You’ll probably do just fine without knowing a word of German but noteverybody speaks English, and learning a few phrases is a great way of really immersing yourself in the culture while you’re there. As a basic courtesy, you should learn the magic words: ‘please’ and ‘thank you’!
Here are 9 phrases that might come in handy (click on the highlighted words to hear an audio of the word/phrase).
For hello, you have a couple of options depending on the time of day, and indeed, where exactly you are in Germany. Guten Morgen (good morning),guten Abend (good evening) and guten Tag (good day) are the most common greetings. You might also hear Grüß Gott in the south, which is used at any time of day.
Auf Wiedersehen is the formal way to say goodbye (unless you’re on the phone, then it’s Auf Wiederhören, but that’s a whole other can of worms!). Tschüss is more informal and is becoming increasingly more popular in usage.
2. Please and Thank You
Ok, so you don’t know how to say ‘is there any chance you have this pink dress with the yellow stripes in a size smaller, please?’ but it will be much appreciated if you follow up your question in English with a bitte at the end! Bitte is a very useful word in German but most widely known as the word for please. You might also hear it used in other contexts: you’re welcome and pardon? being just two examples.
Once you’ve asked your question (followed by a bitte), don’t forget to say danke schön at the end of the transaction! If you don’t like the look of that öin schön, a simple danke will suffice!
3. Do you speak English?
I know you’re trying out your German but you can’t learn it all before you go (unless you’re going several years from now) and a better way to ask if someone speaks English is not to shout “ENGLISH??” at them really loudly, but to learn how to say ‘do you speak English?’ The phrase you’ll need is: Sprechen Sie Englisch?
4. How much does it cost?
You’re not going to a Weihnachtsmarkt to keep your money in your pocket, so you’re going to need to know how to enquire about prices! Wieviel kostet das? means how much does that cost?, most effectively used when holding or pointing at something you want to buy.
Of course, if you ask a question, it helps to have an idea of what the answer could be. Hopefully the answer to this question will just be a number. Germanpod101.com has some useful YouTube vids on how to count in German.
Sure, we now have navigation apps and in-car GPS but sometimes it’s easier to just ask a local, especially if you know you’re close but don’t know which exact street to walk down!
Wie komme ich am besten zu …..? literally means ‘how do I best get to…?‘ Simply add the street or place name to the end. There are some grammar issues with the word zu but we’re just covering the basics here so don’t worry about that part.
You will hopefully be told to go left (links), right (rechts) or straight ahead (geradeaus).
6. Ordering Food
Before you can sink your teeth in to any delicious German cuisine, you need to order. Können wir/kann ich bestellen, bitte? means can we/can I order, please?
You could point at things on the menu and speak loudly in English but a nicer way to order what you want is to say “ich hätte gern” followed by the dish you would like.
7. Paying for food
When you want the bill, you ask Können wir bezahlen, bitte? (literally ‘can we pay, please?)
It’s more than likely that you’ll be asked do you want to pay ‘zusammen odergetrennt?’ Your waiter or waitress is asking if you want to split the bill (getrennt) or pay it all together (zusammen). This was a new phenomenon for me when I was studying in Germany and it definitely came in handy being a student!
8. In an Emergency
If you find yourself in a sticky situation or need help, the most important phrase to remember is Hilfe (help). Other useful words you might need to shout areFeuer (fire) and Polizei (police).
9. Another beer, please
This one might come in handy if you’re going to soak up the atmosphere in a German pub (which you most definitely should!). Noch ein Bier (another beer) or simply noch eins (another one) if the barman knows what you’ve already been drinking, and don’t forget that all important bitte at the end! If you’re at a Weihnachtsmarkt, maybe it’s another mulled wine you want: Noch ein Glühwein, bitte.
If you want to practice before you go, Rocket Languages offer free tutorials online – you can hear the words spoken and then record yourself repeating them.
Enjoy your time at the Weihnachtsmarkt, soak up the atmosphere, drink plenty of Glühwein and practice your new German phrases
© 2015 | Sarah Murphy | All Rights Reserved