One of the challenges in learning a language is making the right choice among words with similar meanings. Tun means “to do.” Simple enough, but another word means “to do” too. Machen basically means “to make,” and is very often used just like in English, but it also means “to do.” So which one do we use, and when? Usage changes from area to area and sometimes from generation to generation, but as a very general guide, if there is no particular object, machen and tun are usually interchangeable.
Piggeldy and Frederick happen to be talking about a sheep.
Es hat eben gesagt, was es den ganzen Tag tut.
It just said what it does the whole day.
Caption 33, Piggeldy und Frederick - Das SchafPlay Caption
Piggeldy could have said:
Es hat eben gesagt, was es den ganzen Tag macht.
It just said what it does the whole day.
And here, someone is suspected of cheating at German Monopoly:
Was machst du da an der Kasse?
What are you doing there at the cash register?
Caption 26, Monopoly - Geheime Tipps und TricksPlay Caption
He could have said:
Was tust du da an der Kasse?
What are you doing there at the cash register?
We've seen how machen and tun can be interchangeable. In practice, though, German speakers will use one over the other in a given situation. So pay attention. Little by little, you will start getting a feel for which one sounds more natural. The important thing is to know when machen and tun cannot replace each other.
When you are making an apology, go for tun.
Es tut mir sehr leid, dass ich dich danach gefragt habe.
I am very sorry that I asked you about it.
Caption 36, Piggeldy und Frederick - SprichwörterPlay Caption
When you accept an apology, you’ll use machen.
Das macht nichts.
It doesn’t matter.
When you want to explain that you’re busy, tun is the right verb to use:
Was willst du von mir? Ich hab' zu tun.
What do you want from me? I have [things] to do.
Caption 66, Alexander Hauff - Showreel - Part 2Play Caption
And pretending to do something is child’s play, as long as you remember to use tun!
Ich könnt' so tun, als ob ich dir zum Beispiel eine verpasse.
I could pretend, for example, as if I were to sock you one.Play Caption
Another suggestion: Think of a sentence using one or the other, like Was tust du denn so in deiner Freizeit? and Google it to see if and how many times it comes up. If you searched tun where most of the time machen is used, you will find that Google gives results for machen—the more commonly used word.
You may have come across the phrase “false friends” or “false cognates” (as they are more accurately known) during your language training. So what does it mean? It has nothing to do with disloyal friends, although linguistic false friends can also be treacherous. They are words that sound similar or are spelled identically but have different meanings in their respective language.
Here are some common German phrases with their English “false friend” below them.
Be careful what aktuell actually means:
German: aktuell – topical, current, up-to-date
English: actually – eigentlich, tatsächlich, wirklich
Denn eigentlich stammt es aus dem aktuellen Album der Rocksängerin.
Because it actually comes from the rock singer's current album.
Caption 9, Liza - Ein Lied für OpelPlay Caption
When Germans talk about the imminent future, you may think they're talking about someone's lack of hair:
German: bald – soon
English: bald – kahl
...die olympischen Winterspiele die bald in Vancouver stattfinden werden.
...the Winter Olympic Games that will soon take place in Vancouver.
Captions 2-3, Deutsche Sporthilfe - Ball des Sports - Part 2Play Caption
Watch what you give someone on their birthday!
German: das Gift – poison, venom
English: gift – das Geschenk
Sein Gift ist vergleichbar mit einem Bienenstich.
His poison is comparable to a bee sting.Play Caption
If you want to make a marriage proposal to a German, pay attention to how you ask...
German: sich engagieren – to be committed, get involved
English: to get engaged – sich verloben
Find' ich das immer gut, sich für solche Sachen zu engagieren.
I think [it's] always good to get involved in such things.
Caption 8, Luxuslärm - rockt gegen's SaufenPlay Caption
The winter is dragging on and spring seems a long way off, but we all know it will come eventually. However, confusing “eventually” with the German eventuell makes spring seem far less likely:
German: eventuell – possibly, perhaps
English: eventually – schließlich, endlich, irgendwann
Eventuell habe ich in der einen oder anderen Situation emotional überreagiert.
Possibly I overreacted emotionally in one or another situation.
Caption 28, Filmtrailer - KeinohrhasenPlay Caption
You may describe a horse as being brav, but this has nothing to do with being brave!
German: brav – well, well-behaved, dutifully
English: brave – mutig, tapfer
Die schönste Wiesnerfahrung? Dass immer die Pferdel [Pferdchen] brav gingen.
The best Oktoberfest experience? That the horses always went dutifully.
Caption 15, Oktoberfest München - Auf der Wiesn - Part 2Play Caption
As you can see, using “false friends” in the wrong context can be embarrassing, but most of the time it is just a funny mistake. However, you should try to learn these deceitful words to avoid any faux pas!
