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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

EXPLAINED: The German phrases you need as bars and restaurants reopen

Nervous about your German skills now that restrictions are easing? Here are some handy phrases for once it's possible to grab dinner or a drink with friends again.

EXPLAINED: The German phrases you need as bars and restaurants reopen
Two restaurant employees in Dresden set up chairs and tables on Wednesday to prepare for the opening of outdoor dining. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

In many areas of Germany, bars and restaurants are once again opening their doors – or at least their terraces – to customers. Months of lockdowns, curfews and pub closures mean it feels like an eternity since we have been able to catch up with friends in a pub or cafe.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rules in Germany on outdoor dining

To help you avoid any embarrassment over the next few weeks, we have compiled a list of useful phrases to try out at your local restaurant or bar:

Small talk

If you are seeing your pals after a long time, before you even get to ordering, you may need to brush up on the small talk you’ve managed to avoid over the past few months.

Wie geht es dir? Lange nicht gesehen! – ‘How are you? Long time no see!’ Easing restrictions mean that many people will be able to socialise with friends they may not have seen since last autumn – or longer. It’s likely that ‘lange nicht gesehen’ will become a very useful addition to your phrase book.

Wie läuft’s bei dir so? – ‘What have you been up to?’ Given the heavy restrictions in place up until now in Germany, the answer to this may be pretty short. Try it out if you want to hear about how your friends have passed the time during lockdown. 

Ich freue mich auf meine Covid-Impfung – ‘I’m excited for my Covid vaccine’ As it is all anyone can really think about at the moment, it is likely the pandemic will come up at some point during your conversation. Especially if you want to make plans for the future, it will be good to know when your friends are getting their vaccine doses. 

READ ALSO: Here’s the German vocabulary you need to get the Covid-19 vaccine

Kann ich einen Tisch reservieren, bitte? – ‘Can I book a table, please?’ With bars and restaurants able to open for outdoor dining for the first time in months, there is likely to be fierce competition for tables. It is definitely worth booking in advance to ensure you aren’t disappointed. 

Ist dieser Tisch frei? – ‘Is this table free?’ If you do try your luck and approach a restaurant without booking, use this phrase to ask staff if they can squeeze you in. 

Ordering 

Ich hätte gern ein… – ‘I would like a…’ Hopefully you haven’t forgotten this basic phrase while the bars have been closed, but in any case, this is your time to use it. You could also try the more colloquial ‘ich nehme ein…’ or ‘I’ll take a…’ if you want to sound a bit more casual when ordering your drinks. 

Ich besorge das Bier – ‘I’ll get this beer’ This one’s for those of you who are feeling generous. Maybe you’ve saved a few cents while the bars have been closed and you want to cover the cost of your friend’s drink for them. Use this phrase to let them know this one’s on you. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How you can visit a bar in Berlin from Friday

         A Berlin bartender pours a drink in November. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

Eating/Drinking

Guten Appetit! – ‘Bon appetit!’ No matter if you’re in a restaurant or not, this is a good phrase to have in your pocket. In Germany, it is common to say this before you begin any meal and is a friendly way to kick off your dinner. 

Nicht lange schnacken, Kopf in Nacken – ‘Stop talking, start drinking.’ Particularly if you have been waiting months to have a drink in your favourite bar, you may want to cut the small talk and get straight to business. 

Hat es dir geschmeckt? ‘Did you enjoy your meal?’ If you have been out to a restaurant for the first time in what feels like an eternity, you are likely to savour every mouthful. Use this question to check everyone else at your table has enjoyed the experience too.

Wir brauchen ein Katerfrühstück – ‘We need a hangover cure.’ Hopefully you won’t need to use this phrase, but if you’ve overdone it on your first night socialising with friends, you might be on the search for something to ease your headache the next morning. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Der Kater

Lass uns bald wieder treffen – ‘Let’s do this again soon.’ Hopefully your night has gone well, and you have been able to wow your friends with your grasp of the German language. This phrase will let them know you don’t want this to just be a one time thing. 

