German 1 For Travel

German polite phrases & greetings…

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany

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)

The First 11 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?

Whenever you travel to a country where you don’t speak the language, you’ll encounter situations when these words will be useful. 
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.

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 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 the “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.

Good Things to Know

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’ll find many 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!
This post lists 20 German False Friends to watch out for.

Walking in the countryside…

While there’ll 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.

Author: Ulrike Rettig

Ulrike S. Rettig holds a PhD in Germanic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University. After a teaching career she worked for Pimsleur Language Programs and co-founded in 2011. Now, with she offers her experience and insights to language lovers before they travel.

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