• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
The Local List
12 signs you've mastered the German language
Das Boot without subtitles may be the ultimate challenge. Photo: DPA

12 signs you've mastered the German language

The Local · 4 Nov 2015, 16:40

Published: 04 Nov 2015 16:32 GMT+01:00
Updated: 04 Nov 2015 16:40 GMT+01:00

You use filler words

Instead of umming whenever you can't think of a word, without even thinking about it you use stop-gaps like 'quasi', 'halt' or 'so zu sagen' to buy yourself time – in fact you unconsciously use these words all over the place anyway.

Ideally a sentence might go something like this: “Er war quasi, halt, so zu sagen einfach nicht der Richtige.”

This is an important strategy for speaking German fluently as the extra seconds these words add can be the difference between constructing a grammatical sentence and failing miserably.

You've thrown grammar out the window

Put that grammar book on the shelf where it belongs. Photo: DPA

In the early days you struggled to get every word ending right, and you constantly grappled with word order. But lately you've realized Germans themselves are pretty sloppy with these rules, and now you just let the words flow.

So jemand, jemanden, jemandem has become jemand, jemand, jemand. And you know it's not the end of the world to keep regular word order after 'weil' or 'dass'.

You've adopted a few idioms

Instead of using the most literal way of expressing a thought, you've started throwing in turns of phrase.

But whose beer is it really? Photo: DPA

So to mean 'that's your business' you probably say “dass ist aber dein Bier”, or if someone is acting a bit weird you ask a friend “hat der 'ne Macke, oder was?” to mean 'is there something not quite right with him?'

And if someone asks a question you can't answer with a direct yes or no, you say “Jein” and draw out the word to show how painfully complex the answer is (even though you were simply asked if you want another coffee or not.)

When you get angry you reply in German

This one is the true test. When the red mist comes down it can swallow foreign language skills - meaning all that comes out is a torrent of English abuse. So when you've started ranting in German, you know you're basically native.

Get inspired by Germany's 2013 Volleyball World Cup team! Photo: DPA

Last time you forgot your key did you whisper to yourself 'Mist'? Or when someone moaned at you for taking your bike onto the S-Bahn did you shout back 'halt die Fresse!'? If so, congratulations! That's a surer sign you've mastered German than any Goethe Institute certificate.

You've throw in abbreviations

As we all know, German is full of overly long words. But Germans have to get things done with their days too, so they've found ways round them. And if you're fluent, you probably do the same.

If you're a real German pro, it's the "WM", not the "Weltmeisterschaft". Photo: DPA

When talking in the past, you've replaced ich habe with ich hab; you don't sound out a whole indefinite article, but just say 'n Mann or 'ne Tasse, and you've joined gibt and es into gibt's. A Bibliothek (library) has become a Bibo and a Volksküche is now a Vokü.

If you're really confident, you might have even started making up your own abkürzungen - like Kuhli for Kuhlschrank (fridge) or Schnüri for Schnürbänder (shoe laces).

You've started speaking in dialect

If you've been living in Bavaria for long enough you've probably started calling Brötchen Semmeln and saying 'schau ma mal' for "we'll see." Who knows, you might have even started calling Munich Minga.

They don't even say "hi" and "bye" the same way in Bavaria. Photo: DPA

In Berlin you now say jut for gut. In Hamburg you say schnacken (chat), and in Stuttgart you're speaking something so far from German none of us have a clue what you're talking about!

Baden-Württemberg's honest-to-goodness, 100% real state motto is "We can do anything except Hochdeutsch [standard German]."

You talk the lingo

If your German is tip top, you've realized that there are loads of words in real life that no language book will ever teach you.

You've started saying “Lass es krachen!” or “wir ballern richtich rein!” to mean "we're gonna party!" And words like schlafen (sleep) are so beginner. You'd rather go pennen.

Then there's that weird 'eeh' sound that you keep putting on the end of a sentence for no reason: “was für 'n Penner eeh? Ich meine wirklich, er geht mir voll auf den Sack eeh!”

