How to speak German


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How To Speak German

Learning German is not as much of a time commitment (and not as hard) as you might think. With Babbel, learning German online is easy, intuitive and under your control: learn at your own pace, choose the lessons you want, and review and practice vocabulary on the go. German is like English’s grandfather, so there are thousands of words in common. Although mastering the very different accent and pronunciation can be difficult at first, Babbel’s online courses and mobile apps include speech recognition so you can quickly become comfortable with speaking. Read the guide below and then test your skills with a free German lesson.

History of the Language

German is one of seven main Germanic languages – along with English, Dutch, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. When the Romans first ventured into northern Europe, which they called “Germania”, they encountered fierce resistance from the local “barbarians”. The Roman empire never expanded further than the Rhine river and the effect on European languages can still be seen today: the countries in northern Europe speak Germanic languages, while the West and South speak Romance languages.

By 1800 written German had become standardized, but many different varieties of German were still spoken across central Europe. By the time of German unification in 1871, standard German had replaced most regional dialects as the “lingua franca” of the new nation. Today, standard German (Hochdeutsch) is the second most-spoken Germanic language after English. Learn how to speak German and join the 170 million people around the world who speak German fluently as their native or second language.

Englishes alter Großvater

English and German both diverged from their common ancestor, West Germanic, around 100 AD. Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon, resembles German more than it does modern English. When Normans invaded the British Isles in 1066, they brought French with them. Although the influence of French and Latin make English a hybrid, the language’s Germanic roots are still evident in about half of English vocabulary. There’s no need to look further than the Grund under your Füße, the Ringfinger on your Hand, the Haar on your head, or the Nase in the middle of your face to realize that as English speakers, we already use German words in almost every sentence we speak.

Pronunciation and Grammar

Pronunciation is the biggest difference between German words and their English offspring. For beginners trying to learn German, correctly pronouncing words can be a significant challenge. Thankfully, German spelling is incredibly consistent so there is no guesswork with pronouncing words you can read. The oddest-looking German letter is probably ß (), which is not a B, but is shorthand for ss. The words Fuß (foot) and Straße (street) could also be written as Fuss and Strasse.

You can probably guess the meaning of German verbs like hängen (to hang) and hören (to hear), but it’s not immediately obvious how to pronounce the letters with those funny little dots above them. The dots, called umlauts, represent special vowel sounds. Each one – ü, ä and ö – are a shorter way to write the diphthongs ue, ae, and oe. Ü is like the ou in “you”, but compressed; you have to purse your lips to really say it right. Ä is much easier; it’s pronounced like the a in late. Ö is perhaps the trickiest, because your lips must make an o, but the rest of your mouth must make an e sound. The easiest way to master pronunciation is to hear German spoken and to practice imitating. With the help of Babbel’s speech recognition feature you will be able to practice your accent and help ensure that your German is understandable.

German grammar may at first seem strange to an English-speaker (why do I walk into die Kuche, but once I’m there I’m standing in der Kuche?), but the grammar rules are actually more consistent than English grammar. Prepositions can be confusing because most sound and look like English prepositions, but they don’t always have the same meaning. For example: an means “on”, in means “in” and unter means “under”, but auf means “on top of”, and zu can mean “to” or “at”. The ways that prepositions can change articles (according to case) seems confusing when looking at a table in a book, but prepositions, articles and cases are most easily learned in the context of phrases.

Ways to Learn German

80 million people today speak German as a second language or are currently learning. There are several options available when learning how to speak German: hiring a private tutor, enrolling in a language course (in school or online), studying alone with a CD-ROM or audio course, joining an exchange program, or practicing conversational German with a native speaker (a so-called tandem partner). All of these strategies can be effective, although some (tutors and CD-ROMS) can be expensive, while classes and exchange programs are also a huge time commitment. The fastest way to pick up German – and the biggest commitment by far – is still immersion. Moving to a German speaking country requires you to pick up the language in order to live day-to-day. This survival pressure usually produces fluency within a few months. If you do plan to immerse yourself in a Germany or Austria, it’s not a bad idea to prepare beforehand with one of the methods mentioned above. If you don’t plan to move and don’t have much spare time, an online program like Babbel may be your best bet.

Learn German the Babbel Way

Babbel’s German course is affordable, accessible online and via mobile devices, and proven to strengthen your reading, listening, speaking and comprehension skills. As a Babbel user, you have access to a diverse program of grammar, conjugation, pronunciation, listening comprehension and writing exercises. You can practice online or via your iPhone or Android device. Whether you are too busy for a language class, a complete beginner, needing to brush up before a vacation or business trip, or wanting to re-learn everything you forgot in high school, Babbel can be customized to your needs.

Try your first German lesson for free and discover Babbel’s easy and intuitive course system which determines your individual level and accommodates different learning styles. You can learn at your own pace, set your own lesson plans and receive helpful hints whenever you need them. You will also be joining an entire community of learners. Babbel users can easily share questions, experiences and advice via message boards and chat, and the Babbel support team is always only a message away. Take the test to see your current level of German.

How To Speak German