Grammar terminology (part 3)

Possessive articles indicate to whom or what something belongs. For example: Is this your pen? No, this is my pen.

A conjunction joins words or groups of words. Some conjunctions in German are und (and), oder (or), aber (but), weil (because), and dass (that).

An infinitive is the base form of a verb, which has not been changed to show tense or given any endings. In German, an infinitive always ends in -en or -n, and is the form of the verb found in the dictionary (e.g. machen, gehen).

Conjugation simply refers to a set of endings (and sometimes vowel changes) for verbs which help to mark person and tense. For example, “to be” = I am, you are; sein = ich bin, du bist, etc.

Declension refers to the change of article, adjective or noun depending on case. For example: Der nette Mann kauft der jungen Frau einen schönen Blumenstrauß.

Cases indicate the function of a noun in a sentence. In German, the subject of a sentence is in the Nominative case, the direct object in the accusative case and the indirect object in the Dative case. For example: Der nette Mann kauft der jungen Frau einen schönen Blumenstrauß.

Instalment 4 is due net week.

Grammar terminology (part 2)

A definite article (“the” in English) refers to a particular, specific noun. In German, these are die, der and das, and all their various case and gender forms (dem, den, des, das, der, die etc.). 

An indefinite article (“a” or “an” in English) refers to a noun whose exact identity is not specified; not the bird, not that bird, but a bird. In German, this is ein(e) and its various forms. 

Other types of articles, such as demonstrative articles like “this” and “that”, function in a similar specifying manner.

Dieser, mancher, jeder, etc. are demonstrative articles in German, and follow the same rules as definite articles. 

An adjective describes a noun or pronoun by answering ‘what kind?’ or ‘which one?’ For example: the fast car, das schnelle Auto.

An adverb describes a verb by answering ‘how?’ ‘when?’ ‘where?’ or ‘to what extent?’ In German, adjectives and adverbs look the same in their base forms (e.g. schön can mean “nice” or “nicely”); however, adjectives have endings when they precede a noun — adverbs never have endings.

A preposition shows the position of one noun or pronoun in relation to another. Example: He is sitting on the sofa.

Prepositions answer the same types of questions as adverbs. A preposition is used with a noun to form a prepositional phrase: on the sofa

Instalment 3 is due next week.

Grammar terminology (part 1)

Being able to understand grammar terminology is crucial. But many people learning German find it difficult to come to grips with it. In 4 weekly instalments we are explaining in simple terms the most important terminology that you may want know before attending German lessons or classes:

A noun is a person, place, thing or idea. In German, all nouns are capitalised. If something in the middle of a sentence is capitalised, it is a noun or a word acting as a noun (i.e. a name). 

A pronoun replaces a noun in a sentence and refers back to a noun that was previously mentioned (e.g. when we are talking about John, we can say “he” or “him” instead of using his name again). It does the same job in a sentence as a noun, and can be the subject, direct object, indirect object or the object in a prepositional phrase.

The subject of a sentence is always a noun or pronoun. It is the person or thing that does the action of the verb in the sentence. 

The verb is the action word of the sentence and describes what is being done. In German, the conjugated verb takes second position in a simple sentence or main clause. In other clauses (with subordinating conjunctions like dass or weil), the verb will be at the end of that clause. 

The direct object is the “do-ee” of the sentence, meaning the object to which something is being done. It too is always a noun or pronoun. 

The indirect object is a noun or pronoun that answers the question ‘to whom’ or ‘for whom’ something is being done – the beneficiary of the verb.

Instalment 2 is due next week.

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 terms sometimes referred to as the ge- word, form the perfect in German. The helping verb is the one that we conjugate and keep in position II and the participle which doesn’t change we stick at the end of the sentence.

But which helping verb to use? Haben (to have) or sein (to be)? Most verbs use ‘haben’ to form the perfect. Verbs that convey a change of state or movement form A to B form the perfect with ‘sein’.

To capture 95% of verbs, there is an easy formula to remember: use ‘haben’ unless the verb conveys a change of position or condition. That also applies if you make metaphorical use of the verb. In addition, the verbs sein (to be), bleiben (to stay) and werden (to become) use ‘sein’ as well.

Learning German is as simple as that.

Do German nouns have gender identity issues?

Gender of German nounsSometimes 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 from a grind? Justifiable course and it confuses most learners of German. Nouns don’t change gender, but the apparent change of gender, the changing of articles, is due to their declension. ‘Die’ is ‘der’ in the feminine singular dative, ‘der’ ist ‘den’ in the masculine singular accusative case. Below a table with the declension of definite articles to help you mastering German.

case masc. fem. neut. plural
nominative der die das die
accusative den die das die
dative dem der dem den
genitive  des der des der

Is it ß or double s?

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 not double ss? Quite simple: when there is a short vowel before a sharp s-sound then there is a double s. If the vowel is long or there’s a diphthong then there is an ß.

dass, der Fluss, lassen, fassen

das Maß, die Straße, heißen, weiß

Want to learn more about ß? Check out one of our previous blog articles: https://www.languagecoach.co.uk/double-s-or-s-you-may-wonder/

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 words of Russian origin

WITH STORY Russia-Britain-EU FILE - In this file photo taken on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he addresses students during his visit to German Embassy school in Moscow, Russia. Putin has remained poker-faced during Britain's EU referendum vote to exit the European Union, but the shake-up could alter the status quo in Europe, and create new opportunities for Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file)

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 Germany that lay behind the Iron Curtain.

There is the word der Kosmonaut, the counterpart to the English word Astronaut.

Kosmo- from Greek kosmos meaning outer space and naut from Greek nauta meaning navigator – therefore Kosmonaut is the one navigating the outer space.

Kreml (Kremlin) – meaning fort – nowadays the epicentre of power in Russia from where Mr Putin pulls the strings. Mammut (mammoth) – meaning tusk from the earth –usually what is left when one of these mammals is being excavated in the Russian steppe. There we have another German word of Russian origin, die Steppe – meaning treeless and barren land.

Die Troika from Russian tri meaning three – Troika – group of three. Are there any other German words of Russian origin that you know?

How many people do speak German?

Only 1.571% of the world  speaks German

Why learn German you may ask? Please read on …German Language coach

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 than 10,000 speakers; more than 25% of languages have less than 1,000 speakers. 4% of the world population speak 96% of all languages. From a different angle: 96% of the world population speak 4% of all languages. People should easily be able to communicate, but they cannot because 4% represents 270 languages.

Eight languages are so called world languages with more than 150 million speakers each. They are Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bangla and Russian.

German, Latin, Slavic and Greek are all Indo-European languages. It is thought that all languages originate from one language over 100,000 years ago.

Approximately 150 languages are spoken in Europe, of which 40 are spoken in the Caucasus region alone.

Most languages are spoken in Africa and Asia. Top of the chart is Papua New Guinea with 820 languages.

Only ⅓ of all languages have writing. Most languages are solely spoken.

There were 9000 languages in 1000 B.C. Today we are left with 7,000 languages. The number of languages is in decline. Dominating countries are the cause as is the wish to communicate in a globalised world.

If I have done my homework correctly, then I can say with certainty that 1.571% of the world population speaks German. You may wonder if there is any need to learn German. Yes, there is because that percentage represents over 110 million people, most of which live in Europe.

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!

Increase in German Manufacturing

German Language CoachThere have already been signs of growth in German manufacturing and this could now get a boost from a proposed EU – US trade agreement. This makes it a great time to increase trade with Germany and learning German here in London would give you a definite advantage in this respect.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is designed to make the export of goods between Europe and America easier and with less red tape. This reciprocal agreement could help to grow the economy by increasing manufacturing and creating jobs and Germany in particular can build on its existing growth.

However, not all Germans are in favour of the TTIP and there are fears that the American influence could undermine some of the strict regulations in force in the EU to protect domestic manufacturing, particularly in the food and beverage industry.

Products which are controlled by protected designation of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indication (PGI) have to be produced in a specific location or region with ingredients wholly or mostly from that area.

The USA has generally opposed PDO and indeed some protected products have become generic names. March 2015 saw 50,000 people on a protest march in Berlin against the TTIP and concerns have been voiced in Germany that under the trade agreement you could see “Thüringer Bratwurst from Kentucky” or “Bavarian beer from Milwaukee” using inferior ingredients and with labelling that would mislead the consumer.

The designers of the agreement insist that EU regulations will be upheld, not only with regard to PDO and PGI but also to food safety standards.

It is not only the food industry which will benefit as under the TTIP most tariffs on goods imported in the US from Europe are to be scrapped meaning that all German goods will more competitive in the American market place.

It was hoped to have the agreement in place in 2014 but it should now be finalised in 2015 and the advantages it will provide will far outweigh the objections.

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.

The Muhlenberg Legend

German Language CoachIt is a great idea to learn German if you are intending to spend time in Germany, and we offer German courses here in London in the comfort of your workplace or home.

But could it have been the case that you might have needed to speak German when travelling to America?

A myth persists that in the early days of the United States of America a proposal was put forward to make German the first official language of this great nation. The motion was put to a vote and it is said that English was chosen ahead of German by just one vote which was cast by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Frederick Muhlenberg, himself a German descendant. This has become known as the Muhlenberg Legend.

However, there is a nugget of truth behind the story. In 1794 a group of German immigrants from Virginia petitioned the House of Representatives requesting that some federal laws be translated into German. When the motion was put to the vote there was a tie at 41 for and 41 against, so Muhlenberg, who actually spoke very little German, cast the deciding vote to keep English only. He is alleged to have said, “The faster the Germans become Americans, the better it will be.”

Through the years the legend evolved from the translation of statutes, to German becoming the official language of Pennsylvania and then of the whole of the United States. This is a typical example of not letting the truth stand in the way of a good story and the myth has been perpetuated throughout the centuries.

In fact America does not have an official language and until the early twentieth century German was the second most widely spoken language in the USA before dropping to third behind English and Spanish.

Large numbers of Germans moved to America, particularly Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas, and there are still communities where various forms of German are spoken. At one time there were more than 800 German magazines and newspapers in the US the first of which, the Philadelphische Zeitung, was founded by Benjamin Franklin.

If you would like to learn German in London contact us here.

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.

Cologne Carnival

German Language CoachThe Germans are often considered by the English to be quite a staid people; efficient, punctual, officious, meticulous, but devoid of humour and party spirit.

However, if you were to attend one of the German festivals you would soon realise that they certainly do know how to party! One of the biggest events is the Kölner Karneval which ranks alongside Rio de Janeiro and Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

If you get the opportunity to go and you’d like to join in with the revelry it is definitely beneficial to know the language to avoid feeling as though you are on the outside looking in so, before you go, take the chance to learn German.

Officially the carnival starts at 11:11am on 11th November and goes through to the beginning of Lent, but the real celebrations, Die Tollen Tage (The Crazy Days), begin on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. Alongside the Christian elements are ancient German pagan traditions.

The party is started in front of a full crowd of costumed revellers in the Alter Markt by the triumvirate of der Prinz (the prince), der Bauer (the peasant) and die Jungfrau (the virgin; always played by a man in a wig). This is Weiberfastnacht, when the women take control and they are traditionally permitted to cut off the tie of any man within reach and to kiss anyone who takes their fancy!

The pubs and clubs will be full of revellers all day long during this period with much singing and dancing. You will need to pace yourself to last the week! If you don’t dress up in costume, not only will you look and feel out of place but also some places will not let you in. The traditional greeting during the festivities is Kölle Alaaf (Cologne above all), or you can just abbreviate it to Alaaf! You’ll fit right in.

Over the next five days there will be processions, lavish balls and ceremonies culminating in the Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) parade, which over a million people will attend and where sweets and flowers are thrown into the crowd. The elaborate floats and costumes are often used to poke fun at the government and current unpopular politicians.

On the Tuesday the ‘wind down’ parties and parades will continue until midnight when the Nubbeln, life-size straw figures are ceremonially burned as the people prepare themselves for the austerity of Lent.

Germany – most positively rated

German Language CoachAn annual survey conducted by Globescan on behalf of the BBC World service has shown that Germany is the most positively rated country in the world.

In 2014, in the 10th consecutive Country Ratings Poll, over 24,000 people in 25 countries were asked if they felt the sixteen countries included, plus the European Union, had a “mainly positive” or “mainly negative” influence in the world. Germany came top for the second year running with 60 percent.

Surprisingly Canada, which is not considered to have a great deal of influence at all, came second again. The UK showed the biggest increase in popularity but remained in third place. The USA and Russia saw the biggest falls in their ratings and the EU also dropped. North Korea, Pakistan and Iran were the bottom three once again

People were not allowed to rate their own country so all of the positive feelings came from outside of Germany. Within the EU the UK, France and Spain gave Germany the most positive ratings while, understandably with their financial crisis, the Greeks generally felt Germany to have a negative influence.

