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10 German words that every language should have

They say that the language of a nations reflects its culture and mentality, even more so if there are words that can’t be directly translated in other languages.

 

These are precisely the most interesting words to study or observe with attention because they allow us to really grasp a different culture and norms. So here are 10 beautiful and intricate German words to learn:

#10 SCHILDERWALD

A forest of road signs. So many road signs that you’ll get confused by all the directions indicated and get lost.

#9 KOPFKINO

To have a mental movie going on. Well, to whom did it never happen? Imagining in our head the best and worst scenarios we would say.

#8 LUFTSCHLOSS

In English we would say «to build castles in the air». Something desired, but far away from reality: a project or idea that can be hardly achievable.

#7 SCHNAPSIDEE

That crazy idea that you will get in a moment of absolute euphoria, at times caused by an excessive consumption of alcohol. Genius ideas that might reveal to be a total disaster or an acclaimed success.

#6 AHNUNGSLOSIGKEIT

The lack of knowledge, opinions, awareness. According to the context it might indicate being naive, ignorant or ingenuity.

#5 FINGERSPITZENGEFUEHL

An immediate awareness and empathy with our surroundings, that allows us to respond promptly and diplomatically.

#4 STREBEN

The origin of the term resides in the German romantic period, when this word indicated the detachment from everyday life to reach that intangible level of perfection. Today the term indicates the effort and determination required to fullfill one’s ambitions.

#3 GEBORGENHEIT

Most of the dictionaries translate this term simply as «certainty». In reality there are many more nuances that go over and across the meaning of this word: an incredible combination of certainty, protection and intimacy derived from relations with others, in particular your family.

#2 VERSCHLIMMBESSERN

Making a situation worst in the attempt of making it better. Like trying to fix that bad haircut at home on your own..

#1 WANDERLUST

The desire to leave. That uncontrollable itch that makes you want to travel and explore the world, see new places and make new experiences.

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Are you getting intrigued by the German language or wish to refine your vocabulary? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes! 

10 indispensable dialectal terms if you are in Bavaria

A rich region, cities full of history, gorgeous forests, and beer flowing to rivers. These are just some of the reasons why a visit to Bavaria is a must. As a nice article by The Local recalls, Bavaria is a bit of a world in itself and, as such, it has its own specific language: Bairisch (or Boarisch, in Austro-Bavarian).

Incomprehensible to the profane – even those not fasting from Hochdeutsch, the German standard – Bavarian dialect is an indispensable element to live fully in Munich and the surrounding area. Here, there are newspapers and television broadcasts in Bairisch, which are sometimes hard to understand even for a northern German, and certain terms, at least the basic ones, can be useful for getting in touch with locals more easily. We chose ten of them, just to give you an idea.

 

Medieval greetings: Grüß Gott and Servus.

The Bavarians have their own way to greet each other. Forget the Hallo and Guten Tags that you learned in school and unlock the religious Grüß Gott, literally «greeting God», but translatable as «good morning» or «hello». Or, if you want some other feudal suggestion, you can use Servus, literally «slave». A greeting formula that can be used even to say goodbye to someone.

 

Buam and Madln, ladies and gentlemen.

Sometimes you can find these two terms on the toilet door, and if you miss the pictures, you may get confused. So, better to know that Buam is used for men, Madln for ladies.

Dirndl and Lederhosen: the traditional clothes.

You will have seen them a thousand times, at the Oktoberfest or any in any stereotyped representation of Bavaria, but you never remember the precise name. Well, the Dirndl is the typical gown of the Bavarian (and also Austrian) ladies, while the Lederhosen (which, strictly speaking, is not a dialectical term) are the traditional leather pants worn by the young.

Fesch, or “attractive” or even “fresh”

It is the equivalent of the German standard hübsch. You could, for example, hear it in conjunction with Madl in a phrase like Ja mei, was für ein fesches Madl ! : «What a beautiful girl!»

 

Schmarrn, if someone says nonsense.

The Schmarrn (or Schmarren) is originally a dish (similar to a pancake) but, figuratively, it is also used as a derogatory expression, to mean «nonsense», when someone is saying something unwise or fake .

 

The equivalent of oder: Gell.

As you may know if you have been living somewhere in Germany, Germans usually used “oder?” or more colloquially, “ne?” at the end of the sentence to stimulate the response of others. It is the equivalent of our «or not?», «is not it?» Even in this case the Bavarians stand out, and their particle for this function is “gell”.

