Learn German For Travel

Essential German words and phrases before you travel

If you’re planning to visit a German-speaking country, you can learn and practice 50 essential German words and phrases here.
Even if you don’t (yet) speak German, you’re likely to encounter situations when these essential words will be useful.

In German 1 for travel, you’ll learn common greeting and polite phrases.
See link below.

While it may not be obvious to English speakers: German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language after English.
German and English share lots of vocabulary, so you may find German words that you’ll easily recognize.
But watch out for those with different meanings: e.g. “Gift” in German means poison. So don’t ask for a “Gift shop” when you’re looking for souvenirs!

Other German False Friends that may baffle you on your travels:
der See – lake (“sea” is “die See” in German, note the article)
das Rathaus – City Hall (“rat” is “die Ratte” in German)
der Stock – floor, level (“stock” is “die Aktie” in German)
der Sekt – sparkling wine (“sect” is “die Sekte” in German)
die Pension – inn, small hotel (“pension” is “die Rente” in German)

Here’s a post with a few more: 20 German False Friends to watch out for.

In German 2, you can practice asking useful “Where is ….” questions.
In German 3 you’ll hear some possible answers to those questions.
In German 4, you’ll learn some German restaurant basics.

If your German is already more advanced, you may enjoy reading about Sausages, Fruits, Ships and More in German Idioms on our sister site GamesforLanguage .

German 4 For Travel

German Restaurant Basics

German Pork knuckle (Eisbein)with sauerkraut

The Next 14 Phrases

You’ve learned to ask for and understand directions in German 3 For Travel. Now, you’ve found the restaurant you were looking for.
Unless you’ve chosen an expensive restaurant with a Maitre’D or Hostess, you can go ahead and seat yourself at an empty table.
Otherwise, you’ll want to ask for a table, say for two people at the window.
In German-speaking countries, when the restaurant is crowded, it’s quite acceptable to politely ask strangers whether you can join them at their table.
When the food for your neighbors at the table arrives, it’s expected that you say to them: “Guten Appetit!” (Enjoy your meal.)
The waiter may ask you if you want to see “die Speisekarte” (the Menu), or you’ll have to ask for it. Once you have the menu, you’ll be faced with studying it and deciding what to order.
There are too many German dishes for us to list, and for you to learn and practice. There may be different menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And while German menus don’t have a standard format, there are some categories that are worth knowing, especially for lunch and dinner.
As you won’t have to pronounce the major menu headings, we’ll just list some of them here below with their English translations.

> Die Speisekarte – The Menu
> Die Mittagskarte – The Lunch Menu
> Suppen – Soups
> Warme Vorspeisen – Warm Appetizers
> Vorspeisen und kleine Gerichte – Appetizers and small dishes
> Fleischgerichte – Meat dishes
> Rindfleisch – Beef
> Schweinefleisch – Pork
> Kalbfleisch – Veal
> Leber – Liver
> Nieren – Kidneys
> Gerichte aus Topf und Pfanne – Lit: Dishes from pot and pan
> Hauptgerichte – Main dishes
> Fischgerichte – Fish dishes
> Gerichte aus Wild und Geflügel – Dishes of game and poultry
> Vegetarische Gerichte – Vegetarian dishes
> Hausspezialitäten – Specialties of the House
> Nachspeisen – Desserts
> Tagesteller or Tagesgericht- Daily special
> Unser Seniorenangebot – Our offer to seniors
> Speisen für unsere kleinen Gäste – dishes for our little guests
Often pointing to the menu item you’d like and saying “Ich hätte gerne das” (I would like that), will work fine.
Or, if you’re adventurous, and want to read the menu item, you could say: “Ich hätte gerne … e.g. das Wiener Schnitzel”.
And if you don’t remember how best to call the waiter to your table, raising one hand and pretending to write on it with the other, will usually get you the check.
The phrases below may help in some other situations in a restaurant.
And the picture below shows a typical German lunch menu in a good restaurant.

German Restaurant Culture

Especially for lunch, the “Tagesteller” or “Tagesgericht” is often a good deal. Sometimes and depending on the season, it may include soup, appetizer or dessert. However, it can also be a local specialty. So, unless you are a food adventurer, you may also want to find out more about it.
Be not surprised to find some specialties you’re not familiar with in certain regions of Germany, e.g. liver or kidney dishes. So, asking for an explanation is often necessary and useful.
A few years ago, we were sitting in a restaurant in Berlin where “Eisbein” was listed as the daily special. Near us, two large steaming plates with “Eisbein” were being served to a Chinese couple.
Their eyes went wide and they did not know what to do with the plates of large pork-knuckles, potatoes and sauerkraut. (See a picture of the dish above.)
As there are many restaurants with specialties from other countries, you’ll also find menu headings such as “Hors D’oeuvres “, “Antipasti”, “Desserts”, etc.
While credit cards are accepted in most restaurants, you’ll still encounter some places in the countryside where credit cards are frowned upon.
While service charges are typically included in all restaurant prices, leaving a few Euros on the table for good service and saying a friendly “Auf Wiedersehen!” is always appreciated.