Did you know that the Beatles, owing in part to the time they spent in Hamburg at the start of their career, released a version of "She Loves You” in German? Its title is „Sie liebt dich“.
The German noun and verb for love (Liebe, lieben) are used with more variety of meaning than “love” in English. So, liebe (dear) Yabla subscribers, let’s see all of the different ways we can make love work for us in German!
As illustrated above, the adjective liebe/lieber (dear) is used as an informal form of address. We see this usage in the following Yabla video, starting at the very top: with God.
Du lieber Gott, welchen Weg müssten die denn abends zurücklegen, wenn Köln Gulu wäre?
Dear God, which way would they have to travel in the evening, if Cologne were Gulu [a city in Uganda]?
Caption 47, World Vision - Wolfgang NiedeckenPlay Caption
Working our way down from God to tattoo exhibitions, we find:
Liebe Zuschauer, es fand eine Tattoo-Ausstellung in Frankfurt im Hotel "Roomers" statt.
Dear viewers, a tattoo exhibition took place in Frankfurt at the Hotel Roomers.
Caption 1, Tätowierungen - Tattoo-AusstellungPlay Caption
If you would prefer your Liebe to mean more than merely "dear," listen to how Thomas uses a variation of the root word (lieb) to mean “rather” or “preferably”:
Aber ich glaube, ich nehm' mir lieber ein Taxi.
But I believe I'd rather take a taxi.
Caption 49, Melanie und Thomas - treffen sichPlay Caption
This can work to express superlative preferences as well:
Am liebsten vermutlich eine Sendung...
Most preferably, presumably, a broadcast...
Caption 54, Frauenfußball-WM - Der Bundespräsident am BallPlay Caption
If you prefer popularity to love, add the be- prefix for a refreshing change of meaning:
Orangensaft ist sehr beliebt in Deutschland.
Orange juice is very popular in Germany.
Caption 12, Jenny beim Frühstück - Teil 1Play Caption
Add -haber to lieb to stir up some enthusiasm:
Machst du ja auch Auftragswerke für Kunden oder für Interessent'... äh, Kunstliebhaber?
You also indeed do commissions for customers or for those interested... uh, art enthusiasts?
Caption 2, Lokalhelden - Art House - Part 2Play Caption
Liebhaber can also mean “lover” in the more intimate sense:
Tristan und Isolde waren Liebhaber.
Tristan and Isolda were lovers.
And in the end, it is best to make love, even while preparing for war:
In zwei Sekunden Frieden stiften, Liebe machen und Feind vergiften...
In two seconds make peace, make love, and poison the enemy...
Caption 3, Andreas Bourani - Alles nur in meinem KopfPlay Caption
So you see that in German, the word for “love” (Liebe) is the basis for a number of different expressions ranging from “dear” to “preferably” to “enthusiast” to the actual object of one’s desire.
The most typical New Year’s greeting in Germany is the slang phrase Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr! or simply Guten Rutsch! These can be translated literally as “A good slide into the New Year!” or “Good slide!”
Dann wünsch' ich euch schöne Weihnachten, 'nen [einen] guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr und viel Spaß beim Anschauen. Tschüß!
In which case I wish you [plural] a wonderful Christmas, a good slide to the new year and a lot of fun while watching. Bye!
Captions 84-85, Weihnachtsinterviews - Cettina in LinkenheimPlay Caption
The word Rutsch means a downward sliding movement, and the greetings are meant to convey a smooth transition into the New Year, though the origin of the phrase is still uncertain. Let’s have a look at the more ordinary ways Rutsch and rutschen are used.
In an interview, Germany’s top windsurf star, Bernd Flessner, is asked if he can get from Altenteil Halpen to the Lighthouse in einem Rutsch durch (in one go [literally “through in one slide”]). The answer? Yes!
In einem Rutsch durch? -In einem Rutsch.
In one go? [literally “through in one slide”] -In one go.
Caption 9, Das "Race around Fehmarn" - Neuer SurfrekordPlay Caption
A professor involves his talking pet bird named Dodo in demonstrating Newton's law of inertia using the “Dodomobil," (really just a shoebox). The verb rutschen (to slide or skid) is in more common usage than the noun Rutsch:
Dann... theoretisch, fährt dann das Dodomobil oder rutscht, besser gesagt... rutscht das Dodomobil unendlich weiter.
Then… theoretically, the Dodomobile then continues to drive... or slide, rather… the Dodomobile continues to slide infinitely.
