Thursday, 9 December 2010

Starke Deklination der Adjektive

When there is no article in front of an adjective used attributively, then the strong declension is used. Although there are more endings to learn it is worth noting that, with the exception of the genitive masculine and neuter, the endings match those of the definite article.

The strong endings are also used after pronouns that have no ending (nach Pronomen ohne Endung): allerlei, etwas, genug, manch, mancherlei, mehr, nichts, viel, welch, wenig, solch and also after the pronouns:  andere, derartige, einige, einzelne, etliche, folgende, gewisse, lauter, mehrere, ein paar, verschiedene, viele, wenige. They are used following ich, du and whole numbers greater than one.
It's worth noting the peculiarities of a few adjectives. Adjectives ending in -a are not declined - rosa, lila, prima, usw. Those ending -el drop the e when declined, for example: dunkel, nobel, heikel would add the appropriate ending to dunkl, nobl, heikl. A similar thing happens with some ending -er - after a diphthong as in sauer and where the adjective comes from a foreign language. But there are some ending in -er that don't follow this pattern - finster, bitter are good examples. Hoch drops the c when used attributively.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Gemischte Deklination der Adjektive

The mixed declension - gemischte Deklination - is used for adjectives that follow an indefinite article - nach dem unbestimmten Artikel. When we looked at the weak declension we saw that -en was used in all but 5 positions in the table of endings. That applies for the mixed declension as well but 3 of the 5 differ in the mixed declension. These are shown with a pink background in the table below.

You may wonder why a plural is shown. That's because the mixed declension is used after kein and the possesive pronouns mein, dein, sein and so on. It is also used after manch ein, solch ein, welch ein, ein solcher.
The 3 positions in the table that differ from the weak endings all follow determiners which have no ending e.g. ein, mein, kein. Where the adjective has -en as ending then the determiner has its own ending e.g. the masculine accusative, genitive and dative - meinen alten Freund, meines alten Freundes, meinem alten Freund.
Again it is really worth working through some exercises to practise these. You find some useful exercise here

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Schwache Deklination der Adjektive

I recently found I was making mistakes with something I thought I had mastered years ago - adjective endings. A sure sign that I need to keep on practising the basics of the language. Also after two months silence on this blog it's time to get to work again.

German adjectives inflect when placed before the noun they qualify. Used attributively like this, they take endings which need to be in agreement with the gender, case and number of the noun. However, there is a further complication - the endings can also depend on what determiner precedes them, if any. Determiners include the definite and indefinite articles but also pronouns such as dieser, jeder, andere.

It is usual to set out the adjectival endings in three different tables - the so called weak, strong and mixed declensions. Since we are learning German I'll introduce the German terms - schwache Deklination, starke Deklination, gemischte Deklination.

I find it easier to learn if I can break tasks down into manageable chunks and, since the weak declension is the easiest to learn, we'll start there. This really is easy. There are only two possible endings -e or -en. The weak declension is used for adjectives after the definite article - nach dem bestimmten Artikel.


Notice there are only 5 instances in the table where the ending is -e. Learn those and remember everything else is -en.

Now for something to practise with. I suggest building some simple exercises yourself where you can insert adjectives between article and noun. The following suggests a pattern for covering all the cases and the plural. Supply your own adjectives and nouns.
    Nom. - der Herr, die Dame, das Kind
    Akk. - ohne den Herrn, ohne die Frau, ohne das Mädchen
    Gen. - trotz des Mannes, trotz der Frau, wegen des Kindes
    Dat. - mit dem Politiker, nach der Frau, von dem Mädchen
    Plur. - die Kinder, ohne die K., trotz der K., mit den Kindern

The weak declension is also used after:
    derjenige, derselbe, dieser, jeder, jeglicher, jener, mancher, solcher, welcher
    alle, beide, irgendwelche, sämtliche
and in the singular after:
    all-, einig-,irgendwelch-, sämtlich-
after the personal pronouns wir, ihr

Monday, 27 September 2010

BEOLINGUS Dictionary

The BEOLINGUS dictionary is a useful German-English dictionary from TU Chemnitz. You can see examples of words in use and you can hear the pronunciation for many words. It's also possible to incorporate it into websites and there are add-ins for most browsers. Though I have yet to try it out, there is a facility for practising vocabulary.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

New words

I've starting learning how to use the Natural Language Toolkit (see and then started looking for corpora and other resources in German. One of the sites I found Die Wortwarte which shows the very latest in new German words. There were 20 listed today. Click on any of the words and you can see them used in context. For more resources for German than visit the ACL wiki

Monday, 13 September 2010

Satiren aus Israel

I came across a quote from Ephraim Kishon on which amused me.

Wenn man beginnt, seinem Passfoto ähnlich zu sehen, sollte man in den Urlaub fahren.

My passport has only about a year to run so my picture is a very much younger me. Strangely, I seem to have worn the same sweater for the photo as I did for the previous passport in 1992 ... and I still have the sweater in my wardrobe.

The reason the quote stood out for me is because I have recently bought two of his books: Drehn Sie sich um Frau Lot and Nicht so laut vor Jericho. I found the first of these in the Amnesty bookshop in Malvern (a good source for secondhand German books). I read a few stories immediately and  found them highly amusing - so much so that, when I saw the second book the very next day in the Oxfam bookshop in Hereford, I had to buy it.

I think some of the stories would be better described as farce than satire and it does seem that die Satire can encompass meanings around lampoon and mockery. The advantage of books like these is the stories are brief, generally four or five pages, and not too demanding. If you can only spare a few minutes a day to read something auf Deutsch then short stories such as these are well suited and books like these can be found for about £2 each.

I must share a quote about the exodus from Egypt that starts the story MIT MAZZES VERSEHEN

Zweimal im Verlauf unserer Geschichte sind wir aus Ägypten ausgezogen: das erstemal einige Jahrtausende vor der britischen Verwaltungsperiode und unter der Führung Gottes, das zweitemal einige Jahre nach der britischen Verwaltungsperiode und unter dem Druck der UNO.
I have to confess I'm old enough to remember the second exodus.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Occupational haphazard

Every job has its own peculiar vocabulary or uses more common words in a different way. And, of course, many jobs involve tools that you may not be able to name in your own language. I regularly follow the BR Alpha careers series Ich mach's
Mehr als 350 Berufe im Dualen System, dazu kommen Lehrstellen bei Behörden und der Bahn, außerdem locken Fachschulen mit ihren Abschlüssen: Doch welche Ausbildung in Betrieb und Berufsschule ist für wen richtig? "Ich mach's!" bringt es auf den Punkt.
The latest podcast was Siebdrucker/in and one of the words I heard used was die Rakel. I imagined this would be spelled Rackel and when I couldn't find that in my Oxford-Duden I tried Rachel. I don't often get caught out on spelling but I was this time. I found the correct spelling by looking up Siebdruck in Wikipedia. Apparently Rakel comes from the French racle. In screen-printing - Siebdruck - it's has a rubber edge and is used to press the ink through the screen - in other words, it's a squeegee. In other forms of printing die Rakel is metal and I think it's sometimes called a doctor blade and makes sure there's not too much ink on the roller.

The previous podcast from Ich mach's was Binnenschiffer/in and there were a few words that stood out for me. To unload a ship is löschen. Upstream is zu Berg and downstream is zu Tal. An example of usage is Am 23.03.2010 waren wir mit unserer Harmonie auf der Elbe zu Tal. Es war ziemlich windig - The example is from YouTube.

I couldn't listen to the sound of diesel motors all day so it's not the job for me but inland shipping is important in Germany and involves the best part of 5000 vessels.