 

I mog di, or “I like you”.

f you are talking to a Buam or a Madln really fesch and want to declare it, you will need to use these simple words: I mog di, «I like you». It will not be too hard to remember, given the similarity with the Hochdeutsch, Ich mag dich.

When you leave: Pfiat of.

Probably, in your opinion, you will be accustomed to the classic Tschüß or Hello. In Bavaria, they use as usual a formula that has a religious etymology: Pfiat of, which literally meant «God Protect You». Anyways it is a nice way to say hello, right?

 

Give your consent: freilich.

Those who live in northern Germany, you will be used to give your consent or approval after a question by using terms like natürlich – of course – or selbstverständlich – obviously, of course. In Bavaria you will need to reset on freilich. A bit of patience.

 

Maß, the Bavarian beer unit.

To what do you think it equates to? One liter, of course. Do not try to get a beer below the Maß, or you might as well not drink at all.

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Are you getting intrigued by the German language or wish to refine your vocabulary? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes! 

5 German expressions that you won’t forget easily

Are you studying the language of the devil and you don’t know to which saint to turn to anymore? No panic! We put together an exhaustive list of common German expressions that you will hardly forget. So close your grammar books and follow us!

 

1. Arschgeige (r. Arsch = ass, e. Geige = violin); literal translation, dipstick / dipshit/ arsehole

The typically German mastery of composing and using of composite words is known throughout the world. Our teutonic hosts have invented all sorts of these, both when sober and under the influence of susbstances. Arschgeige belongs to the second group.

2. Arschbombe (r. Arsch = ass, e. Bombe = bomb); literal translation, cannon ball

We continue the list of composite words with “ass”. And no, it is not referring to the effects of lactose on your flatmate, but to the jumping in the water in a cannon ball.

3. Arschloch (r, Arsch = ass, s. Loch = hole); literal translation, asshole / twat and so on

Yes, if you hear someone calling you an Arschloch you have every right to get mad.

4. Ich habe die Nase voll davon; literal translation, my nose is full / I’ve had enough

From the ass to the nose. This nice and colorful expression is used to describe situations, people, places, things, cities, etc. of which one has had enough of. It is a highly versatile and effective expressive.

5. Null – acht – fünfzehn; literal translation, zero – eight – fifteen

Did you know? Even with numbers you can say so many things in German. Especially if their combination refers to a heavy machine gun used by the German army in World War I. Surely you will have seen it in some documentary or vintage movie, but what you may not know is that in 1914 the infantry’s army’s automatic weaponry was about 12,000 more than the one in the other armies. The Germans were so fond of using the model number as an expression to indicate not an erotic position, but a mediocre person. Evidently the gun did not work very well.

 

Cover Photo: © Nina Helmer CC BY-NC ND 2.0


Want to learn German in a vibrant environment? Look no further and check out the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes by clicking here!

How to memorize 18 German words without getting a headache

German continues to be a source of inspiration in many ways. The fact that it is still a cryptic language for many is not a novelty.

Learning German is for many an impossible task due to, amongst other things, the many consonants placed close to each other and the rigid pronunciation of words. The structure of the sentences, the syntax, still puts the most talented Germans in crisis. The Germans themselves often admit that they do not know the meaning of a term and therefore use the famous Richard Porson’s saying that «life is too short to learn German.»

German words

To make the whole thing even more grotesque is the (in)famous German morphology with its endless composite words, one of which has even entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest word in the world: Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften (companies that provide legal assistance). And if long words were not enough, then there are those that in a few syllables contain a myriad of different meanings, impossible to synthesize in English in one word. Here is a list of the most bizarre and astrus ones selected by the site Fluentu!

 

18. Ohrwurm= earworm [for instance when you hear a song on the radio and can’t get it out of your mind throughout the whole day]

 

17. Fernweh= longing for a distant and unknown place

 

16. Kummerspeck= literally, grief bacon, in context it is having an emotional belly [or the need to eat to console your belly following a disappointment]

 

15. Innerer Schweinehund= inner pig/dog [it is that very powerful animal that lives within us that we must overcome when we have to do unpleasant things, like paying taxes and going for a jog at 6am before work]

 

14. Fremdschämen= feeling shame for someone else

 

13. Torschlusspanik= panic of the closed door [it is commonly employed to address a woman whose biological clock is ticking]

 

12. Treppenwitz= staircase joke [it occurs when the right joke comes to your mind when it’s too late, as if you have a pleasant meeting on the stairs and you have no time to say the right thing]

 

11. Lebensmüde= life tiredness

 

10. Weltschmerz= pain of the world

 

9. Weichei= soft egg [N.B. never say that to a waiter in Germany, for the actual meaning of the term is to address someone that is cowardly and has “soft balls”]

 

8. Backpfeifengesicht= face you would like to slap

 

7. Erklärungsnot= need to explain [have you been punished and didn’t even have the time to realize it? Then claim your Erklärungsnot!]

