Friday, November 29, 2013

Kritik Üben

I learned a completely new way to use the word üben today.

Üben itself is word that every German student should have in their vocabulary. Because it is something you should do as often as possible if you want to get better in German.

üben - to practice

However when you pair up the verb üben with the noun Kritik it changes the meaning completely.

Kritik üben - to criticise (an + Dative) someone/ something

die Kritik - criticism, review (movie, book)

Here are two examples:

Der Politiker hat Kritik an seinem Gegner geübt. The politician criticized his opponent.

Der Politiker hat Kritik an einem Gesetz geübt. The politician criticized a law.

You can also just use the verb kritisieren instead if you want, but then where is the fun in that. Besides if you whip Kritik üben out in a conversation it is sure to get noticed.

kritisieren - to criticise

Thursday, November 28, 2013


I don't like this word.

It is not easy to say. It doesn't roll of the tongue. And most annoying of all the definitions from Leo seem to be slightly contradicting. It translates it as to fiddle about and to work meticulously.

I'm sorry but isn't 'to fiddle about' the exact opposite of 'to work maticulously'?

In class the word was described more like 'to tinker' and is used mainly when discussing inventions. Imagine someone in a workshop building something new from scratch. This interpretation of tüfteln was also confirmed by mein Freund.

tüfteln - to tinker or fiddle (with an invention)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bergab vs Bergauf

Two new word to add to my already stuffed brain.

Hills along the train route between Dresden and Prague

bergab - downhill

bergauf - uphill

Bergab has a negative connotation. It is used to refer to things going downhill, to get worse. Unlike in English, where it can be used for both negative and positive meanings. For example. 'His plans are going down hill.' (negative) or 'After this turn it's all downhill from here.' (positive)

It can however be used literally as in to coast your bike downhill.

bergab rollen - to coast downhill (with a bike, car, etc)

Bergauf on the other hand has a positive connotation. It is used to imply things are getting better, are looking up. Even though I would argue that it is harder to go up a hill then down it. But I guess the positiveness of upward movement in general overrides the literal here.

This is a great example of seemingly simple vocabulary that is nothing but! It is not enough to learn the translation, uphill and downhill, but you also have to learn their (counterintuitive) meaning. I am sure to get this mixed up!

Learning German is a slow uphill battle! oh or should that be bergauf?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lehrer or Lehre

It is interesting how sometimes the simplest thing can confuse you and then this continues to distract you so much that you can't focus on the next task at hand. That happened the other day in class. I was totally confused.

Someone used the word Lehre in their sentence. Which the teacher also wrote on the board. She spelled the word which I thought was teacher, 'Lehre', in stead of 'Lehrer.' Which only confused me. At first I thought that maybe in German they just spell it different sometimes, like we do in English with Theater and Theatre. I just left it as that and continued on with the next sentence. But it just kept nagging at me.

I kept thinking about it and realized that 'Teacher' didn't quite fit in the sentence. I finally just had to ask it was driving me crazy. 

die Lehre - apprenticeship or doctrine, teachings and (figuratively a) lesson

Not to be confused with 

der(die) Lehrer(in) - teacher, instructor

Here in Germany apprenticeships are still a strong aspect of the work force. There are many people just out of high school that take on apprenticeships to learn a new job or skill. Die Lehre usually just refers to this time as an apprentice as you learn the new trade.

It is also used to mean a lesson. The best example of this is in this common saying, "Lass dir das eine Lehre sein!" "Let this be a lesson to you!"

So let this be a lesson to you: Ask questions when you are confused, it saves you stress and time and you can learn something too. This Lesson of course is meant for your next German Class but can be applied to other situation in you life as well. Like Spanish class! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Good Bye Lenin!

I recently rewatched the movie Good Bye Lenin! (yes, that is the original German title). I had originally watched it back when I first moved to Germany and had really enjoyed it. Watching it this time was even better than the first!

Good Bye Lenin! is set in 1990 in Berlin. It is at it's most basic, a story about what a son will do for his mother. Though the layers of this story keep getting pulled back as the movie progresses. One of the best things about it is, it gives us a great look (though limited) into what the DDR was.

For those of you who don't know, DDR stands for Deutsche Demokratische Republik. In English it is GDR, the German Democratic Republic or more simply East German. I wont go into details about the DDR, but for the intention of understanding the premise of the movie it had been it's own separate country for just over forty years. And after the wall fell East and West Germany were reunited as well as East and West Berlin.

The story takes place in Berlin around the time of the Fall of the Wall and the months after. The story revolves around Alex, who has grown up in the DDR in East Berlin. His mother has been a very active member of the society. She has a heart attack and falls into a coma. While she is in the coma the Wall falls and the DDR is no longer.

Imagine you go to sleep in your country and wake up in another. That is literally what happens to the Mother. However there is a catch. The doctor warns Alex that even though his mother has woken up and is recovering her heart is still weak. She would not survive another heart attack. She should avoid, at all costs, getting too excited or upset.

What then ensues is a crazy mad and completely hilarious effort of Alex, with the help of his sister, friends and even their neighbors to recreate the DDR for their mother.