Dreaming in German

Photo: DPA

Anyone can speak German while they're awake. But what about putting words into the mouths of other characters while not even consciously thinking about it? Yep, if the mysterious dwarf haunting your dreams is talking backward riddles in German, your skills must be pretty tasty in the lucid light of day.

Story continues below…

People get angry when you don't understand

Do people look at you like you're stupid when you don't understand what they say the first time? Don't worry, this is actually a compliment - it means they haven't yet noticed you're foreign and so they can't understand why you're staring blankly at them. You're accent at least must be pretty smooth.

You've started using English again

Imagine an artist who could paint the next Mona Lisa if he wants to, but makes his money drawing stick men instead. Of course you could only use the German words, but you'd be so much more hip if you start throwing in English words in the middle of a sentence instead.

Watching movies without subtitles

When you first started learning German you probably watched movies with subtitles in English. Then you switched to German subtitles. Now though you're confident enough to decipher Till Schweiger's grunt without any help at all.

If you can get through all five hours of "Das Boot" in German, you're a true hero. Photo: DPA

Can you do it for Bavarian films like 'Wer früher stirbt ist länger tot'? Then you're beating many north Germans who are lost without subtitles for south German cinema.

Getting the news in German

Photo: DPA

But then, if you're truly fluent you probably won't even be reading this article. You prefer to leaf through the pages of Süddeutsche Zeitung or Die Welt instead - not because their articles are more stimulating than those found on The Local, but because you have to think less about the meaning of what you're reading.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Man gets life in jail for murder of two young children
Silvio Schulz. Photo: DPA

A former security guard was handed a life sentence Tuesday for murdering two children, one of them a four-year-old Bosnian boy snatched from a crowded migrant registration centre last year.

Munich shooting
German Turks mourn Munich shooting victims
Flowers for the victims. Photo: DPA

Seven of the nine victims were Muslim.

Doctor killed in Berlin hospital shooting: police
Police at the scene in southern Berlin. Photo: DPA

A doctor has died after being shot at a Berlin hospital by an elderly man, Berlin police said on Twitter on Tuesday.

The Local List
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts

These hidden spots are steeped in shadows of their past and just begging to be explored...

Berlin refugee teen prepares to swim at the Olympics
Photo: DPA

Eighteen-year-old refugee Yusra Mardini has pulled a boat of 20 refugees from the middle of the Aegean to the Greek shore. Now she's preparing to swim at the Olympics.

Opinion
There still hasn’t been an Isis attack on Germany
The attack site in Ansbach. Photo: DPA

The last week has been brutal and shocking, but we need to stay calm and keep the events we have witnessed in perspective, argues Jörg Luyken.

How plainclothes cops caused panic at Munich shooting
Photo: DPA

Plainclothes officers can help in fight against gun attacks. But Munich showed that they can lead to confusion in efforts to track down the real attackers.

Immigration and integration Germany's 'biggest challenge'
Migrants queuing at a reception centre in Bavaria. Photo: DPA

Eighty-three percent of Germans see immigration as Germany's "biggest challenge" - that's twice as many as a year ago, and more than in any of the other countries surveyed.

Ansbach suicide attack
Sleepy Bavarian town left shocked by suicide attack
Ansbach. Photo: DPA

Residents of Ansbach were left reeling Monday after a Syrian suicide bomber blew himself up outside a music festival, shattering the sleepy calm of this picture-postcard southern German city.

Rapturous reception at Wagner fest's opening night
Bayreuther festival 2016, Parsifal. Photo: DPA

Germany's legendary Bayreuth opera festival, dedicated to the works of Richard Wagner, got off to a rapturous start on Monday with a brand new production of the composer's last opera, "Parsifal", enthusiastically received by the first-night audience.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
DPA
Gallery
IN PICTURES: How Munich responded to shooting spree
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
10,692
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd