German Lessons


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?

The Literary and Performing Arts in German

A few lessons ago, we started learning about different kinds of Visual Art in German: architecture, ceramics, conceptual art, drawing, painting, and sculpture. Let's continue today with the Literary Arts (die Literatur) and the Performing Arts (die darstellende Kunst).


Literature (die Literatur) as a creative field does not usually include news journalism or technical writing, but usually includes poetry (die Dichtung or die Poesie), drama (die Dramatik or das Drama), and fictional and non-fictional prose (die Prosa). A person who creates literature is usually called an author (der Autor / die Autorin), a dramatist or playwright (der Dramatiker / die Dramatikerin), a poet (der Dichter, die Dichterin), or simply a writer (der Schriftsteller, die Schriftstellerin).


Man hat einen tollen Schauspieler gesehen, aber auch einen großen Freund der Literatur.

You have seen a great actor, but also a great friend of literature.

Captions 50-51, Rheinmain im Blick: Klaus Maria Brandauer liest Goethe

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Und ich habe gedacht, dem Autor fällt etwas Besseres ein.

And I thought the author would come up with something better.

Caption 9, Nicos Weg: Essen gehen

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The next category is the Performing Arts, which includes dance, drama, or music—all of which are performed in front of an audience.


Dance (der Tanz) as an art form, simply defined as "the art of dancing," is usually referring to contemporary dance (der zeitgenössische Tanz) and ballet (das Ballett), but may include figure skating (der Eiskunstlauf), synchronized swimming (das Synchronschwimmen or das Kunstschwimmen), and some forms of gymnastics (das Turnen or die Gymnastik). A person who designs a dance performance is called a choreographer (der Choreograf / die Choreografin).


Mit ihrem anderen Hobby, Ballett, hat sie deshalb aufgehört.

That's why she quit her other hobby, ballet.

Caption 25, Spiegel-TV-Magazin: Skaterin Lilly Stoephasius: Mit dem Skateboard nach Tokio

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Die Tänzer in den Videos brauchten bestimmt nicht so viel Zeit.

The dancers in the videos definitely didn't need that much time.

Caption 41, Konjugation: Das Verb „brauchen“

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A person who performs music (die Musik) is a musician (der Musikerdie Musikerin), or named after the instrument they play. A person who writes music is called a composer (der Komponist / die Komponistin) or songwriter (der Songwriter / die Songwriterin)—alternatively der Liedermacher or die Liedermacherin.


„Beethoven, dessen Musik weltbekannt ist, war am Ende seines Lebens taub.“

"Beethoven, whose music is world famous, was deaf at the end of his life."

Caption 38, Deutschkurs in Blaubeuren: Der Relativsatz

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Ein bekannter Komponist aus dieser Stadt hat dort gelebt.

A famous composer from this city lived there.

Caption 20, Nicos Weg: Ein Bürger dieser Stadt

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The last form of the performing arts is theater (das Theater). Clearly this extends beyond works performed in theaters to all forms of acting (das Schauspiel), which may also include any of the other Performing Arts of dance and music. Although theater and film production encompass hundreds of types of jobs, the main performing artist is called an actor (der Schauspieler / die Schauspielerin).


Ich werde am St. Pauli Theater arbeiten als Assistent für Kostümdesign.

I'll work at the St. Pauli Theater as an assistant for costume design.

Caption 4, Drei Leute: beim Kofferpacken

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Daniel Brühl gilt mittlerweile als einer der erfolgreichsten deutschen Schauspieler.

Daniel Brühl is now regarded as one of the most successful German actors.

Caption 9, Jahresrückblick 2013: Deutsche Promis

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and watch the videos above relating to art forms and professions. Find a tandem partner in your class and make up some sentences in German using these art words, then compare what you both came up with.

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