Here is the trailer from YouTube

Good Bye Lenin! was extra enjoyable this second time for a few reasons. The first being that my German is much better and I didn't have to rely on subtitles this time around. Second because I recognized landmarks and areas and understood references to different thing that were discussed.

And lastly because this time I have a better understanding (as much as it is possible for an American to have) of the change that was taking place in East Berlin at the time.

Your country is no more, that means your currency is no longer valid, your job may be is gone. Your plans for your future are in question, your school and curriculum has changed. Even the food you eat is different. When talking about the fall of the Wall most people focus on the new freedom of movement between the East and West and the demise of the DDR Government and Stasi. They don't usually think about the more personal loss and upheaval in the day to day goings-ons that the East Germans must have felt in the first few months and years as they reevaluated their changed options and altered lives.

This movie is a lot of fun, and you do not need to be completely familiar with the DDR to enjoy it. I really recommend it for anyone. Even if you are not interested in learning German. The story has many layers and is very well done.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Und Zu Guter Letzt

And to round up this week of posts is. . . Last but not least.

I really mean 'Last but not least.'

zu guter letzt - last but not least

My German teacher has been using it a lot this week and I finally remembered to share it with you.

Friday, November 22, 2013


This word sounds so cute. I want to scrunch up my nose and imitate talking to a little baby when I say it. "Oh, you little Kleingedruckte." Though that would not really be considered appropriate, actually probably not considered appropriate unless you are actually talking to a baby. . . or a pet.

das Kleingedruckte - the fine print

Kleingedruckte refers to the actual fine print of a contract. It also can be used in reference to details. Like we say in English, be aware of the fine print, even when there is no actual 'Fine Print' to read.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I was reminded of this word today. I had first learned it sometime ago, but I never really used it myself for a few reasons. It seems to go hand in hand with parents of young kids and teachers and grandparents. Well, pretty much anyone who spends alot of time around kiddos.

schummeln - to cheat

I have babysat a little boy, pretty regularly for about three years. I first learned the word schummeln from just being around the little kids and their parents. Though the word never really stuck in my head because I never really got the opportunity to use it since, I always talked with the kids I sat in English. They are all bilingual kids.

Schummeln means to cheat but it is the mild way of saying it. As I mentioned before you generally use it with young kids. A teenage might laugh at you or roll their eyes if you use it with them. I would also not expect to hear it from adults when talking or discussing the actions of other adults. There is a more formal word for those circumstances, which sounds adequately formal and harsh.

betrügen - to cheat

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Heiß vs Scharf

In English we use the word 'hot' to refer to both the temperature of something and/or the spiciness of something (aka food).

Imagine you are eating with some friends and they take a bite of their pasta and then exclaim "Oh that's hot!"

It is totally normal for you to then ask, "Do you mean hot as in spicy or hot as in temperature?"

Now at least this is a common scenario that I have grown up with.

My mom happened to be recently for a visit and this exact scenario happened. I was the pasta eater, who exclaimed that my food was hot. To which my mom asked "Hot spicy or Hot temperature?" In stead of answering her question like a normal person, I exclaimed "A ha!" in very much like a Sherlock Holmes Eureka moment and pointed at my mom, who looked a little surprised and bewildered. Unfazed I turned to mein Freund and hooted "See, we really do ask it! Did you hear her?"

My reaction seemed quite ridiculous to everyone else at the table, which I only noticed because of the look mein Freund gave me over his pasta laden fork and also for the calm and curious look of 'awaiting an explanation' that my mom maintained. Might I add here that my Mom is great, she just kind of smiled and waited for my explanation, which I preceded to provide.

Which was that in German they have two different words for temperature hot and spicy hot.

Heiß - hot (temperature)

Scharf - hot (spiciness)

So no confusion and it is often considered quite funny that we have to clarify which we mean. I guess we could say spicy, but I just never do.

This moment with my mom also happened the way it did because mein Freund often said he had a hard time believing that we English speakers actually asked for this clarification. So when my mom asked, unprompted, I might have over reacted just a tad.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I discovered the word beisetzen the other day.

Often when you are learning a foreign language and you come across a new word you can beak it down into it's part to figure out the meaning. Though this technic is often very helpful sometimes it just doesn’t help at all.

Which is what happened with beisetzen.

The first part of the word, 'bei' means with or by. The second half of the word 'setzen' means to set, lay, place. So knowing those words, it would seem like that beisetzen would then mean something like 'to lay with' or 'set a side', right? Nope. Wrong.

beisetzen - to bury, to inter

Beisetzen means to bury someone! Which is interesting. You kind of do set aside someone in a sense when you bury someone. So maybe I wasn't so far off . . . ?

But in all seriousness, beisetzen is apparently a slightly older word, which is not used so often. Think of it more as 'to inter' then 'to bury'.

Here are the two more comely used words for 'to bury'.

begraben - to bury

beerdigen - to bury

Monday, November 18, 2013

Knockin' on Heaven's Door

I finally got around to watching the movie Knockin' on Heaven's Door. I am not really sure if it is considered a cult classic, but every German that I have asked about the movie seem to rave about it. And upon finding out that I hadn't seen it, insisted that I really needed to see it.


