbekommen.

Jan got his physics paper back today. 

Caption 2, The Simple Physics: Schrödingers Katze

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Ja, das ist Mathematik oder Mathe.

Yes, this is mathematics or math.

Caption 8, Deutsch mit Eylin: Denk schnell!

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...das heißt wir gewinnen zusätzlich noch in dem Bereich Biologie auch eine gewisse Kapazität.

...which means we also gain a certain capacity in the field of biology.

Caption 40, Für Tierfreunde: Przewalski-Wildpferde

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Ich habe schnell gemerkt, dass mich Elektrotechnik sehr interessiert

I quickly noticed that electrical engineering really interests me.

Caption 10, Deutsche Welle: Lieber Ausbildung als Studium

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In these next captions, you will find some fields that relate to the social sciences, or die Sozialwissenschaften, and the world of business. 


Ja? Das wäre so eine Geschichte, ähm, mit interdisziplinärem Input aus der Sportwissenschaft, der Sportmedizin, der Psychologie und der Soziologie.

Yes? That would be something, um, with interdisciplinary input from sport sciences, sports medicine, psychology, and sociology.

Captions 65-66, TEDx: Lebenslange Fitness

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Ich hab schon in Spanien zwei Semester Jura studiert.

I already studied law in Spain for two semesters.

Caption 7, Nicos Weg: Am Bankautomaten

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Ich studiere Wirtschaft und arbeite in einem Café.

I study economics and work in a café.

Caption 27, Magie: Die Zaubershow

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The humanities, or die Geisteswissenschaften, include history, languages, literature, philosophy, and often the arts as well. For more on the arts, you can refer to two recent lessons, one which covered the visual arts, and the other on the performing arts


Kunstgeschichte wird ja von Kunsthistorikern gemacht. Da haben Sie recht, das waren immer Männer.

Art history is written by art historians. You are right about that, those were always men.

Caption 25, Malerei: Impressionistinnen

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Interessierst du dich für Literatur?

Are you interested in literature?

Caption 9, Nicos Weg: Das macht mir Spaß!

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Further Learning
Based on what you read above and have found on Yabla German, see if you can figure out the meanings of the following: die Politikwissenschaft, die Kulturwissenschaft, die Religionswissenschaft. Some disciplines, like die Philosophiedie Geografie, die Geologie, die Anthropologie, or die Medizin, have similar names to their English counterparts and may be easy to identify. And then, of course, some subjects have simply adopted the English term, such as das Marketing and das Management.

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The Easter Holidays in German

In a previous Yabla lesson, we discussed Easter traditions in Germany. Today, let's talk about the German names of the main Easter holidays. Easter, a Christian commemoration of the resurrection of Christ, is called Ostern in German. It's a neuter noun, but is usually written and spoken without a definite or indefinite article, in the same way that we don't usually say "the Easter" or "an Easter" in English.


Easter is a week-long religious celebration with major and minor days of celebration. This week is called Karwoche ("Holy Week"). The term has nothing to do with automobiles, but stems rather from the now-obsolete 17th-century German word kara, which means "grief, sorrow, or lamentation." The first major day of celebration is Palm Sunday:


Am Palmsonntag steht eine große Messe auf dem Programm.

On Palm Sunday, a large mass is on the schedule.

Captions 9-10, Papst Franziskus: Der neue Papst hat viel zu tun

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The next four Easter days are not celebrated and not official holidays in Germany: Ostermontag, Osterdienstag, and Ostermittwoch (Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday, and Easter Wednesday). Maundy Thursday, also commonly called Holy Thursday, commemorates the Last Supper of Christ: Gründonnerstag, literally "Green Thursday." This day is not an official holiday in Germany, so Cettina and Sabine can still go out dancing without fear of Tanzverbot:


Da wir heute erst Gründonnerstag haben, gehen wir jetzt eine Runde tanzen und verabschieden uns von euch.

Since it's only Holy Thursday, we'll now go dance a bit and say goodbye to you.

Captions 71-72, Cettina und Sabine: Ostern

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The next Easter day is an official holiday in Germany, Karfreitag or Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion of Christ.


Der Karfreitag ist ein Fasten- und Abstinenztag.

Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence.

Caption 65, Cettina und Sabine: Ostern

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The next day, Holy Saturday, is called Karsamstag in German, and is meant in Christian theology to mark the descent of Christ into Hell. It is not an official holiday in Germany either.


