German Lessons


Taking a Break

Ich fahre heute in Urlaub und zeige euch, was ich alles mitnehmen werde.
I'm going on vacation today and I'll show you everything that I'm taking with me.
Caption 2, Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub


Did you know that the summer vacation for some federal states in Germany is only beginning now? In many states, it doesn't start until mid-July. This break is called die Sommerferien. This is an exciting time because many people plan their Urlaub. Der Urlaub also means vacation, but implies travel. Look at the last example of this newsletter for clarification on the difference between der Urlaub and die Ferien


Of course, in order to take a vacation, you have to have time off work. In German, the expression for this is frei haben.


Timo Uetz hat frei und verdient schon sein eigenes Geld.
Timo Uetz is off work and is already earning his own money.
Caption 72, Deutsche Welle: Lieber Ausbildung als Studium


Sobald ich mal frei habe, könnten wir vielleicht alle zusammen essen gehen. -OK.
As soon as I have a free day we could all go out to eat together. -OK.
Caption 30-31, Eva erklärt: temporale Konnektoren


Some people don't get time off, and have to make do with taking short breaks at work. The phrase for this is eine Pause machen.


Na gut. Wir können ja eine kurze Pause machen.
Well, OK. We can indeed take a short break.
Caption 17, JoNaLu: Ein Tag am Meer


When the evenings are long and the weather is nice, der Feierabend is particularly enjoyable. This word has no direct equivalent in English, but it basically describes the leisure time after the work day is over. 


Hast du wieder 'nen Zahnarzttermin? -Ich mach' Feierabend.
Do you have another dentist appointment? -I'm stopping work for the day.
Caption 21, Mama arbeitet wieder - Kapitel 3: Papa ist weg


Timo Uetz hat endlich Feierabend.
For Timo Uetz, it's finally the end of the work day.
Caption 60, Deutsche Welle: Lieber Ausbildung als Studium


Further Learning


Make sure you have memorized the gender of der Urlaub and die Ferien, and look for more implementations of the expressions frei haben, Pause machen, Feierabend machen and Feierabend haben on Yabla German

Summer Living in Germany

Summer has arrived, which in Germany means that life moves outside. The Biergärten are open, the Freibäder (open-air swimming pools) are busy with swimmers and sunbathers alike, and the smell of Bratwurst and barbecues fills the summer air.

Not everyone has the luxury of having a garden attached to their house, which is why many Germans like to have a Schrebergarten (garden plot or allotment), often with a small hut or house built on it, which they visit for the day or for a vacation.

Ich hab' ja auch so 'nen kleinen Schrebergarten.

I also have such a little garden plot.

Caption 3, Ausbilder Schmidt: Klimabotschafter

If you have neither a garden nor a Schrebergarten, there are many beautiful Seen (lakes) in Germany. Nothing beats a hot summer’s day of lazing by the water, swimming, and riding a pedal boat. Peter Fox sings all about the fun to be had at a German lake:

Und der Mond scheint hell auf mein Haus am See

And the moon shines brightly onto my house on the lake

Caption 18, Peter Fox: Haus am See

When dinnertime comes around, Grillen (barbecuing) is the way to go. Since the laws are more relaxed in Germany, people barbecue in parks and on beaches without any trouble from the authorities, just as long as the litter gets disposed of! 

Wir grillen, die Mamas kochen und wir saufen Schnaps

We barbecue, the mamas cook and we guzzle schnapps

Caption 29, Peter Fox: Haus am See

See not only means "lake" but also “sea,” as in der Ostsee (the Baltic Sea). However, the most common word for sea is das Meer

Du wirst bestimmt irgendwo am Strand sein. -Ja, genau. Am Meer.

You will surely be somewhere at the beach. -Yes, exactly. At the sea.

Caption 50, Konjugation: Das Verb „sein“ 

If you do go to the See or the Meer, you should know that there are two words for “swimming” in German, schwimmen and baden gehen, which literally translates as “to go bathing.” While schwimmen is something you would likely do in a Schwimmbecken (pool), baden gehen is mostly used for swimming in lakes or the sea:

Man kann baden gehen, man kann Freunde treffen draußen.

