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Ein Mann will nach oben

There are a number of ways to indicate that something is going "up" in German, but today let's take a look at the prepositional phrase nach oben, which can be translated into English in a number of ways, depending on the context. Let's take a look at some different interpretations of the phrase in German Yabla videos.

 

Vielleicht halten Sie's grad so ein bisschen nach oben.    
Maybe you could hold it up a little bit.
Caption 29, Fußball: Torwandschießen

 

… dass ein unsichtbarer Faden am Kopf den ganzen Körper nach oben zieht.
… that an invisible thread on top of your head is pulling the whole body upward.
Caption 15, Flirt-Coach-Serie: Die richtige Körpersprache

 

Das war ein langer Weg nach oben.
It was a long way to the top.
Caption 3, Preisverleihung: Bestes Magazin

 

Nach oben sind dem Preis keine Grenzen gesetzt.
No price limits are set at the top.
Caption 13, Highend-Fashion aus dem Kloster: Ein Mönch als Maßschneider

 

Als der Frosch nach oben in ihr Bett getragen werden wollte …    
When the Frog wanted to be carried upstairs to her bed …
Caption 57, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Der Froschkönig

 

In the examples above, you see nach oben used to mean "up," "upward," "to the top," "at the top," and "upstairs." Note that when you say in German that you are going upstairs, it is more common to simply say you are going nach oben than to use the more literal die Treppe hinaufgehen.

 

The prepositional phrase nach oben also has a number of idiomatic usages: 

 

Das heißt natürlich nicht, dass hier alle Leute die Nase nach oben tragen.
Of course, that doesn't mean that all the people here put their noses up
Caption 5, Rhein-Main-TV: Badesee Rodgau

 

Die Nase nach oben tragen means "to be conceited."

 

Es gibt noch Potential nach oben.
There is still upward potential.
Caption 21, Rhein-Main-TV: Green-Region-Konferenz zur Nachhaltigkeit

 

And here, Potential nach oben means there is room for improvement.

 

Ein Mann will nach oben is the title of a novel by Hans Fallada, whose final novel from 1947, Jeder stirbt für sich allein (English title: "Alone in Berlin"), became a surprise bestseller in its English translation in 2009. Ein Mann will nach oben was made into a 13-part TV film in 1978.

 

Ein Mann will nach oben.    
A man wants to move up.
Caption 1, Mathieu Carriere: Ein Mann will nach oben

 

Further Learning
Do a search for nach oben on Yabla German and see some more examples of how this phrase is used in German in a real world context! 

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Like totally whatever...

Let's take a break this week from the downward spiral of dismal news reports and have a look at something that's, like, totally whatever. The English interjection "whatever" can be rendered as the German phrase wie auch immer, which directly translates to the rather clumsy sounding "as always too." 

 

Na ja, gut, wie auch immer. Wie auch immer.
Well, good, whatever. Whatever.
Captions 17-18, Warten auf: Rihanna

 

If the interjection "whatever" is used in a disparaging way, however, to mean "I don't care" or "it doesn't matter," then there is a somewhat less than entirely polite solution: 

 

… mit oder ohne Bindestrich, scheißegal!
… with or without the dash, whatever!
Caption 82, Frankfurter Oktoberfest: Dirndl und Lederhosen

 

The English pronoun "whatever" is usually simply rendered with the German was

 

Man kann machen und tun, was man will.
You can make and do whatever you want.
Caption 20, Abenteuer und Sport: Fallschirmspringen

 

The English adjective "whatever" has several possible translations in German: 

 

In welchen Höhen und welchen Tiefen wir gemeinsam waren...
In whatever ups and whatever downs we were in together...
Caption 11: Die Toten Hosen: Altes Fieber

 

Egal, wo ich hingekommen bin, in irgendein Auto eingestiegen bin, lief immer FFH.
No matter where I went, or whatever car I got inside of, FFH was always playing.
Caption 8, Formel-1-Rennfahrer: Timo Glock

 

The more common translation of welche is "which," and irgendein is usually rendered as "any" or "some," but those would not have worked very well in the examples above. As always with translations, the most important consideration is the context.

 

Further Learning
Do a search for the word "whatever" on Yabla German and see the many examples of how this word is used in German in a real world context! 

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Ruf die Polizei!

Not to be alarmist, but with police troubles in the USA and the rest of the troubles around the world, this might be a good time to note that although the noun "the police" is always plural in English, the noun die Polizei is dealt with quite differently in German.