The last day of Easter is the most important: Easter Sunday, called Ostersonntag or simply Ostern. This is when, according to Christian belief, Christ was resurrected from the dead. It's surprisingly not an official holiday in Germany (except for Brandenburg), because most shops are closed and most people don't go to work on Sundays anyway. Official work-free holidays are decided in Germany on the state rather than national level.


Der Ostersonntag gehört zu den Höhepunkten der Osterfeierlichkeiten bei den Katholiken.

Easter Sunday is one of the highlights of Easter celebrations among Catholics.

Captions 16-17, Papst Franziskus: Der neue Papst hat viel zu tun

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The day after Easter is an official holiday in Germany and is commonly called Ostermontag, although the religious Easter Monday took place the week before.


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and watch Cettina und Sabine: Ostern and Ostern mit Eva to get a full overview of the Easter holidays in Germany. Happy holidays from Yabla!

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German Animal Expressions, Part II

German, like many languages, uses a lot of idioms referring to animals. You've probably heard some similar English expressions like "I'm in the dog house," or "to let the cat out of the bag."  Let's take a look today at some more German animal expressions, as continued from Part I.


Mann, du schläfst ja wie ein Bär!

Man, you sleep like a bear!

Caption 21, Meine Freundin Conni: Conni schläft im Kindergarten

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You occasionally see the idiom "to sleep like a bear" in English, but the far more common phrase is "to sleep like a log." Bears hibernate much of the winter, thus it means to sleep very deeply. Logs don't sleep at all, of course, but it suggests a person is sleeping so deeply and heavily that they resemble a log.


Sie will wissen, wie der Hase läuft.
She wants to be more experienced.


The literal translation is "to know how the hare runs." The expression has nothing to do with speed (hares being fast runners), but rather with the knowledge of knowing how they run so quickly. Thus the idiom means to have experience, knowledge, or wisdom. This is related to the next expression:


Du bist ein alter Hase.

You are very experienced.

Caption 33, Oskar: Gehen, wenn es am schönsten ist

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"To be an old hare" means you have a lot of experience, and is similar to the English expression "an old hand."


Judith hat doch hier mit ihrem Projekt fabulös die Kuh vom Eis geholt.

After all, Judith has, with her project here, saved the situation fabulously.

Captions 27-28, Lerchenberg: Sascha hautnah

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The literal translation is "to fetch the cow from the ice," meaning to have saved a precarious situation from disaster. Cows, as we saw in the previous lesson, are widely considered to be stupid animals, so it's no surprise that such sayings have them wandering out onto thin ice!


Ich bin tierisch reich.

I'm very rich.

Caption 15, Die Prinzen_ Alles nur geklaut

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Victorian English, at least judging from period films, made common use of the term "beastly" as an idiom meaning "very." So you'll have an Arctic explorer on the verge of freezing to death saying something like "I say, old chap, it's beastly cold up here!" The word sounds strange to modern ears, however, and is best translated with the simple "very."


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and watch the above videos to get a better idea of the contexts in which they have been used. You can also search the Redensarten-Index for more animal expressions. It's a good site to bookmark if you come across a German idiom whose meaning isn't clear!

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Opening and Closing

At one point, we wrote a lesson on the difference between eröffnen and öffnen. The verb öffnen is basically what it sounds like, while the verb eröffnen can also be used with non-physical entities that can be "opened," as well as something that is established or instituted.


When it comes to closing something, you probably know the word schließen. And just as aufmachen can substitute for öffnen, zumachen is another verb used to talk about closing something. 


Jetzt schließe ich meinen Koffer.

Now, I'll close my suitcase.

Caption 22, Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub

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Die Polizei sagt, er solle seinen Kofferraum aufmachen.

The police officer says he should open his trunk.

Caption 4, Sabine erzählt Witze: Die Pinguine

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Wenn keine Tür da ist, kann man sie auch nicht zumachen.

If there is no door, you can't close it either.

Caption 26, Piggeldy und Frederick: Haus

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That is all relatively simple, but when it comes to locking and unlocking something like a door, there are many more verbs you can use, such as aufschließen, zuschließen, verschließen, and abschließen. The first two are similar to aufmachen and zumachen, but would refer to something that is shut very securely or locked. You may know the verb abschließen as "to finish" or "to conclude," but it can also mean "to lock up." Interestingly, aufgeschlossen is also an adjective used to describe a person being "open" or "receptive."