The findings confirm Germany’s status as the powerhouse of Europe and shows that the foreign policy of the current government is gaining increased respect on the world stage.

Output from the German manufacturing industry has also gone up, with orders having risen by 4.2 percent at the end of last year, and they are considered to be a strong trading partner throughout the world and especially in the UK.

With the feel good factor in Germany and the early signs of economic recovery, it is no surprise that inbound migration has increased as people, particularly in Eastern Europe, see a higher standard of living and the possibility of better opportunities.

While many businessmen in Germany can speak English, trading with German companies is far more professional if you can communicate in their native language and you will gain added respect. You can now learn German in the City of London without leaving your office.

Please contact us for more details of our one to one tuition or the availability of small classes.

Willkommen in Deutschland

German Language CoachMore students than ever before are choosing to further their education in Germany and they are being welcomed with open arms. With low or, in some cases, no tuition fees and many of the universities located in attractive towns or vibrant cities it is no surprise that Germany has become more popular among foreign students.

This shows that the enormous effort by the German Ministry of Education to improve the standards of the universities, particularly in the fields of science and research, is paying off and attracting more foreigners. Many believe that the kudos of a degree from a German university will improve their job opportunities, especially within the European market.

The standard of life of life for a student can be better in Germany with the cheap tuition fees, a relatively low cost of living and without having a huge student loan hanging over you when you finish, as is the case in the UK.

A large number of degree courses are now available to be taught in English in the German universities but, while you can also choose to learn German there, it would be far more beneficial for you to have a grasp of the native language before you go. This may enable you find work, cope with the infamous bureaucracy, make local friends and further immerse yourself in ‘real life’ rather than staying on the periphery like an education tourist.

Not surprisingly, many students who make the effort to fully experience the lifestyle and culture which Germany has to offer, stay in the country for at least a period of time after finishing their education, if not for good.

But it’s not only students who want to be able to work in the hub of the Eurozone. You may have left your education far behind and be settled into your career but it’s not too late to have the benefit of learning another language and you can learn German in the City of London without having to leave your home or office.

Being able to communicate both verbally and in writing with your counterparts in Germany will gain you additional respect and help to overcome the reputation that the English are lazy when it comes to speaking another language.

Contact us to find out more about learning German in London.

Famous Germans – Bruce Willis

German Language Coach, famous GermansIt is a little known fact that actor Bruce Willis is German. He was born as Walter Bruce Willis in 1955 in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany and, although his father was an American soldier serving in Germany, his mother, Marlene, was German. His father, David, moved the family to New Jersey, America on his discharge from the army in 1957.

Young Walter was plagued by a stutter but he found that when on stage he could express himself more easily and the impediment seemed to miraculously disappear. He joined the school drama club and his future was set, although it was to be a long time before he found fame.

He took on various jobs to support himself such as security guard and private eye before enrolling in a university drama programme for two years. Later, after moving to New York, he worked as a bartender whilst attending many auditions until he got some off-Broadway theatre roles.

His big break came when he moved to California and, after playing some small TV parts in shows such as Miami Vice and The Twilight Zone, auditioned for the lead role in the comedy drama series Moonlighting in 1985, beating off opposition from 3000 other hopefuls. The success of the show, which lasted for five seasons, launched his career.

His first starring role in films came in 1987 in Blind Date, but it was his star turn as hero John McClane, who finds himself “in the wrong place at the wrong time”, in the Die Hard movies, in which he did many of his own stunts, that propelled him to superstardom.

Although his popularity has had some dips after performing in some box office flops, he has always managed to bounce back and maintain his A-List status.

Bruce has also had a music career, releasing three albums of his own as well as performing on some of his film soundtracks.

His German heritage has certainly not been a disadvantage for Bruce Willis and, in fact, it is advantageous to be able to do business in Germany. You can now learn German in the City of London without even leaving your office.

Who learns German?

German Language CoachWe often get asked, whether there is a market for learning German in the City of London and who learns German and why.

 

Yes, there is a large market for foreign language learning, especially German.

Corporations approaching us are German companies operatingtheir staff to learn German or reacquaint themselves with the language at some stage.

Then there are people who learn German in order to advance their career prospects or people about to move to a German company or into a job that requires German language skills.

Not to be forgotten, are people who learn for personal reasons because their partner, husband or wife are German speaking.

The reasons are varied as are the people learning the language.

Learning German is not always the first priority onin teaching adults.

If we have aroused your interest, then please get in touch for tailored advice on how best to start learning German!

Famous Germans – Henry Kissinger

German Language CoachUnbeknown to many, a German served as the 56th Secretary of State from 1973-1977 – Henry Kissinger. Although he became a well-known face in politics, he came from humble beginnings in Bavaria, Germany. His father was a teacher and his mother a home-maker. They were German Jews, and in 1938 had to flee to the safety of London and later, New York.

Although he settled into American life as a child, he never dropped his German accent. After school, he joined City College of New York briefly before he was enlisted into the US Army in 1943. During his stay in Carolina during the war, he became an American Citizen. Due to his intellect and ability to speak German, he was assigned to the Military Intelligence sector and served for three years before leaving the Army in 1946.

After graduating from Harvard in 1950 with a degree in political science and MA and PhD in the four years following, he took the role of director, both for the Nuclear Weapons Foreign Policy and for Harvard Defence Studies until 1971.

He became a supporter and an advisor to the New York Governor, Nelson Rockerfeller and the National Security Advisor when Richard Nixon won the Presidency. He was appointed as Secretary of State during this time and remained in the role when Gerald Ford became President.

German Words of Arabic Origin

German Language Coach; German Words of Arabic OriginLike many languages, German has evolved to include words, which originated from other languages; many of these are surprisingly derived from Arabic. Arabic words feature commonly in many Western languages and were most often introduced centuries ago.

However you drink it, ‘Kaffee’ derives from the Arabic ‘qahwa’. Coffee drinking originated in 15th century Yemen and the word was introduced to most Western languages around 200 years later.

Developed through a few languages, ‘Aprikose’ (apricot) derives from the Arabic ‘al-barqūq’.

‘Babbaghā” is where ‘parrot’ originates from, which in German is ‘Papagei’ – not very far removed at all. The main difference being that the Medieval ‘b’ phonic was replaced by the European ‘p’.

Almost identical in spelling and pronunciation, ‘Al-kohl’ is the original Arabic word for ‘Alkohol’, or alcohol in English. Interestingly, the word used to mean ‘fine powder’ but progressed through the centuries and became specifically a distilled spirit in the 18th century.

Both meanings of ‘Magazin’ (magazine) – the ammo holder for a gun and the published ‘book’ – come from an Arabic word. ‘Makhāzin’ first meant ‘store’ (which is where the ammo receptacle got its name) but it didn’t have the alternative meaning until the English language introduced it in the 1600s.

There are so many derivatives of ‘Zucker’ that it is hard to pinpoint the origin, however its earliest use was is fact from Arabic, as ‘sukkar’, as medieval Arabs produced sugar on a vast scale.

The German language has many fascinating aspects to it, which you will learn whether you chose to find yourself a German tutor in London, or self teach. Why not get in touch with us to find out more?

Tips for learning German

German language Coach tips for learning GermanIt can be exciting to learn a new language; it gives you new opportunities, helps you learn more about another culture and happens to be very impressive! Whatever reason you have for deciding to learn German, here’s five top tips to not only help you learn faster, but learn smarter and be on your way to speaking and understanding fluent German.

1) Practice learning to speak German. Often, we can get stuck in the habit of reading textbooks, focusing mainly on how German is written down and the correct spelling and grammar. Whilst this is a fundamental factor in learning any language, it helps you to understand the language better if you can speak out loud whenever you can. It will increase your speed, help you learn how to phrase words and also gives others the opportunity to correct you.

2) Practice learning the specifics. The German language has ‘rules’ (like any other) but where it can get confusing is that their are 3 ‘genders’ depending on what you’re referencing and who you’re addressing. Nail these and keep practising and memorising them, and you’ll learn correctly and save yourself from having to go back and re-learn.

3) Pay attention to German media. It’s all very well learning by yourself or with a tutor, but in your spare time you should try to listen to the language being used by native speakers, to get used to how sentences are formed and how the language is used naturally in conversation. Watch German films, listen to German radio, even listen to German music and read German newspapers and magazines.

4) Persist with your practising. In the beginning it might seem that you’re learning so much to the point where it feels like you’ll be chatting away casually in fluent German in no time! It’s natural to hit a brick wall though at some point, where you’re finding it hard to retain correct usage of words, grammar, spelling and phrases. However, if you carry on through and make sure you practise every day, the language will begin to become second nature and what you’ve learned will stick with you.

5) Get help from a tutor. The best way to learn correctly to begin with is to have a tutor help you. They will get you started on the right foot to begin with and stop you from forming bad habits, which can be easy to learn but hard to undo! This way, all of the other points will reinforce your learning even more effectively. If you’re looking for a German tutor in London, why not contact us?

Getting Your German Confused

German Language Coach, getting your German consudedGerman is a very useful language to learn, but you might find that you confuse some words for others, especially when they sound very similar, or if there’s only an umlaut’s worth of difference between them!

Here’s a few examples where German words get a little confusing:

‘Gift’ and ‘Geschenk’ – Your German friends might be a little shocked if you tell them your husband bought you a gift; in German, this means poison! Geschenk is the correct word to use.

You’ll want to make sure you give your condolences, ‘Trost’; definitely not ‘Prost’ which translates as ‘Bottom’s up!’

Drucken and drücken – one means print, the other push, respectively.

Schwül would be used to describe the day as humid, but schwul means something very different – gay!

Be sure to ask for ‘Hühnchen’ with your salad and not ‘Hündchen’. Your waiter will look very confused if he thinks that you expect puppy to be on the menu.

There are hundreds of words which can easily be mistaken for one another, some hilarious and some not so bad. To help you along your way, a German tutor in London can guide you so you minimize the mistakes you make! Get in touch.

German Loan Words In English

German Language Coach, loan wordsWith an increasingly interconnected world, where businesses are outsourced and partnerships are key to expanding businesses on a global scale, being fluent in English alone is not enough.

Even if you are not running your own business, chances are that you work in a dynamic, multi-cultural environment and with that comes issues like bonding well with co-workers of different nationalities and avoiding cross-cultural conflicts, among other things.

Besides, you yourself may be looking to move to another country to expand your career, experience living in another country, to join your family or study abroad.

Germany has ranked amongst the top ten places British citizens move to. Recent figures show that there are approximately 97,000 British expatriates living in Germany and another 39,000 pensioners calling Germany home, at least for some time.

Now, while the idea of a ‘global village’ is exciting, the reality is that if you are moving to Germany or working in Britain with a German multi-national firm, some intermediate knowledge of the language is imperative .Attending a German language course will get you up to speed in no time.

There are numerous words in the German language that simply do not have an equivalent direct English translation. As a result, what does the English language do, and for that matter all languages? We loan words. However, consider the consequences of poor direct translation without real knowledge? Miscommunication, odd looks and worse still, others feeling offended! With a good German language course or a private German tutor, these mistakes are easily avoidable.

Some loan words from the German language retain the same meaning such as the word hamburger, so it might be natural for some to assume that most loan words have the same meaning in English, which is furthest from the truth!

Below are some examples of German loan words, that despite the fact, English has embraced them into their own fold, mean something quite different in English!

Loan Word from German Meaning in German Meaning in English
die Angst Any kind of fear Feeling of anxiety, apprehension or insecurity
der Dachshund Ironically, although the word comes from the German language, it isn’t really used in Germany, having been replaced by the contraction “Dackel” in German These dogs (also sometimes called “Wiener dogs” in English because of their shape) are a breed of dogs named after the loan word “Dachshund”, which is outdated in the German language now.
kitsch Tacky, gaudy art or trinkets, probably purchased by people with bad taste or Art that is pretentious or overly sentimental. Items bought at art fairs and flea markets, sometimes cheap but can be quite expensive. Owners of kitschy objects often think the object is beautiful or endearing and creators of kitschy art may just sometimes be bad artists, but much kitsch is also created and collected in the full knowledge and enjoyment of its’ “kitschy-ness”.
über- This prefix entered English by analogy with Nietzsche’s coinage of the term “der Übermensch,” “the over-man,” a sort of superior being”, “over” or “above”. Today, it is used loosely, for example “James Bond’s latest übercar” or “Mercedes’ staggeringly expensive new übercar”.

In fact many teenagers even use it in the context where they find someone or something pathetic, for example “His song was uber lame.”

kaputt   Broken According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word in English means 1. Utterly finished, defeated, or destroyed 2. unable to function 3.hopelessly outmoded

 

Before you think again that loan words mean the exact same thing in their native language, keep in mind these German load words. The last thing you need to do is offend your foreign co-workers or worse still, your boss!