 

Die Polizei ermittelt wegen Hausfriedensbruch.
The police are investigating because of trespassing.
Caption 12, Atomkraft: Streit um AKW-Laufzeiten

 

Ruh dich aus, bis die Polizei kommt.
Relax until the police come.
Caption 15, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor

 

Die Polizei sprach von hunderttausend Menschen.    
The police spoke of one hundred thousand people.
Caption 4, Papst Benedikt: Erster Rücktritt eines Papstes in der Neuzeit

 

In English, there is no singular for the noun "the police", but in the German die Polizei, there is no plural noun form. As you can see in the above examples: die Polizei ermittelt, die Polizei kommt, and die Polizei sprach, the conjugations of the verbs used reflect a singular noun.

 

Further Learning
Do a search for the noun Polizei on Yabla German and see the many examples of how this word is used in German in a real world context! 

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The German Perspective on the Brexit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave an important speech before the German Bundestag (Parliament) on June 28, giving a clear summary of the German perspective on the recent British referendum to leave the European Union. For those of you who don't yet subscribe to Yabla, we are publishing an excerpt of her speech here as an example of the kind of content that you can have access to by subscribing. For Yabla subscribers, it's a great way to view this excerpt of her speech in its entirety.

 

Nach Artikel 50 der Europäischen Verträge 
According to Article 50 of the European Treaties,
hat Großbritannien formal den Europäischen Rat darüber zu unterrichten,
Great Britain must formally inform the European Council
dass es seine Mitgliedschaft beenden möchte.
that it would like to end its membership.
Nach diesem Antrag werden die 27 anderen Mitgliedsstaaten
After this request, the 27 other member countries will specify
die in Artikel 50, Absatz 2, der Europäischen Verträge erwähnten Leitlinien
the guidelines—mentioned in Article 50, paragraph 2 of the European treaties
des Europäischen Rates für die Verhandlungen festlegen.
of the European Council—for the negotiations.
Und nach der Festlegung dieser Leitlinien können die Verhandlungen beginnen,
And after the establishment of these guidelines, the negotiations can begin,
nicht vorher, weder formell noch informell.
not before, neither formally nor informally.
Um es klipp und klar zusammenzufassen: Wir nehmen zur Kenntnis, dass Großbritannien
To summarize it in plain language: We acknowledge that Great Britain
einen Antrag gemäß Artikel 50 der EU-Verträge noch nicht stellen will,
does not yet want to submit a request in accordance with Article 50 of the EU Treaties
und Großbritannien seinerseits muss zur Kenntnis nehmen,
and Great Britain must for its part acknowledge
dass es keine wie auch immer gearteten Verhandlungen oder
that there can and will be no negotiations or
Vorgespräche geben kann und wird, solange der Antrag
preliminary discussions whatsoever as long as the motion in accordance
nach Artikel 50 nicht gestellt wurde, weder formell noch informell.
with Article 50 has not been submitted, neither formal nor informal.
Und ich kann unseren britischen Freunden nur raten, sich hier nichts vorzumachen
And I can only advise our British friends not to have any misconceptions
bei den notwendigen Entscheidungen, die in Großbritannien getroffen werden müssen.
regarding the necessary decisions that must be reached in Great Britain.
Sobald beziehungsweise erst wenn der Antrag gemäß Artikel 50
As soon as, or respectively, only when the motion in accordance with Article 50
der EU-Verträge vorliegt, beginnt eine zweijährige Frist für die Verhandlungen.
of the EU Treaties is submitted, will a two year period for the negotiations begin.
Diese Frist kann verlängert werden, und zwar wieder nur durch einen einstimmigen Beschluss.
This time period can be extended and only—indeed once again—through a unanimous ruling.
An ihrem Ende wird eine Vereinbarung über die genauen Einzelheiten
At its end, an arrangement about the exact details
des Austritts Großbritanniens aus der Europäischen Union stehen.
of Great Britain's exit from the European Union will be produced.
Solange die Verhandlungen laufen, bleibt Großbritannien Mitglied der Europäischen Union.
As long as the negotiations are in progress, Great Britain will remain a member of the European Union.
Alle Rechte und Pflichten, die sich aus dieser Mitgliedschaft ergeben,
All rights and obligations that result from this membership
sind bis zum tatsächlichen Austritt vollständig zu achten und einzuhalten,
are, until the actual exit, to be completely respected and complied with,
und das gilt für beide Seiten gleichermaßen.
and that applies for both sides equally.
Captions 1-25, Brexit-Votum: Merkel warnt vor Spaltung Europa

 

Further Learning
Do a search on Yabla German for some of the bureaucratic terms in Merkel's speech that you may be less familiar with to see the words used in other contexts. Here is a list to start with: der Antrag, der Beschluss, die Frist, der Mitgliedsstaat, die Verhandlung, die Vereinbarung. You can also read Chancellor Merkel's entire speech here. If you have not yet subscribed to Yabla German, try these sample videos to see how our language learning system works! 