 

6. Sitzfleisch= seat meat [a character trait, to have big shoulders. For the German collective imagination it is like having a sac of meat on your seat due to an excessive state of boredom]

 

5. Purzelbaum= tumble tree [Somersault! Roll on the floor as if you were a piece of tree trunk]

 

4. Dreikäsehoch= three, cheese, above [a term for children employed towards that kid in the class that is taller compared to others, as tall as three pieces of cheese on top of another]

 

3. Zungenbrecher= tongue twisters [read about hilarious German tongue twisteres here]

 

2. Schattenparker= shadow parker [are you trying to be smart and park your car in the shade to protect it from the heat? This term is not actually meant as a compliment, but more as an insult]

 

1. Kuddelmuddel= unstructured mess

 

If you read until here and now your head is fully of screws and you are thinking that the German language is like a witty mosaic, an unstructured mess, then this is the word that you need right now.

 

Do not be discouraged, German is a very charming language and with some commitment everyone can succeed in mastering it. And studying German is also a good way to overcome the sense of Lebensmuedigkeit and stop using google translate which, let’s say it, never gets it right. And additionally to be taken for a Schattenparker that doesn’t commit does not please anyone. In the end, there are surely other Weltschmerz that are worse than learning German. After a thousand Kummerspecken overcome thanks also to the strength that you have gained by experiencing the Torschlusspanik, you can go out with your German friends and also take their order when you go to the restaurant. And this time without any of them feeling Fremdschämen for you.

You can finally be totally proud of having overwhelmed your Innerer Schweinehund. It is the same feeling of when, as a child, you felt so powerful after succeeding in a new intent. When you felt that you stood out like a Dreikäsehoch. You have gone a long way and now you have your Sitzfleisch. After a thousand nights spent on a thousand absurd Zungenbrecher until they become actual Ohrwurm. You will not be considered a Weichei anymore, and surely this time you will be able to talk to your new neighbors without fear of falling into any Treppenwitz. Except if it’s your girlfriend, in that case you’d risk a proper Backpfeifengesicht. Be careful not to combine any Kuddelmuddel or to use your Erklärungsnot!

If after all this you still want to stay and do not experience any sea sickness or Fernweh, there is nothing left to say or do than return to your inner child and gain thousands of well earned Purzelbaum!

Cover photo: © Alexandre Normand CC BY SA 2.0


Want to learn German in a vibrant environment? Look no further and check out the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes by clicking here!

50 steps to become the perfect Berliner

Today we would like to talk about a very special book, How to be German (in 50 easy steps). It is an unpretentious manual whose intention is to transform the reader in a perfect teutonic mutant, with all the merits, tribulations and idiosyncrasies that derive from it. Supported by ironic illustrations for each step it is written in German and English.

The approach is utterly ironic and amusing, and the 50 steps to follow span from the Apfelsaftschorle to German bureaucracy, to the much-hated GEMA to living bio, the fines on public transport, all the way to the beloved Kartoffelsalat. It also talks about the sacredness of Tatort on Sunday evenings and the importance of greeting cards for any special occasion. A spiritual compilation that has cheered my first U-Bahn trips and most often ripped me off in laughter in the religious silence that reigns on wagons, stirring up the discreet curiosity of my taciturn traveling companions who, after having looked at the title in cover, understood the reason of so much hilarity and would often exchange a smile.

The author, Adam Fletcher, is a Cambridge blogger and marketing expert who has been in Berlin for some years now; on his official page he describes himself as «a writer, an amateur chocolate eater and a professional napper,» as well as author of three enjoyable volumes such as “A Picnic for Perverts” (2012), “The Hipster Guide” (2013) and “Denglish for Better Knowers” (2014). After the tragicomic closing of Neukölln’s Hipstery store, Adam continues to write his satirical pieces and sell his line of gadgets through e-commerce, narrowing the target and type of products that he and his partner smuggle under a single, exhaustive label: «things that make us laugh.» The kit of the perfect Berliner hipster is one of the most genius and hilarious finds I have ever found. Take a look at yourself, if you do not believe it.