Monday, 6 September 2010


Remember Monty Python's Flying Circus? There's a computer programming language that get's its name from this famous BBC TV series. Python is not named for a snake but the programme. I've let learning something of this language distract me from learning German this last week so I decided to see what there is in German about the language. The Python wiki lists German language resources and I also found a useful blog Having looked at this again just now I find Monty Python gets a mention as well:
Python ist eine moderne, objektorientierte Programmiersprache. Sie wurde von Guido van Rossum entwickelt und nach der berühmten Comedy-Truppe "Monty Pythons Flying Circus" benannt (und nicht nach der - ebenfalls berühmten - Schlange)

Friday, 27 August 2010


I seem to be keeping busy around the house - making cupboards, putting up curtain track, a shower screen and so on. It's been good to make use of tools that hardly saw the light of day in the last couple of years before moving. Eventually I shall create a workshop in the garage. Looking at the names for tools in the Duden Bildwörterbuch I came across der gerade Fuchsschwanz. The illustration shows what looks like a dovetail saw and I have to admit the shape of the handle does look like a fox's brush. Previously I had thought der Fuchschwanz referred only to a handsaw with a flexible, unsupported blade - rip saw, cross cut saw, panel saw - and of course their handles look nothing like the tail of a fox. When I looked up Fuchsschwanz on the net I found only handsaws and a Wikipedia article says "Der Fuchschwanz ... besitzt keinen verdickten Rücken wie etwa die Feinsäge".

Just to confuse matters, there are two different plants called Fuchsschwanz and a dovetail joint is die Schwalbenschwanzverbindung - and, yes, the swallowtail butterfly is der Schwalbenschwanz. And just to prove German speaking people get confused take a look at Was fürn Werkzeug ist eigentlich ein Schwalbensschwanz

Monday, 16 August 2010

Exploring themes

One way of exploring a particular topic is to take advantage of Spiegel Wissen which draws from several sources including the magazine archive stretching back over fifty years. For example, if you want to learn about glaciers and pick up the latest reports then go for the theme Gletscher As you will see this gives good lexical information as well as news reports such as Grönland-Gletscher: Riesiger Eisberg in der Arktis abgebrochen

The range of topics is vast from the slightly demanding such as Quantenphysik to the somewhat lighter Quiz. And there's a full A-Z and just to give you an A and a Z example try Alles außer Fußball and Sebastian Sick's Zwiebelfisch blog.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


In many parts of Germany and Austria it's not enough to speak standard German - Hochdeutsch - you may also need some understanding of the local dialect. It's more than just variations in accent, some words are different. Listening to regional radio broadcasts or watching TV can help tune the ear but speaking probably needs the experience of living in a place for some time. I came across an interesting Austrian article on the subject of the need for migrants to learn dialect as well as standard German - Der Dialekt als Hindernis beim Deutschlernen in

Wer in Kursen Deutsch gelernt hat, scheitert dennoch oft im täglichen Umgang mit Menschen, die Dialekt sprechen. Experten empfehlen daher die Einbeziehung regionaler Dialekte in die Ausbildung von Migranten.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

TV licensing in Germany

I was surprised to learn that in Germany you have to pay for a fee for every TV and radio receiver. The licence fee is paid monthly and not annually as in Britain. There has also been some uncertainty about whether to include PCs and smartphones capable of receiving broadcasts. It's all going to change in 2013 - Die Rundfunkgebühr in Deutschland soll auf eine neue Basis gestellt werden - according to a report I read today Ein Haushalt, eine Rundfunkgebühr You can also see a video report on the same subject.

You may come across the initials GEZ in relation to the licence fee. This is explained fully on

Die Gebühreneinzugszentrale der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten ist eine Gemeinschaftseinrichtung der ARD-Landesrundfunkanstalten, des Zweiten Deutschen Fernsehen (ZDF) und des Deutschlandradio. Ihre Aufgabe besteht darin, die Rundfunkgebühren einzuziehen.

Monday, 9 August 2010


Looking for reading material to help you learn German? Try Focus magazine which makes all its past issues freely available online - Focus Archiv

Friday, 6 August 2010

New TV Portal

It looks like ProSiebenSat.1 and RTL are cooperating on an new online portal which will allow users to watch a big selection of TV programmes and films without cost. For a German language report on these plans go to Private TV-Sender verbünden sich im Netz which is a report by

Diving for Pearls

OK, if you are interested in diving for pearls you've probably come to the wrong place. I want to draw attention to an interesting German language site with plenty of treasures for the culturally minded. describes itself as Online Kulturmagazin mit Presseschauen, Rezension, Autorenliste, Feuillton.

Their Links page includes access to a very comprehensive links listing of just about every publisher on the web. I have found some offering free e-books to download. They also list by country the most important Zeitungen, Zeitschrifte und Internetmagazine, Buchkritiken und Literaturmagazine.

Monday, 2 August 2010

The Potsdam Declaration

A few years ago I visited Cecilienhof in Potsdam and was able to see the rooms layed out as they were for the meetings for the Tripartite Conference which led to the Potsdam Declaration. The Conference ended 65 years ago today. There were nine meetings between 17 and 25 July and then a break while the results of the British general election were declared. On July 28 Clement Attlee returned to the Conference as Prime Minister, accompanied by the new Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ernest Bevin. The Conference and the earlier one at Yalta shaped the course of post war history in Europe, particularly the eastern part, for four decades.

For material in German on das Potsdamer Abkommen or die Potsdamer Konferenz see or the website of  the "Deutschen Historischen Museums"

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The quick brown fox

If you have ever tried to learn to touch type you have probably come across the sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" which uses all 26 letters of the Latin alphabet. Listening to a German podcast this morning I discovered there is a German word for this. Es ist ein Pangramm. Ein Satz, der alle Buchstaben des Alphabets enthält. I expect it's pangramme in English - confusing as the German plural is Pangramme. Both pan and gramm come from Greek words.

Although the podcast gave some German examples I wasn't bright enough to note them down. It was before my second coffee of the day! So Wikipedia to the rescue - I looked up Pangramm and there they were, including Pangramme mit äöü und ß

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Traffic Jams

Traffic queues were not unusual when I commuted between Newport, South Wales and Worcester back in the 1990s. And the company supplying the traffic cones for the road works had the strap line on their vans "Jam makers since 19.."

Although many parts of Austria I have visited have little traffic compared to the UK, I did experience delays ion the motorway after leaving the airport at Salzburg and there are some bottle-necks which create problems in the peak holiday periods when half of Germany seems to want to travel through Austria to get to Italy or the Adriatic. I was reminded of that today when I saw a report saying:
Die Schlange vor dem Tauerntunnel maß am späten Vormittag beinahe 35 Kilometer.

A five hour queue on a motorway is no fun! I was caught like that on the M5 a few years ago and was awfully glad to have plenty of water in the car. For the report in click on Stau-Gau auf der Tauernautobahn  The Kurier website also reports on more problems for holiday makers -  Urlauber stecken in Griecheland fest reports on the problems of getting fuel because of a strike by lorry drivers.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Internet Radio

Yesterday was the big day when I finally finished work. Ich bin jetzt in Ruhestand. Thanks to very generous colleagues I now have a PURE Evoke Flow, a radio that not only tunes into DAB digital radio but enables me to listen to internet radio without having to switch on my PC. I can now choose from over 1900 German language radio stations and listen to podcasts anywhere in the house. The internet radio connects to to give access to thousands of radio stations. Even if you don't have an internet radio you can still use thelounge which has good filters on its database to let you pick out what interests you.

When it came to downloading the manual, I also chose to download the Bedienungsanleitung so I can learn some more German. Here's some of what it says Über die PURE Lounge

Um Ihren EVOKE Flow mit all seinen Funktionen und Besonderheiten nutzen zu können, verbinden Sie ihn mit der PURE Lounge (, Ihrem Online-Gateway zu einer immensen Auswahl an Audioinhalten aus dem Internet. Die PURE Lounge bietet Tausende von Radiosendern, Podcasts und Listen-Again-Programmen, die Sie bequem von Wohnzimmer, Badezimmer, Garten, Garage − oder wo auch immer Sie sich in Reichweite Ihres Netzwerks befinden - aus hören können.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Loveparade Tragedy

The tragic loss of life and the many injuries from the crush in the tunnel leading to and from the venue in Duisburg leaves many questions open, particularly about whether it was avoidable given better crowd management or better policing. This is all too reminiscent of the Hillsborough tragedy in Britain.

N24 has the headline 19 Tote und viele offene Fragen and sets out some of the questions that need to be answered. Stern reports Alle 19 Toten sind identifiziert and has links to other reports. has Staatsanwaltschaft ermittelt nach der Tragödie with links to video material.