Muttivation

German Language Coach, MuttivationIf you’re a World Cup fan, you’ll inevitably have seen, or at least heard of, Germany’s epic opening match where they walked away from Portugal with a 4-0 win. Hooray for Deutschland!

To offer her congratulations in person, German Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled across the globe to Brazil to watch the match for herself and even joined the sweaty players back in the locker room post-match to celebrate and pose for lots of pictures.

You may or may not know that Angela Merkel – Germany’s much loved Chancellor – has adopted the nickname ‘Mutti’, which translates from German to ‘Mummy’, because of her caring, modest, yet strong image. It was only a matter of time then before someone coined a clever phrase, and it was ‘#Muttivation’ that spread like wildfire throughout twitter. Cleverly, this portmanteau can be recognised in both German and English; crossing ‘Mutti’ for Mummy, and ‘motivation’, which of course she was providing plenty of to her nation’s football team.

Learn even more about the ways we coin phrases in different languages by learning with a German tutor in London, and get in touch to begin your linguistic journey!

Isn’t it interesting how we can play with words across different languages – what do you think? Comment below!

Reasons to learn German

German tutor in LondonGerman is widely spoken in Europe: Count the 80 Million inhabitants of Germany, add Austria, the German speaking part of Switzerland plus Luxemburg, and German speaking minorities in Northern Italy, Southern Denmark and the Alsace in France and you get the picture. Of course, there is more than just the holiday aspect, since Germany is not exactly renowned for its glorious holiday resorts by the sea. It is more the practical aspect of course: think of all the business opportunities. You needn’t be fluent but a few basics could open doors and make business in Germany a little easier.

Thinking of studying in Germany? This may sound like a distant dream to any UK student but there are still universities in Germany that charge no or very low tuition fees (Berlin is only one of them). Typically the cost of living is comparatively low in Germany, unless you live in Munich, Hamburg or Baden Baden. Therefore you may find yourself NOT being burdened with huge debts to pay off after graduation.

German and English go back to the same West Germanic dialect. Can you believe that at some point in history a person from let’s say Hamburg probably would have had only minor trouble understanding a person from let’s say Winchester? “Funny accent”, they would have thought about each other…Unfortunately this is a very long time ago and not the case anymore. But a few centuries, a great vowel shift plus a few French and Scandinavian invaders later we can still find prove in the vocabulary: House – Haus, beer – Bier, wine – Wein being the most obvious ones. The list could be extended with verbs like make – machen, say – sagen or adjectives like small – schmal, round – rund.

Does learning German sound like a good idea? Would you like to learn with a German tutor in London? Then get in touch.

Is our list missing a reason? We look forward to hearing your comments!

German Expatriates in London

German Expatriates in London; German Language CoachAlmost 40,000 Germans are living in London. More than Winston Churchill would ever have envisaged…

In contrast to other nationalities, Germans living in London keep a low profile; they do not dominate the high street with schnitzel restaurants or sausage shops. Instead, finances permitting, many of the young professionals opt to live in Wimbledon, Chelsea, Kensington, Highgate and Richmond.

What is the reason for the influx from Germany? If you want to make it big in the financial markets, you will most likely end up in London, the financial capital of Europe. In fact, an estimated 600,000 people work in the City’s banking sector. Frankfurt’s financial centre has only 500,000 inhabitants. For people working in finance, myriad career prospects are better in London than anywhere else in Europe.

Western Europeans make up half of all foreign workers in the UK, and as a result, many want to feel surrounded by their compatriots in London. Although nationalities tend to stick together when abroad, Germans in London do not form a tight-knit community.

However, you can see Germans socialise across London. There is, for example, the pub Zeitgeist in Lambeth, which not only serves the largest variety of Germany’s most famous drink, but also excellent German food and you can watch Bundesliga football.

To satisfy a basic appetite of the expatriate community, there is even a mobile German baker in London who stops over at the German Embassy, the German British Chamber of Commerce and other German ‘hubs’ in London.

If you want to break bread or share a drink with Germans and your language skills need refreshing beforehand, then book yourself onto one of the many German courses in London.

British Expats in Germany

German Language coachOver the years, Germany has had a large British expatriate community, mainly through military personnel stationed there since 1945.

Then, there was an influx of British builders & workers in the seventies and eighties who came to work in Germany – immortalised in the television series Auf Wiedersehen Pet! However, they did not settle permanently, but went back to the British Isles as the economy improved.

Since the early nineties, there has been once more a steady influx of British professionals & today approximately 96,000 Brits are working & living in Germany. Most of them are young professionals: age group is between the years 25 to 40.

British expatriates in Germany enjoy the relatively high standard of living & safety of the country. In comparison to the UK & other EU countries, Germany has low levels of crime &  higher standards of living.

What about the German language you may wonder? Most Germans speak English & are more than happy to practise their English instead of speaking German. Hence, it is possible to get-by in every day life just by speaking English.

But, in order to work & fully integrate in Germany, it is vital to speak the native language. Maybe you are thinking of relocating to Germany & are thinking of attending German classes, or hiring a German tutor in London? Then, get in touch!

Only 1.571% of the world speaks German

Why learn German you may ask? Please read on …German Language coach

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 than 10,000 speakers; more than 25% of languages have less than 1,000 speakers. 4% of the world population speak 96% of all languages. From a different angle: 96% of the world population speak 4% of all languages. People should easily be able to communicate, but they cannot because 4% represents 270 languages.

Eight languages are so called world languages with more than 150 million speakers each. They are Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bangla and Russian.

German, Latin, Slavic and Greek are all Indo-European languages. It is thought that all languages originate from one language over 100,000 years ago.

Approximately 150 languages are spoken in Europe, of which 40 are spoken in the Caucasus region alone.

Most languages are spoken in Africa and Asia. Top of the chart is Papua New Guinea with 820 languages.

Only ⅓ of all languages have writing. Most languages are solely spoken.

There were 9000 languages in 1000 B.C. Today we are left with 7,000 languages. The number of languages is in decline. Dominating countries are the cause as is the wish to communicate in a globalised world.

If I have done my homework correctly, then I can say with certainty that 1.571% of the world population speaks German. You may wonder if there is any need to learn German. Yes, there is because that percentage represents over 110 million people, most of which live in Europe.

Fighting ‘Denglisch’

German Language Coach; fighting Denglisch‘Denglisch’ is a combination of Deutsch (German) and English. Introduced to Germany by the American way of life, it has, according to the German Language Society, ‘crept’ in to German. The German Language Society is not against Anglicism per se, but against the readiness of Germans who can’t speak English to use ‘Denglisch’ to prance abound in order to impress others. This results in people intentionally avoiding German words even though they could use them. This is especially prevalent in advertising and the society cites Deutsche Bahn, the German Railway Company, as the worst offender where Fahrkarten turn into tickets, Schalter into service points and Toilette into McClean. Other examples are Yoghurts that cause the weekend feeling, TV channels running Kiddi Contests.

To counter Denglish, the society writes to firms guilty of using ‘Denglisch’ and each year picks a winner for the German Language Adulterer Award. It also plans a petition in parliament to have the German language enshrined in the German constitution.

Our contribution in fighting ‘Denglisch’ here in London, is to help you learn to speak German properly. Get in touch!

Plautdietsch – low German

German Language Coach, low German dialectWhat is Plautdietch (Plattdeutsch) and how comes that variants of the language are spoken the world over? Plautdietsch or Mennonite Low German is a Low Prussian dialect. ‘Low’ referring to the plains of northern Germany and Dietsch (Deutsch) meaning German. As mentioned in our previous article, Germans were invited by the Russian Empire to settle there. Amongst Germans from many areas and of many faiths, especially Mennonites left Germany due to persecution and created colonies north of the Black Sea, the today’s Russian Mennonites. Other Mennonites left for the Americas and settled in what is today Canada, the United States, but also in Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico and Belize. Plautdietsch is still widely spoken in North and South America as well as parts of Russia and Asia by approximately 350,000 Mennonites.

Plautdietsch is a developing language in Mexico, Paraguay and Belize. In Bolivia, Southern Brazil, the United States and Costa Rica however, the Plautdietsch language is threatened by extinction.

In Northern Germany, low German is still spoken. It has the same roots as Mennonite Low German, shares many similarities but the two dialects are not to be confused as today’s Mennonite Low German was heavily influenced by Spanish, Portuguese, English and Russian.

What is a Russia German?

German Language Coach, Russia GermansRussia Germans is a term describing Germans who migrated to Russia from the start of the 13th century through to the end of the 19th century. They are also known as German Russians or Soviet Germans.

Tsarina Catherine II, herself of German descent, introduced an open immigration policy for Russia with many Germans using the opportunity to leave Central Europe that was marked by religious intolerance, war and a difficult economic situation.

The number of Russia Germans declined under Alexander II who repealed not only the open door immigration policy of Catherine II, but also the tax privileges Russia Germans enjoyed.

The Russian census from 1914 put the numbers of Germans living in Russia at almost 2.5 million. In 1989, the German population in the then Soviet Union stood at almost 2 million. In 1999, Germans made up the 5th largest minority in Russia with just over half a million; there were 350,000 Germans in Kazakhstan, 20,000 in Kyrgyzstan and about 30,000 in the Ukraine.

Russia Germans identify themselves through the regions they settled in or through their faiths: for example Volga Germans who lived on the river Volga, Black Sea Germans, Caucasus Germans, Petersburg Germans, Lutherans, Catholics and Russian Mennonites. During and after WWII, most Russia Germans were settled in the eastern or Asian parts of the Soviet Union, for obvious reasons.

After WWII until about 1995, many Russia Germans returned to the country of their fore bearers.

Next week, we will be looking at the group of the Russian Mennonites. Why and how did they spread the German language across the globe?

Understanding Germans

German Language Coach; Understanding GermansWhat 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, Germans are not rude at all.

When attending meetings with Germans, managing German staff or dealing with German management, it is worth considering these differences in language use, to ensure effective communication.

For example, I hear what you say’ means the English speaker disagrees and & does not want to discuss the matter further. However, the German listener would think the speaker is accepting his point of view.

The phrase I was a bit disappointed that‘ means the speaker is annoyed. The German listener, however, may think the disappointment is only slight.

The term quite good’ will be understood literally as quite good’, although it means ‘disappointing’.

Very interesting’ means it ‘is clearly nonsense’ and & may be understood as they are very impressed’.

Consider the Following Examples:

What the English say What the English mean What Germans understand
I’ll bear it in mind I’ve forgotten it already They will probably do it
I’m sure it’s my fault It’s your fault Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree I don’t agree at all He’s not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments Please re-write completely He has found a few typing errors
Could we consider some other options I don’t like your idea They have not decided yet
With the greatest respect … I think you are an idiot He is listening to me
That is a very brave proposal

See you later.

You are insane…

See you soon, not necessarily today

He thinks I have courage

He wants to see me later today

To avoid such communication problems in the future, why not start learning German with one of our native speaker German tutors?

Vocational training in Germany

German Language Coach; dual vocational trainingOne of the most effective ways of training for a trade in Germany is by completing a vocational training programme. Germany has developed a system which provides an excellent balance between theoretical and practical training and hands-on work experience. Known as dual vocational training, it is a course of study typically lasting between two and three and a half years where the student attends a school known as a Berufsschule part-time to acquire the theoretical training they need. The remainder of their time is spent working at a company where they can complement their learning with invaluable hands-on experience. In this way, they gain a real insight into their chosen profession, enabling them to make an informed decision as to whether it’s the right one for them.

This type of training is incredibly popular in Germany, with around two thirds of school leavers embarking on dual vocational training. Apart from the unique learning opportunities on offer, students on dual vocational training programmes also receive a monthly salary from the company they work for which rises with each year of training they complete. It is therefore a very practical system, allowing students to support themselves financially throughout their studies.

Germany has around 330 officially recognised dual vocational training programmes in a wide variety of fields, and job prospects for students completing these programmes are very good indeed. To find out about courses matching your skills and interests, you can visit the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung or BIBB) for further information.

German Anglicism of the Year

German Language Coach; German Anglicism of the Year Each year, Germany votes for an Anglicism of the year. The Anglicism has to be an English word that was widely used in Germany throughout that year. The new word must also fill a gap in the German language by either further differentiating the meaning of a particular word or by providing a new word that didn’t exist in the German language before. But it cannot be a product name.

A jury, made up of a group of linguists, votes for the Anglicism of the year. Anyone can suggest an Anglicism. The words that made it into last year’s final were:

  1. -gate (suffix)
  2. Fake-
  3. Whistleblower
  4. Selfie
  5. Hashtag

The suffix –gate came into German in 1972 with the loan word Watergate(-Skandal). In English, the word component –gate is used to name all types of large scandals. It took until 1987 till the suffix –gate­ made it again into German with a political scandal that was renamed Waterkantgate. Ever since, many scandals were renamed with the suffix –gate and in 2013 there were more than a dozen scandals amongst which were Handy-Gate, Dirndlgate (also known as Brüderle-Gate) and Mops-Gate.