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German Bank Accounts

If you are planning a longer-term stay in Germany to study or just to live, you may want to familiarize yourself with some of the typical terms used when banking in Germany. Our latest Yabla video Eva erklärt Bankkonten does just that!  

 

Damit man dieses Geld auch bekommt, benötigt man ein Bankkonto beziehungsweise ein Girokonto.
In order to also receive this money, you need a bank account or respectively a checking account.
Captions 7-8, Eva erklärt: Bankkonten

 

Terms: das Bankkonto, das Girokonto

 

Um das Konto einzurichten, benötigt die Bank eine Anmeldebestätigung des Bürgeramtes.    
In order to set up the account, the bank needs a confirmation of registration from the municipal office.
Captions 15-16, Eva erklärt: Bankkonten

 

Terms: die Anmeldebestätigung, das Bürgeramt

 

Wenn man das möchte, kann man bei der Bank auch einen Dispositionskredit beantragen.
If you would like, you can also apply for a credit line at the bank.
Captions 20-21, Eva erklärt: Bankkonten

 

Term: der Dispositionskredit

 

Mit dieser kann man Geld abheben, Kontoauszüge holen und beim Einkaufen bezahlen.
With this, you can withdraw money, get bank statements, and pay when shopping.
Captions 26-27, Eva erklärt: Bankkonten

 

Terms: abheben, der Kontoauszug

 

Further Learning
Do a search on Yabla German for more terms related to opening a bank account and familiarize yourself with any terms you may not know. Here is a list to start with: die Bankgebühr, die Bankkarte, die Filiale, der Geldautomat, die Geldkarte, das Guthaben, die Hypothek, die Kreditwürdigkeit, der Personalausweis, der Reisepass. 

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Getting German Citizenship

The German media has been reporting a sharp rise in applications from Brits in Germany seeking German citizenship, because as long as their application is made before Britain officially leaves the European Union, they will be able to retain their British passport. Once the Brexit is finalized, however, British citizens applying for German citizenship may have to give up their British citizenship to do so—an understandably difficult decision. 

 

Yabla is introducing the first installment of a new six part series this week with sample questions from the naturalization test required by the German government. The test is drawn from a total of 310 questions, ten of them specific to the state in which you are applying. But don't worry, they randomly draw a total of only 33 questions from the 310 for the test, and you only have to get 17 (or about 52%) of them correct. Today we can go through some German terms related to citizenship issues.

 

Heute geht es um den deutschen Einbürgerungstest.
Today we're talking about the German naturalization test.
Caption 2, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest

 

From der Bürger (citizen) you get die Einbürgerung (naturalization). 

 

Wann kann in Deutschland eine Partei verboten werden? -Wenn sie gegen die Verfassung kämpft.
When can a political party become banned in Germany? -When it strives against the constitution.
Captions 6-7, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest

 

Was ist mit dem deutschen Grundgesetz vereinbar? -Die Geldstrafe.
What is compatible with the German constitution? -Monetary penalties [fines].
Captions 17-18, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest

 

Here you see two common words for the constitution: die Verfassung and das Grundgesetz. In Germany, the concept of freedom of speech is, unlike that in the United States, defined in the constitution to forbid any speech which is hostile to democratic ideals or expresses hatred of people based on their nationality, race, or religion. The latter is a felony crime called die Volksverhetzung or "incitement to hatred" in the official government translation. It is also a serious crime in Germany to give a so-called Hitler salute with the right arm upraised, even in jest. A Canadian tourist found this out the hard way some years ago and had to pay a stiff fine.