Captions 38-39, Das 1. Newtonsche Gesetz - erklärt am Beispiel des DodomobilsPlay Caption
Piggeldy and Frederick are playing on a Rutschbahn (a slide):
„Richtig", schrie Frederick und rutschte die Rutschbahn hinunter.
"Right," shouted Frederick and slid down the slide.
Caption 36, Piggeldy und Frederick - SpielenPlay Caption
Watch out, Grandma! Here rutschen takes on another meaning:
Dann rutscht die Oma auf einer Bananenschale aus.
Then the grandmother slips on a banana peel.
Caption 13, Ivana erzählt Witze - Fritzle und die OmaPlay Caption
So whether you are sliding down a slide, sliding into the New Year, or slipping on a banana peel, understanding this versatile word can help you have a guten Rutsch ins Deutsch!
German has many colorful idioms and slang expressions, some of which closely parallel those in English but many of which have completely different meanings that are occasionally difficult to interpret. German idioms and slang expressions using the word Hund (dog) are plentiful and provide an interesting insight into the wide variety of German expressions.
Here are some examples using the word Hund which parallel the English:
Was kostet ein Hundeleben?
What does a dog's life cost? [Idiom: what is the price of living in poverty?]
Caption 1, Queensberry - gegen PelzPlay Caption
müde wie ein Hund sein (to be as tired as a dog)
treu wie ein Hund sein (to be as faithful as a dog)
jemanden wie einen Hund behandeln (to treat someone like a dog)
wie ein Hund leben / ein Hundeleben führen (to lead a dog’s life)
vor die Hunde gehen (to go to the dogs, to be faring poorly)
Ein toter Hund beißt nicht mehr. (Dead dogs don’t bite.)
Hunde, die bellen, beißen nicht. (Literally: Dogs that bark don’t bite; his bark is worse than his bite.)
Es hat keinen Sinn, schlafende Hunde zu wecken. (Literally: It makes no sense to wake sleeping dogs; let sleeping dogs lie.)
Other German slang and idiomatic usages of Hund are more difficult, since they have no direct parallel expressions in English:
Und genau hier liegt der Hund begraben.
And this is exactly where the dog is buried. [Idiom: And that is exactly the crux of the matter.]
Caption 35, Für Tierfreunde - Tierheim NiedPlay Caption
Here are some usages of Hund with no direct English parallels:
ein gemeiner Hund (literally: a mean dog; a mean person, a nasty piece of work)
kein Hund (nobody, no one)
armer Hund (literally: poor dog; poor devil, poor wretch)
jemanden auf den Hund bringen (literally: to bring someone to the dogs; to ruin someone’s health or nerves)
des Pudels Kern (literally: at the core of the poodle; at the crux of the matter) This phrase is from the classic German writer Goethe’s work Faust I: Mephistopheles.
Kein Hund nimmt von jemandem mehr einen Bissen Brot. (Literally: No dog takes a bite of bread from someone anymore; no one wants to know someone, no one wants anything to do with someone.)
Learning idiomatic and slang expressions is not only fun, but it also brings you closer to the culture whose language you are learning—and impresses native speakers. So don’t be a fauler Hund (lazy dog): use Yabla to improve your skills with idioms and slang!
While watching Yabla videos, especially interviews, you may well have noticed that German speakers love using the word eben. Used as an adjective, eben means “even” or “flat or level”; as an adverb it means “evenly.”
But there’s more to it. Let’s take a closer look!
Der kultivierte Camper ist eben anspruchsvoller geworden.
The cultivated camper has just become more discriminating.
Caption 5, Glamping - Camping mit StilPlay Caption
Eben is used in this video to emphasize the fact that there are some people who are used to high standards and will not be satisfied spending their holidays in a simple tent made of four poles and a piece of cloth (whereas others surely will!). People are different. Das ist eben so! (That’s just the way it is!) So the example of eben in this video is used in the sense of “just"or “simply.”
In Unser Universum: Der tiefste Blick ins All, we learn that eben also means ”exactly” or "precisely":
Was wir oder unsere Teleskope sehen, ist das Licht, das von eben diesem Himmelskörper ausgeht.
What we or our telescopes are seeing is the light that radiates exactly from this heavenly body.
Captions 35-36, Unser Universum - Der tiefste Blick ins AllPlay Caption
Eben can also describe something that has happened just now:
Marco du hast eben schon aufgelegt.
Marco you just DJed.
Caption 2, Big City Beats - DJ Marco PetraliaPlay Caption
Sicher ist es nicht eben einfach (of course it’s not exactly easy) to implement eben correctly in your conversation right away, but as with everything: Übung macht eben den Meister! (practice just makes perfect!). So why not start right now and create three sentences in which eben is used as “exactly,” another three in which it is used as “just,” and three more in which it has the meaning of “just now.”