Until recently, I co-ordinated two teams of clergy who were available to respond to major incidents like this and through that I gained insights into how the blue light and other agencies operate in England when something like this happens. I would be interested to find out what arrangements exist in Germany for a planned response to major incidents. Very often incidents affect families and friends from across the world. Not all those who died at Duisberg came from Germany and even some of those who had homes in Germany originated elsewhere. Please pray for the bereaved and the injured and their families.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Crossword Puzzles

I included a crossword puzzle gadget in my post on 26 May. These are a good way of learning German vocabulary and a fun way to play with words. Some puzzle types are particularly amusing - lustige Silbenrätsel. Here are some examples of clues and their answers:

alpine EtageGebirgsstock
diebische Eisenbahn Raubzug
Plantage bei einer Festung im wilden WestenFortpflanzung
Schreibstube für unterwegsResiebüro
verrückter unbestimmter Artikelirresein

For a range of puzzle books take a look at

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

E-Books v print

It's nearly a month since I last posted anything and nearly a week since we moved into our new home. Now that I have a decent broadband connection I hope to do more. The chaos here is beginning to recede. We now have hot water and the washing machine is working again - but not the television. Why does everything go wrong at once?

I have managed to get most of my German books onto the shelfs but we have dozens of boxes with other books, ornaments and I don't know what else. Books and internet are what matter to me. I find I can only read a few pages on the computer screen before my eyes start watering and there is something enjoyable about just holding a book. I have wondered about E-Books and using some sort of reader. That could be good for PDF files provided I don't want colour. E-Books are beginning to sell better than hardcover books.

Amazon: E-Books verkaufen sich besser als Hardcover-Ausgaben

Amazon verzeichnet steigende Verkäufe seines E-Book-Readers Kindle. Mittlerweile setze das Unternehmen mehr E-Books als Hardcover-Bücher ab, heißt es in einer Mitteilung.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Paperless Democracy?

The FDP-Abgeordnete Jimmy Schulz may have broken the rules of the Bundestag by using an iPad instead of paper notes to when he made a speech last week. Apparently there is a rule to stop members using computers in parliamentary sessions. Doesn't make a lot of sense nowadays and if something like an iPad can give access to lots of other data it has to be preferable to lugging around heaps of paper files. I picked up the report on an Austrian site and you can read it for yourself Some comments have been added and you might like to add a sentence or two with your opinion.

In case you are wondering why I'm not posting to this blog quite so often, it's because I'm still spending most spare moments decorating the house we are moving to in mid-July. And the garden is still a mess ... but I have made a start! While I was on I had a look at their garden page but they had nothing to help me with the basic tasks that need tackled now.

Saturday, 19 June 2010


Should we all be able to communicate on the internet without what we write or say being observed? Chaos Computer Club is unhappy about Vorratsdatenspeicherung in Deutschland. For more on this and the text of an open letter to the German Justice Minister see

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Football and more

Die deutsche Nationalmannschaft ist bei ihrem ersten Spiel erfolgreich in die Fußball-WM in Südafrika gestartet.

To read more and for an interview with the German team's trainer Joachim “Jogi” Löw visit Deutschland Online This online magazine offers much more than football. For instance there is a conversation with the president of the Goethe-Institut Professor Klaus-Dieter Lehmann about language and identity "und warum es sich lohnt, Deutsch als Fremdsprache zu lernen."  Some video material is available and also information about courses for learning German.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


I spent yesterday at our 'new' house decorating and completely exhausted myself. It was good to be back in the office today. Updating website pages was a lot less tiring. Some time we'll have to tackle the garden which appears to have been neglected by the tenant we had over winter.

For a collection of links on Haus und Garten go to There is a bit of a bias towards building but a reasonable amount of less demanding DIY and interior decorating. Following through a link for the magazine "House and More" - yes, the site is in German - led me to 25 Sparideen - interesting and also downloadable as a PDF file if you wish.

Sunday, 6 June 2010


Thursday last week was Corpus Christi, a feast of the Roman Catholic Church giving thanks for the sacrament of Holy Communion. In Germany and Austria it is marked by processions in traditional costume (Tracht) - in some places the processions are on water and, in the Brixen valley, on horse back.

I have often managed to be in Austria at the time of these processions - unfortunately the last time was two years ago. Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi) ist ein Fest zur Verehrung des Heiligen Abendmahls und wird am zweiten Donnerstag nach Pfingsten mit Prozessionen begangen. 2008 sah ich die Prozession in St. Johann in Tirol. Es gab viele schöne Trachten.

Mehr von meiner Bildern

Fronleichnam in Wikipedia

Der Brixentaler Antlassritt ist eine Prozession zu Pferd am Fronleichnamstag.

Antlassritt in Wikipedia

Bilder von Antlassritt

Friday, 4 June 2010


For the last few weeks I've been putting books in boxes and have even let several hundred go to charity shops. I've kept my German books but most are already packed. Not much time for reading - or blogging just now. We've been almost nine years in our current house and it's surprising how much we've collected that we now don't think we'll need. We're going to move in mid-July. The house we are moving was let until earlier this week and now we've got it back we are busy stripping wallpaper and decorating.

I don't know much about moving house in German speaking countries nor the vocabulary I need to talk about it. So I've done the usual and looked online. I found a series of checklist that can be viewed online and printed or else download as PDF files. The link to find these is and as it says at the start of this page:
Einen Umzug zu organisieren ist nicht so einfach. So ein Umzug erfordert nämlich geschick in der Planung und in der Ausführung. Besonders nützlich und deshalb beliebt sind unsere Checklisten, mit denen Sie Umzüge einfach und bequem planen können. Umzug leicht gemacht!
The checklists cover viewing the new home; organising the move; telling banks, insurance, etc. about your new address; notifying the authorities. The same site also offer Umzugtipps.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Hypocrisy - a joke

There are three words for hypocrisy in German - Scheinheilichkeit, Heuchelei, Hypokrisie. All three are feminine nouns. The first is about pretending to be virtuous, the others are more about dissimulation (disguising intentions or attitudes). I found an amusing little joke about this "Fritzchen, kannst du mir den Begriff Heuchelei erklären?"  Beware, some of the other jokes on the site lack taste and users' comments can be oppressively sexist. Nevertheless, joke sites do give you little snippets of language in a playful manner that can make learning fun.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Germans and Americans Talk

Cornelia's DaF-Blog recommends 'Germans and Americans Talk', a project from the University of Texas. This is a series of interviews covering a range of themes highlighting some cultural differences. Most of the interviews are available as audio files with transcriptions and English transcriptions. There are also some vocabulary sheets. Cornelia points out that some of these are a little dated and she also brings us up to date on the use of du rather than Sie in workplaces in Switzerland and discusses the use of credit cards. It's worth reading what she has to say in Germans and Americans Talk - Interkulturelle Vergleiche and she gives a link through to the Unversity of Texas project.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Peregrines return

Peregrine falcons are beautiful birds and over the last few years I've seen a pair that breed on a church building in the centre of Worcester. Their numbers are growing a little now but they were hard hit by pesticides and loss of habitat at the end of last century. It was good to see a headline saying Der Wanderfalke ist wieder da Follow the link to see how they have been successfully reintroduced in Germany.

The English name is related to the verb to peregrinate - to travel from place to place, usually on foot. Perhaps that helps with remembering  the German name.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Quotations and Puzzles

If you want a selection of quotations then try The site also offers crossword puzzles, jokes and some games which might test your understanding of the German language. You can incorporate some elements in your website or blog and there are some Google gadgets. Here's a crossword puzzle using this facility.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Treasures of the World

Schätze der Welt tells the stories of world heritage sites protected by UNESCO. As well as text there are plenty of pictures and videos for which you'll need RealPlayer. The website lets users make choices on the basis of Kontinent - A-Z Länder - A-Z Denkmäler or by keyword Stichwortsuche. Each Denkmal appears to have associated links for further information.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

More or Less?