 

Was ist Deutschland nicht? -Eine Monarchie.
What is Germany not? -A monarchy.
Captions 9-10, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest

 

If you didn't know that German isn't a monarchy, you may find this test difficult, but for the rest of you it should be pretty easy. Don't forget to learn the 16 Bundesländer

 

Further Learning
Do a search on Yabla German for terms like der Staatsbürger or der Flüchtling to find videos with migration themes. You can also take a sample test with all 310 questions on the website of the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge

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Goodbye Great Britain and Other Exits

The referendum in Great Britain to leave the European Union was nicknamed "Brexit," a portmanteau of the words "Britain" and "exit." The same nickname was used in Germany. Let's take a moment to divert our attention from that event and focus instead on the different ways we can say "exit" in German. 

 

Wir können die nächste Ausfahrt nehmen oder noch weiterfahren.    
We can take the next exit or keep on driving.
Caption 7, Deutsche Bands: Luxuslärm

 

Die Ausfahrt is the most commonly seen translation of "exit" and is usually used in reference to the offramp of a roadway.

 

Wo ich reinkomme, geht man raus.
Where I enter, they exit.
Caption 43, Frank Zander: Hier kommt Kurt

 

This is "exit" in its simple slang form of rausgehen, or "to go out."

 

Und zeigst nur stumm auf die Ausgangstür.
And just point silently to the exit door.
Caption 10, Herbert Grönemeyer: Was soll das?

 

Der Ausgang is usually meant as the point where you leave a building.

 

Brüller, Lacher, Brüller, Abgang, mehr ist nicht zu machen.
Big laugh, laugher, big laugh, exit, there isn't more to do.
Caption 19, Ab durch die Heimat: 4 Comedians unterwegs im Südwesten

 

Der Abgang is the simple act of leaving or the act of leaving a specific sphere of activity. It can also mean the person who has left, as in "the one who left," although the more common terms are der Abgänger or die Abgängerin. Der Abgang is still occasionally used in medical and military circles to refer to death.

 

Das sind alles Leute, die eigentlich nichts weiter verbrochen haben,    
als dass sie einen Ausreiseantrag gestellt haben.

These are all people who actually violated nothing more than that they submitted an exit visa application.
Caption 27-28, DDR zum Anfassen: Ganz tief im Westen

 

Der Ausreiseantrag or "exit visa application" uses the word die Ausreise for "exit," which on its own would usually be translated as "departure." Hopefully the citizens of the United Kingdom —possibly soon consisting only of non-EU countries England and Wales — will not be required to file an Ausreiseantrag in order to leave what remains of the UK. It is nearly certain, however, that they will now have to get a residence permit (die Aufenthaltserlaubnis) to live in the EU. 

 

Further Learning
Do a search on Yabla German to see the different ways that terms for "exit" such as der Abgang, die Ausfahrt, and der Ausgang are used in a real world context.

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Smack Dab in the Middle

In English, a person can be described as standing in the middle of the sidewalk in the middle of the day, and whether you are talking about place or time, the phrase "in the middle of" is correct. In German, however, there are two expressions: mitten im (or mitten in der for feminine nouns) and mitten am (mitten an der for feminine nouns). In most cases, whether discussing time or place, the phrase mitten im (in der) is used, whether for time of the year:

 

Vor langer Zeit mitten im eisigsten Winter…
A long time ago in the middle of the iciest winter…
Caption 5, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Schneewittchen

 

Or for place: 

 

Ich finde das eine wichtige Stelle, mitten in der Stadt.
I think it is an important place, in the middle of the city.
Captions 25-26, Holocaust-Gedenktag: Gedenkstätte am Michelsberg 

 

The phrase mitten am (mitten an der) is used less frequently but in very specific contexts. For place, mitten am is used primarily when something is physically located on a place. In the following example, you can see why mitten im would sound wrong, as it would suggest that the kiosk is inside Friedberger Platz rather than on it: 

 

Neben mir steht der Besitzer von dem schönen Kiosk mitten am Friedberger Platz.
Next to me stands the owner of the nice kiosk in the middle of Friedberger Platz.
Captions 1-2, Frankfurt: Der Friedberger Platz

 

Generally you wouldn't say mitten am Friedberger Platz anyway, you would simply say auf Friedberger Platz. If the kiosk were located on the edge of the square, you would say an Friedberger Platz.

 

When used with period of day terms, it is more common to use mitten am than mitten imMitten am Morgen (in the middle of the morning); Mitten am Nachmittag (in the middle of the afternoon); or Mitten am Tag (in the middle of the day, or "in broad daylight"). When discussing nighttime, however, the mitten in der phrase is standardly used: Mitten in der Nacht (in the middle of the night). In general, mitten does not have any influence on the above usage of the prepositions am or in der, as they are also am Morgen and in der Nacht etc. when used without the word mitten.

