German Lessons


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

Key Words and Phrases from Chancellor Merkel's Speech, Part 2

Last week, we offered you Part 1 of the vocabulary in Chancellor Merkel's televised speech about COVID-19, and today we're giving you the second and last part. It's pretty rare that a German chancellor appeals directly to the nation on television like this, and we think her message has many aspects that are valid for everyone during this crisis, regardless of where you live. You may not hear some of the words she uses in everyday casual speech, however, so it's important that you focus on some key words to effectively extend your German vocabulary.


Ich möchte Ihnen erklären,

I would like to explain to you

wo wir aktuell stehen in der Epidemie,

where we currently stand with the epidemic

was die Bundesregierung und die staatlichen Ebenen tun,

and what is being done at the Federal Government and state levels

um alle in unsrer Gemeinschaft zu schützen

to protect everyone in our community

und den ökonomischen, sozialen, kulturellen Schaden zu begrenzen.

and limit the economic, social, and cultural damage.

Captions 29-33, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 1

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Die Ebene has three distinct definitions in the German Duden dictionary: the first is an area of flat land, the second a geometry or physics term usually translated as "plane" in English, and the third definition is the one used here, "level." Der Schaden means "the damage". This is easy to remember as it correlates to a German adjective you are probably already familiar with: schade ("too bad"). 


Zeit, damit die Forschung ein Medikament und einen Impfstoff entwickeln kann.

Time, so that researchers can develop a drug and a vaccine.

Caption 49, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 1

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Aber noch gibt es weder eine Therapie gegen das Coronavirus

But there is still neither a treatment for the coronavirus

noch einen Impfstoff.

nor a vaccine.

Captions 43-44, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 1

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Hopefully for all of our sakes this situation will change soon, but in the meantime der Impfstoff ("the vaccine") is an important word to know.


Wir müssen das Risiko, dass der eine den anderen ansteckt, so begrenzen,

We must limit the risk of one person infecting another

wie wir nur können.

as much as we can.

Captions 22-23, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 2

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The German verb anstecken means "to infect" and is a separable verb that takes a direct object. The less we have to do with any anstecken, the better!


Die verschärften Grenzkontrollen und Einreisebeschränkungen

The tightened border controls and entry restrictions

zu einigen unserer wichtigsten Nachbarländer in Kraft.

on some of our most important neighboring countries have been in force.

Captions 42-43, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 2

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The 6-syllable noun die Einreisebeschränkung, or the "travel entry restriction", has been used often in the last few years as part of the ongoing debate about emigration, since the level of such restrictions determines who is allowed or forbidden entry to a country.


Alle staatlichen Maßnahmen gingen ins Leere,

All government measures would come to nothing

wenn wir nicht das wirksamste Mittel

if we didn't employ the most effective means

gegen die zu schnelle Ausbreitung des Virus einsetzen würden.

of keeping the virus from spreading too quickly.

Captions 9-11, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 3

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The noun die Ausbreitung may also be translated into English variously as "propagation", "dissemination", or "distribution", depending upon the context.


Further Learning
Watch the Chancellor's speech on Yabla German and listen for these key words and phrases. The city of Berlin website has set up a news feed under Nachrichten with updates on the crisis in German and in English. Try reading an article in German, such as their recommendations of what is allowed during the Easter Holiday, then check your comprehension by going to the top right-hand corner of the page and choosing the English version of the article. Best wishes from Yabla to you and your family during these times of crisis.

Key Words and Phrases from Chancellor Merkel's Speech, Part 1

Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn't often give televised addresses, however, she recently went on TV to speak about the measures being taken in Germany to slow the spread of COVID-19 and appeal to the public. 


Chancellor Merkel opens the speech by acknowledging how difficult recent weeks have been. The word die Begegnung can mean "the encounter," like when you bump into someone on the street, but here it refers to social interaction.


Uns allen fehlen die Begegnungen, die sonst selbstverständlich sind.

We are all missing the interactions that are otherwise taken for granted.

Caption 10, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 1

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She refers to the "restrictions" and "closures" that are defining daily life at the moment. 


Es sind Einschränkungen, wie es sie in der Bundesrepublik noch nie gab.

They are restrictions such as have never been seen before in the German Federal Republic.

Caption 33, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 2

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Ich weiß, wie hart die Schließungen,

I know how severely these closures,

auf die sich Bund und Länder geeinigt haben,

which have been agreed upon by the federal and state governments,

in unser Leben und auch unser demokratisches Selbstverständnis eingreifen.

are interfering with our lives and with our democratic self-image as well.

Captions 30-32, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 2

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Chancellor Merkel describes Germany as eine Gemeinschaft, which can be translated as "a community," "an association," or "a collective." The community now has the task of practicing social distancing. The word for task, die Aufgabe, can be used to describe a household task, but also a much larger undertaking.


Und wir sind eine Gemeinschaft,

And we are a community

in der jedes Leben und jeder Mensch zählt.

in which every life and every person counts.

Captions 63-64, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 1

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Ich glaube fest daran, dass wir diese Aufgabe bestehen,

I firmly believe that we will succeed in this task

wenn wirklich alle Bürgerinnen und Bürger sie als ihre Aufgabe begreifen.

if all citizens really see it as their task.

Captions 21-22, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 1

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Chancellor Merkel uses the adjective solidarisch, as well as its opposite unsolidarisch, to describe different behaviors. 


Seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg

Since the Second World War

gab es keine Herausforderung an unser Land mehr,

there has been no challenge to our country

bei der es so sehr auf unser gemeinsames solidarisches Handeln ankommt.

that has depended so much on us acting together in solidarity.

Captions 26-28, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 1

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Hamstern, als werde es nie wieder etwas geben,

Hoarding as if nothing will ever again be available

ist sinnlos und letztlich vollkommen unsolidarisch.

is senseless and ultimately completely lacking in solidarity.

Captions 62-63, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 2

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Note the use of the word das Hamstern above. This is a nominalization of the verb hamstern, which relates to the food collection method of a certain animal and is slang for horten / "to hoard." The noun der Hamsterkauf is related to der Einkauf, but rather than "the shopping trip" it is more like the English expression "panic buying."


When talking about social distancing or keeping a distance from people you encounter when you have to leave your house, the term in German is Abstand halten. Chancellor Merkel says that even though it is difficult, this is one of our greatest weapons against the spread of the virus.


Im Moment ist nur Abstand Ausdruck von Fürsorge.

At the moment, distance is the only way to express care.

Caption 42, Coronavirus - Fernsehansprache von Angela Merkel - Part 3

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Further Learning
Watch the Chancellor's speech on Yabla German and listen for these key words and phrases. If you would like to work on your listening comprehension by means of a daily news briefing, try listening to Deutsche Welle's Langsam gesprochene Nachrichtenwhich is made especially for German learners. If you would like to learn about how the situation is unfolding in Germany, you may find Der Spiegel to be a good resource for articles in English as well as German. 

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