Frankreich plant nachzuziehen und auch London will aufschließen.

France plans to follow suit and London wants to open [its financial markets] up as well.

Caption 41, Frankfurt wird Handelszentrum für die chinesische Währung Yuan

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Die Schachtel ist total sicher verschlossen.

The box is completely and securely shut.

Caption 58, The Simple Physics: Schrödingers Katze

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Also, die Leute sind sehr aufgeschlossen.

Well, the people are very receptive.

Caption 7, Eva Croissant: Interview

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It then gets even more specific, with verbs like entriegeln and entsperren, which could also mean "unlatch" or "unbolt." 


Maik gibt den vierstelligen Code ein und entriegelt das Schloss.

Maik enters the four-digit code and unlocks the lock.

Caption 28, Fußballspieler Maik Franz: "Call a Bike"

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Further Learning
You can find many examples of these verbs on Yabla German, which is the best way to understand the nuances in their meaning. You can also look up the list of possible translations for each verb with an online dictionary like to get a sense of this as well. While you're at it, consider aufsperren and zusperren, two additional verbs more often used in Southern Germany. Based on the other verbs you have learned, what do you think these mean?

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German Animal Expressions, Part I

German, like many languages, uses a lot of idioms referring to animals. You've probably heard the English expression "I'm hungry as a horse" or the term "snail mail." What these expressions have in common in all languages is that they refer to some quality that is associated in that culture with a specific animal: Horses eat a lot of food and snails move very slowly—always compared to humans, of course. Let's take a look today at some German animal expressions.


Wohl aufs falsche Pferd gesetzt, hm?

Probably bet on the wrong horse, hm?

Caption 19, Marga Engel schlägt zurück Der Engel von Leipzig

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This one is easy, because English has the same saying with the same meaning: "to make a wrong decision," or "to support something that failed." It comes from racetrack betting or investing in a racehorse.


Wisst ihr, was ich der blöden Kuh gesagt habe?

Do you know what I said to the stupid cow?

Caption 28, Weihnachtsfilm Ein Sack voll Geld

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Cows are always being accused of being stupid, but since it's usually male humans who call women "stupid cows," perhaps it's really such men who are stupidly sexist. Thankfully, this awful expression in English is mostly confined to Britain, an island just outside of Europe. Sadly, the Germans seem to have adopted it—though perhaps it was the Germanic Saxons who first introduced it to Britain after all!


Sind die dummen Esel die Menschen und die richtigen Esel die Tiere?

Are the dumb donkeys the people and the real donkeys the animals?

Caption 15, Piggeldy und Frederick Der Esel

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If you call somebody an Esel in German, it means you think they are stupid or stubborn, similar to the English phrase "as stubborn as a mule." Mules are half donkey and half horse, of course. Piggeldy is making the point that perhaps it's humans who are dumb, and not donkeys. But of course Piggeldy is only a cartoon pig. Speaking of which...


„Wir haben ganz schön Schwein gehabt", sagte Frederick,

"We were very lucky," said Frederick,

Caption 33, Piggeldy und Frederick Reise nach Schweinebrück

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The literal translation of Schwein haben is "to have a swine" (or "pig"), but it means "to be very lucky." The saying apparently comes from old German festivals of marksmanship, where the worst shot was given a piglet as a consolation prize. So despite Schwein being a common German insult, the pig was considered a valuable possession in earlier times and thus meant business income and luck.


„Gibt es viele arme Schweine?“, fragte Piggeldy.

"Are there lots of poor swine?" Piggeldy asked.

Caption 21, Piggeldy und Frederick Arm

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Piggeldy, a cartoon pig, is literally asking if there are a lot of "poor swine" in the world. The joke intended here is that armes Schwein, figuratively spoken, means a person who is worthy of sympathy, as something bad has happened to them. Thus, Piggeldy is also asking if there are a lot of unfortunate people. It's similar to the English expressions "poor bastard," "poor wretch," or "poor devil."


Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and watch the above videos to get a better idea of the contexts in which they have been used. And remember, it's rude to call somebody a blöde Kuh, but it can show sympathy if you call somebody an armes Schwein. Funny isn’t it, how in German, calling somebody a pig can be a nice thing!