15. «MAHLZEIT!»

German has the reputation of being a pragmatic and literal language. Both nouns – like the nipple, for example, that was renamed with the romantic Brustwarze («wart on the chest»), and the too explicit Antibabypille – and some of its expressions, which sometimes seem to describe not a mood or a state of mind, but the mysterious mechanics of an invisible car: «Es mennuft» («works»), «Es geht» («goes»), «Es passt» («its fits good, it adapts») , «Alles in Ordnung» («all in place»).

This can serve as an appetizer, intrepid Ausländers, but to become real Germans you must learn to use the most pragmatic and disconcerting greeting of all – «Mahlzeit!», Translated with «have a good meal!» or more literally with «meal time». I had just arrived in Germany and while I was sitting in the canteen for lunch, my colleagues walked by the door and said to me, «Mahlzeit! ». Mahlzeit? Mahlzeit? Lunch time? Well, no doubt! That I’m eating is obvious. Right now I am clearly and loudly swirling a potato salad. I’m chewing, don’t you see? I know it’s a bit early for lunch, but I admit I missed breakfast. Do not judge me, have pity, please!

Only then do you understand that it is not a question. It’s a redundant, clumsy disguised statement, like a kid playing and stealing clothes from its parents, a form of greeting. So, for the sake of integration, over time you will start using it too. At first, it will sound a little bit weird, but I assure you that after a while you will find it rather fun, especially since in many regions of Germany you can use it at any time of the day. You can call someone at 4 am when you know for sure that they are still sleeping and wish them «Mahlzeit!» Brilliant. Perhaps you are wondering why you can’t add the -zeit suffix to other activities to create new and original greetings. But German literacy begins and ends just when you start to grasp its meaning. Glove is Handschuh («hand shoe»), but do not dream of calling the Kopfschuh hat («head shoe»). Do you see someone drinking? You can not wish him «Trinkzeit!». You neighbours are having sex and don’t even bother covering up the moans? It is not admissible to ring the bell and wish them a warm ‘Fickzeit!’

Only «Mahlzeit», understood?

(Adam Fletcher and Ingo Herze, How to be a German/ Wie man Deutscher wird, Verlag C.H.Beck oHG, München 2013, pp.23-24)


Want to learn German in a vibrant environment? Look no further and check out the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes by clicking here!

 

Four German words that have no direct translation

It’s called Found in Translation and it is a very interesting graphic project realized by Anjana Iyer, presented in occasion of the initiative 100 days Project (The repeating of a creative task for 100 consecutive days and recording of each days efforts).

At the heart of the illustrations of this graphic designer from New Zealand are words that have a unique and original meaning which exists only in one language. There is no direct translation, more words are required and at times, as she did, also a nice drawing. It is through these that she tries to explain the meaning of these untranslatable words in other languages.

Rightly so amongst this list there are also some German words. Do you know of a word that is capable of conveying the German Fernweh, or so the longing of a place one has never been to? And of the German Schadenfreude, the «pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune»? And what about that face that you would like to slap that in Germany is simply address through as Backpfeifengesicht? We too have forests, but perhaps since we never had the Grimm brothers we never felt the need to describe the feeling of being alone in amongst the trees as Germans did with Waldeinsamkeit.

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Do you wish to learn German or perfect your knowledge? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes in Berlin here!

5 absurd rules of the German language that once mastered make you feel complete

It’s not enough that it is a language with thousands of inflexible grammatical rules, with words that have a difficult meaning to perceive and sounds at times almost impossible to pronounce. German, despite its reputation of being a rational language, at times presents cases when these rules are not rationally justified and lead to absurd paradoxes. And for us wretched born under another mother tongue, but have to learn how to live with German, there is nothing left to do than to fight against these absurdities every day.

