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INDIA

Seven German words that originally come from India

Though separated by thousands of years and kilometres, India and Germany have had a significant historical influence on each other. Here's a look at how that's reflected in German vocabulary.

Seven German words that originally come from India
Chairs and tables fill the 'Die Veranda' of a closed restaurant in Hamburg

The connection between the two countries can be attributed, in part, to German Orientalists of the 18th and 19th century who spread the knowledge of Indian culture among Germans at the time. In the world of literature, in 1791, when a work by one of ancient India’s greatest playwrights was translated into German, it created great interest among German intellectuals including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Gottfried Herder. 

Linguistic experts have found several similarities between German and Sanskrit, the language Indian languages such as Hindi are derived from. Here are some German words which come from India. 

Das Bandana 

A bandana is usually a form of colourful fabric worn around someone’s head or neck. Now a popular accessory in many parts of the world, the word and garment originate from the Indian subcontinent. 

The word Bandana is derived from the word Bandhana in Hindi, which means to tie. Another translation for the Hindi word is ‘bond’. Bandanas originated in India as bright coloured silk and cotton, blue and red handkerchiefs. 

READ ALSO: Seven German words which stem from Arabic

Der Bungalow 

In Germany, a bungalow refers to a single story house with a flat roof. This building style was most popular during the 1960s. 

The word comes from the Hindi word Bangla, which was a type of cottage built for early European settlers in Bengal. The word Bangla originally means ‘from Bengal’. Now, the term stands for a one or two-storied private house belonging to a family. 

A German-style Bungalow in Barth, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Der Dschungel

The word Dschungel comes from the word ‘jungle’, used in Hindi and other South-Asian languages to describe dense forests. The Sanskrit word it is derived from is Jungala which translates to ‘rough and arid terrain’. 

Originally, the word was used to signify rough patches within a forest. But since German and other European explorers initially travelled through tropical forests largely by river, the tangled vegetation lining the stream banks gave them the impression that such jungle conditions existed throughout the entire forest.

Therefore, the word ‘jungle’ started to be used interchangeably with forest. In contemporary times, the word jungle is also used as a metaphor for unruly or lawless situations. 

READ ALSO: 10 German words which come from Italian

Der Guru 

The word Guru, which means teacher or guide in German, is derived from Sanskrit. It is a combination of the two words, Gu- meaning Darkness and Ru- meaning Light. A guru is believed to be a mentor who shows others knowledge (light) and destroys ignorance (darkness). 

In Hinduism, it is believed that a Guru functions within spirituality but doesn’t execute the will of God. Rather, a Guru is a teacher who helps their student find their own spirituality. 

Das Shampoo 

Das Shampoo in German comes from Shampoo in English, which is derived from the Hindi word Champoo, which is an act of kneading or massaging. Originally, a Champoo was a traditional Indian and Persian body massage given after pouring warm water over the body and rubbing it with extracts from herbs. It then became the term for a commercial liquid soap for washing hair, as we know it today. 

Das Karma 

Karma, meaning ‘fate’ in German, comes from the Sanskrit word Karman, meaning ‘‘act’’. The now-popular idea had a very different meaning in ancient India. Originally, the term Karma referred simply to ritual and sacrificial action and had no ethical significance.

The earliest evidence of the term’s expansion into an ethical domain is provided in the Upanishads, a genre of the Vedas (sacred scriptures) concerned with ontology, or the philosophical study of being.

Die Veranda 

This word interchangeably with ‘porch’ or ‘patio’ in German. In South India, especially in the hot humid western coastal region,  veranda style porches are very common especially in states like Kerala and Konkan. There was a strong Portuguese and Dutch influence in that part of the country.

The Portuguese word Varanda got into the local languages of these areas as ‘Verandah’, including in Malayalam and Marathi. This later migrated into other languages including English and German as a loan word.

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GERMAN LANGUAGE

The seven stages of learning German every foreigner goes through

German is a notoriously difficult language to learn and the path to fluency is marked by milestones that every budding German speaker will recognise.