In the case of –gate, the word tends to describe, unlike in English, more trivial scandals, but can also be used to describe bigger scandals, for instance Handy-Gate – the scandal of foreign intelligence services bugging Angela Merkels mobile phone. Handy is an Anglicism in itself and means mobile or cell phone.

False friends in German

German Language Coach; false friendsGermans 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 in German is a trillion in English.

Being told in German that taking Gift is to be avoided shouldn’t be surprising, not because Germans have ulterior motives, but because Gift in German means poison in English.

The word Star in German means starling or cataract; the German equivalent for star is Stern.

Winken is to blink and not to wink, der Akt is not the deed but nude artwork. After is not after, but is located behind and means rectum. Bald is not bald, but means soon.

False friends work both ways. Consider the following:

der Roman the novel the roman der Römer
der Qualm the smoke the qualm das Bedenken
die Provision the fee the provision die Vorsorge
der Mist the dung the mist der Dunst
das Kraut the herb the kraut der Deutsche
der Unternehmer the entrepeneur the undertaker der Bestatter

Confused? Refresh your German and book one of our private German tutors.

Funding your studies in Germany

German Language Coach; fund your studies in GermanyLast week we looked at some of the benefits and practicalities of studying in Germany, however one of the most important considerations for many people is how they will support themselves financially whilst they continue their education. Though most German universities do not charge tuition fees, there are still living costs to be planned for, with statistics suggesting that students require an average of 800 euros per month to cover these.
One option is to investigate the possibility of a scholarship. Many educational institutions provide these for students who meet specific criteria, and for foreign students, particularly post-graduates and doctoral candidates, there may be a possibility of funding from a private institution. The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst) has details of scholarships currently available which vary according to country of origin and field of study.
An internship is an excellent route into the German job market for foreign students; indeed these are a compulsory part of many study programmes. As some internships are paid, this can considerably ease the financial burden. Finding the right internship will require some research, and once again there is useful information on the DAAD website to help you understand your options.
Many students also work during their spare time. Students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and unlimited hours during the holidays, and this can be particularly useful for foreign students as it will not only bring some money in, but it will also give you an added opportunity to improve your social skills and make new friends.
Our German tutors in London are on hand to help you acquire the language skills you will need should you decide that studying in Germany is the right move for you.
in Germany
Last week we looked at some of the benefits and practicalities of studying in Germany, however one of the most important considerations for many people is how they will support themselves financially whilst they continue their education. Though most German universities do not charge tuition fees, there are still living costs to be planned for, with statistics suggesting that students require an average of 800 euros per month to cover these.
One option is to investigate the possibility of a scholarship. Many educational institutions provide these for students who meet specific criteria, and for foreign students, particularly post-graduates and doctoral candidates, there may be a possibility of funding from a private institution. The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst) has details of scholarships currently available which vary according to country of origin and field of study.
An internship is an excellent route into the German job market for foreign students; indeed these are a compulsory part of many study programmes. As some internships are paid, this can considerably ease the financial burden. Finding the right internship will require some research, and once again there is useful information on the DAAD website to help you understand your options.
Many students also work during their spare time. Students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and unlimited hours during the holidays, and this can be particularly useful for foreign students as it will not only bring some money in, but it will also give you an added opportunity to improve your social skills and make new friends.
Our German tutors in London are on hand to help you acquire the language skills you will need should you decide that studying in Germany is the right move for you.

Study in Germany

study in Germany, German Language CoachIf you’re currently honing your language skills with our Private German Lessons or undertaking another form of German study with a view to taking up one of the many excellent opportunities for higher education in Germany, you will undoubtedly have a great many questions regarding the level of teaching you can expect to receive and the steps you need to take to get there.

German universities enjoy an excellent reputation, with 11 ranked among the world’s top 200 by the Times Higher Education magazine. Moreover, they are consistently praised by international students for the quality of teaching and high standard of equipment, making them a particularly good choice for those seeking research opportunities. And unlike the UK, most universities don’t charge tuition fees for undergraduate courses, another reason they’re a very attractive prospect. The vast majority of German degrees are widely recognised on the international job market, so you may be assured that your job prospects will be at least as good as if you study at home.

As an international student, your first step is to apply to the International Office (Akademisches Auslandsdienst or AAA) at the university of your choice. They will require verification that your qualifications entitle you to embark on your chosen study programme. For a Bachelor’s degree, this might involve getting your A-levels recognised; for a place on a Master’s course or higher, you may need to have your university degree recognised. Generally, a qualification which entitles you to study at university in your home EU country will be valid, but entrance requirements can vary depending on your chosen subject, and you are well advised to check the criteria that apply to you here.

Additionally, if you intend to embark on a course which is taught in German, you will need to demonstrate that you are sufficiently proficient in the language to keep pace with your fellow students. Two of the most widely-recognised certificates are the DSH (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang ausländischer Studienbewerber) and the TestDaf (Test für Deutsch als Fremdsprache). Even if your course is taught in English, you will certainly find life easier if you have a reasonable command of the language, and this is something we can help prepare you for if you live in the London area.

More information about studying in Germany can be found here.

German Industries

German Language Coach; German IndustriesAs we mentioned in our previous blog, Germany has a thriving job market. However, it also has an ageing population which has led to shortages of workers in some key sectors. It’s this ageing population which is partly responsible for shortfalls in the healthcare sector. Current figures suggest that Germany needs 5,000 additional doctors; it also urgently requires nursing professionals to meet the growing demand if it is to avoid the crisis that is looming in the healthcare sector.
Skilled foreign workers are also much in demand in many other leading industries. Germany prides itself on being at the forefront of innovations in technology and engineering. In order to sustain its place as a global leader in these markets, Germany is in search of international talent to add to its home-grown skills. Prospects for IT professionals are excellent, as are those of qualified engineers in a wide range of disciplines ranging from automotive and aerospace to electronics and optics.
If your particular skills lie elsewhere, they may still have a home in Germany. SMEs form the backbone of the German economy, accounting for more than 99% of German companies, providing over 60% of all jobs and contributing a large portion of the country’s economic output. The Mittelstand, as it’s known, values long-term relationships with its employees as well as its customers and suppliers, and offers a huge range of career opportunities. It’s projected that it will provide 250,000 new jobs in 2014, many of which could go to qualified foreign professionals.
Remember, whatever your profession, you will integrate much more easily if you take lessons before your move, and Private German Lessons are the ideal choice.

New Year – New Job in Germany

German Language Coach, new year,  new job in GermanyGermany has one the lowest levels of unemployment in Europe; the forecast for February 2014 is 4.9%. This is not only because of a booming economy but also due labour market reforms conducted early in the last decade and the impact of demographic change, which means a dwindling supply of skilled workers to replace those entering retirement. The media already coined the phrase Jobwunder to describe the performance of Germany’s labour market. Especially young people are able to find jobs, with youth unemployment in Germany being forecast at 6.8%.

There are of course regional differences. Employment prospects also depend on an applicant’s qualifications. Science graduates and people with vocational qualifications find work relatively easily in Germany. Although not compulsory for all jobs, it is useful to have qualifications recognised to help companies understand an applicant’s skills and qualifications.  However, many professions are regulated, even crafts men working as contractors have to have their qualifications recognised. Here is a link to a comprehensive guide on how to have your qualifications recognised.

What about being able speaking the language? If you are living in London and are looking to relocate to Germany, then we may be able to help with private German lessons.

Silvester – New Year’s Eve in German

New Year's Eve, German Language CoachGermans, like many others around the world, celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one with festivities and fireworks. Others opt for a quiet night in watching “Dinner for One” on TV, a British sketch from the 1920s which has become an unlikely New Year’s tradition in Germany despite being virtually unknown in its country of origin.

The changing of the year is known in German as der Jahreswechsel and New Year’s Eve is known as Silvester or der Silvesterabend, after Saint Silvester (der heilige Silvester), a 4th-century pope who converted the emperor Constantine to Christianity and, according to legend, cured him of leprosy. His feast day falls on December 31, and since the adoption of the Gregorian calendar over 430 years ago, his name has come to be used as the name for New Year’s Eve in Germany as well as in several other countries.

If you’re wondering how to wish your German friends Happy New Year, you could say “Prosit Neujahr!” or you could wish them “einen guten Rutsch!” There’s some debate about the origins of this expression; it may be derived from the verb rutschen (to slide) or it may have come into German via Yiddish as in Rosh Hashanah (a good beginning).

The beginning of a new year (der Jahresanfang/Jahresbeginn) in Germany as elsewhere is a time for looking forward and making resolutions for the year ahead. Why not make one of your New Year’s Resolutions (Neujahrsvorsätze) to improve your command of German or to start your learning journey with private German lessons with our native tutors?

The Hairy Wife and Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive Verbs; German Language CoachQuite early on when learning German, you will have come across reflexive verbs. Reflexive verbs do also exist in English and can sometimes be translated by ‘myself’, ‘yourself’ etc. For example: He is pouring himself a cup of tea. – Er schenkt sich eine Tasse Tee ein.

What does the term ‘reflexive verb’ actually mean? The verb has an object that refers back to the subject of the verb, hence reflexive.

In German, the reflexive pronoun has an accusative and a dative form. The pattern is the same as for the personal pronoun except in the use of ‘sich’ in the 3rd person singular and 3rd person plural. (see the example above).

Most verbs that can be used reflexively can also be used as normal transitive verbs. Take this example of a reflexive verb: Er rasiert sich – He shaves (himself). The same verb used transitively: Er rasiert seine Frau – He shaves his wife. (Now, this is no laughing matter, we don’t make assumptions about his wife’s origin!)

Any questions? Why not book one of our German tutors in London?

German Christmas Traditions

German Language CoachAlthough in some regions of Germany, the start of the Christmas season is heralded as early as 11 November on St Martin’s Day, but it officially begins on the first Sunday of advent, which this year fell on 1 December. German children, like British ones, open the first window on their Adventskalender on this day, but it’s a day on which another well-established German countdown to Christmas begins: the advent wreath, or Adventskranz. Four candles mark the passage of each Sunday until Christmas: the first is called Green Sunday (Grüner Sonntag) for the evergreen leaves which form the wreath and the following Sundays are Kupferner Sonntag, Silberner Sonntag and Goldener Sonntag for the copper, silver and gold decorations which decorate it. Sometimes a fifth candle, the Christ candle, is lit in the centre of the wreath on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The advent wreath dates back to pagan times but the custom made a comeback in the 19th century and gradually regained its popularity, spreading to the majority of German homes by the end of WWI.
Variations on the advent wreath have been adopted beyond Germany, but there’s one German tradition that has become synonymous with Christmas throughout the Christian world: the Christmas tree, or Tannenbaum. It was Germany which started the modern custom of bringing decorated trees into the home in the 16th century. It’s thought that it was Martin Luther who first added lighted candles after glimpsing stars twinkling amidst the evergreens as he walked home one evening – and so a tradition was born. And though it wasn’t adopted in Britain and the US until as late as the 19th century it’s now hard to imagine Christmas without it.

Saint Nicholas Day

German Language CoachSaint Nicholas Day, Nickolaus Tag, has to be one of the most joyful events in the German calendar. This festival for the patron saint of children falls on 6 December, when he is said to have performed many miracles. Children write letters on the day before the festival and leave them on a plate or in a shoe along with food for his white horse or donkey, hoping that Nickolaus will bring them gifts when he visits in the night, accompanied by his helper Ruprecht.
Sankt Nickolaus carries a book detailing all the children’s deeds which tells him whether they’ve been good. If they have, he rewards them with fruits, nuts or candles. If not, their shoes or plates may instead be filled with potatoes, coal or twigs. Sound familiar? This is of course the very same St Nicholas from whom the American Santa Claus and the British Father Christmas are derived, which must make him one of Germany’s most famous exports.
He’s not to be confused with Father Christmas though; to Germans they are two separate people. The traditional St Nickolaus is not clothed in the famous red suit and hat; instead he wears the robes and mitre of a bishop. Indeed, he’s thought to be derived from a Greek Christian bishop from Myra in modern-day Turkey who was famed for giving gifts and who died on 6 December in the year 346.
Whatever his origins, his legacy is a delightful tradition which has spread to many parts of the world. If Saint Nicholas should leave your shoes empty, why not treat yourself to one of our German courses and maybe next year your good deed will find its way into his book…

Technology – Help or hindrance?

German Language CoachTechnology has without doubt made language learning far more accessible and may have even been responsible for some people taking up a foreign language as it’s a great way to have a little taster before committing to a formal course. However, it can also be incredibly tempting to use the technology at our disposal as a shortcut which may actually be detrimental to learning; when it’s possible to translate in one click, the temptation to do so rather than work through difficult passages can prove too much. Yet that process of puzzling over the challenging parts is immensely important in committing the new language to memory, so perhaps in the long run, technology is not as helpful as we might think.