1. The gender of certain nouns

Skirt is male, girl is neutral. For English speakers this is a very confusing situation and the only way to survive out of it is to forget the universal the and simply accept the ambiguous gender assignment for German nouns. Although there are certain exceptions, for instance words that end in -ung are always feminine and those that end in -er are masculine, most of the nouns articles have to be learned by heart because there are no rules to rely upon. And in this condition of anarchy yes, you will have to learn by heart every single common noun of things, animals and so on. Wouldn’t it be nice if the gender was at least deductible from the meaning of the word? Yes, but no: because a skirt is male, and a girl is neutral.
Not to talk about the chaos caused when universal nouns that belong to the collective imagery not only have a gender in the German world, but also a quite confusing one. So then we have the moon (der Mond- M), the sun (die Sonne- F) and death (der Tod-M), as we learned from that famous scene of a chess match against death in the swedish movie The seventh seal. Yet again, this is a different story…

2. Two-digit numbers

Counting in German is easy, but only until 20. Because from 21 onwards a tremendous rule kicks in by which numbers are read at “reverse”. It’s not twenty one, but one-and-twenty (einundzwanzig), it’s not twenty two but two-and-twenty, it’s not sixty seven but seven-and-sixty. Reading the number from the tenth before the unit forces a different way of thinking. In certain workplaces in Germany, those characterized by a majority of non-Germans, reading numbers in this way is forbidden. So to pronounce numbers in a way that is clear and understandable to everyone has led to the forming of a sort of baby talk by which you have to pronounce every digit once: 83 is eight-three, 98 is nine-eight… The problem arises when a German client calls you in and you get a 17 digit Amazon order pronounced overturned and at the speed of light. At that point there is nothing left to do other than rolling up your sleeves and getting to work…

3. Dates

The problems with German numbers aren’t over. For unexplainable reasons, these people invented an entirely original way of reading the years of a date. First thing, the first two digits are separated from the last two. So far so good, as we have the same system in English. In German however amongst the two groups of digits they place a hundert (hundred). Neunzehnhundertzweiundneunzig. The again, why hundred? Possibly because it implies the calculation 19×100=1900 (obvious much?), or possibly because it is a way to distinguish dates from normal numbers. The choice is however debatable. For our luck the dawn of the new century saved us all: from 2000 onwards they gave up to read zweitausend, zweitausendeins, zweitausendzwei… Twothousand, twothousand and one, twothousand and two…

4. Separable verbs

Verbs in English have a preposition. In German instead the prepositions are stuck directly to the verb, thus creating a myriad of countless words that have the same root but different meanings, filling up the already well-supplied dictionary. In this way the same verb can mean everything and the opposite of everything: nehmen (to take), according to the prefix it has at the front may mean to accept (annehmen), to remove (entnehmen), to lose weight (abnehmen), to gain weight (zunehmen), to behave (benehmen)… Combined with the fact that almost all of these prefixes are separable from the verb, and that often the separate prefix may be moved at the end of the sentence, make it so that you can never know what a person is trying to say until he utters the last word. An example?
“Ich gebe die Aufgabe… ab.” I hand in the task.
“Ich gebe die Aufgabe… auf.” I give up the task.

5. The rigid position of the components of a sentence

I often thought that writing a phrase in German is like playing a tetris. Yes because in this language every component of the sentence has its own rigid position that must be respected, which also varies according to the type of sentence: when asking a question the conjugated verb has always the first position, in a positive sentence it has the second position, in a subordinate sentence it occupies the last position (and here we go back to the aforementioned problem by which until the person in front of you has pronounced the last word one can’t know what he means). But not only. The subject will always occupy the first position in a positive sentence unless, usually, you want to start with an adverb for instance, which in that case requires to make an inversion. And so on. The strange thing is that this is a feature of languages that don’t have cases, whereby the role of the components of the sentence is defined by their position. German decided instead to keep both: cases and positions. The best part will be when you’ll move to the most advanced grammar rules and find out that there is also a predetermined order to position the various complements. It is called TeKaMoLo and no, it is not a new generation medication, but it’s the key to remember the order of the complements: Temporal (when), Kausal (why), Modal (how) and Local (where).

Photo: “Practicing my old school writing for German class” © Alper Çuğun – CC BY SA 2.0

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Do you wish to learn German or perfect your knowledge of the language? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes in Berlin here!

Bud Spencer, Di Caprio, Michael Fassbender: 15 celebrities that unexpectedly speak German 

It’s true, actresses, actors and singers have a talent when it comes to the recognition and reproduction of sound.

German however remains a language that few people, at least in the past generations, decided to learn unless it was for work reasons. What follows is a list (partly inspired from the one made by Smosh) of American, but not only, celebrities that can modestly speak German, as the videos demonstrate.