Das ist eben der Film, den wir gestern in der Vorschau gesehen haben.
That’s exactly the movie we saw yesterday in the preview.
Ich esse eben gerne mein Frühstück im Bett.
I just love having my breakfast in bed.
Ich bin eben am Flughafen angekommen.
I have just arrived at the airport.
Viel Spaß! (Have fun!)
Gehen means "to go," rennen means "to run." But what is laufen all about? Laufen can mean all of the above! It means "to walk", "to run," or simply "to go." Note that its noun form, das Laufen, is neuter (in fact, all noun forms of verb infinitives are neuter), and means "a race" or "racing."
In Jan Wittmer: Ich laufe (Tim Bendzko), we have an example where laufen has the meaning of "to run":
Und ich laufe
And I run
Ich laufe davon
I run from it
Und ich laufe
And I run
So schnell und so weit ich kann
As fast and as far as I can
Captions 6-9, Jan Wittmer - Ich laufe (Tim Bendzko)Play Caption
In this video, Jan Wittmer sings over and over again the line Ich laufe davon. He is running away. He is not just walking, he is running as schnell (fast) and as weit (far) as he can.
You would say Ich laufe jeden Tag ins Büro (I walk to the office every day) if you wanted to use laufen in the sense of walking. Surely you do not run to the office every day in your suit and high heels, with your laptop tucked under your arm, unless you overslept or your profession happens to involve Marathon laufen!
On the other hand, let's say you're in a singles bar looking for the perfect partner, like Tanya and Sandra in RheinMain Szene - Singles der Woche. You might be tempted to say something along the lines of:
Also, mit ein Meter sechsundsiebzig ist es nicht so einfach. Hier laufen so viele kleine Männer rum.
Well, being one meter seventy-six is not so easy. Here there are a lot of short men walking around.
Caption 34, rheinmain Szene - Singles der WochePlay Caption
So if you want to start using laufen in conversation, just pay attention to the pace you want to emphasize.
Wir drücken dir die Daumen, dass alles gut läuft beim Lernen mit Yabla!
We're crossing our fingers that everything goes well with Yabla learning!
After you’ve established a firm grip on a useful German verb, take the next step. For instance, you’re stuck in traffic. Put the time to good use by composing a simple sentence using the verb in the present tense. (One immediately comes to mind: Ich laufe davon.) Now alter the same sentence, changing its verb tense only, and see how many sentences you can come up with. It’s an ambitious goal, but getting comfortable with all 12 German tenses won’t happen overnight. So let’s get crackin’! No, seriously, think about it: when speaking your own language, notice how often and effortlessly you shift from one tense to another within a single conversation. When you get back home, check your results in Baron’s 501 German Verbs, a must-have for any aspiring German speaker, or click here for a useful website about verbs.
In the lesson on The Many Ways to say "Well" we covered one way to sound more like a German speaker. This time we'll talk about another: using slang or colloquial language. Tschüss (bye) is a good example of this. It's an informal way of saying goodbye and in many situations of even passing familiarity, it's how people part.
Let's look at some more slang you can sprinkle into your German speech.
In the following example, we learn that:
Die Catwalks der Welt sind voll von schicken und vor allem nicht ganz billigen Klamotten.
The catwalks of the world are full of chic and, above all, not exactly inexpensive clothing.Play Caption
Klamotten is a very common colloquialism for "clothing." As with all such words, you might use it with a hip store clerk or a friend, but not with a complete stranger or even a less familiar coworker.
Another common slang word is blau, meaning "drunk":
Ich find' diese Aktion "bunt statt blau" total wichtig.
I think this campaign "Colorful Instead of Blue [Drunk]" is totally important.
Caption 3, Luxuslärm - rockt gegen's SaufenPlay Caption
Slang can vary greatly according to region. The word Kiez, used in the following example, is fairly specific to Berlin, where it means a small, cohesive neighborhood. It is also used in Hamburg, and to a lesser extent in Hannover, where it is suggestive of prostitution. By contrast, it is entirely unfamiliar in most of southern Germany.
Gitarrist Jürgen Ehle wohnt seit fünfundzwanzig Jahren in dem Kiez und schwelgt in Erinnerungen.
Guitarist Jürgen Ehle has lived for twenty-five years in the neighborhood, and luxuriates in memories.
Captions 3-4, Pankow - Rolling Stones des OstensPlay Caption
That just about wraps things up for now. Tschüss and till next time!
Getting frustrated with the pace of your learning? Try this fun exercise. Watch a video that is a level of difficulty higher than usual and then go back to one you had to work particularly at to master. You will find that you have come a longer distance than you had thought.