 

Further Learning
Look for further examples of mitten im, mitten in der, mitten am, and mitten an der on Yabla German to see these phrases used in a real-world context.

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German Elisions: Dropping the -e

There is a tendency in spoken German to use shorter forms of words. This is something that is especially noticeable in the first person present tense of verbs: ich geh, ich fahr, ich komm, etc. instead of ich gehe, ich fahre, ich komme etc. While the former should not be used in any kind of formal writing and would certainly lose you points on an accredited German test, they are nevertheless considered standard German and not slang or dialect. 

 

This dropping of the letter is called an elision. The basis for dropping the -e above is die Sprachökonomie or "speech economy," a positive description of which is "the improvement of communication through simpler modes of speaking." A less flattering motivation for shortening words might be "simple laziness."

 

Since the dropping of the -e in first person present tense verbs is standard (though not formally correct) German, the use of an apostrophe to notate the missing -e is not only unnecessary, it is incorrect. According to Duden: Ein solches nicht vorhandenes e wird nicht durch einen Apostroph ersetzt. However, it is Yabla's responsibility to teach formally correct German, and it is a priority to avoid giving the impression that ich komm is formally correct. Therefore, Yabla has decided to let the German learner know that a letter is missing from the formally correct version by using an apostrophe to indicate the missing -e: ich komm'

 

Here are some examples of elisions on Yabla German with the missing -e marked with an apostrophe. Because of the apostrophe, you learn that the word is not formally correct and requires the missing letter to be formally correct. Remember, however, that the formally correct German way of writing the elision is actually without the apostrophe! 

 

Nee, ich komm’ aus der Pforzheimer Gegend.
No, I come from the area around Pforzheim.
Caption 33, Unterwegs mit Cettina: an der Rheinfähre

 

Ich fahr' eigentlich auch total gerne Schlittschuh.
I actually also really like to go ice skating.
Caption 3, Diane: am Weihnachtsmarkt

 

Ich geh' bloß gern nach Italien in Urlaub.
I only like to go to Italy on vacation.
Caption 32, Fasching: mit Cettina

 

Further Learning
Read this article about die Sprachökonomie and find more examples of elisions on Yabla German to see these words used in a real-world context.

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Yet More German Pseudo-Anglicisms

There are quite a few English words that have been adopted by the German language but given different meanings or used in different contexts. These are called pseudo-anglicisms, with German speakers sometimes re-importing what they mistakenly think are English words into their non-native English, often with unintentionally humorous or incomprehensible results. This is the third installment in this series.

 

Geh und check sein Handy
Go and check his mobile phone!
Caption 50, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor

 

If something is "handy" in English then it is convenient, but German has taken the convenience of the cellular telephone and turned it into the pseudo-anglicism das Handy.

 

Public Viewing oder echte Stadion-Atmosphäre, der Übergang ist fließend.
Outdoor screening or genuine stadium atmosphere, the transition is seamless.
Caption 2, Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft: Deutschland - Portugal 4:0 

 

The English words "public" and "viewing" placed together as "public viewing" make sense as something that is accessible to be viewed by the public, but the German pseudo-anglicism das Public Viewing refers very specifically to a live outdoor screening of a sporting event.

 

Gibt's irgendwelche No-Gos auf dem roten Teppich für Sie?
Are there any taboos on the red carpet for you?
Caption 42, Bambi-Verleihung: Stars auf dem roten Teppich

 

A "no-go" in English is an event that has been cancelled, or in the case of a "no-go area" someplace that is off limits, but in German das No-Go somehow came to mean a taboo.

 

Further Learning
Review earlier Yabla newsletters German Pseudo-Anglicisms and More German Pseudo-Anglicisms and look for more examples on Yabla German to see how these words are used in a real-world context.

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Pronouncing the Letters V-W and B-D

The German letters V and W can cause some confusion for native English speakers, since the German W is pronounced like the English V, and the German V is pronounced like the English F! One easy way to keep them straight is the fact that not only are they next to each other in the alphabet, but they also form the abbreviation of the auto manufacturer Volkswagen, or VW — pronounced "fau vay" in German. Practice saying VW to yourself, emphasizing the F sound in "fau" and the V sound in "vay."