I've spent a large part of this week trying to revise various points of German grammar. One useful outcome came from reading about the valency (Valenz) of verbs. Valency is about the number and types of complements (Ergänzungen) a verb requires. Complements include subject, dative object, accusative object, genetive object, prepositional object and so on. Why was this useful? Because it began to make sense of how verbs are handled in dictionaries and when I looked at the Duden Stilwörterbuch I found everything clearly explained in an article preceding the alphabetic entries Zur Anlage des Buches - About the layout of the book. I really should have read that years ago!

More or Less? sums up my puzzlement about when to use verbs in plural and when in singular. For instance,  when oder binds two singular subjects then the  verb will be in the singular - Entweder du oder dein Kollege bringt ... However, if one of the subjects is plural then the verb definitely takes the plural form when the plural subject is next to the verb - Der Lehrer oder die Studenten können ... If the plural subject comes first it seems not to matter whether singular or plural is used - Die Eltern oder der Sohn bestellt/bestellen ...

What is more difficult is using an indication of quantity (Mengenangabe) - Menge, Anzahl, Reihe, usw. No problem when the following noun is also singular but when the noun is plural then the verb might still be singular. Everything depends on whether the subject is seen as a collection of related things (in which case singular) or as referring to unrelated things. I found a discussion about this online This was reiner Zufall as they discuss the very examples I was working with. If I come across examples where the verb is in the plural then I shall give them some thought but I'm not going to spend time worrying about it if I'm speaking or writing. I shall use the singular and be very surprised if I am ever challenged.

Friday, 21 May 2010


radioWissen from Bayern 2 brings together audio and reference material for schools and it includes worksheets and other material to download. You'll find most school subjects, including Deutsch represented on this website. You can look at the offerings by subject (Fächer) or type of school (Schularten) and also A-Z.

When you select one of the subjects you're presented with a list of all that's available for the topic. Click on one of these and you'll get an overview (Übersicht). To reach the audio and other material you have to use the sidebar navigation. I show an example to the left but do bear in mind the navigation varies with the topics and some entries may, for example, not have Arbeitsblätter.

The audio material can be played or downloaded as mp3 files.

With material suited to pupils of different sorts of school, there should be something at a level to suit most people learning German. And you can always pick on a subject that where your Wortschatz is a bit limited.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


I used to live in Upton upon Severn which can begin to look like an island when the river spreads out across the flood meadows. It's probably because of my time there that I tend to notice reports about flooding in the German news. There is some possibility of severe flooding along the Oder by Monday. You can read about this in - Hochwasser-Alarm in Brandenburg There are a couple of videos with this report but you do have to put up with a short advert at the beginning. The really severe flooding was in 1997 and you'll find some reports on that as well.

Of course, German villages and towns are not the only ones that will suffer. Poland has already been badly affected and as the report says "Auch die KZ-Gedenkstätte Auschwitz-Birkenau ist durch das Hochwasser bedroht!"

With reports like this it's worth noting down some of the key points and then try to summarise the passage. Here are some questions that you might try to answer (auf Deutsch): What is a Polder? What is the German for a stockpile of sandbags, for demountable or mobile flood barriers? What other countries have already been affected by floods? What has been improved since 1997?

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Language Learning

Heinrich Schliemann, the German archaelogist who claimed to discover Troy, had to learn English in a short period of time and he made some recommendations about language learning based on that experience.

His main method was to read a lot of texts out loud without attempting translation and have a daily lesson. He wrote down details of things that particularly interested him and improved upon them with his teacher's help and learnt them by heart (auswendig lernt) and then he recited (aufsagt) his corrected piece.

Memorising was a problem at first. Mein Gedächtnis war, da ich seit meiner Kindheit gar nicht geübt hatte, schwach, doch benutze ich jeden Augenblick und stahl sogar Zeit zum Lernen.

He used to go to English church services so he could model his pronunciation on the preacher. ich ... sprach beim Anhören der Predigt jedes Wort leise für mich nach. This shadow speaking is a useful aid to language acquisition and pronunciation. We can do something similar by using recorded materials, for instance, podcasts from Deutsche Welle. It might be as well to start off with something spoken slowly but it is surprising how quickly the speed builds up. And we can do something that Schliemann could not - we can hear and shadow the same piece several times. We could even record our own voices and compare them with the sounds and rhythms of native speakers.

What I find quite incredible is Schliemann's claims about how much his memory improved. So stärkte ich allmählich mein Gedächtnis und konnte schon nach drei Monaten meinem Lehrer mit Leichtigkeit alle Tage in jeder Unterrichtstunde zwanzig gedruckte Seite englischer Prosa wörtlich hersagen, wenn ich sie vorher dreimal aufmerksam durchgelesen hatte.

No wonder he claimed he had discovered ancient Troy when he worked like a Trojan. A phrase that in German would have to be rendered as "er arbeitet wie ein Pferd". I don't suppose that has anything to do with Trojan horses!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Sparrow Grass

It's asparagus time. Nothing I like more than green English asparagus, preferably from the Vale of Evesham. We never seem to call it asparagus at home. It's either sparrow grass or else we use the German word Spargel. Very often Spargel is white an not nearly as flavoursome as real sparrow grass so I was pleased to find a German website recommending trying different types Spargelsorten: Exoten und Klassiker There are plenty of other interesting articles on food and drink on the same site

Meaningful Cases

A change of case or the use of one word rather than another can change the meaning of German sentences. I still struggle sometimes. For instance, what is the difference between the following two sentences?
  • Ich habe gestern den Chef gesprochen
  • Ich habe gestern mit dem Chef gesprochen
The first sentence refers to a conversation with a quite particular intention about a particular subject. The second leaves this open. It might just as easily have been a general conversation.

Two sentences now where the only change is in the preposition used
  • Wir haben von dem Chef gesprochen
  • Wir haben über den Chef gesprochen
The former means the boss was mentioned and the latter that he was the topic of conversation.

In some instances the change of preposition involves a shift of tense. For example:
  • Wir freuen uns über das Geschenk
  • Wir freuen uns auf die Ferien
The first is about present enjoyment and the second is looking forward to enjoying. Sich freuen is by no means the only verb that requires you to memorise the accompanying prepositions because of the radical difference of meaning. But who said learning German was easy?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


Usually I will try to stick to reading my way through books in German one at a time but now and again I find myself with two or three on the go at once. I'm currently working my way slowly through Halbzeit, Martin Walser, Knaur. It's not an easy read and last night I realised I had turned a couple of pages without finding a full stop. The 'sentence' actually stretched to five pages.

Politicians and the internet

Only this morning did I get around to watching Sunday evening's edition of neues from 3Sat. I can't read or watch everything at once! A large part of the programme was reporting on the use of the internet by politicians and political parties during the election campaign in NRW. Sunday was election day and the result would not have pleased the CDU. I can't say I was excited by this election but the reporting on the use of blogs, Twitter, etc. was interesting.

The interviews with the candidates were brief and did not go into their political views. There were also interviews with young people who expressed views about the lack of opportunity to interact with the politicians. This is all good listening material and there were also some journalistic blogs mentioned that have a definite regional emphasis. To understand the German speaking world (DACH as it's sometimes called. Work it out - Germany, Austria, Switzerland) you sometimes have to get down to regional level or even more local. Identity and culture have great variation and richness.

Politiker im Online Wahlkampf gives written comment from neues and you can view a short video report on the same page. Some YouTube links you might like to follow are: Die Macht der Blogs and Interview mit Alfons Pieper.  You can also download the whole half hour video

Monday, 10 May 2010

Social Media in Rot-Weiss-Rot

One in four Austrians is on Facebook and half of them log on everyday. But there are local social media sites - Freundschaftsportale.  These are quite regional in nature. Examples are epos4 and Szene1. There is also a Swiss version of Szene1 -

I deliberately avoid giving a link to epos4 because I get warnings of multiple computer security threats.

There are also the so called Party-Communities such as -

To find out more take a look at Social Media in Rot-Weiss-Rot on the website.