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LEARNING GERMAN

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

Once you've learned the basics of German, listening to podcasts is one of the best ways of increasing vocabulary and speeding up comprehension. Here are some of the best podcasts out there for German learners.

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

STARTING OUT

Coffee Break German

Coffee Break German aims to take you through the basics of German in a casual lesson-like format. It is extremely easy to listen to. Each 20-minute episode acts as a mini-lesson, where German native Thomas teaches Mark Pendleton, the founder and CEO of Coffee Break Languages, the basics.

All phrases are broken down into individual words. After new phrases are introduced the listeners are encouraged to repeat them back to practise pronunciation.

The advantage of listening to this podcast is that the learner, Mark, begins at the same level as you. He is also a former high school French and Spanish teacher. He often asks for clarification of certain phrases, and it can feel as if he is asking the very questions you want answered.

You can also stream the podcast directly from the provider’s website, where they sell a supplementary package from the Coffee Break German Academy, which offers additional audio content, video flashcards and comprehensive lesson notes

German Pod 101

German Pod 101 aims to teach you all about the German language, from the basics in conversations and comprehension to the intricacies of German culture. German Pod 101 offers various levels for your German learning and starts with Absolute Beginner.

The hosts are made up of one German native and one American expat living in Germany, in order to provide you with true authentic language, but also explanations about the comparisons and contrasts with English. This podcast will, hopefully, get you speaking German from day one.

Their website offers more information and the option to create an account to access more learning materials.

Learn German by Podcast

This is a great podcast if you don’t have any previous knowledge of German. The hosts guide you through a series of scenarios in each episode and introduce you to new vocabulary based on the role-plays. Within just a few episodes, you will learn how to talk about your family, order something in a restaurant and discuss evening plans. Each phrase is uttered clearly and repeated several times, along with translations.

READ ALSO:

Learn German by Podcast provides the podcasts for free but any accompanying lesson guides must be purchased from their website. These guides include episode transcripts and some grammar tips. 

DEVELOPING YOUR GERMAN

Easy German

This podcast takes the form of a casual conversation between hosts Manuel and Cari, who chat in a fairly free-form manner about aspects of their daily lives. Sometimes they invite guests onto the podcast, and they often talk about issues particularly interesting to expats, such as: “How do Germans see themselves?”. Targeted at young adults, the podcasters bring out a new episode very three or four days.

News in Slow German

This is a fantastic podcast to improve your German listening skills. What’s more, it helps you stay informed about the news in several different levels of fluency.

The speakers are extremely clear and aim to make the podcast enjoyable to listen to. For the first part of each episode the hosts talk about a current big news story, then the second part usually features a socially relevant topic. 

A new episode comes out once a week and subscriptions are available which unlock new learning tools.

SBS German

This podcast is somewhat interesting as it is run by an Australian broadcaster for the German-speaking community down under. Perhaps because ethnic Germans in Australia have become somewhat rusty in their mother tongue, the language is relatively simple but still has a completely natural feel.

There is a lot of news here, with regular pieces on German current affairs but also quite a bit of content looking at what ties Germany and Australia together. This lies somewhere between intermediate and advanced.

A woman puts on headphones in Gadebusch, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Photo: dpa | Jens Büttner

PERFECTING YOUR GERMAN

Auf Deutsche gesagt

This is another great podcast for people who have a high level of German. The host, Robin Meinert, talks in a completely natural way but still manages to keep it clear and comprehensible.

This podcast also explores a whole range of topics that are interesting to internationals in Germany, such as a recent episode on whether the band Rammstein are xenophobic. In other words, the podcast doesn’t just help you learn the language, it also gives you really good insights into what Germans think about a wide range of topics.

Sozusagen

Bayern 2 present their podcast Sozusagen! for all those who are interested in the German language. This isn’t specifically directed at language learners and is likely to be just as interesting to Germans and foreigners because it talks about changes in the language like the debate over gender-sensitive nouns. Each episode explores a different linguistic question, from a discussion on German dialects to an analysis of political linguistics in Germany.

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