Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ich Spreche Englisch: German Phrases You Should Know


As with any country, it helps to speak the native language. While some of us, particularly myself, are very bad at languages, it does pay to know the basic phrases of German, Austria’s mother tongue. Whether you are trying to ask for a room in a hotel, say please or thank you, or ask for a beer, these brief phrases will help you to communicate in Austria.

Greetings are usually similar to English. Hallo is a basic greeting used to cover most situations. Guten Tag (good day, pronounced gooten taag), Guten Morgan (good morning), and Guten Abend (good evening, pronounced gooten ah-bun) are similar time-specific greetings. Auf Wiedersehen (Goodbye, pronounced owf veeder-zayn) and bis bald (see you soon, pronounced biss bauld) are good ways to see someone off.

Continuing on the conversation, you’ve got wie geht es Ihnen? (how are you, pronounced vee gate is eenen). You hear a reply of Danke, gut. Und Ihnen? This indicates the speaker is well (good, thanks. And yourself?, pronounced danker goot. Unt eenen?).

Yes and no are ja and nein (yaa and nine) respectively.

The one I came to rely on for a while was sprechen sie Englisch? (do you speak English, pronounced spreken-zie Engleesh). However, when the answer was nein or ein bisschen (a little, pronounced eyn beeshen) I found I ended up resorting to an ever-handy phrasebook.

Please and thank you are bitte (pronounced bit-ter) and danke (pronounced dan-ker).

Now for the important stuff I found incredibly useful.

Numbers one to six are ein, zwei, drei, vier, funf, and sechs (eyn, szvei, dry, fear, foonf, and zex). So if you were asking for four beers, you would say “veir Bier bitte.” A number of German words are similar to their English counterparts, so this makes pronouncing them a lot easier.

Although the point hold up the number of fingers for the items you need approach can work well, it does painfully indicate you know nothing about German. I find it’s best to garble the German pronunciation a little, as that seems to make it more easily understandable. For a real rustic accent, a raging throat infection is recommended.

Ein Zimmer,bitte is what you need to say if you’re looking for a room for the night. Of course, if you’ve already booked your hotel room (hint hint), all you might need to say is Ich habe ein Zimmer reserviert. Meine Name ist *name* (I have reserved a room. My name is ...).

Hopefully a few of these phrases will help you to get around a bit more easily. It’s amazing how far you can go by remembering a few simple phrases.