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Adorable German Words

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

 

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

 

Ein Mitbringsel gibt es für die Familie dann aber doch.

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

Caption 13, Katherine Heigl: Sie liebt deutsches Essen

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

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

Caption 48, Pumptrack: Rad fahren, ohne zu treten

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Zum Gipfelglück führt nur ein schmaler Grat durchs ewige Eis.

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

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

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...der typische Morgenmuffel namens Geli.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Caption 60, Cettina: interviewt Mütter

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Glaubst du, du wirst dort ein leckeres Hähnchen grillen?

Do you think you will grill a delicious chicken there?

Caption 38, Konjugation: Das Verb „grillen“

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

 

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

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

Caption 2, 25 Jahre Wiedervereinigung: Ampelmännchen wird Einheitsmännchen

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Bei der Zimmererarbeit wechseln Männchen und Weibchen einander ab.

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

Caption 35, Die letzten Paradiese Schätze der Natur: Südtirol

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

 

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

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

Caption 31, Deutsch mit Eylin: Umlaute - Part 1

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

 

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

Reflexive or Not?

Reflexive verbs have a substantial presence in the German language. There are quite a few verbs that are not reflexive in English, but always reflexive in German, for example, sich beeilen ("to hurry"). It is important to know which verbs require a reflexive pronoun in German, but also that certain verbs may sometimes be reflexive and sometimes not, which then affects their meaning. 

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For example, sich umziehen means "to change clothes," while umziehen means "to move":

 

Dann würde ich sagen, gehe ich mich mal umziehen.

Then, I'd say, I'll go and change.

Hast du Klamotten für mich?

Do you have some clothes for me?

Caption 13, Ultimate Frisbee - Oli erklärt das Spiel

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In wenigen Wochen werden Kato, Scratch und Lina ganz in den Zoo Neuwied umziehen.

In a few weeks, Kato, Scratch and Lina will move full-time into the Neuwied zoo.

Caption 38, Wie süß - Drei Löwen im Wohnzimmer

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Similarly, sich hinlegen means "to lie down" in the sense of going to bed, but hinlegen simply means "to set down" or "to put down." 

 

Ich muss mich beeilen, damit ich mich bald hinlegen kann.

I have to hurry so that I can go to bed soon.

Caption 68, Berufsleben - das Vorstellungsgespräch

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Hm, ich weiß genau, dass ich die Schwimmer hier irgendwo hingelegt hab'.

Hm, I know for sure that I put the floats down here somewhere.

 

Vorstellen means "to present," whereas sich vorstellen can mean either "to introduce oneself" (with the accusative pronoun) or "to imagine" (with the dative pronoun). 

 

Hallo, heute werde ich dir die Schultern, die Arme und die Hände vorstellen.

Hello, today I'll present the shoulders, the arms and the hands.

Captions 1-2, Der menschliche Körper - die Arme

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Ich könnte mir gar kein Leben ohne Kinder vorstellen.

I couldn't at all imagine a life without children.

Caption 15, Cettina interviewt - Mütter

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Könnten Sie sich uns kurz vorstellen und beschreiben, was Sie hier machen?

Could you quickly introduce yourself to us and describe what you do here?

Caption 6, Feuerwehr Heidelberg - Löschfahrzeug

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An Experience or Life Experience?

For this week's lesson, we will look at the nouns das Erlebnis and die Erfahrung, and the related verbs erleben and erfahren

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Consider the three examples below:

 

Das ist einfach das beste Erlebnis, das man als Künstler haben kann.

That is simply the best experience that you can have as an artist.

Caption 17, Helge Schneider - Auf der Bühne geht's mir gut

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Also, das war eigentlich eine sehr tolle Erfahrung.

Well, that was actually a really great experience.

Caption 21, Eva Croissant - Interview

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Ich bin selbst Mutter von zwei wundervollen Kinder [sic, Kindern]

I myself am the mother of two wonderful children

und spreche aus eigener Erfahrung.

and speak from my own experience.

Captions 5-6, Cettina interviewt - Mütter

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In English, the word "experience" has a few definitions. In the first two sentences, the speaker is referring to a particular instance of encountering or undergoing something. In the third sentence, they are referring to the knowledge or practical wisdom gained from what they have observed, encountered, or undergone. In German, it is possible to use both das Erlebnis and die Erfahrung to describe this first kind of "experience." However, when we are talking about life experience, only die Erfahrung is appropriate in German. 

 

The verbs erleben and erfahren similarly can both indicate the process of experiencing something:

 

Ein Ort lebendiger Demokratie soll es werden,

It should become a place of living democracy,

ein Haus für jeden,

a building for everyone

der Politik hautnah erleben will.

who wants to experience politics next to their skin [idiom, up close].

Captions 16-17, Berlin - Hauptstadt des vereinten Deutschland

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Ich denk', jeder muss für sich selber wissen,

I think everyone has to know for himself

wo er hinfährt und wie er da ist

where he's heading and how he is there

und welche Länder und was er dort erfahren will.

and which countries and what he wants to experience there.

Captions 41-42, Anna - Am Strand in Mexiko

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However, erfahren is also often used to express learning of or finding out about something new:

 

Wir haben nichts gefilmt. -Niemand wird davon erfahren.

We didn't film anything. -Nobody will find out about it.

Caption 30, Die Pfefferkörner - Gerüchteküche

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Further Learning
Conjugate erfahren and erleben and search for the various conjugations (erfahre, erfährst, etc.) on Yabla German to find more examples of the verbs used in context. Try to guess what the words das Erlebnisbad, das Erlebnisgeschenk, der Erlebnispark, erlebnisreich, and die Erlebniswelt mean now that you have an understanding of the word Erlebnis. 

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