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A not-so-difficult newsletter

In English, we have the words "simple," "easy," "difficult," and "hard." German similarly has its own adjectives with nuanced meanings. You have likely seen einfach used both as an adjective most often meaning either "simple," "basic," or "easy," and also as an adverb meaning "simply," "basically," or "just." 


Im Grunde ist es also ganz einfach.

So basically it's quite simple.

Caption 34, Deutsch mit Eylin: Doppellaute

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Natürlich kann man auch einfach nur spazieren gehen.

Of course, one can also simply just go for a walk.

Caption 10, Berlin: Eva im Viktoriapark

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The adjective schwierig can also mean "tricky" more than truly hard or difficult. 


Und es ist schwierig, diese Dinge anzusprechen.

And it is difficult to talk about things.

Caption 37, Die Wohngemeinschaft: Probleme

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You may have noticed that the same adjectives used to describe weight apply to ease and difficulty. The adjective leicht  also means "light" (again, this is in terms of weight, not in terms of color, which would be hell). The adjective schwer has a whole host of meanings, including "heavy," "difficult," "severe," "grave," and "arduous." 


Sie bleiben gerne in der Deckung umgestürzter Bäume, wo sie der Hecht nicht so leicht erwischt.

They like to stay under the cover of fallen trees, where the pike can't catch them so easily.

Captions 17-18, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten

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„Nichts leichter als das“, antwortete Frederick.

"Nothing easier than that!" answered Frederick.

Caption 4, Piggeldy und Frederick: Aufräumen

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Die können sich noch an andere schwere Zeiten erinnern.

They can still remember other difficult times.

Caption 11, Angela Merkel: Solidarität der Generationen in Coronakrise

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Clueso lässt sich immer noch schwer einordnen.

Clueso still remains difficult to categorize.

Caption 41, Clueso: ist endlich erwachsen

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Sie sehen als Erste die Kranken und wie schwer manche Verläufe der Infektion sind.

You are the first to see the sick and how severe some courses of the infection are.

Captions 6-7, Coronavirus: Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel

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There's one more word that should be mentioned, which is the adjective simpel. Be careful: this word does mean "simple," but is also used negatively to express that something is simplistic or limited. 


Es ist eigentlich ganz simpel.

It is actually very simple.

Caption 34, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Verben der 2. Kategorie

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Further Learning
When you see one of these adjectives in a sentence on Yabla German, ask yourself whether one of the others could be swapped in. Sometimes something will be either leicht, einfach, or simpel, but not all three, and the same goes for schwierig and schwer

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English Words Adopted from German

English, as a Germanic language, has many words that are originally derived from German. Many of these words have had their roots in the English language for over a thousand years, but there are also German words that have been adopted by English speakers much more recently. Let's take a look at some of these German latecomers today!


The German noun die Angst, as used in the phrase Angst vor etwas haben, is commonly translated as "to be scared," "to be afraid," or "to be frightened," but only occasionally as the English word "angst." The reason for this is that the English word is often used in a more intellectual context when writing about art, sociology, or psychology. In English, it's not merely "being afraid" in the German sense of Angst haben, but rather, as the Oxford dictionary describes it, "a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general." English seems to have adopted "angst" in order to give it a meaning far more specific than plain old "being afraid."


Die typischen deutschen Gerichte sind immer so einfach. Bratwurst, Currywurst, alles immer mit Wurst.

The typical German dishes are always so simple. Bratwurst, currywurst, everything always with wurst.

Captions 31-33, Nicos Weg: Essen gehen

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As you see above, the English versions of the German nouns follow English rules for lowercase capitalization. A good code-switching pun—if there is such a thing as a good pun—will take us from bad to Wurst. Actually, since "wurst" is English too, it's not even code-switching unless you capitalize the noun and format it as italics!


Dort auf der von ihm legendär besungenen geilen Meile Reeperbahn steht seit mehr als einem Jahr sein Doppelgänger aus Wachs.

There on the lecherous Reeperbahn mile, which he famously sung about, his doppelgänger made of wax has been standing for more than one year.

Captions 13-14, 65 Jahre: Udo Lindenberg

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According to Merriam-Webster, the preferred American English spelling of this is with the umlaut ä, though doppelganger with a standard English "a" is also an accepted spelling. The Brits, however, want nothing to do with an umlaut—another German word found in English by the way—and only accept the spelling "doppelganger." Well, more umlauts for us Americans then!