Looking for more “essentials”? Take a look at André Klein’s 82 Essential German Travel Phrases And Words For Daily Survival or the Intrepid’s Survival German Travel Phrase Guide with Pronunciation,

German 3 For Travel

German directional words and phrases…

13 Phrases of Directions

(For the ambitious learner.)

Könnten Sie bitte langsamer sprechen? – Could you please speak more slowly.
Gehen Sie nach links! – Take a left!
Die zweite Straße rechts – The second street on the right
Gehen Sie geradeaus! – Go straight ahead!
An der Ampel vorbei – Past the traffic light
An der nächsten Ecke dann rechts – At the next corner turn right
Über die Brücke – Across the bridge
An der zweiten Straße nach links – At the second street to the left
An der Bäckerei vorbei – Past the bakery
Über den Marktplatz – Across the market square
Hinter der U-Bahnstation – Behind the subway station
Der Geldautomat befindet sich neben der Apotheke. – The ATM is beside the pharmacy.
Vielen Dank für Ihre Hilfe. – Many thanks for your help.

In German 2 For Travel we added “Where …” questions – if you’re looking for the bathroom, a pharmacy, public transport, a bank/ATM, etc.
Asking such questions in German – especially if you have practiced your pronunciation a bit – may let your conversation partner assume that you understand German quite well.
The result will be an answer and a stream of words that will fly right by you.
So asking the person to speak more slowly could be your first reply in such a case: “Könnten Sie bitte langsamer sprechen!”
And it would be good to also know some basic directional words and phrases in German – left, right, straight ahead – as the typical answers may well include them.

Why These Phrases?

In Essential German 1 and 2, we listed greetings and typical “where is…?” questions. Even if you have never studied German before, it will be useful to learn and practice saying them.
In Essential German 3, there are only two sentences you may want to practice saying: “Could you please speak more slowly?” and “Many thanks for your help.”
The other 11 phrases and sentences will be useful to understand as you receive answers to your “where is…?” question. You still may want to record yourself saying them, so you can confirm, what you thought you understood- and – you’ll also remember them better that way.

Food, Drinks, Restaurants

Finding a recommended restaurant, Café, or bar has been made much easier with GPS equipped smart phones and mobile devices.
Once you have arrived at the place, you may have to ask for a table and the Menu, place an order and then ask for and pay the check.
Knowing a few German key phrases will make all this much easier.
You’ll find them among the next 14 Phrases in German 4 For Travel.
If you are used to the 15-20% tips, generally expected in US restaurants, you’ll be pleasantly surprised: In nearly all West-European countries tips are included in your check.
But for good service 5-10% tips are always welcome.

German 2 For Travel

Asking “Where is…? questions in German…

If you’ve already learned and practiced German 1 For Travel you’ll be ready to tackle the next 12 essentials.

12 Essential “Where is…?” Questions

Wo ist …? – Where is…? (German “w” has a “v” sound)
Entschuldigung, wo ist die Toilette? – Excuse me, where is the bathroom?
Wo ist eine Bank? – Where is a bank? (“eine”: eye-neh )
Entschuldigung, wo ist der nächste Geldautomat? – Excuse me, where is the next ATM? (
Wo ist die nächste Bushaltestelle? – Where is the next bus stop?
Entschuldigung, wo ist die nächste U-Bahnstation? – Excuse me, where is the next subway station.
Wo ist der Bahnhof? – Where is the train station?
Entschuldigung, wo ist die nächste Apotheke?– Excuse me, where is the next pharmacy?
Wo ist der Aufzug? – Where is the elevator?
Entschuldigung, wo ist die Touristen Information? – Excuse me, where is the tourist information
Sprechen Sie Französisch, Spanisch, Italienisch oder Englisch? – Do you speak French, Spanish, Italian, or English?

(You may also want to know if the person you’re talking with speaks French, Spanish, Italian, or English – maybe one of the languages you speak as well.)

The Next 12 German Phrases: “Wo ist…?”

Learn and Practice Tips

  • Click the black arrow to hear the German speaker.
  • Click the red dot once to record yourself.
  • Click the black square to stop recording.
  • When you click the black arrow again, you’ll hear the speaker and then yourself.
  • Do it several times until you sound like the German speaker.
  • Then “Choose a Study Mode” and test yourself with one of the Quizlet games! (You may need to adjust your Options with the top right icon .)