 

Ein Ford oder ein VW oder was?
A Ford or a VW or what?
Caption 42, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Weil oder obwohl

 

The word "Volkswagen" itself has both letters V and W in it, so practice pronouncing it properly to keep the pronunciation of the letters straight: folks vah gen. 

 

It's worth noting that in many loanwords like Vase, vage, Universität, Verb and the like, the pronunciation of the German V is the same as the English V!

 

The German letters B and D at the beginning of a word are pronounced like the hard versions of the letters in English, as in "blue," and "dark." But when these letters are at the end of a German word, they soften up considerably. 

 

Das Grab, der Stein, die Blumen.
The grave, the stone, the flowers.
Caption 18, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

 

The letter B in Grab should not sound like a hard English B, but rather like a soft P: "grap."

 

Keiner kam auf die Idee, das mit der Hand zu machen.
The idea of doing it by hand didn't occur to anyone.
Caption 22, Erfinder: Nie erfundene Erfindungen

 

The letter D in Hand should not sound like the hard English D, but like a soft T: "hant."

 

Further Learning
Make a list of German words ending in the letters B and D, and find examples of them being pronounced by native speakers in a real world context on Yabla German.

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The German Alphabet and Spelling Alphabet

Most of you probably already know the German alphabet. But for cases where somebody might misunderstand you, for example stating your email address to somebody on the telephone, it is good to know the German spelling alphabet (die Buchstabiertafel) as well. That is the alphabet you hear in military jargon, such as (in English) "Alfa Bravo Charlie" for ABC. 

 

Here is a quick review with approximate English pronunciations of the letters of the German alphabet, which consists of the same standard 26 Latin letters as the English alphabet plus ä, ö, ü, and ß. 

 

A = ah; B = bay; C = tsay; D = day; E = ay; F = eff; G = gay; H = hah; I = eeh; J = yot; K = kah; L = ell; M = em; N = en; O = oh; P = pay; Q = koo; R = air; S = es; T = tay; U = ooh; V = fow; W = vay; X = iks; Y = oopsilohn; Z = tset; Ä = like the "e" in melon; Ö = like the "i" in girl; Ü = like the "u" in lure; ß = ess-tset

 

For clarity when spelling your name or an email address on the telephone, it is not a bad idea to learn die Buchstabiertafel too, since letters like B, T, and P can easily get confused. 

 

A = Anton; B = Berta; C = Cäsar; D = Dora; E = Emil; F = Friedrich; G = Gustav; H = Heinrich; I = Ida; J = Julius; K = Kaufmann; L = Ludwig; M = Martha; N = Nordpol; O = Otto; P = Paula; Q = Quelle; R = Richard; S = Samuel; T = Theodor; U = Ulrich; V = Viktor; W = Wilhelm; X = Xanthippe; Y = Ypsilon; Z = Zacharius; Ä = Ärger; Ö = Ökonom; Ü = Übermut; ß = Esszet

 

My name is Miller, and Germans nearly always think I am saying "Müller," so for clarity I often say "Miller mit M und I, also Martha Ida."

 

It helps too, when giving somebody an address or telephone number, to pronounce the number 2 like zwo instead of zwei, because otherwise zwei and drei can be easily confused: 

 

Die Oberfläche von „Kepler vier fünf zwo B“, so der Name des Himmelskörpers…
The surface of "Kepler four five two B," such is the name of the celestial body…
Caption 11, DW-Nachrichten: Erde hat einen „Cousin“

 

Further Learning
Listen to Sissi sing the ABC Song and practice spelling out your name and email address using the German Buchstabiertafel. You can also find other examples of people using zwo for the number 2 on Yabla German.

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When "nicht schlecht" is not "not bad"

This week's fascinating new video Trickdiebe am Frankfurter Flughafen uses a slang expression that is potentially confusing, in that its use of nicht would seem to contradict what the expression actually means. 

 

Beim Präventionstag staunt so mancher nicht schlecht, worauf man alles achten muss.

 

The first impression might be, since the negation nicht is in the sentence, that some people are not amazed. But in fact, the phrase nicht schlecht staunen in this context means nicht wenig staunen: "not a little amazed" or "quite amazed."