Social networking sites like these give some useful bite size chunks of language and a sense of what people discuss online - but don't go there if you want formal language and grammar.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Location - Location - Location

The prepositions an, auf, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor, zwischen are all about location in relation to an object (two or more objects for zwischen). I hadn't thought about them for years in terms of being a group of words about location because I'd learnt them as a list of prepositions that can govern either the dative or accusative in the substantives that follow. I find it very useful to go back to the basics of grammar from time to time and work through exercises to check out my competence with things I've often taken for granted.

So what determines whether the substantive ends up in the dative or the accusative? Let's take a look at some sentences about birds and windows.
  1. Die Vögel warten im Winter vor dem Fenster.
  2. Ein Vogel war vor das Fenster geklatscht.
  3. Ich habe vor dem Fenster ein Futterplatz für die Vögel eingerichtet.
  4. Das Tarnnetz wird vor das Fenster gespannen und sorgt dafür, dass Bewegungen im inneren des Autos für die Vögel  weniger sichtbar sind.
Number 1 is obviously dative because what is happening has no movement, it's about being in a place in relation to an object. Typical verbs for these nicht-zielgerichtete Geschehen are warten, sitzen, stehen, wohnen.

Number 2 is accusative because there is movement in relation to the object. Grammar books say things like: Akkusativ erscheint bei zielgerichtetem Geschehen, das richtungsbetont ist (setzen, stellen, kommen).

Number 3 is not quite so obvious at first because putting something up seems to imply movement. However, the movement is not related to the window. The sentence only says the action happened somewhere in front of the window, there is no movement in any direction in relation to the window. So this time it's dative.

So how does number 4 differ? I struggled with the reasoning and ended up thinking in English. What is happening is something is being stretched over the window rather than something being stretched between two points that happen to be somewhere in front of the window. The action directly involves the window, it's not an action at a point some distance in front of the window. I've never come across an example that has puzzled me as much as this and my reasoning may be false. I would welcome a clearer explanation for this one.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Flash Cards lets you create and share your own online flash cards as well as providing plenty of Germany vocabulary with which to learn and test yourself. You can read about quizlet's features or just dive in an give it a try.

If you want to pick and mix and save yourself some typing then it looks like you can lift some of the entries from other people's flashcard sets.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


When I had my eyes examined in February my optician was a little concerned about the readings she got when testing for Glaucoma so I had to book another test. That was today and all is well. I'm much relieved but realised there are some limits to my ability to discuss this in German. Glaucoma has a very similar name in German - das Glaukom - and this is also know as der grüne Star. Der graue Star is the cataract, also called der Katarakt.

Last week I was watching some videos about training for jobs from the series Ich mach's and two had some relevance to the subject - Augenarzthelferin 30.03.2009 and Augenoptiker 14.09.2009.  If you want to watch or download these go to BR-alpha Ich mach's and look down the list for the download you want. To start the download: Right click on the down-arrow button and choose Save Target As ... if you are using MS Internet Explorer or Save link as ... if you are using Google Chrome. The guidance in German is: Download starten: Rechte Maustaste und "Ziel speichern unter ..." wählen.

Here's some German vocabulary to look up:
  • der ophthalmologische Prüfplatz - der Phoropter - das Ophthalmometer - das Augenrefraktometer - der Sehzeichenprojektor - der Probiergläserkasten
  • die Brille - die Brillenfassung, das Brillengestell - der Brillenrand - die Brücke, der Steg - der Nasensteg, der Seitensteg - das Brillenglas - das Brillenetui - der Bügel - das Bügelscharnier
  • die harten/weichen Kontaktlinsen - die Aufbewahrungsbehälter - das Pflegemittel, das Reinigungsmittel
  • das Auge - das Oberlid - das Unterlid - die Augenbraue - die Pupille - die Iris, die Regenbogenhaut - der Augapfel - die Hornhaut - die Netzhaut - die Wimper

Monday, 3 May 2010


Wikibooks ist eine Bibliothek mit Lehr-, Sach- und Fachbüchern. Jeder kann und darf diese Bücher frei nutzen und bearbeiten. Unsere Lehrbücher spiegeln bereits gesichertes Wissen wider, das heißt die hier vermittelten Kenntnisse sind in ähnlicher Form in anderen tatsächlich publizierten Werken des jeweiligen Fachs bereits dargestellt.

Do take a look at the German version of Wikibooks which has offerings across a wide range of subjects including Deutsch als Fremdsprache.

I have to say that after browsing through some of the material on Wikibooks some of it is in an early stage of development. If you feel really confident about your ability to write in German you could always make a contribution to one of the books.

Vocabulary learning tips

I managed a whole week without connecting to the internet once but I did still use a computer to help with vocabulary revision. I use Teachmaster which is a free download from (See also the earlier entry in this blog). I had copied my installation of Teachmaster onto a memory stick along with some vocabulary files so I was able to run the program straight from the stick without loading it onto the borrowed laptop that I had with me while I was away from home and office.

The vocabulary exercises I use are home made with words or phrases in English used to prompt for the German equivalent. Teachmaster uses a series of virtual card boxes (Karteikasten). Everything starts off in box 3. If your response is correct it is promoted to box 1 the first time and everytime your response is incorrect the word or phrase drops to box 5. You can choose then to work with just the vocabulary that's in the lower boxes, the aim being to promote the vocabulary one box at a time by getting it right.

What I did last week with anything that landed in box 5 was repeatedly work with it to promote it up to box 1. I realise now that this might not be the best way to learn because I was promoting the vocabulary through the boxes using short term memory. A longer interval might have been a better way of handling 'doubtful' vocabulary. Fortunately, I tested myself with the same material again the next day.

There are several methods for using the learning program and I've rather ignored some of them recently. What I probably should be doing to learn new vocabulary is use the Patience method which also gets a mention in Sebastian Leitner's Buch So lernt man lernen.

I've found it difficult to access the manual on the Teachmaster site. The English version is still "under construction" and the German pages will not load for me but I did find I had a hard copy from a previous version of the program so I'll quote an extract here.

Der Clou [die Patience-Lernmethode] besteht darin, dass die Vokabeln in einer ausgeklügelten Reihenfolge relativ häufig wiederholt werden. Ein Lerndurchgang is beendet, wenn alle Vokabeln einer Lektion alle vier Ebener durchlaufen haben.

I have used Teachmaster for many years and the one improvement I would like to see is an ability to include pictures so it could also be used to create electronic flashcards.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Maifeiertag - May Day

Heute ist Feiertag, aber nicht in Großbritannien. Wir müssen bis zum Montag warten. In Deutschland, Österreich, Teilen der Schweiz und vielen anderen Staaten ist der Maifeiertag ein gesetzlicher Feiertag.

There's a big difference between the May bank holiday on Monday in Britain where most large shops and some smaller ones remain open and the Maifeiertag in Germany today. The shops will not have opened in Germany today - Feiertage sind für Beschäftigte grundsätzlich arbeitsfrei - and there will have been no lorries on the move.

The origins of the May Day holiday are not easy to determine. Some sources refer to the seventeenth century but I have my doubts. Kalendarblatt suggests origins in the US in the nineteenth century and the German start coming in 1890 - 1.5.1890 Tag der Arbeit

May Day is still a popular time for protest marches and demonstrations. Reports from today include Zehntausende protestieren gegen Neonazi-Aufmärsche and Blockierer zwingen Neonazis zum Umdrehen. Unfortunately left and right both end up behaving violently toward the police. Demos gegen Neonazis - Steine gegen Polizisten gives more reportage and there's a video to watch.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Offline - Web 0.0

On Sunday the 3Sat programme neues included reportage from their presenter after spending almost a week offline. I've always enjoyed watching the videos (a little under 30 minutes) which help keep me up to date on consumer electronics in Germany and usually has some amusing elements and a nice light touch in the way information is presented. How did she get on? You can read Yve offline ... oder Web 0.0 or go to neues im Mediathek to access the video.

I'm going to take time out as well. No blogging for the rest of the month! I need to go back to basics with vocabulary and grammar. I'm taking some time off work, have some other plans but also want to make sure I work steadily on some of the material I already have instead of spending quite so much time online looking for something new.

