Who’s the Man? – Introduce yourself (and others)

MeetYou Ich heiße Holger.

Mein Name ist Andrew.

Das ist Susanne.

So far so good.

What about:

Ich bin der Peter.

Das ist die Julia.

THE Peter? THE Julia?

For English speakers this sounds at best strange, at worst awfully pompous, yet this way of introducing yourself is pretty common in Germany and you’ll hear it all the time.

There are absolutely no hidden connotations when using the definite articles “der” or “die” in connection with introductions. They absolutely don’t need to be used but if you come across them don’t be surprised and if you feel like wanting to use them in your own speech: Be my guest.

Just remember:

Das hat mir der Holger gesagt.

Mahlzeit! – Greeting rituals in German

mahlzeitHallo! Guten Morgen! Guten Tag! Guten Abend! Wie geht’s?

Tschüss! Auf Wiedersehen! Bis dann!

All very popular ways of saying “Hello!” and “Good-bye!” in German and probably some of the first few words you had encountered when learning the language.

But what about the likes of….

Mahlzeit!

Ever heard that one?

It is indeed another popular greeting you may occasionally come across.

It literally translates as “meal time” and still carries the general meaning of a dish or a meal.

Hmmm, das ist aber eine leckere Mahlzeit. Yummy, that is a nice meal.

Over the last couple of decades it has also become popular as a greeting when meeting colleagues, friends or family who are sitting down for lunch in a canteen or elsewhere. Kind of like saying “Guten Appetit!” when you are not actually a member of the group of diners and just happen to come across them.

Now it can, however, also be heard as a general informal “Hello!” all day long and is no longer necessarily connected to a meal. I was once working with a guy who used this as his general greeting first thing in the morning when entering the office. Not everyone says it and it’s a matter of personal preference but it is quite popular.

There’s one last additional meaning that the word can have and that is in the context of

Prost Mahlzeit!

This is an ironic term of frustration when a small disaster has just happened in your presence.

Someone drops and smashes some plates on the kitchen floor: Na, prost Mahlzeit!

You heard that you’re all made to do unpaid overtime: Prost Mahlzeit indeed

When someone comes over to a table with a group of people already seated around them, you may notice that they knock on the table while saying “Hallo!”, “Mahlzeit” or whatever greeting of their choice.

See, in Germany it is still customary to shake hands vigorously when meeting folks and parting from them. No problem, when you meet one or two people. A complete nuisance when you’re at a large event:

Get off from your chair, shake hands, say Hello and chat. Sit down.

Then get up again from your chair for the next person to come along, shake hands, say Hello and chat.

Wash, rinse, repeat until you’ve said Hi to everyone at which time the first people will start leaving which will require you to go through the same routine in reverse again to shake hands and say Goodbye.

So the cool kids on the block simply come over to a table with a group of people and say Hello while knocking on the table surface. Everyone can then breathe a sigh of relief knowing that hand shakes will not be required.

Depending on what part of Germany (or indeed Austria or Switzerland) you’re in, you may also come across a number of other regional greetings such as e.g.

Servus!

Grüss Gott!

Grüezi!

As these are dialectal variations it may end up sounding strange if you attempted them without really being strongly connected to that region.

Please be aware that some of those (e.g. “Servus”) can be used for saying both Hello and Goodbye, similar to the Italian Ciao!

Please let me introduce… Peppa Wutz

peppaFollowing up on my recent post on learning German with the help of movies and in particularly silent movies, here’s a little addendum:

One really helpful way to improve your listening and general language skills is to watch children’s shows.

Their language is generally relatively simple, yet includes a large number of important phrases, and the pronunciation of the speakers concise.

And a lot of them are easily available on YouTube. In order to find those just e.g. search for “Peppa Wutz”, the German name for Peppa Pig, and spend the next few hours going from one recommendation to the next.

Shhh…. – Learning German the Silent Movie way

frauimmondposterOne of the most entertaining ways to immerse yourself in a new language is through its movies. You can kick back and get entertained while at the same time brushing up on your language skills.

Regardless of your current language skills, you are bound to pick up something new. Even absolute beginners can benefit.

Years ago when I watched LOLA RENNT which features a very important bag stashed full of money, my girlfriend who doesn’t speak much German and wasn’t even watching the film but just heard bits and pieces in the background, came over and asked me what the word “Tasche” means. Obviously the term was used so regularly that it stuck in her mind and she is still able to remember that word whenever she travels to Germany.

Though there are lots of opportunities these days to watch foreign language films via Netflix & Co., only a properly mastered DVD may offer you the flexibility you need to pick subtitles of your choice so that depending on the level you’re at you could do one of the following:

  • Watch the film in German with English subtitles
  • Watch the film in German with German subtitles
  • Watch the film in German without any subtitles

You could even do all three, i.e. start watching it with English subtitles, then – as you are already familiar with it – watch it again with the German subs and finally without any subs at all. It will become increasingly more difficult to understand it but as you are already familiar with the plot and dialogue you’re going to recognise and understand more and more of the actual text.

So far I haven’t told you anything that hasn’t been recommended elsewhere before

What is never really mentioned, however, is the idea to use silent movies (Stummfilme) as a learning tool.