If German is your language of choice, the most effective way to learn is by taking private German lessons with a native tutor. There’s simply no substitute for this two-way interaction. Your computer may be able to tell you what the translation of a particular phrase is but it can’t tell you why. In a language like German where grammar and word order are so important, relying on technology as your tutor will not make for the best learning experience. Widely available translation tools also often produce errors in identifying grammatical cases, so take care how much you rely on them!

Having said all this, I’m not against technology per se. Each and every means of practice is valuable when you’re learning a new language.

Friedrich Schiller

German Language CoachContinuing our series of blogs on influential Germans, this week we take a look at the life and work of the poet, historian, philosopher and playwright Friedrich Schiller. 

Schiller was born in November 1759 and received his early grounding in language by way of the Greek and Latin tuition he received as a boy. He is considered to be Germany’s most important classical playwright and in 2008 was voted by viewers of TV channel Arte as one of Europe’s most important playwrights, second only to Shakespeare. He wrote his first play, The Robbers, whilst still at school, which became an overnight success despite shocking audiences with its republican ideals, ideals which later saw him invested as an honorary member of the French Republic.

During his time at school he read Goethe, among other noted authors, and in later life formed a strong friendship with the subject of our last blog. It was to prove productive. It was Goethe who encouraged Schiller to return to playwriting and complete works he had left unfinished. The two founded the Weimar Theatre together which led to the renaissance of drama in Germany and the movement known as Weimar Classicism.

Schiller suffered a series of illnesses throughout his life which, having trained as a doctor, he attempted to cure himself. But at the age of just 45, he fell victim to a disease which could not be cured and succumbed to tuberculosis. During his short life he produced a number of notable works including The Wallenstein Trilogy, Mary Stuart and William Tell. You could enjoy these works in their original language after taking a German language course in London with our native tutors.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

German Language CooachIn our last blog we looked at the work of the Goethe Institute in promoting the study of German around the world. This week, we  explore something of the life and work of the man after whom the institute is named, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Goethe was a hugely influential writer, philosopher and politician. Born in 1749, his large body of work comprises poetry, novels and plays, including the famous drama Faust. He also penned memoirs, literary criticisms and significant scientific works. His poems were set to music during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by major composers including Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler and Wagner.

In 1770, during his time as a law student, he launched his prolific writing career with the anonymous release of a collection of poems, entitled Annette, written about his love for Anna Katharina Schönkopf. After completing his degree, he continued to pursue his literary ambitions whilst supplementing his income by practising law.

His fortunes changed, however, in 1775 when he was invited to the court of the Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenbach because of his fame as an author. He settled in Weimar and held a succession of offices in the Duke’s employ, in time becoming his chief adviser. Through his position and his works, his ideas on many subjects came to be widely accepted. He was one of the leading members of the cultural movement known as Weimar Classicism and is cited as an inspiration to eminent philosophers such as Nietzsche, Jung and Wittgenstein.

Goethe died in 1832, aged 82. His many achievements can’t possibly be covered in one short blog but his legacy and influence endure to this day.

The Power of Language

20131028-103210.jpgThe Goethe-Institute is a German cultural organisation which for over 50 years has been promoting interest in, and study of, the German language around the world. Back in 2007, it launched an ambitious project which saw a series of events take place worldwide under the banner “The Power of Language” (Die Macht der Sprache). The project ran for a period of two years; its aim was to explore the significance of language in a globalised world. It looked at the part language plays in national identity as well as in politics, commerce and science. The project is still hailed today as a shining example of the institute’s work. So what did it find?
Leading lights from a wide variety of professions contributed to the project, giving their views on the role not just of German, but language as a whole. It’s hardly surprising that multilingualism was hailed as an invaluable skill in an increasingly integrated Europe. The full results of the project are available in a publication of the same name which you may like to peruse. A summary of that book declared that “The German language has never been so expressive, has never had such a large vocabulary and was never so capable of being used in so many different ways as now”.
We certainly agree with that viewpoint, and if you’d like to discover what the German language can offer you, check out our variety of German courses in London with learning delivery methods to suit every individual or company.

 

German in a Globalised World

German Language coach, German in a gloabalised worldIn an increasingly globalised world where English is more or less the undisputed international language of business, what place is there for multilingualism? Well, there are several global companies who believe that foreign languages, and specifically German, play an important role in helping employees integrate in today’s multi-cultural workplace.

The software giant SAP, which has its headquarters in Walldorf, is one such company. Though it conducts its business meetings, telephone conversations and written correspondence in English, it firmly believes that diversity plays a big part in creativity, innovation and progress. That’s why it invests strongly in German lessons for its foreign employees and, in some cases, even their families. It’s all part of an ethos which holds that employees who learn German are more content and well-adjusted, and work better as a result. It’s not a unique view either; Siemens is another global player which is investing in German lessons for its staff by way of e-learning and targeted German lessons.

There can be little doubt that mutual knowledge of a language apart from English promotes better integration and understanding between colleagues and business associates, wherever they are based in the world. German, being the most spoken native language in Western Europe, and with its place as an important language of business and politics, is surely the foreign language of choice for those who subscribe to this philosophy. If you’re one of them, you may wish to see what our In-Company Group Training lessons can offer you and your employees.

Martin Luther and the German Language

German Language Coach; Martin LutherFew 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 doubt whether this famed incident ever actually took place.

Luther though, apart from being the author of a massive change in the religious landscape of Europe, also played a major part in the development of German as we know it today. During his captivity at Wartburg Castle from 1521-22, he commenced work on translating the New Testament from Greek into German. His aim was to make the Bible accessible to as many people as possible, so he went to some lengths to ensure that his translation could be understood by northern and southern Germans alike, despite their many different dialects. His research took him out into local towns and marketplaces so he was able to use contemporary language in his Bible so, as he said, “people may read it without hindrance”.

Luther’s New Testament was published in 1522 and followed in 1534 by a translation of the whole Bible. The publication came at a time when printed books were beginning to circulate widely. Luther’s vernacular style won widespread praise and his German Bible became hugely influential in shaping the language. The Saxon dialect used by Luther became the common literary language from which today’s Standard German evolved and his translation had an impact in Germany and beyond which he could scarcely have anticipated.

Enrol on a German language course with our native tutors to learn the language bequeathed to us by Luther and his contemporaries.

The brothers Grimm and the German dictionary

German Language Coach; the Grimm brothersThe brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm are, of course, famed for fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin and Cinderella, which are known and loved by children the world over some 200 years after the brothers published their first collection of folk tales.

However, the brothers were not just storytellers. They were also trained lawyers and linguists, and as such they were commissioned to produce the first German dictionary by a Leipzig publishing house, work on which began in 1838. The dictionary, known as the Deutsches Wörterbuch, or DWB, is one of the most comprehensive dictionaries of the German language in existence, giving a history and analysis of every word it contains. The initial instalments of their work were published in 1854, but sadly the task was so large that the brothers were unable to complete the full version in their lifetimes. Wilhelm Grimm died in 1859, having completed the entries for the letter D. It’s said that Jacob was unable to complete the letters A, B, C and E and died in 1863 whilst working on the entry for Frucht (fruit).

A succession of other academics and institutes worked on the dictionary after the brothers’ deaths, but, due to funding and organisational problems, not to mention the unfortunate intervention of two world wars, it was not until almost a hundred years later, in January 1961, that the final version was published. Revisions to bring the work up to date and publish a digital version are now underway. If you’d like to learn just some of the 330,000 words contained in the DWB, you can learn German in London with our experienced native tutors. Contact us now to discuss learning options.

The Past Perfect in German

German Language Coach; The perfect tense in GermanWe have had a look at the Present Tense and Simple Past in one of our previous blogs. This blog is dedicated to the Perfect Tense in German. Many of you, who have already begun to learn German, may have heard that the Perfect is more commonly used in spoken German than other tenses describing the past. That is only partly true: in northern Germany, the simple past is still used in spoken German, whereby in southern Germany the Perfect is more often used.

The Perfect is formed with an auxiliary and the past participle of the verb. The auxiliary verb retains second position, as described in this blog article about the position of the finite verb in German. The participle is placed right at the very and of that sentence or clause.

The participle of regular verbs is formed with the prefix ge- and the suffix –t added to the stem of the verb. Irregular verbs form their past participles in unpredictable ways and they can be found in the irregular verb list of any German dictionary.

Whilst having taught the German language in London for many years, I have noted the difficulty many speakers face when choosing the right auxiliary verb: German forms the Perfect with the help of two auxiliary verbs, sein (to be) or haben (to have). The majority of verbs use haben. If the verb conveys movement from A to B or a change of state, then we use sein to form the perfect. That also applies to the verbs sein, bleiben and werden.

If you remember to use sein  with verbs that convey a change of position or condition plus the three verbs above, then you know how to form the perfect for about 99% of all German verbs.

Konrad Duden & German Orthography

German Language Coach; German OrthographySince 1880 one name has been the authoritative source for the correct spelling, pronunciation and usage of German words: Duden. Duden is to German what the OED is to English.

Konrad Alexander Friedrich Duden was born on 3 January 1829 in Wesel, Germany. After completing his secondary education, he studied history and philology at Bonn where he was a member of the Wingolfsbund student society and took part in the uprisings of 1848, known as the March Revolution. After a spell as a home tutor in Genoa, Italy, where he met the daughter of the German consul whom he would later marry, he returned to Germany and took up the position of Gymnasium (high school) teacher.

Throughout his life he was dedicated to the simplification and unification of German orthography, and after rising to the position of headmaster, he published his first work on the subject of spelling for his school in 1871. This was followed in 1872 by Die deutsche Rechtschreibung. Abhandlung, Regeln und Wörterverzeichnis and then in 1880 by his most important work, Das Vollständiges Orthographisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache or Complete Orthographic Dictionary of the German Language.

In 1902 the German parliament confirmed the Duden as the official standard and was quickly followed by other German-speaking states. 26 editions and over 100 years later, the Duden remains the prescriptive source for spelling in German. Konrad Duden died in 1911.

Today’s German teaching is based on Duden’s orthography. You can learn German in London with our experienced native tutors. You can contact us by email or telephone for further information on our range of courses.

Council for German Orthography

German Language coach; Council for German OrthographyThere 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 is composed of members from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the South Tyrol region of Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium and Liechtenstein. It was formed in 2004, when it replaced the existing Intergovernmental Commission for German Orthography (Zwischenstaatliche Kommission für deutsche Rechtschreibung). The RdR was formed following the German orthography reform of 1996 which set out to simplify the spelling of the German language in order to make it easier to learn.

In fact, you could draw a comparison to the differences between UK and US English. US English has simplified spellings which, though they are opposed by language purists, make for easier learning by foreign speakers. The German reform was controversial, but nevertheless the new standards became compulsory in schools and public administration and have gradually been accepted even by some of their fiercest opponents.

When you undertake a German language course today, you will learn according to the new standards, so you can judge them for yourself. You can learn German in London with our native tutors, all of whom are dedicated and experienced in teaching German to adults.

German Language Online

German Language Coach; German language onlineA recent study of languages used on the internet* shows that German is one of the most widely-used languages in the online world. It’s hardly surprising that English is the most-used language, being the main content language for a massive 55% of all websites. Just under 6% of websites use German as a content language. While this may not sound a lot, it does represent a very significant proportion and only Russian, which is huge both in area and number of speakers, has a comparable share.

This means that there’s no shortage of German language content available online for the keen learner to explore. With such a wealth of content it means that you are certain to find material on a subject which is of interest to you in German. This is a great way to challenge yourself and learn new vocabulary which is highly relevant to your own interests. When we explore subject matter which resonates with us on a personal level, we are much more likely to retain what we learn.

Once you reach an intermediate level, you could also try switching to the German version of your search engine; it’s the perfect opportunity to practise your German and is a very useful accompaniment to the German language course of your choosing. Though you may not understand everything you read at first, don’t be disheartened – practice makes perfect. If you’re unsure of anything you can make a note of it and discuss with your German tutor in order to improve your understanding.

* Source: W3Techs

Das Oktoberfest

German Language Coach; das OktoberfestOne of the most famous gems of German culture known worldwide is the Oktoberfest, a 16-day festival celebrating beer which takes place annually in Munich, Bavaria. The name suggests that it takes place in October, although nowadays this is only partly true. It now begins in September, having been brought forward in order to benefit from better weather conditions. This year will see the 180th festival begin on 21st September.More than 6 million people from around the world typically attend the Oktoberfest, which as well as being a celebration of beer, is also the world’s largest Volksfest, or people’s fair. It takes place in an area called Theresienwiese (the field or meadow of Therese), so called because it is the place where citizens of the city were invited to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in October 1810. An annual tradition was born, and the fields in which it takes place as well as the local name for the festivalhave since been abbreviated to die Weisn.