Please be patient. I'll be back online on the first of May.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Tomb Raider and the Prepositions

I'm doing some revision on prepositions at the moment and found it useful to be reminded that nach can be used in the sense of towards or in the direction of. For example Ich sah nach der alten Brücke means I looked towards the old bridge. But Nach der alten Brücke means After the old bridge. I thought that nach with the meaning  after  was only used when referring to time, for instance, nach fünf Uhr. It seems I was wrong as I have found several instances where the after meaning is used in travel directions. Perhaps that's because it's used in the sense of kurz nach - shortly after. But I've also found uses where the time reference is implied by an event - Die Brücke nach der Wiederherstellung - Nach der Fertigstellung.

Of course, the more frequently used way of expressing towards is by means of auf ... zu.

I found some interesting examples of prepositions in use. For instance Von dort geht es, aus dem Stand, auf die Brücke mit dem hochgeklappten Teil. This is an extract from tombraidergirl's walkthrough The site has both German and English pages and the Forum allows contributions in either or both languages.

Sites that tell you the solutions to games are great for finding examples of prepositions in use. See if you can find what this next example is about:

Anschließend müssen Sie sich auf der mittleren Rampe weiterbewegen, um dort auf dem Kontrollpanel viermal Lila, zweimal Gelb, einmal Rot und den dreieckigen Knopf links zu drücken. Danach müssen Sie die vorherige Einstellung mit dem linken Knopf löschen, fünfmal Lila, viermal Blau und einmal Rot eingeben. Die Aktion wird dann wieder mit dem linken dreieckigen Knopf ausgeführt. Betreten Sie jetzt die erste offene Tür in der Haupt- höhle und drücken den Knopf nahe dem Graben - eine Untergrundbahn erscheint...
Put some of the quoted text into your favourite search engine and you should find the source.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


Nächtlicher Fluglärm macht depressiv und herzkrank talks of a direct connection between the noise of night flights and heart/circulatory disease as well as mental illness. I find it ironic that a conference on this subject can take place in Berlin at a time when we are reading headlines such as Luftraum über Berliner länger dicht. Is this coincidence - Zufall - or synchronisity - Synchronizität? I'm probably not using the word in the sense Carl Gustav Jung intended. If you want to check this out then try reading about der Begriff Synchronizität  Having read a little more I begin to wonder when I should speak of Zufall and when Koinzidenzen.

Es war ein reiner Zufall, das ich diese Verhältnisse machen habe. Vielleicht sind meine Sinnknüpfung ohne Bedeutung!

You might also like to read the Wikipedia article about Zufall. My somewhat random browsing  led onto another article Würfelt Gott? Und wenn ja, wann? from the University of Munich. Its an easy to understand short article. I found some of the ways of looking at the universe quite fascinating. One model views the universe as if it were a book with page numbers corresponding to time. A small taster to get you reading :

Macht es einen Sinn zu sagen, auf Seite 50 gäbe es eine Wahrscheinlichkeit von 30 Prozent für ein Happyend? Wo doch feststeht, ob das Buch ein Happyend hat oder nicht, auch wenn es der Leser und die Romanfiguren auf Seite 50 noch nicht wissen? Wer meint, das Buch hätte auch anders ausgehen können, stellt die Frage, ob denn die Geschichte des Universums per Zufall gewählt sein kann, wo es doch nur eine einzige davon gibt.

Monday, 19 April 2010


I was intending to list a few German idioms such as jemanden auf den Arm nehmen which is the equivalent of the English to pull someone's leg. I decided to enter this as the search phrase in Google and discovered there is a wonderful website for just this sort of search. Redensarten-Index lets you enter words or phrases for your search and when you find an entry you can also get it translated into a choice of languages including English. What I found helpful is the examples of the phrases in use. Redensarten-Index describes itself as Wörterbuch für -Redensarten -Redewendungen -idiomatische Ausdrücke -feste Wortverbindungen.

The home page has quite a few useful links, including one to a quiz with two levels of difficulty. If you need some explanation of Sprichwörter then try die Liste erklärungsbedürftiger Sprichwörter There's also a collection of links for German language sites for learning German (Deutsch als Fremdsprache).


I'm not certain whether many readers of this blog will know the name Melanchthon. He was an important figure during the Reformation who died 50 years ago.

Der Reformator Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) war ein enger Freund und Mitstreiter von Martin Luther (1483-1546).

You'll find a little more under the heading Festakt zum 450. Todestag von Melanchthon on ZeitOnline. If you search for Melanchthon on ZeitOnline you'll find 127 Ergebnisse so he's obviously been in the news quite a lot over the last few years.

Now a puzzle for you. What was Melanchthon's real name?

Saturday, 17 April 2010


Tourism is a major industry and also a major topic for conversation for anyone learning German. Here's a list of topics that students are expected to talk about or discuss at AS level (exams taken by 17 or 18 year olds in England )
  • different types of holidays and holiday activities
  • what's important when choosing a holiday
  • what can be stressful about holidays
  • pros and cons of tourism e.g. impact on destinations,cultures, global environment and climate
  • impact of tourism on the German economy
A useful starting point would be making lists of vocabulary that you might need under these topics and some useful phrases. For instance, for types of holidays and holiday activities you might list: Strand & Sonne - Wellness, Spa & Beaty - Aktivurlaub & Abenteur-Touren - Sportlich Aktiv - Radreisen - Wanderreisen - Kanu/Kajak. But you also need to note what are the attractions of these types of holiday and to whom they are likely to appeal. If you are looking for entspannen und wohlfühlen then perhaps that would suggest lounging on the beach. However, vigorous activity helps some people relax and feel good.

As ever, a good source of general information is Wikipedia and this quite lengthy entry will tell you about Gesellschaftlich Bedeutung - Kulturelle Auswirkungen - Auswirkungen auf Umwelt und Natur - Wirtschaftliche Bedeutung. I found it particularly interesting that they also handle sustainable tourism, fair trade and problems likely to arise in the future - Sanfter und nachhaltiger Tourismus - Fairer Handel im Tourismus - Zukunftsprobleme.

When it comes to the impact of tourism on the Germany economy I have two suggestions beyond Wikipedia. The first is a report from Deutsche Welle earlier this week Traumziel Berlin: Touristen bringen Aufschwung in die Hauptstadt which is accompanied by a brief video to watch online or download as an MP4 file. The second appears to be someone's dissertation (Diplomarbeit) presented as website  This is not as specialist as it sounds and you can easily pick out sections that interest you - for instance, Bedeutung und Trends des Tourismus in Deutschland. You can see some of the section headings in the image of part of the site navigation.

When you work with websites like this, make sure you pick out key vocabulary and highlight a few facts and opinions that you think might be useful. You might also consider the consequences of the world economic situation on tourism in Germany. A couple of short articles might help with this - Deutschland wird wieder entdeckt and Deutschland ist der beste Verlierer And here are a couple of questions for you: Ist der Kurztrip im eigenen Land die Antwort der Deutschen auf die schwerste Wirtschaftskrise der Nachkriegszeit? Warum ist Deutschland als beste Verlierer genannt?

I'll leave it to you to do some research on what can be stressful about holidays. The key word to search for is Urlaubstress but you might try combining several in one search. Pick  any of the following Panne, Flughafen, Auto, Krise to include with Urlaub and/or Stress.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Volcanic ash stops flights

Der isländische Vulkan schleudert weiter Asche in die Luft, allerdings mit etwas weniger Kraft. Man kann die Aschwolke nicht sehen, aber viele Flughäfen sind geschlossen. Die Aschepartikel sind eine Gefahr für Flugzeuge, weil sie sich auf den Triebwerksschaufeln festsetzen kann.

If you want to discover more about volcanoes then you might like Der Quarks Vulkan which has a simulation of a volcano and answers questions such as:

Warum sind manche Vulkane explosiv und andere kaum?
Was hat die Zusammensetzung des Magmas mit der Explosivität zu tun?
Welchen Einfluss haben die vulkanischen Gase?
Was ist ein Schild- und Schichtvulkan?

