Category Archives: German Language Coach

The new Duden has been published

The Duden is the authoritative source for correct spelling, grammar and pronunciation in German. It is what the Oxford English Dictionary is to English.

It was first published in 1880 comprising 27,000 entries. The latest 27th edition has just been published with 145,000 entries, 5,000 more than in the previous edition.

New words are mainly loan words from English that do not have a German equivalent and terms from the world of politics. There have also been some changes to German Orthography, for instance the capital letter for ß has been introduced.

Here are a few nouns from English that have made it into German: die Fake News, der Brexit, der Selfie, der Selfiestick, der Social Bot, das Emoji, die Work-Life-Balance, Low Carb, das Tablet, then there are new verbs: liken, facebooken (all regular), and adjective: pixelig

Do you know any other new words that have made into the Duden?

German Idioms

German in the City of LondonAll languages have their peculiarities with some expressions that are difficult to translate into other languages and, even when they are translated, don’t make a great deal of sense. When you do choose to learn German in the City of London you might not necessarily be taught these phrases but you could well come across them when you socialise in Germany so you hopefully won’t be shocked, here are a few idioms that might leave you a little perplexed:

Lügen haben kurze Beine

Lies have short legs, meaning that deception might get you out of trouble in the short term, but sooner or later it could come back and, to use an English idiom, bite you on the bum – like an angry dachshund!

Ich drücke dir die Daumen

In English to wish you luck your friends will cross their fingers for you, but in Germany you might hear them say, “I press the thumbs for you,” while showing you their fists with thumbs duly pressed.

Es ist mir Wurst

When you are given two or more options, whether it’s a decision on where to go or what to do, and you don’t really care one way or the other, in German you would say, “It’s sausage to me”.

Hopfen und Malz ist verloren

There would have to be a beer related idiom in German! In beer making, when something goes wrong during the brewing process the ingredients are good for nothing. So, if a German says, “Hops and malt are lost,” you might as well give up as you are chasing a lost cause.

Schwein haben

You wouldn’t think of a pig as being particularly fortunate, especially in Germany where they are a part of the daily diet. However, they are also a sign of luck so, if you have a piece of good fortune you could be told, “you had a pig,” meaning “lucky you!”

Nicht alle Tassen im Schrank haben

There are many English idioms for someone who’s crazy such as, he’s not all there; doesn’t have all his marbles; a pork pie short of a picnic, etc. In German he doesn’t have all the cups in the cupboard.

Ich habe die Nase voll

When a German says, “I have the full nose,” he’s not asking for a tissue, but telling you that he’s had enough of a certain situation. It’s similar to the English, “I’ve had a bellyful of that.”

Do you recognise the idiom displayed in the picture at the top of the page?

Double ‘s’ or ‘ß you may wonder?

During your German studies, you have come across the letter ‘ß’ which your German teacher calls SZ or sharp S. The letter was introduced in 1903 because the double S in Roman typography looked similar to SZ in old German typography. It came out of fashion in Switzerland but is still used in standard German typography to this day. ß did not exist as a capital letter, but recently a capital ß was introduced. ß stands after long vowels and diphthongs and contrary to believe is not simply replaceable with double S. You may have wondered how to type ß on your computer when typing up your homework for your German language course: on an Apple Mac computer just hold down the S-Key on your keyboard and select 1, same applies to iOS. On a Windows computer just hold down the ALT key and type 225.

Cases in the German language

German lessons in LondonTeaching German at all levels, I am regularly tasked to explain cases to my students who tend to see them as an alien concept, but cases in German are easily explained. German has four cases: nominative, accusative, dative and genitive. Genitive is the easiest: it donates possession. The nominative case is reserved for the subject of a sentence, the person or thing that decides how a verb is conjugated. The accusative is the person or thing that is receiving the action of the verb – it is the object of the sentence. The dative is the beneficiary (indirect object) of any action in a sentence. English also has cases but nouns are no longer declined dependent on case. Look at this simple sentence for example:

I am making breakfast for my wife’s parents.

The subject is ‘I’ – I am left to do the work. The indirect object is ‘my wife’s parents’ – the beneficiary – they are going to eat the breakfast. The direct object is the breakfast – that is what is being made. And the genitive is my wife – because she is the one to whom the parents ‘grammatically’ belong.

Think German is complicated? Try learning Russian with six cases or Polish, which has seven cases.