The Oktoberfest has become an important part of local culture and has been copied in several places around the globeincluding London, Canberra, Argentina and Palestine. Many of the cities in which these festivals take place have large communities of German descent, so if you have the opportunity to attend one of them, you will doubtless get the chance to practise some of the language skills acquired in your private German lessons. Using what you’ve learned in an informal setting such as this is great fun and can help you expand your vocabulary, provided you engage in conversation with people before they become Bierleichen, the word for those who over-indulge which literally means “beer corpse”.

Irregular German Verbs Simple Past

irregular verbs simple past, German Language CoachIn our last blog we have had a look at irregular verbs in the present tense. This blog we would like to dedicate to irregular verbs in the simple past. Verbs are sometimes categorised in regular, irregular and mixed verbs. Mixed verbs are in fact irregular verbs but do not change their stem in the present tense. Mixed and irregular verbs always change their stem in the simple past. Your verb list indicates this with the 3rd person singular in the simple past, sometimes called imperfect or preterite. With irregular verbs in the simple past, unlike in the present tense, the 1st person singular and the 3rd person singular are identical. The 2nd person singular ends in -st , as in the present tense, the plural endings are -en, -t, -en.

Now, a little about usage of the simple past vs the perfect tense. The simple past is more often used in written German, whereas the perfect dominates in spoken German.There are geographical differences though: the simple past is still quite often used in spoken German in the northern regions of Germany, the southern regions prefer the perfect in spoken German. If anything you are talking about that has happened in the past and is till of relevance, then you better make use of the perfect to point this out.

Irregular German Verbs Present

Irregular German Verbs, German Language CoachIrregular verbs, sometimes called strong verbs, have irregularities in the present tense indicative or the simple past indicative and in the past participle.  In today’s blog we would like to have a closer look at irregular verbs in the present tense indicative.

Indicative simply means that we are stating facts when using that verb. If you are not already an intermediate learner of German, then this mode is all you will have learned. All other modes can be deduced from the indicative.

A good German dictionary will indicate in the index whether a verb is irregular or not, usually this is done with an abbreviation or a mark behind the verb. You can then have a look at the dictionary’s list of irregular verbs. It lists usually the infinitive, the 3rd person present tense, the simple past, sometimes called imperfect or preterite, and the past participle.

The 3rd person present is the one to look out for if you would like to conjugate an irregular verb in the present tense. It shows us the irregularity in the 3rd person but at the same time assumes that the learner knows that the change happening in the 3rd person present tense also occurs in the 2nd person singular. The first person singular almost always retains the stem of the infinitive plus the ending -e, apart from modal verbs and the verbs wissen, mögen and kennen which also change their stem in the 1st person singular. In the plural, all verbs retain their stem, apart from the verb sein, which is irregular throughout in all Indo-European languages.

If we have aroused your interest and you would like to learn German in London, then please get in touch with us by phone or email.

English in the German Language

German Language Coach, English expressions in GermanIn our previous blog we have been looking at German words used in English and now we would like to introduce you to English words used in the German language.

The German language uses English words because it isn’t always easy to find a suitable German equivalent. The loaning of words eases communication and makes it easier to introduce new products and services with the same name across several countries.

Consider the following German sentence: Ein Bundle von Incentives und ein separater Team-Building-Event an geeigneter Location sollen das Motivationslevel erhöhen und gleichzeitig helfen, eine einheitliche Corporate Culture samt Identity zu entwickeln. Almost every third word is loaned from the English language: Corporate Culture versus Unternehmenskultur, Incentive versus Anreiz, Motivationslevel versus Leistungswille – it sounds better when English loan words are used and is much easier understood. But note that nouns loaned from English are being capitalised in German.

Germans like to go shopping (shoppen), both on-line (on-line) and in shopping centres (Shopping-Center). They search the Internet and use the verb ‘to google’ (googeln), if they download something they use downloaden. If the on-line order hasn’t arrived they make a call and are connected to a call centre (Call Center). Other verbs that have been taken from English are interviewen, surfen, leasen, daten, relaxen, switchen, piercen, managen, bloggen, joggen, outsourcen. All verbs loaned from English are classed as regular verbs in the German language. Want to know how to conjugate a German verb? Get with one of our German tutors!

German expressions in English

German Language Coach, German expressions in EnglishEnglish 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. Doppel meaning double, der Gänger derives from the word gehen (to go) – hence der Doppelgänger.

Most of us have been to the kinder garden, mused over the meaning of zeitgeist, seen the movie Poltergeist and heard of leitmotiv and angst – all loaned from the German language.

Anyone living in Middlesex, Essex or Sussex may wonder were these place names originate. Middlesex derives from Middle Saxony, Essex from East Saxony, Sussex from South Saxony. Saxons settled in England during the fifth and sixth century and liked to give places familiar names.

Arriving late for work because the railways are kaput? Today, broken railways are of course not the fault of Germany’s Blitzkrieg. The word kaput is German though, as is der Blitz (lightning) + der Krieg (war) = der Blitzkrieg.

Are you wallowing in Schadenfreude when your colleague draws flak from the boss because he is late for work again? There we have two more words loaned from German: flak and Schadenfreude. Flak is an abbreviation of the word Flugwabwehrkanone (air defence canon). Schadenfreude is made up of Schaden (the harm or damage) and Freude (joy). Therefore, Schadenfreude is the pleasure one takes in the misfortune of others.

We’ve all eaten Apfelstrudel (apple strudel), we measure the temperature in Fahrenheit, drive around in cars with Diesel engines, eat Frankfurters and Hamburgers – all German.

Tokio Hotel, Kraftwerk, Einstürzende Neubauten are German bands. However, Motörhead is not German – it is an English band that has loaned, or shall I say stolen, the Umlaut from German. Confused and want to start taking German lessons? You better get in touch with us!

The prepositions ‘an’ and ‘auf’

German Language CoachDuring 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 the questions why we use cases after prepositions. The answer is simple: on = auf + Dative and onto = auf + Accusative. English uses two different prepositions to  describe these two different scenarios, whereby German uses the same preposition but two different cases to describe the same two scenarios. When do you use auf and when do you use an? Auf is always used when something is resting on something else that is horizontal and an is used when something is resting on something that is vertical: auf dem Tisch – on the table (horizontal) but an der Wand – on the wall (vertical). if you would like to refresh your German or start learning German, then get in touch and book one of our private German tutors.

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 comes to forty-eight ways of declining an adjective! Getting the adjective endings right when speaking German is a sign that the speaker is able to master the German language. Not many foreign speakers of German get it right, even native speakers make mistakes. During my German lessons here in London, I use the following conceptual schema which, with a lot of practice lets you remember the endings very quickly:

German Language Coach; adjective endings

False friends in German

German-Language-CoachGermans 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 bail out Greece, then he’s got his figures right because he actually means two trillion. A billion in German is a trillion in English.

Being told in German that taking Gift is to be avoided shouldn’t be surprising, not because Germans have ulterior motives, but because Gift in German means poison in English.

The word Star in German means starling or cataract; the German equivalent for star is Stern.

Winken is to blink and not to wink, der Akt is not the deed but nude artwork. After is not after, but means rectum. Bald is not bald, but means soon.

False friends work both ways. Consider the following:

der Roman the novel the roman der Römer
der Qualm the smoke the qualm das Bedenken
die Provision the fee the provision die Vorsorge
der Mist the dung the mist der Dunst
das Kraut the herb the kraut der Deutsche
der Lack the lacquer the lack der Mangel

Confused? Refresh your German with one of our German courses!

Understanding word frequency

German Language Coach, Understanding word frequencyA 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 may already know that German has three definite articles depending on the gender of nouns. No doubt, your German teacher has stressed the importance of learning the gender of nouns. The definite articles occur about 155,000 times in every 1 million words. In other words, not knowing the right articles, has the potential of  making 1.5 mistakes with every 10 words; thus stopping you from speaking German fluently. The second most occurring German word is und which is a straight forward coordinating conjunction that joins two main clauses. The word sein occurs 24,500 times per 1 million words, but only if we are talking about the verb. The word sein as a possessive pronoun only has 3,650 occurrences per 1 million words. This shows, that besides the meaning of a word, it is vital to know its function and how to use it in the German language, i.e., how to conjugate a verb or how to decline an article.

Unless you already speak German at an intermediate or advance level, there is no need to buy a frequency dictionary. But that does not prevent you from learning frequent words or from making your own German vocabulary lists according to word frequency. Learn the vocabulary by knowing the meaning of the German word in your language and then recall the word in German. Recalling a German word will be much more challenging than knowing the meaning, but is vital when speaking accurate German with a degree of fluency.

German Word Frequency

German Language Coach, word frequencyYou 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 a frequency dictionary. Kaeding devised his frequency dictionary not because of an interest in teaching German, but he was interested in developing a new stenographic shorthand system for German. In spite of his intentions, his frequency list has enjoyed regular application when teaching German as a foreign language. The basis for lexical frequency list is a corpus, a structured collection of language texts that is intended to be a rational sample of the German language, for example newspaper texts, literature, radio and TV broadcasts. When learning a foreign language such as German, vocabulary can be learned randomly, i.e. as it occurs in a natural authentic setting, or systematically, as is usually the case in a structured language learning environment. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. But it can be said that lexical frequency information can be useful for the learner and German tutor alike. In our next blog, we will be looking at making use of word frequency when learning German.

Position of the finite verb

the finite verb, German Language CoachDuring my German lessons, I see many of my students placing the finite verb in 3rd position, as they would do in their mother tongue. In German however, the basic rule to remember about word order in simple sentences or main clauses is that the finite (conjugated) is always the ‘second idea’. The finite verb is the one, which can be either singular or plural, in the present, or past tense.

There can only be one finite verb in each German sentence; infinitives and past participles, for example, are not finite verbs and are positioned at the very end of the clause or sentence.

The verb’s second position applies even when some element other than the subject stands in first position. This can be adverbs, adverbial phrases, a noun phrase, a pronoun, an infinitive or even a participle.

A simple rule to remember: the finite verbs is the axis of a sentence and everything evolves around it.

The Present Tense in German

German Language Coach, the Present tenseIf 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 during my lessons.

Let’s look at the Present: Simple Present and Present Progressive are expressed with the Present tense (das Präsens) in German. The German present tense is used to express anything that happens in the present or on a regular basis, facts and the truth, or anything that might happen in the foreseeable future. Whereas this is easily understood and practised, the challenge is to express questions in German using the present tense.

Many of my students are tempted to use an auxiliary verb in addition to the main verb when posing questions in German as you do when using the simple present or the present progressive. German however, only requires the conjugated (finite) verb in 2nd position in 1st position for yes/no questions.

Accusative and Dative in German

German Language Coach, Accusative and Dative in GermanWhilst 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 example: The dog is biting the man. The dog is the subject (doing the biting), the man is the direct object; he receives the action of the verb (he is being bitten). Then the man kicks the dog. Here the man is the subject, and the dog is the direct object (he is being kicked). If you are replacing nouns with pronouns, then you can see the Accusative case in English: He is biting him. Him being the Accusative.

Now the indirect object comes into the equation: The man is going to the shop and is buying the dog a bone. The man is the subject, the bone is the direct object (it is being bought) and the dog is the indirect object (he receives the bone). Again, you can see the Dative case in English when replacing nouns with pronouns: He is buying him a bone. In this scenario, him is the Dative. In modern English, the indirect object is often distinguished by the use of prepositions, for example: He is buying a bone for the dog.

The German languages not only decline pronouns, but also articles, adjectives and sometimes even the noun itself.

Lets have a look at the above example in German: Der Mann kauft dem Hund einen Knochen.

der Mann = subject, dem Hund = indirect obkect (Dative), einen Kochen + direct object (Accusative)

Der Hund is changing to dem Hund and ein Knochen is changing to einen Knochen.

Apart from indicating the function of a noun, cases are also required after prepositions.

The Gender of Nouns in German

German Language Coach, Gender of NounsIn 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 which article goes with which noun. Grammatical gender is in most instances not based on natural gender.

The safest approach is always to learn each noun with the appropriate definite article: der for masculine nouns, die for feminine nouns and das for neuter nouns.

Here are some guidelines that will help you determine the gender of certain nouns:

The following nouns are always masculine (der): days of the week, months and seasons, points of the compass and vocabulary relating to the weather, apart from die Sonne. Makes of car are always masculine, as are alcoholic drinks, apart from das Bier which is neuter.

Most trees and flowers are feminine. Der Ahorn (the maple) is masculine though. All numerals used as nouns are feminine as are motorcycles, ships and airplanes.

All collective nouns with the prefix Ge- are neuter: das Gebäck (biscuits), das Gepäck (luggage), das Gemüse (vegetables).