The seven stages of learning German every foreigner goes through

Stage 1: Terror

You’ve just set foot on German soil and are ready to begin your new life in the Bundesrepublik. While you may have left home feeling excited and full of enthusiasm for learning the German language, you now find yourself in a world of alarmingly long and confusing words containing strange symbols which are impossible to pronounce.

You’re confronted with long words like Ausländerbehörde, Aufenthaltsbescheinigung, and Wohnungsanmeldung and the prospect of having to get to grips with a language whose average word contains 14 letters slowly dawns on you. It’s terrifying.

Tip: Don’t panic. At first, learning German can seem like a daunting prospect, but as you start to take your first baby steps into the language, you’ll soon realise it’s not as bad as you think. And those long words are just lots of smaller words squashed together.

READ ALSO: 10 German words that strike fear into the hearts of language learners

Stage 2: Determination

You’ve got over the initial shock of realising the true scale of the linguistic mountain you’ll have to climb to learn German – and you resolve to conquer it.

You enrol in a language course and arm yourself with grammar books and language learning apps, and you start making progress very quickly. You realise that a lot of German words have the same roots as their English cousins and that words and phrases are sticking in your head more quickly than you expected. The flames of optimism begin to grow.

A couple practices the German language. Photo: Annika Gordon/Unsplash

Tip: Keep up that spirit and persist with the grammar books and vocab learning, ideally on a daily basis and start speaking the language as much as you can – even if it’s just reading aloud to yourself. 

Stage 3: Obsession

Spurred on by your new ability to introduce yourself, talk about the weather and tell people about your pets, you launch an all-out assault on the German language.

READ ALSO: How to remember the gender of German words

You’ve got post-it notes filled with vocab stuck all over your flat, you’ve got three tandem partners and Tagesschau is blasting 24/7 from your Laptop.

You are now officially obsessed with the German language.

Tip: Don’t be too hard on yourself once this phase of unbridled enthusiasm burns out. Though it’s great to have a period of immersion in the long-run, regular learning – even for shorter periods – is the key to progress.

Stage 4: Experimentation

You’ve now got a solid base of internal vocab and you’ve got to grips with the most important grammar rules. You can use the dative and genitive cases with increasing ease and you’re using modal verbs on a regular basis. 

You now feel ready to road-test your new language skills in the big wide world. You don’t ask Sprechen Sie englisch? (do you speak English?) any more and instead try to communicate only in German. 

Tip: Bolster this experimentation phase by consuming more German media. Listen to German podcasts, check out German TV shows and try to read the news in German. 

READ ALSO: Tatort to Temptation Island: What do Germans like to watch on TV?

Stage 5: Frustration

Just as you were starting to gain confidence in the language, you hit a brick wall. You spent an evening in the company of German speakers, or you attended a meeting at work where you found yourself fumbling for vocabulary and stumbling over grammar.

You can’t, for the life of you, remember whether it’s der, die or das Licht even though you’ve looked it up at least a hundred times. 

A German dictionary. Photo: Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash

What’s the point, you ask yourself. You want to give up and just switch to speaking English permanently, as everyone you meet seems to speak perfect English anyway.

Tip: Everyone feels like this at some point when learning a new language and it’s likely to happen more than once on your language-learning journey. Keep going and don’t compare your German language skills with the English skills of German natives. Remember that most Germans have grown up listening to songs and watching films in English, so it will take you a bit longer to get to grips with German in the same way. 

Stage 6: Breakthrough

You’re not quite sure what’s happened, but something seems to have clicked. You’re suddenly using the right past participles 90 percent of the time and you’re using reflexive verbs with ease. People are rarely switching to English when speaking to you and you’re understanding almost everything you see and hear.

READ ALSO: Six ways to fall in love with learning German again

Tip: Remember this feeling when you are revisited by frustration in the future. 

Stage 7: Acceptance

You still make mistakes, you don’t know all of the words in the German dictionary, and you still mix up der, die and das – but it’s ok. You’ve come a long way and you accept that your German will probably never be perfect and that the learning process will be a lifelong pursuit. 

Tip: The more you use the language, the more you’ll improve. Keep reading, speaking and listening and, one day, it won’t even feel like an effort anymore. 

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