Knockin' on Heaven's Door  stars Til Schweiger and Jan Josef Liefers as two terminally ill patients, who make a pack to see the ocean before they die. The movie follows their escapades as they try, any way they can, to get to the coast. It is kind of a crazy lawbreaking road trip movie. Think Thema and Louise except that they are dudes and terminally ill and well, Thema and Louise has more of a social commentary running through it then this movie. But anyway.

Moritz Bleitreu is also in the movie and plays a thug/hit man character in a parallel storyline who gets effected by the two main characters' antics. This actor was one of the first German actors that I really took note of. He was in Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run) and you may recognize him more recently from World War Z. He was one of the doctors at the WHO center. He stayed behind and didn't brave the zombie in the infected wing with Brad. Anyway.  . .I digress.

Here is the trailer I found on YouTube for Knockin' on Heaven's Door.

I get it. It isn't the best German movie ever, but the storyline in interesting and just enough within the scope of reality that it is believable. The characters are funny and well played and the plot keeps you entertained and rooting for the them to make it to the coast.

If you are interested in practising your German, this movie is a good choice. It is a light comedy (despite the terminally ill status) and  if your German is not very strong the scenes and story are great for picking up things though context. Which always helped me when trying to improve my listening comprehension.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Kurzzug Hält Vorn

Last night we were heading back home after meeting friends for dinner and were waiting for the Subway train to come. I noticed that there were quite a few people waiting down at the other end of the platform. When the train did arrive, it was a much shorter train then one would usually sees during the day. All the people at the far end of the track had to run down toward the front of the platform where the short train actually stopped.

It is moments like this that I take selfish pride in the fact that I understand German. And giggle a little at the tourists.

The electronic signs on the platforms, that lets you know when the next train will arrive, Also lets you know if it will be a Kurzzug, a short train, and where it will be stopping along the track. It usually stops towards the front of the platform, or towards the back and on occasion it even stops in the middle. In this case it was stopping toward the front.

der Kurzzug - the short train

kurz - short

This is intended to be helpful to those riding the subway so they don't have to sprint to catch the train even though they have been waiting there along with everyone else.

As you can see the sign says Kurzzug hält vorn, short train stops in the front.  

The Kurzzug locations are usually towards the front or the rear of the track. Midway does exits, though I have seen it only once.

vorn(e) - ahead, front, in the front

hinten - behind, back, rear

mittig - central, middle

Even if you don't understand the location. The BVG has also marked the track with black and white striped tape, which is further labelled with 'Haltebereich Kurzzug', stopping area of the short train. 

der Haltebereich - stopping area

der Bereich - area, division, sector, zone

Which is great because sometimes even though it says short train stops toward the front it may not get to close to the front as you may think and so the marked area is actually the most accurate indicator.

Next time you travel with the BVG and you have a Kurzzug coming, you can look like someone in the know and wait for the train in the right section of the track.

Friday, November 15, 2013


I am taking some German classes again and really enjoying it. I am finally at a level in German where I am not struggling to follow the teacher or my classmates. It really makes a big difference.

I learned a new word today.

One of my classmates was forming a sentence today to which the teacher remarked, “Das ist ein doppelte Verneinung.” That is a double negative.

Die Verneinung – negation

The word just jumped out at me. I liked the way it sound. It also was a pleasent surprise to me that this meaning was contained in one word, Verneinung. I would not have been surprised if the German word for 'negation' had been a more complicated compound word.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Schnecke vs Schnecke

Creepy crawlies are about to be discussed so be warned.

I babysit a 5 year old and we have spent many an afternoon rooting around in his back yard searching for slugs and snails. I personally find them cute so this is a fun activity. We talk in English, but he usually speaks with his parents in German. One of these times his mom asked what we were doing and he had just replied that we were collecting a bunch of Schnecken and hadn't specified that it was a mix of Snails and Slugs. In German they use the same word for snail as they do for slug. Schnecke.

They do have more specific words for Slug and Snail however they don't really seem to concern themselves with clarifying between the two unless you ask.

die Schnecke - the slug
die Nacktschnecke - slug, the naked snail

die Schnecke -  the snail
die Schnecke mit Haus - the snail, the slug with a house

Ooh, now I am hungry for some Escargot!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kern Energie

Um, . . . not quite what some of you may have been expecting. . . a can o' nuts!

Here is a funny play on words! It is smart and fun product name for a can of trail mix. A hearty snack.

 der Kern - core, pit, kernel, nucleus

The term 'Kern Energie' usually refers to Nuclear Energie or power. Kern means nucleus as well as core. And in this case I guess it is referring our own internal core energy. And a hearty snack to replenish your depleted core.

It is a smart use of a very controversial topic. Nuclear Energy is a big topic here in Germany. German government relatively recently decided to phases out nuclear power by 2022. It has brought up even more heated discussions. Here is an article that give you a good over view of the whole thing.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wieder da!!

Ich bin wieder da!  I'm back!

wieder da sein - to be back

wieder - again

da - there