 

On crime prevention day some are quite amazed at all the things you have to watch for.
Captions 7-8, Trickdiebe am Frankfurter Flughafen: Die Bundespolizei klärt auf 

 

And another example on Yabla German:

 

Sie zog den Vorhang beiseite und staunte nicht schlecht.
She pulled the curtain aside and was quite amazed.
Captions 41-42, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Das kleine Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern

 

This is the only example that I am aware of in German where the phrase nicht schlecht is used in a possibly confusing way. Even the meaning of the slang phrase nicht schlecht, Herr Specht is pretty obvious in context: "Well done!" The phrase can also be used ironically if somebody has made a mistake or performed badly. Herr Specht probably does not refer to der Specht (woodpecker) here, it is rather just a rhyming word that adds emphasis to the phrase, kind of along the lines of the English catchphrase "no way, José!"

 

The verb staunen also has some other slang or idiomatic phrases associated with it, such as Bauklötze staunen (be very surprised) and aus dem Staunen nicht herauskommen (not cease to be amazed). 

 

Further Learning
Read this interesting article about the use and Berlin origins of Bauklötze staunen, and search on Yabla German to see staunen and nicht schlecht used in other real world contexts.

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Mega-German Mini-Lesson

The slang word "mega" means "big" and it comes from the Greek word megas (μέγας), which means "great." Put "mega" in front of anything and it's instantly much larger than what you started with. As the Collins Dictionary rather stodgily puts it, "Young people sometimes use 'mega' in front of nouns in order to emphasize that the thing they are talking about is very good, very large, or very impressive."

 

As luck would have it, this mega fabulous word "mega" is also used in German! 

 

Und die Clubs sind natürlich megawichtig.
And the clubs are, of course, mega important.
Caption 19, Live-Entertainment-Award: Glamouröse Preisverleihung

 

Am zweiten Jahrestag der Megapleite sind in Frankfurt erneut Menschen auf die Straße gegangen.
On the second anniversary of the mega-crash, the people in Frankfurt took to the streets again.
Caption 6: Finanzkrise: Die Lehman-Pleite

 

Further Learning
You probably won't find "mega" in the works of William Shakespeare, nor will you impress your academic friends by slipping the word into the conversation, but a bit of slang in your spoken German might make you sound just that much more like a native speaker. Read this hilarious article about the 1980s origins of the word as English slang and find some more examples of "mega" on Yabla German to see how it is used in a real-world context.

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Six Ways to Say "Orange" in German

There are a lot of options for describing something as being the color orange in German, though not all of them may be quite correct in formal writing! The standard form, and easiest to remember since it is identical to English, is the German adjective orange

 

Ein Tiger ist ein Tier, das orange ist. 
A tiger is an animal that is orange.
Captions 17-18, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren: Der Relativsatz

 

Used together with the noun, you could say ein oranger Tiger or ein oranges Tier. Okay, a tiger is actually orange and black, but eventually the student in this video gets it right! 

 

A second and third adjective that we could use is orangefarben, or less commonly orangenfarben, meaning "orange-colored." In that case our imaginary tiger—missing its black stripes—would be ein orangefarbener or orangenfarbener Tiger. Add to that some other similar fourth and fifth "orange" adjectives and you have ein orangefarbiger or orangenfarbiger Tiger. In the latter, orangefarbig is more common than orangenfarbig.

 

The sixth and last way to express the color orange is very common in spoken German, but according to the Duden dictionary, orangen is actually slang usage: 

 

Ich glaube, am besten gefällt mir nicht die orangene Farbe.
I think I don't like the orange color best.
Caption 19, „Mini-Marxe”: In Trier

 

Der orangene PKW wird auf vierzig Kilometer pro Stunde beschleunigt.
The orange passenger car is accelerated to forty kilometers per hour.
Caption 16, Crashtest: Fahrradfahrer profitieren kaum vom Fußgängerschutz am Auto

 

Further Learning
Orange, orangefarben, orangenfarben, orangefarbig, orangenfarbig, orangen: Find some more examples of "orange" and other colors on Yabla German to see how they are used in a real-world context.

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Get Out of My Peel!

This week's exciting finale of the Pfefferkörner episode has a German idiom that could come across a bit as being a bit odd when translated directly:

 

Ja, wahrscheinlich wollte er ihr freiwillig nicht mehr von der Pelle rücken.
Yes, probably he didn't want to go away from the peel of his own accord.
Caption 22, Die Pfefferkörner: Cybermobbing

 

So just what is the Pelle and why didn't he want to get away from it? The word die Pelle is traceable in German as far back as the 12th century, originally as the skin of a wurst or sausage. Later it took on the same meaning as "peel" in English for the peel of a potato or other vegetable. Later on, die Pelle came to take on the idiomatic usage suggesting human skin, much in the same way as the slang usage of der Pelz (fur) is used for human skin. So does this mean that he didn't want to "get away from her skin?"

