learning german For Members

10 ways to sound like a native German speaker

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Eoin McGinley - [email protected]
10 ways to sound like a native German speaker
Photo: Depositphotos/alexkish

If you want to sound like a mother-tongue speaker, work on perfecting these 10 key (and fun) phrases.


1. “Jemanden auf den Keks zu gehen.”

This phrase literally means “to go someone on the cookie”. Or biscuit, depending on which side of the Atlantic your English lies. It is something you say whenever somebody is getting on your nerves, so it sadly has little to do with cookies. 

“Dieser Maximilian geht mir manchmal richtig auf den Keks.”

“That Maximilian really gets on my nerves sometimes.”

Photo: Depositphotos/MaxPayne

2. “Die Nase voll haben.”

This is a great phrase to use if you are sick and tired of something. It literally means “To have the nose full”, but is used to declare that you are very annoyed with something in particular or just annoyed in general, and you just absolutely sick and tired of it. 

Schnauze (meaning snout) is often used in the place of Nase (nose) in more impolite situations.

“Ich hab die Schnauze voll mit dir und deinen Mist.”

“I am sick and tired of your crap.”

3. “Ich glaube ich spinne.”

Literally meaning “I think I spin”, this has got to be the strangest translated German phrase. The English equivalent would be “I think I’m going mad," making “zu spinnen” synonymous with being nuts or crazy.

“Du spinnst wohl.”

“You must be crazy.”

4. “Ich glaube mein Schwein pfeift.”

Forget what we said about “Ich glaub ich spinne”; this is the strangest translated German phrase. It literally means “I think my pig is whistling”, and it is used if someone simply can not believe that something is true. It comes from the idea that something sounds so preposterous that your pig whistling would rival it in sheer unbelievability.

“Hast du schon gehört? Emilia und Max sind jetzt zusammen.”

“Ich glaube mein Schwein pfeift.”

“Have you heard? Emilia and Max are together now.”

“I can’t believe that.”

Photo: Depositphotos/VolodymyrBur

5. “Ich drück' dir die Daumen.”

“I wish you luck” is all this phrase means. Literally however, it means that you will press your thumbs for someone, something people don't generally do after saying it, unlike in English where crossing your fingers after wishing good luck is common. 

“Ich laufe morgen einen Marathon!”

“Toll! Ich drück dir die Daumen!”

“I'm running a marathon tomorrow!”

“Great! I wish you good luck!”

6. “Ich versteh' nur Bahnhof.”

If you are very new to the German language, this phrase could help you out during your next German class. It literally translates to “I only understand train station”. In this case “Bahnhof verstehen” means to not understand anything. 

“Hast du Herr Müller in Physikunterricht zugehört?”

“Ja schon, ich hab' aber trotzdem nur Bahnhof verstanden.”

“Were you listening to Mr. Müller in physics class?”

“Yeah I did, but I didn’t understand anything.”

7. “Das ist mir Wurst.”

“That is sausage to me” is what this phrase literally means, but it actually is a very informal way of saying “I don’t care”. 

“Wir müssen aber heute eine Prüfung schreiben!”

“Das ist mir Wurst.”

“But we have to write an exam today!”

“I don’t care.”

Germans are fans of both food, and food metaphors. Photo: Depositphotos/Shaiith 

8. “Das Leben ist kein Zuckerschlecken.”

This is a good one. Directly translated it means “Life is not a sugar-licking”. It is supposed to mean that life is tough, and if somebody complains how bad or unjust their situation is to a German, “Das leben ist kein Zuckerlecken” could well be the reply. A similar phrase with the meaning is “Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof”.

“Das ist aber total unfair!”

“Tja, das leben ist kein Zuckerlecken.”

“But that’s completely unfair!”

“Well, life is tough.”

9. “Da haben wir den Salat.”

If suddenly a giant mess has occurred, this is the phrase you should use. It literally translates to “There we have the salad”, which is somewhat funny considering that it means “Well, now we have a mess”.

It most likely comes from the nature of salads themselves; they are in reality a jumble of different ingredients messily put together if you think about it.

“Ahhh Mist ich hab die Würstchen fallen lassen!”

“Na toll, da haben wir den Salat!”

“Ahhh crap I dropped the sausages!”

“Great, now there’s a big mess!”

This salad is a mess of tasty ingredients. Photo: DPA

10. “Was ist das für einen Saftladen?”

If you ever walk into a really crummy looking store, you might call it a Saftladen (literally meaning a juice shop). A Saftladen generally means not just a low-quality shop but can also be used to describe a poorly-run establishment. 

“Lass uns aus diesem Saftladen raus gehen!”

“Let’s get out of this mess of a place!

This article was updated on July 6th, 2019.


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Anonymous 2019/07/10 17:44
Keep them coming!!

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