Sounding like a native speaker in a newly acquired language can be tricky. There are all of those grammar rules and new vocabulary words and social conventions to be considered. One way you can make yourself sound more like a German speaker is by learning some of the common “filler” words people use in conversation. The word “well” is such a word in English. Let's learn some equivalent words a German speaker might use.
Here are two variations on ja (yes) which are used in this way:
Tja, was hat das mit Hollywood zu tun?
Well, what does this have to do with Hollywood?
Caption 6, Fastnacht - Karneval - Quartier LatinPlay Caption
Na ja, das is' halt mein Titel, ja.
Well, that is just my title, yes.Play Caption
Deciding whether to use tja or na ja is a bit of an art, but you can think of it this way: tja might also be translated as "hmm" or "let me think"; na ja might be translated as "you know."
Also, which is commonly used to mean “therefore” or “so,” often finds its way into conversations like this one:
Also, wir waren schon damals eigentlich...
Well, we were already back then actually...Play Caption
When used as a filler, also is generally applied for one of two reasons. In the example above, it is used because the speaker is thinking back or reminiscing. It can also serve to add emphasis or impact to a declarative statement, like this one about a subject of controversy:
Also, da scheiden sich die Geister.
Well, here the spirits divide [opinions differ].
Caption 13, Fastnacht - Karneval - Quartier LatinPlay Caption
Well, that's it for now!
Trying to learn how to pronounce German? Go through a video that is short and sweet at least two or three times. Then practice saying the things that are said by the participants of the video. Take turns speaking each individual participant, so that you start to get the hang of some of the nuance of tone and pronunciation.
English speakers learning the word wenn for the first time often find the parallels to “when” helpful at first. But wenn can also mean "if." For example, a German child pleading for something and promising to be good in return can expect to hear:
Wenn das Wörtchen wenn nicht wär, wär mein Vater Millionär.
If the word "if" did not exist, my father would be a millionaire.
This is comparable to the English expression "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride" and can be translated more idiomatically as "When pigs fly."
While the uses of wenn in German are varied, it is most commonly used in such simple cases as:
Ich habe kein Geld, wenn ich Dinge einkaufe.
I have no money if I buy things.
Caption 40, Deutschkurs in Tübingen - Die Konjunktion "wenn"Play Caption
The German use of wenn... dann is also parallel to the English “if... then.” We see this in the following example.
Aber auch wenn die Zeit noch 'n bisschen schwierig ist,
dann nimmt man sich gern zu Hause 'n bisschen Ablenkung davon...
But even if time[s] are still a little bit difficult,
then one gladly takes a little bit of distraction from it at home...
Captions 7-8, Auftrumpfen - Mit Kitsch und ProtzPlay Caption
Sometimes wenn really does mean "when":
Und der, wenn er wild wird, uns Sand in die Augen weht.
And the one that, when he becomes wild, blows sand into our eyes.
Caption 17, Piggeldy und Frederick - Der WindPlay Caption
So now you see that that Wenn das Wörtchen wenn nicht wär, there would be quite a few things you'd have trouble expressing!
When going through your videos, pay particular attention to a specific aspect of the language, such as a tense, a part of speech (such as the wenn above) or a tricky bit of vocabulary. And then reward yourself by watching one of the fun episodes to allow your mind to process.
It's important to know how to address people. In the following example, an interviewer asks the host of the fashion show, Floria, Princess of Hesse, how she is to be properly addressed:
...also das ganz Korrekte ist „Königliche Hoheit".
...that is, the really correct [way] is "Royal Highness".Play Caption
Germans have a reputation for formal address. Traditionally, even co-workers of many years always addressed each other in the formal second person (Sie) and used both formal titles (Herr Doktor) and the person's last name. Anyone who has watched "The Sound of Music" knows that young ladies are to be addressed as Fräulein.
All of these things have changed a great deal in the past twenty years, and it is now much more common to address even a band you've never met before, as in the following example, in the informal second person (du or ihr, not Sie), or at least only use their first and last name without a formal title.
Und, äh, ihr habt ja auch was mitgebracht...
And, uh, you have also brought something along...
Caption 8, Undertube - Jeans TeamPlay Caption
The way of distinguishing between married and unmarried young women has all but disappeared, so if you meet a woman for the first time it is always appropriate to address her with Frau and her last name. Even Princess Floria concludes her thoughts on the topic, which began this lesson, by saying that the formal mode of address would be inappropriate in this context.
...aber das ist, glaub' ich, etwas fehl am Platz.
...but that is, I believe, somewhat out of place.Play Caption
It is still most polite to wait to be offered the informal (du) if the person you are meeting is your senior or in a position of authority.
Remember that while Sie sounds like the third person feminine or third person plural (sie), it is distinguished from them by always being capitalized. Also, it is conjugated like the third person plural (Sie/sie haben), not the second or third person singular (du hast or sie hat).
When learning a new vocabulary noun, memorize the definite article (der, die, das) along with the vocabulary word itself. That way you won't have to figure out what the grammatical gender is when it comes time to use it.
Inseparable Verbs: verbs with an unstressed prefix that are not separated when used in a sentence, e.g. beschreiben, erfinden, entspannen.
As Piggeldy and Frederick stroll down country roads in Das Fernweh (the yen for faraway places) Piggeldy gushes at the way his brother Frederick has aptly described this unknown concept.
So schön kann nur mein lieber Bruder Frederick 'Fernweh' beschreiben.
Only my dear brother Frederick could describe 'fernweh' so beautifully.
Caption 36, Piggeldy und Frederick - Das FernwehPlay Caption
Beschreiben (to describe) is the inseparable verb in our example and if we subtract the prefix be- it becomes schreiben (to write).
Different prefixes alter or change the meaning of their respective unadorned infinitives or root words, which may even be other parts of speech. See this list:
Be-: often makes a transitive verb from an intransitive verb, e.g. siegen (to win) vs. besiegen (to defeat)
Er-: tends to relate to creative processes, e.g. erfinden (to invent), erörtern (to discuss)
Ent-: usually describes processes of removing, e.g. entfernen (to remove), entführen (to kidnap)
Zer-: is used for destructive actions, e.g. zerstören (to destroy), zerdrücken (to crush, to mash)
To put this rough rubric into practice, let's look at another inseparable verb in one of our clips. Reporter Raudy, from the trendy magazine RheinMain Szene, tells recording artist "Der Graf" (the Count) to relax, when the Count admits that at times he still experiences stage fright.
Echt? Entspann dich doch! Ich bitte dich!
Really? Hey, relax! I'm asking you!
Caption 7, rheinmain Szene - Unheilig - „Der Graf“Play Caption
As we can see from the list above, the inseparable prefix ent- reverses a process in place. In this last example, it "loosens the strings" of the Count’s tightly strung psyche, hence entspannen means “to relax.
Review the lesson Separable or not separable... that is the question!, and then test yourself with this exercise on separable and inseparable verbs.
Pick out a troublesome German phoneme, like the pesky R-sound. Create a word set by selecting only words that have this phoneme, whether in the initial or intermediate position. Then go back to the newly created word set and practice those words. Don’t be discouraged if you find progress slow in coming. It takes time, effort, continuous monitoring, and even trial and error, before you get it all right. When you meet a German who can no longer immediately peg your land of origin you’ll be glad you made the effort!
Separable Verbs: verbs with a stressed prefix, that are separated when used in a sentence
i.e. mitkommen, mitfeiern, einladen
In each and every episode, we've all come to almost know by heart Frederick's blustery invitation to his younger brother, spoken as our beloved porcine brothers embark upon another stroll in the country. Let's all chime in with Frederick…
"Come with me."
Caption 5, Piggeldy und Frederick - LangeweilePlay Caption
Mitkommen means "to come" or "to come along." The prefix mit- is stressed which indicates that it is a separable prefix verb. Notice in this present tense construction: the verb is in the second position and the separable prefix is at the end. Here the German appears benignly analogous to our English. However, Vorsicht! Don't be lulled to sleep.
In this next clip that reports the celebration of World Pi Day, notice what happens when additional information is included in the predicate.
Da feierst du jetz' auch nich' mit beim Welt-Pi-Tag, oder?
Now you also don't celebrate along on World Pi Day or [do you]?
Caption 67, Welt-Pi-Tag - Unser Leben mit der KreiszahlPlay Caption
Where does the additional information, (namely... jetzt, auch, nicht) appear? Richtig! It is sandwiched between the conjugated verb and the prefix.
This is also the case for einladen (to invite):
Heute lade ich alle meine Freunde zu mir nach Hause ein.
Today I will invite all of my friends to my home.
The prefixes of separable verbs are, by and large, prepositions or adverbs, but sometimes even verbs or nouns, all meaning that they are independent words. And, since no one is born a master, you can learn more about separable verbs here and here.
To practise recognizing separable verbs, select 3 clips. Watch each with both captions on. Pause and analyze the sentences which you think might contain a separable verb. Pay close attention to the correct pronunciation of the verb. Use the loop function of the Yabla Player to listen to it repeatedly and say the infinitive out loud, stressing the prefix, until you get it right. Do this exercise for all 3 clips (add more if necessary)! This will help you differentiate between stressed and unstressed prefixes and any remaining "separation anxiety" will end in smoke.