You can go swimming, you can meet friends outside.

Captions 15-16, Jahreszeiten: Der Sommer

Of course summer isn’t all fun and games. If you are stuck in the city, it can get hot and sticky. Rappers Culcha Candela, while singing about how unbearable it can get, offer a solution.

Feuchtes Tuch auf 'm Kopf

Wet cloth on the head

Ich werd' sonst noch bekloppt vom Hitzeschock

Otherwise I'll just go nuts from heat shock

Captions 29-30, Culcha Candela: Sommer im Kiez 

Extremely popular all over Germany, Eisdielen or Eiscafé (ice cream parlors) are hives of activity during the summer months. 

Kaum scheint die Sonne, zieht es die Schleckermäuler an die Eisdielen.

The sun is scarcely shining and it draws [those with a] sweet tooth to the ice-cream parlors.

Caption 1, Eis: Eiskalte Leidenschaft

And of course, summer is the time to think about vacation, den Sommerurlaub or die Sommerferien. Der Urlaub is a vacation where you go away somewhere, but die Ferien means a break from school, college, or work. Both can bring good memories:

Ich ging früher im Urlaub immer reiten.

I used to always go horseback riding during vacation.

Wir gingen immer in den Sommerferien.

We always went during summer holidays.

Captions 16 and 19, Konjugation: Das Verb „gehen“ 

Schöne Sommerferien!


Do you speak Germish?


anglicism: an English word or phrase that is used in another language

Germans can't do without them. There are some though, who don't feel the need to add a couple of English words to their mother tongue for good measure. Three students sharing an apartment in Berlin, for example, went as far as translating anglicisms back into German and introduced fines for every slip-up in Germish.

March is Carnival season or "The Fifth Season" in Germany. People dress up and masquerade to chase and scare away winter. In this month's featured video three veterans explain the old Carnival tradition, dating back to the Middle Ages. Note the following anglicism:  

Und am Sonntag is' Pause, "beauty sleep", oder...
And on Sunday a break, beauty sleep, or...
Caption 65, Fastnacht - Karneval - Karnevalisten

Anglicisms are very common in German.
In our video about the famous Austrian tattoo artist Mario Barth, in which he expresses his support for the animal rights organization PETA, you'll find a number of them.

und hat das "Statement" gesetzt "Ink, not Mink" [Tinte nicht Nerz].
and has made the statement "Ink, not Mink".
Caption 10, Tierfreund Mario Barth: Der Tätowierer der Stars - Part 1 of 3

Finally: Longing for your summer vacation or just a brief holiday get-a-way to a warmer clime? Then take a look at Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub. Test your understanding of spoken German in this practical scenario and search for das Handy* in the clip. Regarding this anglicism, German has taken an English adjective and morphed it into a noun. Can you guess what it is? She says before leaving on her trip: Ah, was ich immer vergesse, das Aufladegerät fürs Handy.

* Tipp auf Deutsch für Fortgeschrittene: Das Handy ist eine Erfindung der modernen Kommunikationstechnologie, ohne die viele von uns nicht mehr aus dem Haus gehen.

Learning Tip

If you want to reinforce the use of words in your favorite vocabulary list, go to the Video tab on Yabla German and type the word into the search box on the upper right side of the page. A list of every video containing this word will be generated. The captions from each clip in which the word occurs will appear. Try this and easily discover the word's correct use in different contexts.