You can also watch the video of the whole Quarks broadcast about volcanoes and test your knowledge  with the 8 questions in the Quarks-Vulkane-Quiz

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

On this day

On this day in 1946 may parents married. I think they chose the date because it was exactly a year after my father was released from prisoner of war camp. I think he ended up at Stalag IVD at Torgau but had been forced to work in a copper mine in Eisleben shortly after he was brought to Germany from Italy.
On this day in 1962 four lads from Liverpool played at the opening of the Starclub in Hamburg. You can read about this in KalenderBlatt 13.4.1962: Die Beatles im Hamburger Starclub I saw them perform several times but not in Germany. I also remember seeing some of the filming for one of their films but I can't remember which. I think I was more interested in the girls they attracted than in their music.

A less well known action in WWI also happened on this day in 1918 and again you can read it in KalenderBlatt 13.4.1918: Helsinki erobert. The following year saw a massacre in Amritsar when British soldiers opened fire on a crowd of unarmed demonstrators killing about 400 and wounding over 1000. Another shameful event on this day in 1204 was the plundering of Constantinople by crusaders. You can read about all these events and more on KalenderBlatt from DW-World

Sunday, 11 April 2010


Ich hatte eine Panne - My car broke down or My car had a puncture. Die Panne can be breakdown or puncture but it can also be used in the sense of slip-up or mishap or, to use a more colloquial English term, a cock-up.

My interest is often grabbed when I come across vocabulary used in a slightly different way and today I found an example of Panne being added to another word. It appears in a report about a mix up with the records of organ donors in Britain. The article appears with the headline Datenpanne führt zur ungenehmigten Organentnahme in Großbritannien and within the article you'll also find IT-Panne. Below the article in heise online you'll see links to other Datenpanne.

Searching online, I found Software-Panne and Bankkarten-Panne and some amusing YouTube videos of things that have gone wrong on television e.g.  TV Pannen aus dem Deutschen Wetterfernsehen - Lustige Clips und TV Pannen

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Copenhagen Hangover

I've just been reading a Spiegel Online article Kopenhagen-Kater trübt Bonner Klimakonferenz but it's more than a bad headache we'll get if action isn't taken to keep the global average temperature to no more than 2 degrees. The reductions agreed may lead to increases of up to 4 degrees.

Umweltschützer kritisierten, dies reiche bei weitem nicht für das Zwei-Grad-Ziel. Nach Schätzung des scheidenden Chefs des Uno-Klimasekretariats, Yvo de Boer, laufen die angekündigten Minderungen auf einen Temperaturanstieg von 3,5 bis 4 Grad Celsius hinaus.

There have been attempts to discredit the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) but this really is a reliable and self correcting scientific resource which has involved many hundreds of scientists. There are some strong sceptical voices which tend to present the IPCC evidence as political propaganda but that suggests ignorance of the IPCC process and the IPCC reports and the evidence they contain. Occasionally a mistake can be found in their reporting - Himalayan glaciers and how far parts of the Netherlands are below sea level - but such errors are few in a report of 3000 pages and readily corrected. Science always has to be open to correction and these do not affect the core conclusions that human activities, particularly burning fossil fuels, are warming the planet.

Weather events at the beginning of this year had many people confusing local weather with global climate. Regional data has more variability than global averages and so it is not hard to find places where temperatures have not risen (continental USA) and a few glaciers (New Zealand) which are growing not receding. It is also possible to select data over limited periods that appear not to agree with that for much longer periods. A decade is too short a period to establish a long term trend. The IPCC has rigorously analysed data over long time scales and on continental and global space scales to identify the significant trends and their likely causes.

There may be some attitude problems to overcome if the public are to accept the science. People sometimes don’t want to believe predictions that challenge consumption levels and lifestyles that are now regarded as normal in the developed world.
If you have opinions on climate change then please express them by leaving a comment or contribute to the Forum on Spiegel Online Umwelt - ist die Angst vor der globalen Erwärmung übertrieben?
For balanced briefings on climate change in English, take a look at Sir John Houghton's contributions available from the John Ray Initiative. I cannot give a recommendation for a German language source because I don't know whose views would carry the same weight as Sir John's.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Computers, Internet and Broadband

I decided to look at more Austrian statistics and found I can access a publication that tells you all me everything I could possibly want to know about IKT-Einsatz in Haushalten 2009 What is IKT? Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologien, in other words, the same as English ICT - though ICT seems to be a term more used in schools than any where else in Britain.

The Austrian publication contains data about what people use the internet for - die Zwecke der Internetnutzung - about online shopping and the most popular internet purchases. You'll also find a wonderfully modern German phrase in use "E Commerce and Trust". If you like computers, statistics and learning German then you can have fun with this publication. Follow the link above for a summary of the publication and then decide whether you want to download it.

Women in Austria

Yesterday was international women's day - Internationaler Frauentag - and Statistik Austria published a press release about data that shows some interesting differences between men and women particularly in respect of changes in the educational achievement of women over the last few decades.

Bei den Maturaabschlüssen haben die 18- bis 19-jährigen Frauen beispielsweise ihre männlichen Schulkollegen bereits Mitte der 1980er Jahre überholt, 2007/08 wurden 57% der Maturaabschlüsse von Frauen abgelegt. An den Universitäten zeigt sich ein ähnliches Bild: 2007/2008 wurden 56% der Studienabschlüsse von Frauen erworben. Bei den Doktoraten sind Männer allerdings noch in der Überzahl - rund 58% der Doktoratsabschlüsse entfielen auf Männer.
Die Matura is the Austrian and Swiss equivalent of das Abitur. It has much the same meaning as the English "matriculation" - qualifying for university entrance. I wonder what lies behind the lower proportion gaining doctorates. Is there some form of discrimination operating? There are certainly some gender specific differentiation when it comes to professions and also how far up the career ladder women advance. The article also has something to say about "gender pay gap".

There is some useful material here if you want to practise vocabulary about increase and decrease and comparison. Or perhaps you might want to express some opinions about whether you feel women are still disadvantaged in society or about what might be done to reduce the risk of poverty for Alleinerziehende Frauen

Thursday, 8 April 2010

On your bike

Which are the 30 best loved cycle paths in Germany? To find the answers go the Radwanderwege article on Zeit Online. Here are some more questions about the text.

Was sind die drei Gründe, dass Radurlaub in eigenen Land das Korrekteste sind ? 

Warum sind die Radwege entlang der Flüsse die beliebsten?

I'm not sure I fancy cycling alongside the Elbe in the busy summer period. I prefer to cycle in country lanes with little traffic when I'm in England.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


Cornelias DaF-Blog has some useful suggestions about using the interviews from the series Euromaxx Fragebogen. They all follow a similar structure and that makes them particularly useful as a medium for learning German. Structures like this give you a framework for note taking and note making. What I mean by note making is noting down your reactions to or questions about what you've heard alongside any notes you take to record content. The more ways you can find to engage with material the greater your ability to recall information and express opinions later on.

Cornelia's article is, of course, in German and would itself be useful as an exercise for translation into English. You'll find it at complete with a demonstration video.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Marriage less likely

Marriage seems to be less important in Germany now than it used to be. Amongst younger people just about a third of women and almost 40 percent of men expect to remain single for life. The likelihood of marrying is about half of what it was in 1980. The change is particularly marked amongst east German men. For more information read Deutsche sagen immer öfter "Nein" There is a further article under the heading Ehe verliert weiter an Bedeutung

Friday, 2 April 2010


I wonder what the plural of Quiz is in German. Quizzes in English but is it Quizen auf Deutsch? Anyway, whatever ever the plural is you'll find plenty of them in the  quiz section of Google Directory - though there are some broken links. One bonus I gained from following one of these links was the discovery of Das Deutschland-Portal which is a good way of finding out about Germany - but I didn't find their quiz!

For a gentle introduction to online quizzes try something for children QuizKids has some other games as well and you can even write your own online quiz if you feel particularly confident.

Time Travel

Re-enactments and other so called "living history" events are becoming big business. It's quite interesting to look at some of the websites that serve this market, for instance Neuland Zeitreisen

There is a Google listing for Lebendige Geschichte and if you want to explore some more serious history on the web then take a look under Geschichte on There you'll find seperate listings for Weltgeschichte, Europäische Geschichte, Zeitgeschichte (Deutschland), Neuzeit (Deutschland), Mittelalter, Vorgeschichte & Altertum, Biographien. Each site listing is accompanied by a brief description and some of the sites have themselves commented listings.