Bud Spencer

The actor from Naples was a real star in Germany, as so was his colleague Terrence Hill. His autobiography reached the vectors of sale a few years ago. All his movies were distributed in cinemas and in the ’70s it was common to find him on German TV to promote his movies. He studied German in school in Italy and never failed to demonstrate it, as this video shows.

 

Sandra Bullock

The Oscar winning actress with The Blind Side, and for a few years the most paid actress in the world, is the daughter of a German singing teacher, herself the daughter of a missile scientist that lived in Nuremberg. It was in Baveria that her father, the American John Bullock, at the time serving the American army, met her mother and began a love story lived through the States and Germany. Although she was born in Arlington, Sandra Bullock lived in Nuremberg until the age of 12.

Chris Pratt

The Guardians of the Galaxy start learned (well) German in school. The father, American, has German origins, but not only: as he himself admits in the past he nurtured a true passion for Goethe’s language.

Leonardo Di Caprio

On the one hand, as his surname discloses, he has Italian origins. On the other hand, from his mother’s side, German grandparents. It was his grandmother, from a small town close to Düsseldorf, that taught the Oscar winning actor that he uses at times to make his German audience smile.

Mark Strong

One of the greatest «supporting actors» of this century, the excellent Mark Strong has an Austrian mother, but not only. He studied law in Munich’s university for one year prior to dedicating himself completely to acting, his passion since youth.

Kirsten Dunst

The American actress holds to this day her German citizenship. The father was in fact a doctor from Hamburg that moved to the States and her mother (that has Swedish origins) worked for Lufthansa. German is thus a family affair for the Dunst family

Paul McCartney

McCartney learned German in school as a child. It became useful when the band, unknown at the time, made Hamburg its continental base, performing there any time they had the chance. The first time was in 1960 when, as reported here «Allan Williams, owner of a music cafè in Liverpool had to organize a tour in Germany for «Derry and the Seniors», a Liverpool-based rock band. But things went wrong and Williams was forced to find a substitute band in a short amount of time. He asked The Beatles, whom no one at the time heard of, that immediately accepted». Bild also talks about it here

Terrence Hill

Unlike Bud Spencer, Terrence Hill (aka Mario Girotti) speaks German both because he studied it and because his mother came from Dresden. It was there that, along with a chemist father working for the Schering, he moved when he was 4 in 1943, in the midst of the second world war. He lived there until 1945 with his grandparents in the close Lommatzsch, prior to returning to Venice, his father’s city.

Gene Simmons (Kiss)

The singer of the band Kiss was born in Israel (his real name is Chaim Witz). His mother, a Hungarian jew, lived through the time of concentration camps. He spoke German and taught it, and his son today speaks Hebrew, Hungarian, German and English

Vladimir Putin

From the man of KGB to Dresda, eastern Germany, both before and after the fall of the Wall, Putin could have not not known German….

Michael Fassbender

He was born in Germany, in Heidelberg to be precise, even though he always kept his Irish citizenship. In Bastards without Glory that language learned due to the origins of the father (a known German chef) allowed him to convince Tarantino to give him the role that served him as a trampoline for his career.

Kim Cattrall

The Sex and the City star, although having a well-established career in English speaking countries, in the 80s as she was married to Andre J.Lyson (they then divorced in 1989) lived in Frankfurt.

Karl Urban

The Lord of the Rings star (do you remember Éomer?) and of Star Trek, was born and raised in New Zeland, but his father is German and always spoke to him in his language.

Sarah Chalke

Anyone who watched Scrubs knows this very well: Sarah Chalke speaks very good German. It is the series that mostly insisted on her quality, building up different funny scenarios. Her grandparents from her mother’s side live in Peez, close to Rostock.

Donna Summer

The american singer that passed away in 2012 lived for long in Germany throughout the 70s as she became the protagonist of the theatre version of Hair. There she met Austrian Helmut Sommer with whom she had a child with. This is where here surname comes from (she was born Donna Gaines).

 

© PROGage Skidmore CC BY SA 2.0

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Do you wish to make it one day on this list? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes in Belrin here!

