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GERMAN LANGUAGE

‘6 German words I now use in English’

One of the consequences of learning a foreign language is that some words end up slipping into your everyday English. Sarah Magill explains why she uses these German words more often than their English equivalents.

Two employees enjoy their
Two employees enjoy their "Feierabend" (end of work) with apple wine in a deck chair on the Main River in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

Getting to a stage where I feel comfortable using the German language has been a long, arduous process which has taken me nearly eight years.

But one thing I didn’t expect about becoming a German speaker, was that I would find myself using German words in my everyday English, too.

READ ALSO: 10 German words that English should adopt

Sometimes due to laziness, sometimes for conciseness, or sometimes just because I like the sound of the word, I often use these words now amongst German-speaking friends instead of their English equivalents. 

(die) Bescheinigung

I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I love this word. Be-schein-i-gung. It’s got a nice, bouncy ring to it, even though it means something pretty dull.

Bescheinigung is a German word for “certificate” or and is used for all kinds of formal certifications.

Sick notes lie on a table. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Büttner

It’s often stuck to the end of other words too, to mean a specific type of certificate, for example – Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung (sick note) or Anmeldebescheinigung (registration certificate).

I often find myself saying things like “But I don’t have the right Bescheinigung” or “do I need a Bescheinigung for that?”

anmelden

The frequency with which you have to anmelden in Germany, may explain why this word is so firmly rooted in my everyday vocabulary.

Anmelden is a verb which can mean “to register”, “to enrol” and “to login”, and it’s a word I encounter on a daily basis, as it appears on most websites, as well as in front of Covid test centres or at reception areas in medical and government buildings. 

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The German versions of famous English sayings

I’m ashamed to admit that I have also corrupted this word slightly for my own convenience and sometimes say things like “oh I need to anmeld myself” which is of course, very, very wrong.

(die) Kupplung

If you don’t drive or only drive automatic cars, this isn’t a word you generally need to know. But for me, the German word for “clutch” is forever seared into my brain after having it shouted at me by an enraged German driving teacher on numerous occasions.

The interior of a Skoda Octavia TS 1200, with the clutch and brake pedals visible. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/SMB | Skoda Auto Deutschland GmbH

Kupplung is a very nice German word in that it describes what the mechanical elements of a clutch do – they connect and disconnect two rotating shafts, or “couple” them.

I can sometimes be heard saying things like: “Oh I took my foot off the Kupplung too quickly”.

Leider

Whereas the English equivalent – “unfortunately” – can sound a bit clunky and overly formal, leider is a nice little word which you can use to add a touch of polite regret in all kinds of circumstances in German.

The sign above a shop door reads “sadly closed”. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

Thanks to its brevity and the way it can be stuck quite easily into a sentence, this word has crept into my everyday English, and into phrases such as “we are going to have to wait, leider”.

(der) Feierabend

This is just one of the many German words that we don’t have in English, so it’s perhaps more forgivable that I use this in English conversations quite a lot. 

Literally meaning “celebration evening” the word Feierabend is used for the free time after work and it invariably gets a nice response when you tell colleagues or shop assistants schönen Feierabend! (have a nice free evening!).

(die) Kasse

I like to use this German word a lot because – surprisingly – it’s actually easier than having to find the right equivalent word in English.  

A notice reading “No free choice of seats – please register at the entrance” hangs on the outside wall of an inn in Freiburg’s old town. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

For example, in English we have separate words for “checkout”, “till”, “paypoint”, “ticket office” and “cash register”, but in German, the word Kasse covers them all. 

So it’s a rare example of a German word being less specific than English, and it’s also short and easy to say. 

READ ALSO: 7 ways to talk about money like a German

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GERMAN LANGUAGE

7 ways to talk about money like a German

With many of us having to tighten our belts at the moment, here are some uniquely German ways to talk about the hot topic of money.