Hotels and restaurants are neuter, hence it is das Savoy and das Hilton. The names of almost all towns and countries are neuter: das neblige London, das alte Nürnberg, das neue Europa.

Adjectives, pronouns, conjunctions prepositions and infinitives used as nouns are also neuter.

Have you ever wondered what gender a noun has that originates in a foreign language? Those nouns are assigned the gender of the originating German noun. For example: der Computer is masculine as it replaces der Rechner (the calculator), der Spieler (the player) becomes der Ipod.

If you want to know more, then maybe you should consider taking private German lessons.

German Adjective Declension

German Language Coach, Declension of AdjectivesDeclining 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: with a definite article, with an indefinite article or without an article. Bearing in mind that there are 4 cases in German, 3 genders and one plural, then there are 48 ways of declining adjectives. It’s not easy for any German language student to get his/her head around that.

Here an easy way to learn: 1. If no article precedes the adjective, then the adjective gets the ending of the article that would have preceded it. 2. If there is an article and it is not in its original form, then the adjective always gets an -en ending. 3. If the noun is plural and an an article precedes the adjective then the ending is always -en. 4. If the article does not indicate the gender of the noun, then the aajective indicates the gender -es ending for neuter nouns and -er for masculine nouns. 5. If the article does indicate the gender of the noun, then the ending is always -e. It is as simple as that, provided you know the gender of nouns and the use of cases.

‘Present Perfect Continues’ in German

German Language Coach Present tenseDuring 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 in the City of London. He has been having regular German lessons for about 6 months. Yet he still struggles to express in German something that has started in the past and is continuing up until now. When I asked him in German how long he has been studying German, he answered in German using the Perfect tense, which is the closest match to the Present Perfect Continues in English, which you would use to answer that question in English. However, that tense does not exist in German. Instead, he should have used the Present Tense in German. You may ask why he continues making that mistake after having had lessons for over 6 months. Since earliest childhood, he is used to the Syntax of English and only repeated practise will help him achieve his goal that German syntax becomes second nature. I shall ask him the same question every week: Seit wann lernen Sie Deutsch?

The evolution of German

German Language Coach, the evolution of GermanI 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 became distinct from the West Germanic language which also gave rise to English and Dutch between the 3rd and 9th centuries. The key factor in this divergence is known as the High German consonant shift, and it’s worth understanding some of the changes this brought about as it explains how certain sounds are related to their English equivalents and can therefore assist our comprehension of today’s standard German.

Our “p” sound shifts to “pf” or “ff” in German, depending on its position in a word, as can be seen by the relationship of words like penny and Pfennig, pepper and Pfeffer, ship and Schiff, sleep and schlafen, apple and Apfel, hope and hoffen.

Similarly, our “t” sound corresponds to a “z”, “s” or “ss” in German, as in ten and zehn, sit and sitzen, bite and beißen, out and aus, eat and essen.

We also commonly see a shift from our “c” and “k” to “k” and “ch” as in can and kann, make and machen, break and brechen; from “d” to “t” as in good and gut; and from “th” to “d” such as brother and Bruder.

Understanding something of the history of a language can be a useful learning aid, but by far the best way of learning is through tuition with native speakers. Get in touch to book your German course with our native tutors.

German Business Partners

German Language Coach, German Business PartnersGermans are proud of ”made in Germany” as a synonym for quality and reliability. In business meetings, Germans are rather formal, detail-oriented and direct. They tend to say exactly what they want and mean. They are decision making and problem solving oriented, although these processes can take quite some time to complete, especially considering the generally very highly hierarchical structures in some German companies. Be aware that the negotiation process can sometimes be very lengthy, since Germans prefer to discuss many details in advance in order to prevent future misunderstandings. It is generally seen as very impolite to make or accept telephone calls during a business meeting, conference or on any occasion where the call would serve as a distraction or imply disinterest to your business partners.

As Germans prefer to act on the basis of clearly communicated guidelines and fair rules, your German business partners will most likely view signed contracts as the non-negotiable end result of such discussions. Therefore, they will be quite disappointed if you surprise them with changes to business agreements after contracts have been signed. To sum it up, German business people value high quality, yet affordable, goods and services, which are provided (as agreed) on time and are accompanied by timely and transparent correspondence.

For more details about conducting business meetings in German please get in touch to book a German course.

Business Relationships with Germans

Many Germans strictly divide their work and private lives. For example, some people may hesitate to speak about their marital status, political and religious opinions, their personal income or other matters they consider to be private at work. You may, however, be able to get a conversation going by appealing to your business partners’ loyalty to his/her home region and its foods/beverages or sports teams. On the whole, however, Germans tend to be more interested in business-related issues, tasks and problems than getting to know customers, colleagues and vendors – it may thus take time for German business partners to get to know each other on a personal level. On the other hand, as Germans tend to be rather reliable, a well-established business relationship cannot be disrupted too easily. Business partners usually reward another year of good business relations with a Christmas or New Year’s card or a small token of appreciation (a local wine, beer, sausage, or baked goods, for example).

Business etiquette in Germany

I often get asked during German lessons what the right business etiquette in Germany is. Here a little synopsis about meeting German business partners for the first time:

When meeting with business partners for the first time in person, make sure you are on time, dressed appropriately and armed with ample business cards. Your business partner will probably introduce him or herself as Mr. or Ms. XYZ (Herr or Frau XYZ), which implies that you should wait to address him or her on a first name basis until invited to do so. In general, the corporate dress code is formal. Casual wear is acceptable on some occasions and in some industries (creative/media). Be sure to use a firm grip while shaking hands and maintain appropriate eye contact with the other parties when they are speaking to you. Be aware that it is impolite to put your hands in your pockets while someone is conversing with you. Please note that Germans will both greet and say goodbye to their business partners and friends with a handshake each time.

You know more German than you think

You shouldn’t be daunted at the idea of embarking on German lessons, it’s likely you already know a lot more German thank you think.

Our two languages are in fact closely related, both being West Germanic languages, so you’ll find that many words are almost identical, if not in spelling then in pronunciation. The words Hand and Finger for example are identical in German. Other words like Fisch (fish) and Maus (mouse) sound exactly like their English counterparts though their spelling has been anglicised.

Then you have all the German words which have passed into common usage in English, words like doppelgänger, angst, abseil, blitz, kindergarten, kitsch, hamburger, Frankfurter, lager and the delightful German word Schadenfreude for our not-so-delightful habit of taking delight in others’ misfortune.

And it’s not just one-way traffic. Many English words have seeped into German too, in a combination popularly known as Denglisch, though the phenomenon is far from popular with language purists. Nowhere is it more prevalent than in business and technology, with nouns like der Workshop, das Meeting, der Job and the verbs managen and downloaden being widespread. Despite there being perfectly serviceable German words for all of these things, they’re simply not seen as cool by most of the population who quip that Deutsch ist out.

You’ll notice that even when nouns are borrowed from English, they must still be capitalised in written German. Perhaps the spread of English words cannot be halted but grammatical standards must be preserved!

Why learning German is so worthwhile

As a nation the British don’t have the best reputation for being proficient speakers of foreign languages. Changes to school curriculums are attempting to remedy this situation and prevent future generations being thought “lazy” by the rest of Europe because so many of us don’t take the trouble to learn a second language. But is it too late for the rest of us?

The answer is that it’s never too late to start learning a foreign language, and if you’re prepared to put in a little effort, it is incredibly rewarding when you find you’re able to grasp the gist of a conversation which would once have been unintelligible, or understand an article online without having to resort to sub-standard automatic translation tools.

But is it, in fact, worth learning a foreign language when English is so widely spoken? Certainly it is, because it will allow you to communicate on equal terms with those you meet, rather than having to rely on their good education or good nature to converse with you in English.

So now we’ve established that you can and should learn a foreign language, which one should you choose? German is spoken by more people in the European Union than any other language, being an official language not only in Germany but also in Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, parts of Italy, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. So if you’re looking to do business on the continent it’s really the obvious choice.

Why not start with one of our learning options, which include intensive courses and private lessons with native German tutors? They will give you the best possible grounding in your new language, and leave you in no doubt that it certainly IS worthwhile learning German.

Practice makes perfect

One of the things learners of any language frequently bemoan is the lack of opportunities outside of their lessons to put into practice what they’ve learnt. Your German classes will help you develop your speaking and writing skills. However, you can help yourself to further develop your listening and reading skills by availing yourself of some of the many online resources at your disposal.

We’ve recommended some German language podcasts in a previous blog, but you could also try listening to German radio or watching TV programmes via the internet. Listening to different people talking can really boost your comprehension. German broadcasting station Radio Deutsche Welle has a wide selection of audio and video clips which are ideal for beginners and intermediate learners, including slowly spoken news bulletins (langsam gesprochene Nachrichten). Don’t be put off just because you can’t understand every word at first, just try to pick out the important ones so that you get the gist of the story.

There is also a wealth of material online that can help you brush up your reading skills. Why not look for German language websites that deal with topics related to your work or hobbies? This will help to focus and maintain your interest, and will also supply you with useful vocabulary should you be called upon to talk a bit about yourself when you meet German associates and acquaintances.

Language students today have access to so many valuable learning opportunities thanks to the internet, so make the most of them. These activities are used to greatest advantage when coupled with the solid foundation in the language that our German lessons with native tutors provide, so take a look at the learning delivery methods we offer, including one-to-one and group training.

Time keeping – a German virtue

Learning to tell the time in German

One of the first things you will learn in your German language classes are numbers. It will help you say what floor you need in a lift, or on railway concourse, or in an office block. It will also enable you to tell the time.

Timekeeping, for all German people, is very important. Arriving late for a meeting, is considered unprofessional; and arriving late for a dinner appointment is seen as just plain rude.

Learning to tell the time isn’t just about looking at your watch, your phone or the clock in the town centre. That’s easy. Knowing what the time is, if it is said to you over the phone or face to face, isn’t quite so simple. For example: You take a phone call from your German business colleague, he asks you to meet him in the bar, next to their offices at halb acht. Make sure you understand the time; otherwise you will arrive an hour late.

Halb, in German is half, like our half past and acht, is the number eight. So in English we might translate this to mean half past eight, because, we say, it’s thirty minutes past the last hour.
However, in German, they say, it’s thirty minutes to next hour. So, halb acht means, that it is thirty minutes to eight. What time is thirty minutes to eight? Yes, half past seven!

Once you get used to it, it will become second nature, but meanwhile, when you are in Germany on business; or speaking over the telephone, remember, to stop and think.

Addressing German business associates

How should you address business associates in Germany?

As a newcomer to German one of the first topics you’re likely to cover is the personal pronouns: ich, du, er, sie, es, meaning I, you, he, she, it and so on. If you’ve already started learning the language, then you’ll know that there are two different forms of the pronoun “you”: the singular, informal du to address one person you know well, and the plural or formal Sie when speaking to two or more people or someone you’ve just met.

What if you’re going on a business trip to Germany and making your first attempt at communicating in the native language? You may be meeting associates you’ve had previous dealings with on the telephone in English. You feel like you already know them quite well, so does that mean it’s OK to use the familiar du when you meet them?

In German, there is a clear distinction between formal and informal acquaintances, particularly in business. These social niceties are sometimes difficult to grasp for English speakers who aren’t accustomed to an equivalent form in their own language. It is not generally considered polite to address someone using du unless they’ve invited you to do so. In fact, many Germans don’t address each other by their first names until they’ve spent a very long time getting to know one another.

The correct way to address someone you’re meeting on a business footing is as Herr (Mr) or Frau (Ms) followed by their surname, and when you want to say “you”, use Sie.This will help you to avoid any offence or embarrassment in your business dealings.

Our German classes with native tutors will help you gain confidence in your business interactions whether you’re a beginner or a returning learner.

Learning German on a business trip

If you’ve taken a German language course in order to improve your business German then a trip to the country to meet clients or colleagues is a great chance to improve your language skills.

Learn vocabulary

Once all the business is done for the day, there’s the temptation to stay in your hotel and relax. This isn’t really the best way to make the most of your time. Head out of the hotel and explore the local area.

Taking in the culture of a city can really help to improve your language skills. This might be something as simple as keeping your thoughts on vocabulary as you walk past the Kirche, Rathaus and Schloss.

Speak German with the locals

If you are on your own in Germany, perhaps talk to the other business people you are meeting. You’ll probably find that some of them are more than willing to show you around. This is a good chance to work on the conversational skills learnt in your German language course. It’s also a good opportunity have some fun.

Speak German in a restaurant

Even if you head out for dinner on your own, it’s a great way to test out even the most basic of German language skills. Most German language courses will cover ordering in restaurants. Perhaps go somewhere traditional and sample true German cuisine.

Listen to people speak German

You don’t need to seek out places to speak German in order to get more of a feel for the language. Simply being around people can help improve your listening skills and perhaps learn some more colloquial and informal aspects of the language. Visit the hotel bar, a restaurant or spend some more time with your German-speaking colleagues.

Swiss German

Have you ever taken a plane to Zurich or Basel, expecting upon arrival that people would sound like your friends or colleagues from Germany – but then feeling rather puzzled when hearing them talk? The reason is that Swiss Germans have a very strong Allemanic dialect when it comes to their everyday conversation, which is called “Schweizerdeutsch”. This, however, should not discourage you from practising your German skills because every Swiss German can switch to the “Standardsprache” (Standard German) when necessary.

Unlike most regional languages in modern Europe, Swiss German is the spoken everyday language at all social levels in industrial cities, as well as in the countryside in Switzerland. Using dialect conveys neither social nor educational inferiority and is spoken with pride. There are only a few specific settings where speaking Standard German is expected, or is done out of politeness, for example in education, during parliamentary sessions, in the main news broadcast or in the presence of German-speaking foreigners. This situation has been called a “medial diglossia “, since the spoken language is mainly the dialect, whereas the written language is Standard German. They write Standard German pretty much exactly like the Germans do apart from a few small exceptions such as writing the double s (ss) instead of eszett (ß).

In terms of vocabulary Swiss Germans tend to use French loanwords like “Glace” (ice cream) instead of the German expression “Eis” or they use “Trottoir” for “Bürgersteig” (pavement). On a grammatical level Swiss German, for example, does not have a genitive case or a past perfect tense.

Swiss German has also preserved certain vowel sounds from Middle High German. Words like “Haus” (house) are pronounced as /huːs and “Wein” (wine) would be pronounced as /wiː. The contrast in pronunciation between Swiss German and German is as distinct as hearing Brummies talking to Glaswegians.

If you want to improve your German skills and also learn a bit more, as you progress, about the different dialects of spoken German and its usage in German-speaking countries, then get in touch with us and we will provide you with one of our native German speaking experts.

German Language Podcasts

You are learning German and wondered where you can practice listening and comprehension? Podcasts are a great way of listening to German on the bus, on the tube or whilst walking. There are a number of podcasts and it can take quite some time to work through them all before you find what suits you best.

I thought it’d be a good idea to let you know which podcasts we recommend to our students at various levels:

A great podcast for beginners is ‘Mission Europe‘. Provided by Deutsche Welle, a public broadcaster from Germany, it is best suited to those with no prior knowledge of German. The podcast is free and has exercises, audio, videos and tests.

Also from Deutsche Welle is ‘Marktplatz – Business German‘ – a podcast covering German economics and business topics. This podcast is for intermediate learners. Twenty six chapters, each chapter with an audio file and manuscript, will teach you everything that is needed to conduct business in Germany.

Then there is ‘Slow German‘, a free podcast produced by Annik Rubens – a broadcast journalist from Munich. With a clear, concise voice and non-accentuated German, Annik produces great podcasts for advance learners, covering topics from everyday life in Germany.

If you need help with conversing or writing in German, then it’d be best to start having German lessons. Get in touch!

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 should be able to understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases. You can introduce yourself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where you live and work, people you know and things you have. You should be able to interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help. At level A2 you will be able understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). You can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. You can describe in simple terms aspects of your background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need. Not bad for starters!

The intermediate levels are B1 and B2 at which you can understand the main ideas of complex texts on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in your field of specialisation. You can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. You can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

Proficiency levels are C1 and C2. These levels take several years of studying and at level C1, you can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. You can express yourself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions; can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. With ease, you can produce clear, well-structured, detailed texts on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices. At level C2 you can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read; can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. You can express yourself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.

No matter at which level you currently speak German, get in touch because our German lessons help you get to the next level.

How do you learn German?

If you are looking to learn German, then you might consider a self learning course, contact a language school or engage a private tutor.

Autodidactic learning is probably the most cost effective way of picking up a new language and you don’t have to schlepp half way across London to attend classes. Some get quite far in using that method. However, this method proves difficult in seeing how much progress you have made, it requires a lot of self discipline and does not give you the opportunity to put your new language skills to much use straight away.

Then there are language schools where you can learn in a class room environment with six to ten, or sometimes up to twenty aspiring German speakers. That number usually drops and as you are persevering, you will benefit from the smaller class that usually transpires after a few weeks into the course. The downside is, that the class moves forward in line with the progress of the slowest learner. Individual strength and weaknesses of students often have to be ignored as the syllabus of the course will be kept generic to accommodate everyone’s learning objectives and aptitude.

You might also consider engaging a private German tutor. The obvious advantage is that the syllabus of your course is tailored towards your needs and aptitude; progress will be fast and the timid learner does not have to feel embarrassed in front of a larger group when making mistakes. Maybe your tutor is even willing to come to your office or home to conduct lessons, which would safe you the journey to and from class.

If you are looking to learn German, have any questions about what would work best for you, then please get in touch.

British Expatriates in Germany

Over the years, Germany has had a large British expatriate community, mainly through military personnel stationed there since 1945.

Then, there was an influx of British builders & workers in the seventies and eighties who came to work in Germany – immortalised in the television series Auf Wiedersehen Pet! However, they did not settle permanently, but went back to the British Isles as the economy improved.

Since the early nineties, there has been once more a steady influx of British professionals & today approximately 96,000 Brits are working & living in Germany. Most of them are young professionals: age group is between the years 25 to 40.

British expatriates in Germany enjoy the relatively high standard of living & safety of the country. In comparison to the UK & other EU countries, Germany has in certain cities low levels of crime &  higher standards of living.

What about the German language you may wonder? Most Germans speak English & are more than happy to practise their English instead of speaking German. Hence, it is possible to get-by in every day life just by speaking English.

But, in order to work & fully integrate in Germany, it is vital to speak the native language. Maybe you are thinking of relocating to Germany & are thinking of attending German classes, or hiring a German tutor? Then, get in touch!

German Expatriates in London

Almost 40,000 Germans are living in London. More than Winston Churchill would ever have envisaged…

In contrast to other nationalities, Germans living in London keep a low profile; they do not dominate the high street with schnitzel restaurants or sausage shops. Instead, finances permitting, many of the young professionals opt to live in Wimbledon, Chelsea, Kensington, Highgate and Richmond.

What is the reason for the influx from Germany? If you want to make it big in the financial markets, you will most likely end up in London, the financial capital of Europe. In fact, an estimated 600,000 people work in the City’s banking sector. Frankfurt’s financial centre has only 500,000 inhabitants. For people working in finance, myriad career prospects are better in London than anywhere else in Europe.

Western Europeans make up half of all foreign workers in the UK, and as a result, many want to feel surrounded by their compatriots in London. Although nationalities tend to stick together when abroad, Germans in London do not form a tight-knit community.

However, you can see Germans socialise across London. There is, for example, the pub Zeitgeist in Lambeth, which not only serves the largest variety of Germany’s most famous drink, but also excellent German food and you can watch Bundesliga football.

To satisfy a basic appetite of the expatriate community, there is even a mobile German baker in London who stops over at the German Embassy, the German British Chamber of Commerce and other German ‘hubs’ in London.

With February approaching, you might even see more Germans out celebrating Karneval in London, as it is a big day in the Festive Calendar for all Germans. German Carnival you may ask? More about that in our next blog.

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, Germans are not rude at all.

When attending meetings with Germans, managing German staff or dealing with German management, it is worth considering these differences in language use, to ensure effective communication.

For example, I hear what you say’ means the English speaker disagrees and & does not want to discuss the matter further. However, the German listener would think the speaker is accepting his point of view.

The phrase I was a bit disappointed that‘ means the speaker is annoyed. The German listener, however, may think the disappointment is only slight.

The term quite good’ will be understood literally as quite good’, although it means ‘disappointing’.

Very interesting’ means it ‘is clearly nonsense’ and & may be understood as they are very impressed’.

Consider the Following Examples:

What the English say What the English mean What Germans understand
I’ll bear it in mind I’ve forgotten it already They will probably do it
I’m sure it’s my fault It’s your fault Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree I don’t agree at all He’s not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments Please re-write completely He has found a few typing errors
Could we consider some other options I don’t like your idea They have not decided yet
With the greatest respect … I think you are an idiot He is listening to me
That is a very brave proposalSee you later. You are insane…See you soon, not necessarily today He thinks I have courageHe wants to see me later today

To avoid such communication problems in the future, why not start German Lessons in 2012, with one of our native speaker tutors?

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 a report along with the email you would send the report as an attachment, als Anhang.

Die Datei: The attachment/der Anhang could also be more generally refered to as a file, als Datei.

Hochladen/ herunterladen: Depending on whether you are sending or receiving the email with a file attached (mit einer Datei im Anhang) you may need to upload the file first – die Datei hochladen – and at the other end you will need to download the attachment – den Anhang herunterladen. You may have guessed from the look of the verb that it is separable. So it is “er lädt die Datei herunter”

Die Besprechung: Always a welcome excuse not to be able to take a phone call. This notion is the same across all countries, I believe: “Oh, I am afraid, he can’t speak to you right now; he is in a meeting – in einer Besprechung.”

Generally though English native speakers are on the lucky side when learning German, at least when it comes to computer related language. Unlike other languages, German has not bothered to find its own translation for words like, computer, desktop, email, internet, browser, scanner. The only thing you might want to be aware of is whether it is “der”, “die” or “das” and the fact that since they are nouns they are being written in capital:

der Computer

das Desktop

die Email – the has been slightly adopted to German verb grammar, emailen.

das Internet

der Browser

der Scanner – again the verb has the German verbal ending –en, scannen.

These are only a few examples. All in all German language has borrowed many English terms not only for computer related terms but also when it comes to technology, marketing and PR.

Are you looking for German courses in London? Why not consider classes with your own private German tutor.

German sausage feasts in London

So you have been taking private German lessons for a while? Or even an intensive German course? And now you would like to go a little further and experience German outside your lessons? Because sometimes it is not just all about grammar or vocabulary, sometimes it just helps to get a taste of Germany to achieve fluency and proficiency in the German language…or….well… any excuse is good to try out one of the most clichéd, yet most authentic German experiences: a sausage feast. And you don’t have to go all the way to Frankfurt for it.

1.)    Kurz und Lang. Small deli-like sausage shop in Farringdon. Serves all sorts of varieties of German sausage, starting with the classic Bratwurst (grilled pork sausage), but also serving regional specialities such as the Berliner Currywurst (pork sausage with ketch-up and curry powder – looks odd but tastes yummy) but also selling Frankfurter and Krakauer (more spicy). Plus a selection of beers from various regions in Germany (Kölisch, Paulaner, Tannenzäpfle, Becks).

2.)    Herman ze German. Ironic name for unironically tasty German grub. A small deli just off the Strand serving sausages of all kinds such as the previously mentioned Bratwurst, Currywurst and Frankfurter plus also home baked bread and Bretzel variations. Eat in or take away.

3.)    Kipferl. Technically speaking not a German but an Austrian deli, with already 3 branches in Angel, Coram’s Field and Gordon Square. The mouth-watering menu offers besides such precious rarities like Käsekrainer (a cheese filled sausage), also the classic Wiener and of course Sauerkraut. Kipferl also caters for the sweet tooth and offers an authentic coffee and cake experience with various home baked Austrian delicacies. The Linzer Torte is a must!

Three good reasons to learn German

German is widely spoken in Europe: Count the 80 Million inhabitants of Germany, add Austria, the German speaking part of Switzerland plus Luxemburg, and German speaking minorities in Northern Italy, Southern Denmark and the Alsace in France and you get the picture. Of course, there is more than just the holiday aspect, since Germany is not exactly renowned for its glorious holiday resorts by the sea. It is more the practical aspect of course: think of all the business opportunities. You needn’t be fluent but a few basics could open doors and make business in Germany a little easier.

Thinking of studying in Germany? This may sound like a distant dream to any UK student but there are still universities in Germany that charge no or very low tuition fees (Berlin is only one of them). Typically the cost of living is comparatively low in Germany, unless you live in Munich, Hamburg or Baden Baden. Therefore you may find yourself NOT being burdened with huge debts to pay off after graduation.

German and English go back to the same West Germanic dialect. Can you believe that at some point in history a person from let’s say Hamburg probably would have had only minor trouble understanding a person from let’s say Winchester? “Funny accent”, they would have thought about each other…Unfortunately this is a very long time ago and not the case anymore. But a few centuries, a great vowel shift plus a few French and Scandinavian invaders later we can still find prove in the vocabulary: House – Haus, beer – Bier, wine – Wein being the most obvious ones. The list could be extended with verbs like make – machen, say – sagen or adjectives like small – schmal, round – rund.

Does learning German sound like a good idea? Check out our services for private German lessons and courses in London.

Is our list missing a reason? We look forward to hearing your comments!