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False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 2

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 1

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 3

False Friends ("Falsche Freunde") - Part 4

In our last lesson on false friends, we discussed a few false cognates that begin with the letter A. Today, we're moving one stop further down the alphabet to learn about some falsche Freunde starting with B:

das Bad: the bath or bathroom (room with a bath, not the toilet!)
False friend: bad: of low quality or poor standard (German: schlecht)

Jetzt packe ich die Sachen vom Bad in den Koffer.
Now I'll pack the things from the bathroom into the suitcase.
Caption 18, Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub

bekommen: to get or receive
False friend: become: to begin to be, to develop into (German: werden)

Ich hab' noch nie einen Preis bekommen in Deutschland.    
I've never received an award in Germany.
Caption 17, DIVA-Verleihung: Schauspieler des Jahres

brav: good, well-behaved

False friend: brave: possessing or exhibiting courage (German: tapfer, mutig)

Und wer nicht brav war, der soll auch noch darum bitten.    
And those who were not good, they should even beg for it.
Caption 14, Jan Wittmer: Weihnachtslied

Further Learning:

Try to find more words in German and English that sound similar but have different meanings. For a thorough list of German false friends, take a look at this extensive chart.


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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.

The Good Old Days

When we describe events in the past, we often use temporal adverbs to give a more specific sense of what exact time period we are talking about. Are we talking about events of yesterday or something that happened thirty years ago? In the German language, both the present perfect and the preterite tenses indicate a finished action or state, but more information is often required for clarity's sake.


Generally, when we see in der Vergangenheit ("in the past") we know that it is not a matter of something that occurred in the recent past, but rather a long time ago.


Aus meiner Sicht: Ich fühle mich nicht schuldig für das, was in der Vergangenheit geschehen ist.
From my point of view, I don't feel guilty for that which happened in the past.
Caption 10, Konstantin: ein Freiwilliger in Israel


We can also use damals and früher to indicate that something happened in the past. Both of these temporal adverbs indicate an action or state that has been concluded for a while. They can be translated as "back then" or "previously." 


Früher haben hier die amerikanischen Soldaten gewohnt.
Previously, American soldiers lived here.
Caption 6, Berlin: der alte amerikanische Sektor


Damals schwor ich mir, dass mir das nicht wieder passieren sollte.
Back then, I swore that something like that wouldn't happen to me again.
Caption 49, TEDx: Der Supermarkt der Zukunft


Internet? Was ist das? Das kannten wir damals gar nicht.
Internet? What is that? We didn't know that at all back then.
Caption 35, Mittelalterlicher Markt: Mäuseroulette


Sometimes, we want to emphasize that a state was constant or an action was repeated multiple times in the past. For this, we often use the phrase "used to" in English. Below, you can see how the word früher can function in a similar way in various contexts:


Weißt du noch, wie's früher war?
Do you still remember how it used to be?
Caption 8, Christina Stürmer: Wir leben den Moment


Und du tanzt nicht mehr wie früher.
And you don't dance like you used to anymore.
Caption 4, AnnenMayKantereit: 21, 22, 23


Ich ging früher im Urlaub immer reiten.
I used to always go horseback riding during vacation.
Caption 16, Konjugation: Das Verb „gehen“


Further Learning
You can search for more examples with früher and damals on Yabla German or take a look at this website for a more extensive list of different types of adverbs. 

An Extra False Friend

The German adjectival prefix Extra- can often be translated as the English adjective "extra." If you wish to use "extra" as an adjective in German, it is not usually a freestanding word (excepting certain anglicisms such as extra dry) but is instead added to whatever noun is being modified. Let's first take a look at examples of the German adjectival prefix Extra-:


Niemand hat einen Extrapullover für Catherine?
Nobody has an extra pullover for Catherine?
Caption 49, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Die Konjunktion "dass"


Ein Extrapaar Schuhe ist auch immer praktisch.
An extra pair of shoes is also always practical.
Caption 21, Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub


Note that it would not be correct to write extra Pullover or extra Paar, instead the adjectival prefix Extra- is placed together with the noun: Extrapullover and Extrapaar. In some cases where extra is required to modify another adjective, it is still written in lower case, such as in extragroß ("extra large") and extrastark ("extra strong").