True, there is only a hardcore set of movie fans left who still explore those films regularly, yet once you start to get into their archaic world and rhythm you will see that they provide wonderful imagery that is bound to live with you for quite some time.

And Germany during the Weimar Republic was the world’s leading producer of quality movies. Hollywood was just setting up shop at the time and one could argue that the large scale emigration of German and Austrian film makers to America following Hitler’s rise to power let to the proper resurgence of Hollywood. For starters: What would Hollywood have done without the likes of Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch, Robert Siodmak & Co?

But let’s forget about the historical and artistic qualities of German silent movies and focus entirely on their linguistic benefits.

Given that the majority of these products are indeed silent, all you really need to understand are the German language intertitles. And these are strategically placed in a way so that you can even pause the film if you can’t read and understand them quickly enough without interfering too much with the flow of entertainment.

Pause a proper modern movie in between and you have bizarre random cut-offs of faces and interrupt the natural pattern of speech between characters. Pause a silent movie and you just pause it at a point where the film was actually designed to be read and where you won’t interfere with the natural acting flow.

Of course, whenever silent movies are still shown these days, they usually come with English language intertitles, so make sure to purchase DVDs that offer the original German intertitles as an option. Or you could simply purchase the DVD via Amazon’s German website, where they will generally sell the German versions of those flicks.

As silent movies by and large are out of copyright, they can also easily be tracked through YouTube or Archive.org but again a lot of those versions come with English language intertitles.

Below please find some examples of German silent movies with German intertitles to get you started.

Mind you, some of them feature a more old-style way of writing and some have additional Spanish or English subtitles but these should still give you something of a head start nonetheless. Please also note that some of those productions are sliced up into various parts that can all be found online as well.

 (Part 1/3)

 (Part1/10)

Elke Sommer sagt No

Elke SommerKnow “Schlager”, know Germany.

Love’em or hate’em but the much maligned Schlager” are an integral part of German life.

The term (der Schlager, plural: die Schlager) describes nothing else but a German pop song. It’s the style of music that for English native ears sounds decidedly Eurotrashy but that for millions of Germans has been the soundtrack of their lives. Even if you end up rebelling against it at a later stage – Believe me, I’ve tried! – these addictive ditties easily become a part of you that is impossible to shake off.

The good news for German learners is that these songs by and large operate with a relatively simple vocabulary that is generally sung very clearly and with a catchy rhythm and melody that makes the lyrics easy enough to remember.

There are countless examples for this type of song and Elke Sommer’s ICH SAGE NO is by far not the most popular but I like the way this YouTube video integrates the German lyrics with a collage of her photos.

Sommer is not generally known as a singer but as part of the post-war “Fräuleinwunder” was one of the few German actresses who have managed to create something of an international career for herself. She acted opposite Paul Newman (The Prize) and Peter Sellers (A Shot in the Dark), appeared in a number of TV shows (The Six Million Dollar Man, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island), was in Carry on Behind and in two films by Italian genre master Mario Bava but my overall favourite performance of hers was as one of a duo of sexy female killers in Deadlier than the Male, the best James Bond movie to not feature James Bond but instead focus on bikini clad vixens who emerge out of the ocean and murder by harpoon.  (Check this YouTube clip to get an idea what I am talking about.)

 

 

 

 

 

What is the difference between “wie” and “als”?

comparisonsIn English we speak about things that are as big as something else but bigger than.

In German we use the term “als” (that unfortunately looks suspiciously like as…as) for the latter case, i.e. when things are

kleiner als = smaller than

schneller als = faster than

Please notice that for the comparative form we just add an “-er” regardless of how long the adjective is. For longer adjectives of two syllables or more English often uses the more … than format but German is a bit more consistent in its approach here

interessanter als = more interesting than

We would never speak of something being “mehr interessant als”! Beware of this as this is a common mistake for people learning German coming from an English language background.

When things are on an even scale we use the format “so [adjective] wie” or alternatively “genauso [adjective] wie”

so teuer wie = as expensive as

so erfolgreich wie = as successful as

so schön wie = as beautiful as

genauso gut wie = as good as

Mind you, listen closely and you’ll notice that there are actually a good number of Germans who mistakenly say stuff along the lines of: “Das Buch war viel interessanter wie der Film” or even: “Das Buch war viel interessanter als wie der Film”.

Just because even native speakers may occasionally mess up in that department should not stop you from using the forms correctly. So if you discuss a book and its cinematic adaptation you will properly say:

Das Buch war viel interessanter als der Film. The book was more interesting than the film.

Or:

Der Film war (genau)so interessant wie das Buch. The film was just as interesting as the book.

Feeling blue?

Image

Interesting how connotations can change in different languages.

Though the colour blue does indeed translate as “blau”, this colour is associated with different emotional states in both languages.

“Blau sein” means being drunk. “To be blue”, however, can be translated as “traurig/melancholisch sein”.

Der Peter war gestern wieder einmal ziemlich blau. (Peter was pretty drunk again yesterday.)

Heute fühle ich mich ein wenig melancholisch. (I am feeling a little bit blue today.)