7 ways to talk about money like a German

1. Geld wie Heu haben

If you’re lucky enough to be extremely wealthy, you may be able to say “Ich habe Geld wie Heu”, though it won’t make you very popular.

The English translation of this widely used phrase is “to have money like hay” –  in other words, to have so much money that it’s barely countable.

As most people don’t have huge hay reserves these days, the phrase likely dates back to the Middle Ages, when the gap between rich and poor, namely between the rural population and the nobility, was particularly stark.

Example:

Seine Eltern haben Geld wie Heu!

His parents have got money to burn!

2. Wer den Pfennig nicht ehrt, ist den Talers nicht wert

This thrifty phrase translates as “he who does not honour the penny is not worth the taler” – taler being an old silver coin. It’s similar in meaning to the phrase “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves” in that it reminds us to appreciate even the small things, and that many small coins add up to a large sum.

Piles of coins growing in size culminating in a jar filled with coins. Photo: pa/obs DEVK Versicherungen | Fotolia

The origin of this phrase goes all the way back to the time of Martin Luther in the 15th century, who is said to have written the older version of the phrase Wer den Pfennig nicht achtet, der wird keines Guldens Herr (“He who does not respect the penny will not be the master of a Gulden”) above his kitchen stove in chalk.

3. Geld zum Fenster hinaus werfen

This expression is about wastefulness, and means “throwing money out of the window”.

The phrase is said to have originated in the Middle Ages in Regensburg, where the ruler would stand at the town hall window and throw money to his subjects.

But, since it was their tax money he was throwing, the citizens coined the phrase: “Throwing our money out the window” to describe wastefulness.

Examples:

Du hast schon immer das Geld zum Fenster hinausgeworfen.

You have always thrown the money out the window.

Statt das Geld zum Fenster hinauszuwerfen, sollte er besser mal sparen.

Instead of throwing money down the drain, he’d be better off saving it.

READ ALSO: German word of the day – Kohle 

4. Geld auf die hohe Kante legen

This phrase goes back to a time when banks were seen as untrustworthy and people preferred to save their money in a hidden place in their homes.

A girl puts a coin into a piggy bank. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Silvia Marks

The phrase meaning, “to place money on the high ledge” is still widely used today, as a way of saying “put a bit of money aside” and to save.

Example:

Die Deutschen legen immer einen Teil ihrer Einkommen auf die hohe Kante.

Germans always put some of their income on the side.

5. Zeit ist Geld

Ok, so this one doesn’t originate from Germany, but it’s certainly widely-used in the German language.

The expression comes from Benjamin Franklin, the American scientist and politician who wrote it in his “Advice to Young Merchants” in 1748.

READ ALSO: 10 German words that English should adopt

It since found its way into the German language, which is hardly surprising. And Germans’ famous punctuality fits well with the idea that wasted time is costly.

Example:

In dieser Situation gilt: Zeit ist Geld.

In a situation like this, time is money.

6. das Geld aus der Tasche ziehen

This unpleasant phrase means “to pull something out of someone’s pocket” and is mostly used to refer to scamming, rather than theft.

A man takes another man’s wallet out of his back pocket. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Arno Burgi

It usually means to induce someone, in a cunning or fraudulent way, to spend money, or to take financial advantage of someone.

Examples:

Wolltest du mir das Geld aus der Tasche ziehen?

Were you trying to con me out of my money?

Trickbetrüger zeigen sich immer kreativer, wenn es darum geht, ihren Opfern Geld aus der Tasche zu ziehen.

Con artists are becoming increasingly creative when it comes to taking money out of their victims’ pockets.

7. Blank sein

Blank sein – meaning to “be broke”, is a situation most of us have probably found ourselves at one point or another.

The term blank originally meant “bright” or “shiny”, but later, the word came to mean “free of” or “stripped of”, eventually leading to this expression, meaning to be “free of money”.

Example:

Ich würde dir eins abkaufen, aber ich bin blank.

I would buy one from you, but I’m broke.

READ ALSO: 10 ways to express surprise in German

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