Auf der Konsumgütermesse Tendence in Frankfurt dominiert Kitsch viele Stände.

At the consumer products trade show "Tendence" in Frankfurt, kitsch dominates many booths.

Caption 2, Auftrumpfen: Mit Kitsch und Protz

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Back when I was a kid in the last millennium or before, a friend of mine with German parents showed me one of his parent's German books about kitsch, and a new word entered our everyday vocabulary. It made us sound smarter than we probably were to say "Oh, that's kitschy" instead of "Oh, that's trashy" or "that's tacky." Anyway it probably impressed our small-town American teachers, who may not have even known what it meant themselves!


Tja, Schadenfreude ist eben doch die schönste Freude.

Well, schadenfreude is still the best kind of enjoyment.

Caption 36, Umweltlernen: Propellerpflanzen am Kräutertag

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One could argue that the German invention of the word Schadenfreude, which means "a pleasure derived from the pain of others," says some not very nice things about German culture. But it could also be argued that it shows how the German culture had accurate insight into the human psyche, and this as early as the first appearance of the word in 1740. According to some studies, schadenfreude has been observed in children as young as 24 months of age. Hopefully, humans will eventually evolve beyond such sordid pleasures and develop a better sense of empathy for their fellow human beings, even those they dislike.


Further Learning
A number of German words adopted by English tend to be used much more often in written English than in spoken English, which is why you may not find them so often in Yabla German videos. Look up the words die Gestalt, die Weltanschauung, and der Weltschmerz in the DWDS dictionary, then compare them to their English equivalents in an English dictionary. Are the meanings nearly identical, such as Bratwurst (bratwurst) and Doppelgänger (doppelgänger) are? Or are they somewhat different, as Angst (angst) is?

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Über hinaus and über hinweg

If you are familiar with über ("above," "over," "across") and hinaus ("out," "afield"), the fact that über hinaus (also darüber hinaus) is often translated as "beyond" may not surprise you. Like in English, it can be used to talk about physical distance, or be used in a similar context to außerdem, which means "additionally" or "moreover."


Es ging über die Wiese hinaus in die große, weite Welt.

It went across the meadow, out into the big, wide world.

Caption 49, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Das hässliche Entlein

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Ist die Drohne auch mit einer Kamera ausgestattet, muss ihr Besitzer darüber hinaus noch mehr beachten.

If the drone is also equipped with a camera, its owner must additionally pay even more attention.

Captions 36-37, Rhein-Main-TV: Strengere Regeln - Lohnt sich eine Drohne überhaupt noch?

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...und vielleicht noch darüber hinaus mit verschiedenen Medien zu arbeiten.

...and maybe even beyond that, working with different kinds of media.

Caption 50, Sprachschulen: Sprachcaffe Frankfurt

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Although it may look similar, über hinweg cannot be used interchangeably with über hinaus. It is often translated with "over" or "through" and can be used to talk about time passing. Take a look:


Für Menschen sind Tiere oft treue Begleiter und helfen über so manche einsame Stunde hinweg.

Animals are often loyal companions for people, and help them through many a lonely hour.

Captions 1-2, Für Tierfreunde: Wohin mit Tieren wenn Besitzer sterben

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Wir haben mit den vierten Klassen über ein ganzes Jahr hinweg zu unterschiedlichen Themen gearbeitet...

Over the course of an entire year, we have worked on various themes with the fourth grade class...

Captions 11-12, Erstes Frankfurter „Schuljahr der Nachhaltigkeit“: Abschlussfeier

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As you can see, both of the examples above refer to time, and not to distance or extent. But in this next example, über hinaus very clearly means "over" and "away":


Eines Tages wird es so weit sein, und bis dahin träume ich mich über die Mauer hinweg zu dir.

One day it will be the case, and until then I will dream myself over the wall to you.

Caption 29, Lilly unter den Linden: Umzug in die DDR

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and make sure you understand how these phrases are used in a sentence. For each sentence you see, consider which other word could be used and what this says about the meaning of über hinaus or über hinweg in that particular context. 

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Alles Liebe zum Valentinstag!

Yabla published a lesson on Valentine's Day in Germany a few years ago, but we thought it would be timely to address the topic again as we have a lot of newer videos that mention the holiday. Valentine's Day in Germany is not as popular as it is in some countries, but it's getting celebrated more every year.


Heute ist Valentinstag, deswegen treffen sich heute bestimmt besonders viele Leute hier.

Today is Valentine's Day, so there are bound to be a lot of people here today.

Captions 7-8, Valentinstag: in Karlsruhe

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The first part is literally true, since this lesson was sent out on Valentine's Day!


Valentinstag find ich ganz gut. Mit wem willst du denn Valentinstag feiern?

I think Valentine's Day is pretty good. Who do you want to celebrate Valentine's Day with?

Captions 31-32, Nicos Weg: Feste und Feiertage

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This can, of course, be the question if you're single. Maybe it's a good time to be brave and give somebody you like a nice platonic-ish Valentine's card–but only if it's in the appropriate circumstances, like maybe not in the workplace.


Die Floristen wappnen sich für den Valentinstag.

The florists are gearing up for Valentine's Day.

Caption 3, Rhein-Main-TV: Vorbereitungen für Valentinstag laufen

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Your local florist, like many small businesses, has probably suffered a lot during the pandemic. This is a great time to give them some support if you can afford it–even if the flowers are for yourself!


Valentinstag ist ein Hochbetriebstag,  an dem]einfach ganz viele Menschen kommen, die für ihre Liebste oder ihren Liebsten Blumen kaufen.

Valentine's Day is a peak day when a lot of people simply come who are buying flowers for their sweethearts.

Captions 6-9, Rhein-Main-TV: Vorbereitungen für Valentinstag laufen

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Of course, you want to be very sure before you buy somebody flowers, but as we mentioned above, in the worst case scenario, buy some for yourself. And no, it's not "sad," it's self-affirming!


In Deutschland gilt der Valentinstag erst seit den 1950er Jahren als Tag der Freundschaft.

In Germany, Valentine's Day has been observed as a day of friendship only since the 1950s.

Caption 14, Valentinstag: in Karlsruhe

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But Valentine's Day is, in fact, becoming so popular in Germany that...

...laut einer Umfrage des Verbraucherforums Mydealz erwarten rund 60% der Deutschen auf jeden Fall ein Geschenk von ihrem Partner oder von ihrer Partnerin.

...according to a survey by the consumer forum Mydealz, around 60% of Germans definitely expect a gift from their partner.

Captions 40-42, Rhein-Main-TV: Vorbereitungen für Valentinstag laufen

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and watch the full videos above to see the context in which these expressions about Valentine's day have been used.

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Adorable German Words

German has a reputation for being a difficult and rough language, but there are in fact some words and constructions that are particularly lovely and not found in any other language. Let's have a look!


First of all, there are a number of nouns that are quite charming, including compound nouns. In what other language do you have words for a sense of happiness found when hiking, or being as happy as a poodle? Or what about the word for lightbulb, which literally translates as "glowing pear?"


Ein Mitbringsel gibt es für die Familie dann aber doch.

But there is a little present then for the family, nonetheless.

Caption 13, Katherine Heigl: Sie liebt deutsches Essen

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Die Biker fühlen sich pudelwohl hier zwischen S-Bahn und Autos

The bikers feel as happy as poodles here between the S-Bahn and cars,

Caption 48, Pumptrack: Rad fahren, ohne zu treten

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Zum Gipfelglück führt nur ein schmaler Grat durchs ewige Eis.

Enjoyment of the summit is only reachable by a narrow ridge, through eternal ice.

Caption 7, Die letzten Paradiese: Die Schönheit der Alpen 1

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...der typische Morgenmuffel namens Geli.

...a typical morning grouch by the name of Geli.

Caption 17, Galileo: So kommt man morgens leichter aus dem Bett

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Hier ist die Fassung und da ist die Birne. Kann man rein- und rausschrauben. -Ist eine Glühbirne.

Here is the socket and there is the bulb. You can screw it in and out. -It's a light bulb.

Captions 23-24, Unterwegs mit Cettina: auf dem Bruchsaler Weihnachtsmarkt - Part 2

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Then there is the ending -chen. You are probably already familiar with several words that simply have this ending, such as das Mädchen, das Hähnchen, or das Bisschen. But like the ending -lein-chen is used to create diminutive forms, and there are many words that can be transformed with this suffix. Let's have a look.