German words from Asian languages

german-lessonsOften during German lessons, I get ask if there are words in German that are of Indo-Aryan or Austronesian origin. Many words covering religion and philosophy originate in Hindi, Sanskrit, Malay and Tamil. They made their way into German via the English language. There is der Bambus, which originates in Malay. From Bangla we have der Bungalow, a low rise building. Der Dschungel is a word from Hindi and means wilderness. From Sanskrit we have der Guru that is a spiritual teacher. Der Ingwer is a spice (ginger) and the word originates in Tamil. Of earthy colour is khaki and that is what its meaning is in Hindi. Die Orange made its way into German from the Persian language. Das Shampoo is a Hindi word and means to kneed or massage. Less desirable words in the German language with their origin in Sanskrit are der Swastika und der Arier, but let’s not go there again …

What did Napoleon do for the German language?

Learn GermanDo you know what Gallicism means? Gallicisms are words from French that have found use in another language. When learning German you will come across a lot of Gallicisms. They found their way into German during the reign of Louis XIV who was revered across the German aristocracy. Amusement, fashion, cuisine, the military are all subjects that have words borrowed from French. For example das Ballett, das Turnier, der Chiffon, der Satin, die Frisur, das Kostüm, der Gobelin, das Dessert, die Kreme, der Kaffee, die Kantine, die Kolonne, der Veteran.

Other words are die Garantie, das Plädoyer, die Eleganz, die Garage, die Garderobe

Verbs ending in –ieren tend to be borrowed from French as well: abonnieren, arrangieren, revanchieren, engagieren, plädieren, frisieren.

Till the late eighteenth, lectures at German universities were in Latin and the German aristocracy spoke French and only plebeians, of which were many, spoke German. All that came to an end when Napoleon occupied large parts of German territory and people developed a national pride and a pride in their language. Gallicisms in the German language have been in decline since the Napoleonic wars. Who would have thought…

German Inventions

German Language CoachMany world changing innovations originated in Germany, some widely known but others less so. A visit to the Deutsches Museum in Munich, where many of these inventions are displayed, will be enhanced by a knowledge of the German language which we teach here at German Language Coach in London.

Most of us take books for granted, but it was in the mid-fifteenth century Johannes Gutenberg, a craftsman from Mainz, developed the movable type printing system and an oil-based ink enabling books to be produced in large quantities and therefore available to the public.

There were several inventors working on producing a motor car but it was Karl Benz of Mühlburg, now part of Karlsruhe, who was granted the first patent for an internal combustion engine in 1879 and another in 1886 for the first “Motorwagen”. Benz’s was a two-stroke petrol engine but German engineers also developed other types of engine: Nikolaus Otto (the first practical four-stroke); Rudolph Diesel (diesel engine); Felix Wankel (the rotary engine).

Several scientists had experimented with acetylsalicylic acid for medical applications, but it was in 1879 that chemist Felix Hoffmann, while working for German company Bayer, created a more stable synthesised version of the drug, that became known as aspirin.

In 1895 Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen from Lennep discovered what he called X-Rays for which, in 1901, he won the first Nobel Prize in Physics.

The first small format 35mm camera was developed by optical engineer Oskar Barnack making every day photography far more convenient and enabling the public to create and save their memories. He worked for Ernst Leitz and the name of Leica, later to be a separate company, came from “Leitz Camera”.

Born in Salzburg of German parents, Fritz Pfleumer invented magnetic tape in 1927 revolutionising sound recording, and it is still in use today.

Jürgen Dethloff and Helmut Gröttrup were granted the first patent for a plastic card containing a microprocessor which is universally known as the chip card which changed the way we carry information for banking and communication.

There are many more revolutionary inventions from Germany and we haven’t even mentioned Albert Einstein, but ask any child about Haribo sweets. The company name is an acronym of Hans Riegel, Bonn after the founder who invented the Gummy Bear, affectionately known in Germany as Gummibärchen, in 1922. Kids around the world are now fans of the range of chewy sweets from Bonn.

German Business Etiquette

German Language Coach, German Business PartnersWhen doing business in Germany you will probably at some point need to attend meetings and spend time in the offices of your German colleagues. To avoid making a faux pas you should familiarise yourself with the business etiquette in Germany.

Most important is to have a working knowledge of the language, particularly with regard to your business sector. You can learn German here in London on a one to one basis, with your German tutor focusing on the specific areas that you need so that you can communicate confidently with your counterparts.

The British view of German punctuality is somewhat stereotypical, but being even a little late for a meeting can be considered a personal insult and damage your reputation.

German businessmen and women tend to wear subtle colours.

Personal and business life tend to be kept separate in German offices so don’t expect too much in the way of small talk. Discussing anybody’s income is a particularly taboo subject. Also, physical contact, other than a firm handshake, is generally unacceptable, so the shoulder patting and arm squeezing the British take for granted is unadvisable.

Respect the privacy of your German colleagues; if you find an office door closed don’t enter without knocking and never call them at home unless you are literally faced with a catastrophe.