When are we going to be able to travel forward into the future?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Animal noises

Google has today offered today to translate animal noises into English I can’t find an equivalent for German but I thought it might be useful to have a brief list of German words for animal sounds.

Die Kuh kann muhen
Das Schaf kann blöken
Das Pferd kann wiehern
Das Schwein kann grunzen
Der Hahn kann krähen
Die Henne kann gackern
Die Katze kann miauen
Der Hund kann bellen
Die Ziege kann meckern
Die Gans kann schnattern
Der Bär kann brummen
Die Maus kann piepsen
Der Vogel kann zwitschern
Die Taube kann gurren
Der Frosch kann quaken
Die Biene kann summen
Der Löwe kann brullen

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Mehr über Osterbräuche

Believe it or not there is a German website dedicated to Easter and here is a link to their page about customs

Now its your turn to do some translation. The texts on this site are fairly straightforward so give it a go and translate some of them into English.

Easter Customs - Osterbräuche

Searching through some old papers I found a translation exercise I had done in March 1999 when learning German was still quite new and I guess the German text was supplied by my tutor. The real miracle is I had also transferred the Word 6 document to my current PC so I can now show you my wonderful efforts. Actually, I think I did reasonably well.

Nach den langen, dunkeln Wintertagen ist Ostern der erste große Lichtblick in der langsam erwachenden Natur. Es ist Frühling. Schneeglöckchen und Krokusse haben sich schon hervorgewagt und die Narzissen, auch Osterglocken genannt, leuchten gelb mit der Sonne um die Wette. Die Knospen an den Bäumen und Sträuchern werden langsam dick und prall und Weidenkätzchen erfreuen uns beim Osterspaziergang ebenso, wie die aus fernen Ländern heimgekehrten Singvögel. Die Wohnungen werden auf Hochglanz gebracht, mit Ostersträußen aus frischen Grün und bunten Eiern geschmückt und alle sind froh, daß der kalte dunkle Winter endlich sein Ende gefunde hat. Osterfeuer lodern auf: ein Brauch unserer heidnischen Vorfahren. Damit wurden die Dämonen des Winters vertrieben und der Frühling begrüßt. Viele unserer Osterbräuche haben den Ursprung in den Riten unserer Ur-Ahnen.

Ein ganz besonders schöner Brauch (er geht auf das 17. Jahrhundert zurück) ist, nicht nur für die Kinder, das Eiersuchen am Ostersonntagmorgen im Garten, in der Wohnung oder beim Osterspaziergang.

Easter customs
After the long, dark days of Winter, Easter is the first big bright spot as nature slowly awakes. It is spring. Snowdrops and crocus have already dared to come out and the daffodils, also called “Osterglocken” [Easter Bells], take up the challenge, gleaming yellow with the sun. The buds on the trees and shrubs become slowly big and swollen and on the Easter walk the pussy-willows give us just as much pleasure, like the homecoming song birds from distant lands. The apartments are given a spring-cleaning, adorned with Easter decorations of fresh greenery and colourful eggs, and everyone is glad that the cold dark winter has finally come to an end. Easter-fires flare up: a custom of our pagan ancestors by which the demons of the winter were expelled and the spring greeted. Many of our Easter customs have their origins in the rites our early ancestors.

An especially lovely custom, not just for children and dating back to the 17th century, is searching for eggs on Easter Sunday morning in the garden, in the apartment or on the Easter walk.

1 Ostern
Zu Ostern feiern die Christen die Auferstehung von Jesus Christus aus seinem Grab. Aber auch die Osterbräuche sind wohl schon vor dem Christentum entstanden. Eine besondere Rolle spielenn die Ostereier; bunt bemalte, gekochte Eier. Aber auch eingepackte Schokaladeneier, Hasen aus Schokolade und allerlei Süßigkeiten werden im Garten versteckt, damit die Kinder sie suchen können. Kleine Kinder glauben, daß der Osterhase die Sachen gebracht und versteckt hat.

1 Easter
At Easter Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from his grave. However the Easter customs originated well before Christianity. Easter eggs play a special role - colourfully painted, boiled eggs and also wrapped chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies and all sorts of sweets are hidden in the garden, so that the children can look for them. Little children believe, that the Easter bunny has brought and hidden the things.

2 Warum versteckt ein Hase Eier?
Das Ei gilt als Symbol von Lebenskraft und Fruchbarkeit schlechthin. Deswegen wurde die Produktion der Ostereier dem für seine Fortpflanzungsfreudigkeit oft gerühmten Tier, dem Hasen, zugeschrieben.

2 Why does a hare hide eggs?
The egg is regarded as the quintessential symbol of vitality and fertility. Therefore the production of Easter eggs was attributed to the hare, an animal frequently famed for its reproductive abilities.

3 Wie viele Menschen feiern Ostern bei uns wirklich?
Die meisten. 51 Prozent färben oder bemalen gekochte Eier, 38 Prozent legen Geschenke in die Osternester, 35 Prozent gehen in die Kirche (Institut Allensbach).

3 How many people celebrate Easter here really?
Most do. 51 percent colour or paint boiled eggs, 38 percent put gifts into the Easter nest, 35 percent go to church (Allensbach Institute).

4 Seit wann „sucht“ man Eier?
Urkundlich seit dem 16.4.1691. Im Tagebuch des Abtes Jacob von Schuttern hieß es: „Den hiesigen Kindern versteckte ich Ostereier im Garten.“

4 When did the hunt for eggs begin?
First documented 16.4.1691. In the journal of Abbot Jacob von Schuttern it says: “ I concealed Easter eggs in the garden for the local children.”

5 Wieso heißt Ostern eigentlich Ostern?
Schuld daran ist die germanische Gottheit Ostara. Ihr Name steht für Erde, Frühling, Morgenrot - ihr zu Ehren feierten unsere Vorfahren mit festlichen Riten den Frühlingsanfang.

5 Why is Easter actually called „Ostern“ (Easter)?
Blame it on the Germanic deity Ostara. Her name stands for earth, spring, dawn - our ancestors celebrated the start of spring with festive rites in her honour.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Die Sorben

German is not the only language spoken in Germany. A few years ago when a group of Methodists from Birmingham District visited Berlin in Easter week at the invite of the Berlin District of the Methodist Church we were taken to the Spreewald and found there is a distinct ethnic group with their own slavic language.

Die Sorben, früher im Deutschen auch Wenden genannt, bezeichnet sich selbst als Serbja, Serbowije oder Serbjo. Sie sprechen eine westslavische Sprache und leben in der Ober- und Niederlausitz an den oberen und mittleren Spree.

As well as their own language and literature, they have their own music, customs, sayings and superstitions. Easter is a particular good time to visit the area as you'll see plenty of examples of their decorated eggs and you may be lucky enough to see people dressed in traditional costume - die Tracht. Unfortunately we were a few days too late to see das Osterreiten - a procession on horseback. The fires are also lit to celebrate Easter - Zu Ostern werden Osterfeuer entzündet - and young girls wash silently with Easter water so they can remain healthy and pretty - Junge Mädchen wuschen sich schweigend mit Osterwasser, um gesund und schön zu bleiben.

Eggs were, of course, associated with fertility rites - Fruchtbarkeitsriten. They are decorated with coloured wax or have patterns scratched into them - mit farbigen Wachs bemalt oder mit Kratzmustern versehen. Searching for Easter eggs is a popular game for children in England and I have heard of rolling eggs down hill. There is something similar amongst the Sorbs called Waleien. This involves rolling boiled and decorated eggs down a sandhill into a pit and every player tries to hit the eggs of others. Those who succeed get to keep the egg. Decorated and blown (ausgeblasene) eggs are hung from birch twigs in front of the houses. This custom has spread fairly widely and is not now confined to the Sorbs.

I may have missed seeing die Osterreiter but thanks to YouTube we can now see a procession.

I would love to hear from you about other Easter customs in Germany, Austria or Switzerland.