Getting Around Austria, Germany, and Switzerland…

Austria, Germany, and Switzerland have excellent rail and bus systems and you can get to nearly everywhere by public transport.
We use the ÖBB (Austria), DBB Navigator (Germany) and SBB (Switzerland) apps to check for schedules and buy tickets online.
During our last visit to Switzerland we stayed for several weeks and bought the half-fare pass. (At SFr 180.- it obviously only makes sense, if you plan several longer trips.)
In all three countries, buying train tickets on-line well in advance and during off-peak travel times lets you also realize substantial savings.

“Wo ist…?”-Questions Answered…

Asking “Wo ist…?”- questions in German could let the person you are asking assume that you speak German.
The result will often be an answer and a stream of German words you may not understand.
It would therefore be good to know some basic directional words and phrases in German – left, right, straight ahead, etc.
You’ll find the next 13 phrases now in German 3 For Travel.

German 1 For Travel

Essential German polite phrases & greetings for travel

Travelers visiting German-speaking countries can learn and practice 11+ essential German words and phrases here. We’ve posted the first 11.
Record yourself.
Play back and compare.
(See more “Learn and Practice Tips” below)

11 Essential German Phrases

Ja – Yes (ja and yes start with the same sound)
Nein – No (sounds close to “nine”)
Danke – Thanks (the -e ending has an eh sound)
Ja bitte – Yes, please
Bitte schön – You’re welcome (for ö – say “ay” but round your lips)
Entschuldigung – Excuse me. (“u” as in “push”)
Guten Morgen – Good morning
Guten Tag – Hello (literally good day)
Guten Abend – Good evening
Gute Nacht – Good night (“ch” as in Scottish “loch”)
Auf Wiedersehen – Goodbye (till we see each other again)

Record and Playback German Phrases

Learn and Practice Tips

  • Click the black arrow to hear the German speaker.
  • Click the red dot once to record yourself.
  • Click the black square to stop recording.
  • When you click the black arrow again, you’ll hear the speaker and then yourself.
  • Do it several times until you sound like the German speaker.
  • Then “Choose a Study Mode” and test yourself with one of the Quizlet games! (You may need to adjust your Options with top right icon .)

Why learn these German Phrases?

 Let’s say, you’ve ordered your first meal in a restaurant in Munich or Vienna. As the waitress serves you, you simply say “Danke”.
Even if the waitress knows that you don’t speak German, your effort may make her smile.
And beyond “Please” and “Thank you”, basic greetings really are the staple of first words you should know in any country you visit.
When you enter a shop, you’ll often often hear “Guten Morgen”, the shortened form “Morgen”, or “Guten Tag”. And when people leave, they often say “Auf Wiedersehen”.

More Pronunciation Tips

While most German sounds are familiar to English speakers, there are a few that are different.

English does not have the German “umlauts”, the letters ä, ö, and ü.
However, the German “ä” sound is similar to the “a” and “ai” sounds (as in “fare” and “fair”).
To get to “ö”, say “ay” (as in “may”), but round your lips.
To get to “ü”, say “e” (as in “be”), but round your lips.

The German “ch” sound does not exist in English. Still, the Scottish “Loch” (as in “Loch Ness”) gets pretty close to the German pronunciation.
On our gamesforlanguage.com site we have a German Quick Game to Practice “ch”.

Note that the German “l” in “Entschuldigung” is pronounced towards the front of the mouth.

In “Wiedersehen” you’ll hear that the German “w” more like an English “v” sound, plus the “r” is not guttural, but is produced towards the front of the mouth.

But don’t worry too much about these differences: Just listen and try to imitate the German speaker above as well as you can. Learning new sounds takes some practice. But if you approach it playfully, it can actually be a lot of fun.

Outside the big cities

While there will be many opportunities to use basic greetings in German-speaking cities, knowing them when you’re outside of a city is even more important.
Being a visitor in a German-speaking country will make you welcome, when you make the effort to greet people in German.

The above basic greetings work also in countries like Austria and Switzerland, although there are many regional variations, even in Germany.
For example, in Bavaria and Austria, you might hear “Grüß Gott”, “Gruetzi” in Switzerland, and “Moin” in northern Germany, instead of “Guten Tag”.
Sometimes it’s best to just echo what you hear.

The next 12 Phrases

Once you have mastered some of the basic words, polite phrases and greetings, it’s time to learn asking some “where…?” questions.
Even with GPS enabled smart phones, you’ll often want to know where the bathroom is or the next ATM, information those phones still don’t have!
The next 12 German phrases you’ll find in German 2 For Travel.