Germans are very direct in negotiations and say exactly what they want and you will be expected to be the same. When making a pitch, avoid flowery sales talk and just provide a thorough presentation of the facts. Similarly, if a project is being presented to you, prepare to be inundated with facts, figures, graphs and charts.

You need to arrange meetings well ahead of time as your German counterparts will tend to have fairly inflexible schedules and trying to rearrange a meeting at short notice will not be appreciated. Cancelling an appointment at the last minute is more taboo than being late!

At a business meal the proceedings will usually be initiated by the host, so watch and follow!

Germany’s most liveable cities

German Language Coach, Medienhafen DusselldorfThere are many reasons for visiting Germany. Taking German lessons here in London before you go, can only enhance your experience. And there has never been a better time to go! In an annual survey about the quality of life in cities around the world conducted by Mercer, the global consultancy, seven German cities are in the top thirty with three in the top ten.

The survey is designed to help international companies work out relocation packages for employees on foreign assignments and is based on several factors including housing, healthcare, social life, and education. However, it is also a useful gauge for tourists and business travellers.

Munich came fourth and, with its stunning location at the gateway to the Alps, is a beautiful place. The River Isar flows through the city and there are many green outdoor spaces. It is a very culturally active city with a large number of museums, galleries and churches to visit along with a vibrant theatre and music scene.

The Olympiapark, built for the 1972 Olympics, is a wondrous place and the stadium with its soaring curved glass roof still looks futuristic today.

Bavaria is famous for the quality and purity of its beer and there are several beer festivals in Munich throughout the year culminating in the world renowned Oktoberfest.

Düsseldorf, rated sixth, is situated on the banks of the mighty River Rhine. The Altstadt is where you will find most of the historical and cultural venues along with the “longest bar in the world”, a street of around 260 pubs!

The reinvigorated harbour area of the MedienHafen has been tastefully updated while retaining many of the original features of the docks. Many companies now have offices here and the wide variety of modern bars and eateries are frequented by business customers during the day while in the evenings it is the place in which to be seen by the in-crowd.

Connecting the Altstadt with MedienHafen is the Rhine Embankment Promenade which was reclaimed by building a tunnel for the main road. Now you can enjoy the river walks and cycle paths while watching the river life, oblivious to the traffic beneath.

Frankfurt, at seventh, is the financial and business centre of Germany, home of the European Central Bank, and has an amazing futuristic skyline. It also boasts Europe’s third largest airport making it a major international transport hub.

However, away from the skyscrapers you can find streets of beautifully preserved 19th century buildings and parks. Römerberg is the historical centre of the city where you’ll find 14th and 15th century buildings with many shops, bars, restaurants and museums.

Alongside the commerce and cultural delights of Frankfurt, you can also escape the hustle of the city in Germany’s biggest inner-city forest, Der Stadtwald, with its walking paths and attractive ponds.

The other four cities are Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Nürnberg. Vienna, Austria, where the German you learn will also be useful, came first in the survey, while London managed 40th place.

Levis Strauss – a famous German

German Language Coach, Levis StraussThe German founder of Levis Strauss learned English at a young age, which certainly helped his transition to doing business in America. Similarly, we can provide German lessons here in London to help you trade in Germany without even having to leave your office. Read on about how Levis Strauss did it:

Löeb Strauss, who later became known as Levi, was born into a Jewish German family in Buttenheim, Bavaria in 1829. After the death of his father, Levi along with his mother and two sisters moved to New York, America in 1847. There they were reunited with Levi’s two older brothers who had set up a dry goods business which Levi joined.

The 1849 gold rush in California caused many people to head ‘out west’ to make their fortunes, and San Francisco became a trading hub for this enormous influx of population. In 1853 Levi Strauss caught a steamship to this city, through which passed 300,000 ‘forty niners’, and set up his own wholesale company selling dry goods, fabric and clothing to small shops.

In 1872 one of Levi’s customers, Nevada tailor Jacob Davis, contacted Levi. He regularly bought denim cloth from him for his own clients who were using it, among other things, to reinforce their trousers which tended to wear in the same places. Jacob developed a way to prevent some of this wear by using metal rivets on the pockets and the fly seam.

Unfortunately Jacob could not afford to pay for the patent so he wrote to Levi asking if he could pay the fee and go into partnership with him. Levi agreed and the next year they were granted a joint patent for the riveted design.

Originally the trousers were made from canvas but this was later changed to a blue-dyed denim which could hide stains better. What were to become known as blue jeans were born. They were to become one of the most durable and enduring articles of clothing.

Levi Strauss died at home in San Francisco in 1902 and, as he had never married, he left the company to his nephews. However, his name lives on in the company he founded and on the millions of products sold throughout the world every year.

The timber framed house, built in 1687 in Buttenheim and where Levi was born, is now the Levi Strauss Museum and details his early life in Germany as well as his better known career in America.