As mentioned, these two words ending in -chen are simply standard German words:


Ein Junge und ein Mädchen, fünf Jahre und zwei Jahre.

A boy and a girl, five years old and two years old.

Caption 60, Cettina: interviewt Mütter

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Glaubst du, du wirst dort ein leckeres Hähnchen grillen?

Do you think you will grill a delicious chicken there?

Caption 38, Konjugation: Das Verb „grillen“

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In these next two examples, you can see that das Männchen can mean "the little man," in this case referring to small statues. However, it also can refer to the male of a species, in this case a male woodpecker:


Ja, richtig. Aus dem Ampelmännchen ist eine dreidimensionale Skulptur geworden.

Yes, exactly. A three dimensional sculpture has emerged from the little traffic light man.

Caption 2, 25 Jahre Wiedervereinigung: Ampelmännchen wird Einheitsmännchen

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Bei der Zimmererarbeit wechseln Männchen und Weibchen einander ab.

When it comes to carpentry work, males and females take turns.

Caption 35, Die letzten Paradiese Schätze der Natur: Südtirol

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This next example brings up a good point, which is that many diminutive forms result in the addition of an umlaut:


Aus dem „Hund“ wird dann ein „Hündchen“.

From "dog," we then get "little dog."

Caption 31, Deutsch mit Eylin: Umlaute - Part 1

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As you may have noticed, all of these words have the article das. While Mark Twain may have been quite critical of "the girl" having a neuter article rather than a feminine one, you have to admit it's quite convenient that they all follow the same pattern!


Further Learning
In addition to what you can find on Yabla German, there is a massive list of nouns that end with -chen on Wikipedia. Have a look! On Yabla, pay special attention to how the -chen ending is pronounced by native speakers, using the slow playback function if necessary. 

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Expressions using Tisch, Part II

In Part I of "Expressions using Tisch," we explored a number of German idioms that use the noun der Tisch. Let's take a look at some more of them today!


Wo ist denn der Herr Schöller? -Zu Tisch mit Herrn Fischer.

Where is Mr. Schöller? -Eating with Mr. Fischer.

Captions 26-27, Marga Engel schlägt zurück: Hochmut kommt vor dem Fall

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In the above example, the speaker dropped the verb, but the full sentence would read Herr Schöller ist zu Tisch mit Herrn Fischer.  The phrase zu Tisch sein could also be translated more literally as "at the table," but in German it is, perhaps even more so than in English, suggesting that they are eating a meal.



Dann ist das gleich vom Tisch.

Then it'll be resolved soon.

Caption 20, Lerchenberg: Sascha hautnah

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The phrase vom Tisch sein means "to resolve" something, whereas the English expression "off the table" means that something, such as an offer, is no longer valid or being considered. Beware of false friends!


Zwei Jahre hat der Bau gedauert und 1,4 Milliarden Euro hat Betreiber EnBW dafür auf den Tisch gelegt.

The construction lasted two years, and 1.4 billion euros is what the operator EnBW invested.

Captions 14-15, Windenergie Ostsee-Windpark: Baltic 2 speist Strom ins Netz ein

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If you were talking about business and said that an investor "laid 1.4 billion euros on the table," it would probably be understood, but for clarity it's best to translate auf den Tisch legen as "to invest."


Also würdest du mich jetzt hier ruhig unter den Tisch saufen können?

So, could you easily drink me under the table here now?

Caption 13, Schauspielerin: Jessica Schwarz

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This one is a double whammy since saufen (literally "to soak") is also slang. The slightly more polite version is unter den Tisch trinken, but that is easy, as the expression is identical in English!


Dann: „Jemanden über den Tisch ziehen“.

Then, "To take advantage of someone."

Caption 4, Nicos Weg: Bei uns oder bei euch?

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"To pull someone over the table" doesn't make much sense in English, though it doesn't sound like a very nice thing to do! As you see, jemanden über den Tisch ziehen means "to take advantage of someone."


Further Learning
Make up some new sentences using the expressions we just learned about and have your teacher or a fellow student check your work:


zu Tisch sein

vom Tisch sein

auf den Tisch legen

unter den Tisch trinken

über den Tisch ziehen


Afterwards go to Yabla German and watch the full videos above to see the context in which these expressions have been used.

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