Modal or "flavoring" particles: words used in colloquial speech indicating a certain attitude of the speaker
schon, ja, halt
Although Germans have a fondness for foreign cuisine, they will always stay faithful to their Currywurst (curried sausage). There are an estimated 2,000 sausage stands in Berlin and even a museum solely dedicated to this popular German snack. Berliner Frank Spieß, owner of the unique sausage stand "Curry and Chili," offers 12! levels of spiciness, emphatically ensuring that some, indeed, like it hot!
Also, die Leute haben schon, äh, Spaß daran.
So, the people indeed have, uh, fun with it.
Caption 48, Currywurst - Berlins schärfstes StückPlay Caption
As a modal particle the word schon (in bold) means "indeed" as opposed to the literal meaning "already" when used as an adverb.
Ich bin schon ein Fußballfan, aber kein eingefleischter.
I am indeed a soccer fan but not a die-hard one.
By adding a ja to her sentence, Eva, who takes us on a tour through Berlin's Viktoriapark, implies that it's well-known that the Kreuzberg ("cross hill") isn't really that high with its modest 66 meters.
Das ist ja nicht besonders groß.
That isn't particularly tall.
Caption 14, Berlin - Eva im ViktoriaparkPlay Caption
Halt is another very commonly used modal particle which can be translated as "just", "simply" or "as a matter of fact." Drummer Thomas Holtgreve of German band Frida Gold uses it to add accent, attitude and emphasis.
Ein bisschen auf die Spitze getrieben halt, so.
Just pushed it a little bit to the extreme, so.
Caption 18, Frida Gold - Making of „Zeig mir, wie du tanzt“Play Caption
In conclusion, modal particles are uninflected parts of speech used to convey impatience, surprise, disbelief, or urgency along with the statement. Try them out and give your next conversation "auf Deutsch" an authentic, casual feel.
If you want to fine tune your understanding of modal particles go to the Videos tab on german.yabla.com and enter the modal particle you want to practice into the search box. All videos containing said particle will appear. Focus only on watching those clips and your understanding of informal German along with the selected modal particles is sure to improve.
True friends: word pairs in two languages that look or sound similar, AND share a common meaning
The lesson Beware of False Friends! showed that German words that have similar sounding and written English counterparts aren't what one might take them for, at first glance.
The good news is that there are hundreds of these jewels, the so-called "true friends," lying about in plain sight. Yours for the taking! After studying articles and tenses for countless hours, what a welcome change! They are, indeed, "true friends" to the savvy German learner who is bound and determined to keep his eyes peeled for them, ready to pocket them and place them in the strongbox of his Wortschatz (vocabulary, literally "treasury of words"). In the text below are some dead reliable "true friends."
German children lernen (learn) from early on, that at bedtime der Sandmann (the Sandman) comes around with his bag of sand to tell a story and then sprinkle Sand (sand) in their eyes, which is said to make them sleepy. The stories of pig brothers Piggeldy and Frederick form a part of this collection. In every episode Piggeldy asks his older brother a question which they then try to explore together. The questions revolve around the simplest of matters, around almost philosophische Konzepte (philosophical concepts) like rain, the sky, tidying up...
In the following example you can see that "true friends" do, in fact, contribute to sentence comprehension.
Sie liefen eine Weile durchs Moor.
They walked a while through the moor.
Caption 7, Piggeldy und Frederick - RegenPlay Caption
For more examples of true friends, please go here.
Have you noticed that every clip features the speech rate under the Videos tab of our German Yabla site? If not, go to the Vocab tab (which you will find on the Videos page below each clip). In addition to a vocabulary list for the clips, you will also find the speech rate at the top.
As a rule, pick videos with a speech rate that is right for your level and stick with it until you feel comfortable increasing it. If you feel up to the challenge, try a couple of clips out of your comfort zone with higher speech rates and see how much content you can glean intuitively. You may be pleasantly surprised.
False Friends: word pairs in two languages that look or sound similar, but differ in meaning.
Have a look at the text below about the video Balztanz: für Fortgeschrittene, which includes a few false friends in German (in bold italics) and see if you can determine their true meaning in English!
A recent study investigating male dance moves that catch a woman's eye has shown that certain dance moves executed by men are more likely to grab women's attention than others. Neither robot impersonation and windmill-like flailing of the arms nor dezente dance moves (...noch dezente Tanzbewegungen...) set female hearts racing! Men might sich auch blamieren if they dance in circles (Männer könnten sich auch blamieren, wenn sie im Kreis tanzen.)