 

Man muss anderen Menschen sehr auf die Pelle rücken, um die zu schminken.
You need to really push people on the peel to do their make-up.
Caption 31, Kosmetik: Make-up-Artist-Schule

 

The more common expression is jemandem auf die Pelle rücken, literally to "move on someone's peel (or skin)."  What it means is to get too close, to be too intimate, or to invade their personal space. A similar idiom in English might be "to get in their face." 

 

So what then does von der Pelle rücken mean? The best translation is probably "to leave somebody alone," as in the idiomatic expression "get out of my face." So we could translate the first example above as "Yes, probably he didn't want to leave her alone of his own accord."

 

Another similar idiom is jemandem auf der Pelle sitzen (or liegen), which means to bother someone with your continual presence, a similar meaning to the English idiom "to get on someone's nerves."

 

Further Learning
Learn more about this expression in this article, and get into the detailed German explanation on Duden. Look for an example of der Pelz on Yabla German in its slang usage to see how it's used in a real-world context.

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More German Pseudo-Anglicisms

There are a number of English words that have been adopted by the German language but given different meanings or used in different contexts. These are called pseudo-anglicisms, and sometimes lead to German speakers re-importing what they mistakenly think are English words into their non-native English, often with unintentionally humorous or incomprehensible results. 

 

Wo man seinen Sound aufnehmen kann und den dann wieder abrufen kann, ohne Boxen.
Where you can record your sound and then can access it again without speakers.
Captions 32-34, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: Musikmesse in Frankfurt

 

Die Box is short for die Lautsprecherbox, which means "speaker" or "loudspeaker." A native English speaker might be confused, however, if somebody told him his "boxes" are too loud.

 

Carmen Spindler leitet nicht nur ein Fitnessstudio.    
Carmen Spindler doesn't just run a gym.
Caption 2, Bodybuilderinnen: Lieber zart als muskulös

 

Another acceptable spelling of this word is das Fitness-Studio, which makes the English source more obvious. It's pretty clear what "fitness studio" means, but to English ears it sounds like an unnecessarily verbose word for "gym."

 

Ich hab' ihr schon dreimal auf die Mailbox gesprochen, aber nichts.    
I've already left three messages on her voicemail, but nothing.
Caption 37, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

 

If somebody told you they were "talking to your mailbox," you'd think maybe it's time they seek professional psychological help. But in German, die Mailbox is just your voicemail or answering machine. 

 

Further Learning
Review an earlier Yabla newsletter about pseudo-anglicisms and look for more examples on Yabla German to see how these words are used in a real-world context.

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Adjective Declensions: Definite Articles

It's sometimes not a bad idea to make sure some of that "old knowledge" is still accurate, so let's get back to basics: adjective declensions with definite articles. To make it as easy as possible, remember the following three rules for adjective endings:

 

1. All adjectives in the singular nominative case end in -e, regardless of noun gender. Here is an example with the singular masculine nominative:

 

Der alte Minister ging in den Saal.
The old minister went into the hall.
Caption 37, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Des Kaisers neue Kleider

 

2. All adjectives in the dative or genitive cases, as well as all adjectives in plural form, end in -en regardless of the noun's gender. Here is an example with the plural genitive: 

 

Der Kaufmann verbrachte die Nacht in einem der schönen Schlafräume.
The Merchant spent the night in one of the beautiful bedrooms.
Captions 25-26, Märchen, Sagenhaft: Die Schöne und das Biest

 

3. This is the hard one: Adjectives for masculine nouns in the singular accusative case end in -en, but adjectives for feminine and neuter nouns in the singular accusative case end in -e. Here is an example with the single masculine accusative:

 

So gibt es hier die elektrische Gitarre für den abgebrühten Rockstar.
Thus there is the electric guitar here for the jaded rock star.
Caption 2, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell: Musikmesse in Frankfurt

 

If the noun above had been feminine (or neuter), it would have dropped the -n: ...für die abgebrühte Musikerin.

 

Further Learning
There is a system for remembering adjective endings that many people find easy to remember called the Oklahoma — see if it works for you. (A special hat tip to Yabla subscriber Mike S. for that!) You can also search for some of your favorite adjectives on Yabla German and review the ways the adjectives end in the different cases with different noun genders.

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