German Modal verbs

Studying the German language, learners come across modal verbs which can express desire, ability, obligations or probability. In German, we conjugate the modal verb which then retains second position in a main clause. The main verb is added in its infinitive form to the end of the sentence. For example: Ich darf meine Hausaufgaben nicht […]

Up-skill during lockdown

Many countries are still in lockdown and many people are working from home with plenty of extra time at their hands. That’s an extra 90 minutes a day in London if a one-way commute takes 45 minutes. Multiplied by 5 working days and, voilà, there are 7.5 hours every week that need filling. After the […]

Learning a language online

I’ve been teaching German on a one-to-one basis and in group settings for many years. I now find myself teaching German online to continue earning a living and to minimise disruption to existing students so that they can progress with their German language studies during this Covid19 crisis. Until February 2020, I was no advocate […]

Learning a second language

With the new decade just three weeks old, New Year’s resolutions are high on the agenda. Folks have all sorts of good intentions for 2020 and for some it is learning a new language. In the UK, only 34% of 15 – 30 year olds speak a second language. That’s very few compared with Denmark […]

In German: Is a Beemer he, she or it?

A Beemer, or BMW, made by the famous German car manufacturer Bayrische Motorenwerke in Munich is a popular accessory for many and certainly complements the German language learning experience. With the car’s satnav and onboard systems set to German it helps to pick up new vocabulary and and learn the German imperative when the friendly […]

Perfect German

The perfect tense (das Perfekt) is the past that German speakers most often use when describing events that have been completed. Learners of the language sometimes get thrown by the use of two different auxiliary verbs, or helping verbs, when forming the perfect in German. The helping verb together with the past participle, in layman […]

Do German nouns have gender identity issues?

Sometimes whilst teaching German, I am being asked why German nouns change genders. It is ‘die Tür’, a feminine noun, and suddenly somewhere mid sentence it is ‘der Tür’. ‘Der’ being the definite article for masculine nouns. Do German nouns have gender identity issues? A justifiable question from an unsuspecting student or a precocious question […]

Is it the funny letter ß or ss?

My students often ask during their German lessons if they can just replace ß with double ss. The answer is NEIN, unless you are learning Swiss German where the letter ß does not exist and is indeed replaced with a double ss. How do you know when it is ß and when double ss? Quite […]

What did Napoleon do for the German language?

Do 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 […]

German words of Russian origin

When taking German lessons or attending a German course you’ll come across many German words of foreign origin. German, like other languages, borrows words typically from Latin, Greek, English and French. Less well known are Russian words that have made their way into the German language, often through the linguistic development of the part of […]

How many people do speak German?

Only 1.571% of the world  speaks German Why learn German you may ask? Please read on … There are about 7,000 languages worldwide. Many languages are threatened by extinction, especially languages spoken by natives in Asia and America. Some languages are spoken by only a couple of people. More that 50% of languages have less […]

False friends in German

Germans are loyal and trustworthy folks. However, there are some false friends in the German language that may confuse the English speaker or his mind. If the German finance minister says that 2 Billionen Euros are sufficient to bails out Greece, then he’s got his figures right because he actually means two trillion. A billion […]

Martin Luther and the German Language

Few people can be unfamiliar with the name Martin Luther, the German theologian and instigator of the Reformation. The story of Luther posting his disputations of some of the doctrines and practices of Roman Catholicism, his 95 Theses, on the door of his local church in Wittenberg is exceedingly well known, even though some scholars […]

Council for German Orthography

There is an official body for regulation of the German language, just as there is for many other languages. These institutions are often called language academies. In the case of German, the role is fulfilled by the Council for German Orthography, shortened to RdR from its German name, der Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung. Der Rat […]

German expressions in English

English has been steadily adopting words from German for several centuries. I will describe a few here; the tip of the iceberg so to speak. And there we have the first word that has been loaned from German: the iceberg. We have all heard of the über-cool word doppelganger which is also a German term. […]

The prepositions ‘an’ and ‘auf’

During my lessons I see students struggle with the German prepositions ‘an’ and ‘auf’. Both are used to describe locations and require either the Accusative or the Dative case. If we can ask ‘wohin’ (where to), then the preposition requires the Accusative and if we ask ‘wo’ (where) then the Dative is required. This begs […]

Adjective endings in German

In a previous blog article, I wrote about the challenge learners of the German language can face when declining adjectives. There are four cases in German, 3 genders and 1 plural, then there are three ways of declining an adjective: with an indefinite article, with a definite article and without an article (zero declension). That […]

Understanding word frequency

A frequency dictionary can be of great help when learning German. It does not, however, replace a good conventional bilingual or monolingual dictionary. Let’s have a look at a few German words and their frequency in the German language: the most frequent word being the definite articles der, die, das and their various forms. You […]

German Word Frequency

You must have come across words that you never seem to be able to remember. Why is it that when learning German you remember some words better than other words? The answers is word frequency. Word frequency analysis is not new and dates back well over 100 years to 1898 when Friedrich Wilhelm Kaeding published […]

The Present Tense in German

If you have just started taking German lessons or have studied the German language for some time, then rest assured, understanding German tenses is much more straight forward than many think. In a previous blog I already touched on the subject. Today I would like to focus on how I go about teaching German tenses […]

Accusative and Dative in German

Whilst providing German tuition, students often ask me what the Accusative and the Dative is. Accusative and Dative are cases and they tell the function of nouns in a sentence. Many languages use cases, including English. In German, the direct object requires the Accusative case and the indirect object requires the Dative. Consider the following […]

The Gender of Nouns in German

In my previous blog I wrote about the declension of adjectives and I summed up the blog by stressing the importance of knowing the gender of nouns. Those of you, who have already started learning German, will most certainly have come across the definite articles der, die, das and may have wondered how to know […]

German Adjective Declension

Declining adjectives is one of the most challenging parts of German. Most students taking up German courses or private lessons with us struggle with that aspect of the language, even intermediate and advance learners. How adjectives are being declined is depended on the article that precedes the adjective. There are three ways of declining adjectives: […]

‘Present Perfect Continues’ in German

During many years of teaching German to English speakers, I found that many students tend to struggle with the same aspects of German due to the different structure of English. This blog serves to highlight recurring problems to help learners of German to overcome these challenges. Yesterday, for example, I was teaching a regular student […]

The evolution of German

I am often asked during my lessons how German as we speak it today came about. The modern German language, or standard German, which we know today has evolved over a period of centuries just as English has developed from Old English through Middle English to the tongue we speak today. Old High German probably […]

Measuring German Language Levels

You may have heard of the Common European Reference Framework for Languages? It is quite a mouthful but useful at measuring language levels. Have you ever wondered which level your German language is at or what the various levels actually mean? The basic levels are A1 and A2. If you have achieved level A1 then you […]

Communicating with Germans

What do Germans really understand when the English talk to them? The English language has many subtleties that do not exist in German. The German language is very literal and as a result, Germans may come across as rude or off-hand to the English speaker. Of course, most Germans are not rude at all. When […]

German in the office

Planning to relocate to Germany for professional reasons? Or maybe working with Germans on a regular basis? The following words are taken from every day office language. Have you come across some of them yet? Der Anhang: If you send an email from a German version of outlook and you would like to also send […]