If they, however, emphasized upper body movement, paid attention to the right action in the left shoulder, the neck and the right knee and incorporated variety into their dance patterns they might bekommen what they are after ( ...könnten sie bekommen, was sie suchen). This just leaves one question open: Which traits lie hidden behind those moves?
Consider an example from one of our videos.
Bitte, seien Sie jetzt ganz still.
Please, be completely silent now.
Caption 60, Magie - Die ZaubershowPlay Caption
Pick two to three clips from one category, e.g. food, which discuss the same or a similar subject. Watch them in ascending order according to their level of difficulty. While watching you will notice that some of the vocabulary is the same. This exercise will enhance your contextual understanding, as well as, reinforce familiar words, consolidate your grasp of newer words and improve your listening skills.
At Easter time in (in) Germany, außer (aside from) the popular Easter egg hunt, there are also old Easter customs. My grandmother always used to tell me that young women would go to a brook am (on the) Eve of Easter Sunday and trickle water über (over) themselves. Durch (By) this practice they hoped to attain and preserve beauty. The catch was that they were not allowed to utter a single word auf (on) their journey. Whether or not it is true remains a mystery. I hope you all had a Happy Easter!
Now for something completely different. What comes to mind when you hear words like construction waste, scrap iron, sheet metal, etc.? ...Scrapyard!
Swiss musicians Bubble Beatz recycle and collect such items and incorporate them in (into) their so called "Trash Machine." Going unter (by) the name of "most attractive scrap heap von der (of) Switzerland", Bubble Beatz jump herum (around) and deliver a wild, sweat-inducing performance mit (with) elements of house, industrial and drum 'n bass auf (on) said Machine.
So prepositions are on the menu today! Those essential little words that usually introduce prepositional phrases to indicate the relation between things in a sentence.
Take a look at a few examples:
Im Augenblick mit ihrer "Trash Machine" auf Deutschland-Tour.
At the moment with their "Trash Machine" on Germany tour.
Caption 4, Bubble Beatz - Supertalente vom SchrottplatzPlay Caption
Some prepositions are identical in German and in English. But others just make us want to tear our hair out.
Ich hab' gesucht und gesucht
I've searched and searched
In den hintersten Ecken
In the furthest back corners
Nach Augen, die mich interessieren
For eyes that interest me
Captions 28-30, Frida Gold - Wovon sollen wir träumenPlay Caption
Das Tier um die Beine geschlungen und dann Kopf an Kopf posieren.
The animal looped around the legs and then posing head to head.Play Caption
Choose a clip according to your level of proficiency. While watching it, click on the words whose meaning you’re unsure of. After watching the clip, access your flashcards by clicking the Flashcard tab. All the words that you clicked have been compiled into sets. Review your flashcard set. Now watch the clip again. Has your listening comprehension improved? Finally, speaking aloud in German, recount what you saw and heard in the clip. Summarize the gist. Try using words you’ve just learned. At first, this will seem difficult. But over time you’ll be amazed at your increased fluency!
I invite you to take a journey with me back to the Middle Ages. At the Medieval Christmas Market, soul-snatcher Markus lures us to abandon ourselves to the vice of gambling. Of course, there is a reward involved!
Für jeden Mitspieler gibt es einen Edelstein des immerwährenden Glückes.
For every player there is a precious stone of everlasting happiness.
Caption 9, Mittelalterlicher Markt - MäuseroulettePlay Caption
What makes this precious stone so enticing? The aspect that it's immerwährend, right? Immerwährendes Glück is something everyone dreams of. When you use compound adjectives you can include additional information in a sentence and still keep it compact. They prevent you from having to write lengthy versions like ...einen Edelstein des Glückes, das immer währt. This clause is grammatically correct and has the same meaning. (There is another compound adjective hidden in the above clip. See if you can find it!)
Compare the sentence lengths of the German and English clauses below.
Diesmal mit systemkonformen Kunstwerken.
This time with artworks in conformity with the system.Play Caption
The words in bold emphasize clearly that compound adjectives can shorten a German sentence without having to omit any wanted information.
Have you seen and spoken this tongue-twister before? Kohlpechrabenschwarz (coal-pitch raven-black). If you haven't, try saying it just for fun! This compound adjective emphasizes the absolute blackness of something. So compound adjectives are also used to intensify and creatively underscore a noun's attributes in ways that one of the off-the-shelf variety cannot achieve.
Note: If you're searching for the definition of an adjective and aren't getting results, it may be a compound. In this case, break it into its component parts and search their meanings individually.
Set small, achievable short-term goals. While watching the videos:
Finally, if progress is slow, keep at it. Take the long view. Recall where you started and how far you've come. Always bear in mind that learning a second language is a life-long endeavor that will enrich your life for years to come!