German? It’s becoming easier, thanks to foreigners. A look on how it’s changing

Linguists call it Kurzdeutsch (abbreviated German) or Kiezdeutsch (German from the neighborhood, a less common denomination) when referring to the variations of the spoken language as opposed to the standardized version found on books and practiced in language classes. Anyone approaching the study of German might have a hard time with the declination of articles, the adjectives and prepositions, to mention a few. German is known for its morphological and syntactic rigor, an element that when learning a language can be a double-cut sword: what at first may seem an insurmountable obstacle, namely the assimilation of the innumerable rules to be respected, may well be an advantage. In fact German is a language with few exceptions, in particular if compared to many others (Slavic languages, for example). But this standard German with infinite rules and few exceptions is very different from the everyday spoken language on the streets of any German city. Dialects, accents and different registers have led to the building of multiple language variations of the language. Amongst these, Kurzdeutsch, which makes simplification its defining characteristic.

The salient features of Kurzdeutsch are the omission of articles and the removal of crasis (for instance in the fusion of prepositions and articles as in the case of ins, zum, beim or zur). Kurzdeutsch is the linguistic variation typical of bilingual or second-generation or third-generation migrants: other distinctive traits are the influence from Arabic or Turkish language (eg Yalla or Lan) and the transformation of German sound ch (non-existent in Turkish) in sch.

As reported from the Die Welt, linguist Diana Marossek published a book from the title of “Kommst du Bahnhof oder hast du Auto? Warum wir reden, wie wir neuerdings reden” (literally translated into “Are you coming to the station or do you have a car? Why we talk the way we talk recently). Through the listening of the language spoken in the subway, in classrooms, in public offices and supermarkets Marossek’s book proposes an empirical study of Kurzdeutsch which, as she concluded, has become quite literally a “trend”. As she observes even the most proficient of linguists have begun to adopt certain Kurzdeutsch expressions. There are two ways to view the spreading of Kurzdeutsch: whereas on the one hand it might simplify access to the language, on the other it actually it be seen as a weakening of standard German, which although very rigorous, is important to know in every field, from the academic environment to a business setting.

 

Cover photo: School © CollegeDegrees360 CC BY-SA 2.0


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Berlinerisch, a small dictionary of the Berliner language

If it is true that in order to understand the culture of a place you have to know the language, it is essential to understand the dialect spoken in our beloved city: the Berlinerisch.

 

This folkloristic dialect, known for its sarcastic and often rude tones, is loved by many in Germany. Adored by the Berliners, it is a blend of old spoken dialects in urban centers, which in the past formed the city of Berlin. It also comes from the Berliner Schnauze, the typical berlin doc character.

 

The Berliner language

Some polls reveal that the Berliner language is very much in vogue among the new generations and is even turning out to be one of the most talked about in the city. So if you want to keep up with the times and understand what your interlocutor is talking about, here are some examples of Berlinerisch:

ich: ick / ikke (me)

aber: aba (or)

auch: ooch (also)

auf: uff (above)

etwas / was: wat (something)

ein: een (indefinite article, masculine, singular)

gehen: jehen (go)

gucken: kiek’n (watch)

klein: kleen (small)

laufen: loofen (walking)

nein: woman / nee (no)

nichts: nüscht / nichs / nix (nothing)

Schnauze: Schnute (1. mouth, 2. face / animal face)

das: dit / det (1. determinate article, neutral, singular 2. this)

 

The most common linguistic tendencies are to transform the «s» into «t» (was> wat, das> det, alles> allet) and the «g» in «j» (gut> jut, gehen> jehen, genau> jenau)

As for the ways of saying:

Allet comes! (Alles gut!) = Everything is alright

Moin! (Guten Morgen!) = Good morning

Du Alta! (Du Alter) = Hey you!

Eyh, jeh ma nich uff’n Keks! (Lass mich in Ruhe!) = Don’t annoy me, leave me alone! (literally «do not stay on biscuits»)

Is aba warm heute, huh? (… nicht wahr?)=  It’s hot today, right? (At the end of the sentence, it means «true»)

 

One of the main features of this slang is the linguistic register, such as eating letters in the middle of words or dropping the final part

ist> is (is),

komm mal> komm ma (come)!

 

Some of Berlin’s typical particularities are the acronyms:

j.w.d. > janz weit draussen = a far away place. Could be translated «in the midst of nothing / the wolves»

Kotti, Alex, Rosi, Schlesi =  Kottbusser Tor, Alexander Platz, Rosenthaler Platz, Schlesisches Tor.

Vokuhila > vorne-kurz-hinten-lang = short in the front and long in the back. One of the most popular hair cuts in Germany between 1982 and 1987, also in the most punk «Volahiku» version (long in the front and short in the back).

 

Cover photo: © Daniela Spoto


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