The German adverb extra, however, is usually a false friend, meaning it is written the same way in both languages but has a different meaning:


Die habe ich dir jetzt extra geholt, jetzt komm schon.
I got it especially for you, now come on.
Caption 58, Die Pfefferkörner: Eigentor


Ach so, stimmt! Extra hergeflogen aus Saudi-Arabien.
Oh, that's right! Especially flown here from Saudi Arabia.
Caption 30, Fasching: mit Cettina


As you see in the above examples, the German adverb extra is usually translated into English as "especially." However, sometimes the word "especially" is a bit too simplistic for the context, and it is better to use a more tailored translation such as "for the occasion" or "for that reason": 


Manfred Schoof hat extra eine einfache Melodie komponiert.
Manfred Schoof composed a simple melody for the occasion.
Caption 5, Bibliothek der Sachgeschichten: Müllmännerlied


Die Hölzer kommen dort meist nicht von extra angelegten Plantagen.
The wood there does not usually come from plantations cultivated for that reason.
Caption 27, Umweltschutz: WWF zur Rettung des Regenwaldes


Further Learning
Come up with a good phrase that you can use as a mnemonic device for remembering the difference between the adjectival prefix Extra- and the adverb extra. Here's such an example that works for me — as do most things chocolate:


Ich habe einen Extrariegel Schokolade extra für dich mitgenommen.
I've taken an extra bar of chocolate along especially for you.


Look for other examples of the German adjectival prefix Extra- and adverb extra in use in a real-world context on Yabla German and learn some other ways in which the word can be used.

Wann, wenn, ob, and falls

In a previous newsletter, we outlined the difference between wann, wenn, and als. This week, we'll take a look at wann and wenn in the context of the words listed above, which tend to be a bit confusing for beginners. 


Wann is a question word, like was or wie. It is concerned with at what point in time something will happen, but not if it will happen. 


Wann werden Sie diesen Flughafen eröffnen können?
When will you be able to open this airport?
Caption 28, Berlins regierender Bürgermeister: Pläne für 2014


Genau, ja, wir schauen grad, wann der perfekte Zeitpunkt ist.
Exactly, yes, we are looking right now when the perfect time would be.
Caption 40, Wincent Weiss & Benni Freibott: Musik sein


The word wenn can be confusing, because it can be translated as “if,” but also as “when” or “whenever.” 


Wenn man die Augen schließt und an Berlin denkt, was sieht man da?
If you close your eyes and think about Berlin, what do you see there?
Caption 1, Berlin: Hotel Adlon feiert 15 Jahre Neueröffnung


Wenn schon so starker Schneefall ist, dann muss man die Zeit eigentlich optimal nutzen.
When there is such heavy snowfall, then you actually have to use your time optimally.
Caption 30, 48 h in Innsbruck: Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps 


The word ob means "whether," but is also translated as "if." It is generally used in sentences that involve two options or a question that could be answered with "no" just as easily as "yes."


Ich bin mir aber nicht sicher, ob das Eurem Vater gefällt.
But I'm not sure if your father will like that.    
Caption 12, Das Märchen von der Prinzessin - die unbedingt in einem Märchen vorkommen wollte


Ich möchte schauen, ob ihr die Regeln verstanden habt.
I want to see whether you have understood the rules.    
Caption 63, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Trennbare Verben und Wortstellung 


Falls also means "if," but, unlike wenn, can only be used with the conditional type I and not conditional type II or III. It is also often translated as "in case." 


Ähm, falls Ihre Schwester trockene Haut hat, wär' des [das] ganz toll. -OK, super.
Um, if your sister has dry skin, that would be totally great. -OK, super.    
Caption 35-36, Rhein-Main-TV: Eva Padberg beim Weihnachtseinkauf


Natürlich auch einen warmen Pulli, falls es kalt wird.
Of course, also a warm pullover, in case it gets cold.
Caption 9, Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub


Further Learning
To review the types of conditional sentences in English (mentioned above), take a look at this website. A newsletter on creating conditional sentences in German is forthcoming, so it's a good way to prepare! When you watch videos on Yabla German, note how wenn, ob, and falls are translated. Consider whether the word used could be swapped out for one of the others, and why or why not. 

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