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German language facts for kids

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Deutsch, Deutsche Sprache
Native to Primarily in German-speaking Europe, as a minority language and amongst the German diaspora worldwide
Native speakers Standard German: 90–100 million  (2005–2010)
all German: 120 million (1990–2005)
L2 speakers: 80 million (2006)
Language family
Early forms:
Old High German
Writing system Latin (German alphabet)
German Braille
Official status
Official language in  European Union
(official and working language)

South Tyrol (Italy)

 Belgium (German-speaking Community of Belgium)
Recognised minority language in  Czech Republic

 Italy (Trentino)

 Namibia (National language; official language 1984–90)
 Poland (Auxiliary language)
 Slovakia (Official municipal language of Krahule/Blaufuß)
 Brazil (Co-official municipal language in Pomerode and other municipalities)
 Vatican City (Administrative and commanding language of the Swiss Guard)
 Venezuela (Bandera Colonia Tovar.jpg Colonia Tovar)
Regulated by No official regulation
(German orthography regulated by the Council for German Orthography (Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung)).

The German language (German: Deutsch or (die) deutsche Sprache) is a West Germanic language in the Indo-European language family.

It is spoken in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg; natively by around 100 million people. It is the most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union. There are some people who speak German in Belgium and in the Netherlands, as well as in France and Northern Italy. There are people who speak German in many countries, including the United States and Canada, where many people emigrated from Germany. In Eastern Europe, too, in Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, etc.

German is a part of the West Germanic language family (a group of languages that are similar) and is much like English and Dutch. A lot of the vocabulary in German is related to English, but the grammar is more complicated. German has a system of cases, and when helping verbs are used, the main part of the verb must be moved to the end of the sentence. For example, "Someone has stolen my car" is Jemand hat mein Auto gestohlen (Someone has my car stolen) or, "Someone called me last night" is Jemand hat mich letzte Nacht angerufen (Someone has me last night called).

In German writing, every noun must start with a capital letter. English and Danish also did this long ago, but not now. Today, German is the only language that has this rule.

While German is an official language in Switzerland, the Swiss dialect of German is difficult for native speakers from Germany, and even for Swiss who are not native to speaking German, to understand. One reason why the dialects are still so different today is that even though Switzerland adopted Standard German, mostly as a written standard, German Swiss in WWII wanted to separate themselves from the Nazis by choosing to speak the Swiss dialect over the standard dialect. Swiss German also has some differences in writing, for example, the letter ß, which is only seen in German, is always replaced by ss.


Continental West Germanic languages
Distribution of the native speakers of major continental West-Germanic dialectal varieties.

German loanwords in the English language

English has taken many loanwords from German, often without any change of spelling (aside from, often, the elimination of umlauts and not capitalizing nouns):

German word English loanword Meaning of German word
abseilen abseil to descend by rope / to fastrope
Angst angst fear
Ansatz ansatz onset / entry / math / approach
Anschluss anschluss connection / access / annexation
Automat automat automation / machine
Bildungsroman bildungsroman novel concerned with the personal development or education of the protagonist
Blitz Blitz flash / lightning
Bratwurst bratwurst fried sausage
Delikatessen delikatessen / delicatessen delicate / delicious food items
Doppelgänger doppelgänger lit. "double going / living person alive", look-alike of somebody
Dramaturg dramaturg professional position within a theatre or opera company that deals mainly with research and development of plays or operas
Edelweiß edelweiss edelweiss flower
Ersatz ersatz lit. "replacement", typically used to refer to an inferior substitute for a desired substance or item
Fest fest feast / celebration
Gedankenexperiment gedankenexperiment thought experiment
Geländesprung gelandesprung ski jumping for distance on alpine equipment
Gemütlichkeit gemütlichkeit snug feeling, cosiness, good nature, geniality
Gestalt gestalt form or shape / creature / scheme; a concept of 'wholeness' (etymologically die Gestalt is the past participle of stellen used as an abstract noun, i. e. the same form as contemporary die Gestellte)
Gesundheit! Gesundheit! (Amer.) health / bless you! (when someone sneezes)
Glockenspiel glockenspiel percussion instrument
Heiligenschein heiligenschein meteo. "holy shine" / halo
Hinterland hinterland lit. mil. "area behind the front-line": interior / backwoods
kaputt kaput out of order, not working
Katzenjammer katzenjammer lit. "cats' lament": hangover, crapulence
Kindergarten kindergarten lit. "children's garden" – nursery or preschool
Kitsch kitsch fake art, something produced exclusively for sale
Kohlsalat cole slaw cabbage salad (bastardized)
Kraut kraut herb, cabbage in some dialects
Leitmotiv leitmotif guiding theme (the verb leiten means "to guide, to lead")
plündern (v.) to plunder lit. "taking goods by force" (original meaning "to take away furniture" shifted in German and was borrowed by English both during the Thirty Years War)
Poltergeist poltergeist lit. "rumbling ghost"
Realpolitik realpolitik diplomacy based on practical objectives rather than ideals
Reich reich empire or realm
Rucksack rucksack backpack (RuckRücken which means "back")
Sauerkraut sauerkraut shredded and salted cabbage fermented in its own juice
Schadenfreude schadenfreude taking pleasure in someone else's misfortune
Sprachraum sprachraum lit. "place/area/room of a language": area where a certain language is spoken
Über uber over, above
Übermensch übermensch superhuman, "overhuman"
verklemmt verklemmt (Amer.) lit. "jammed": inhibited, uptight
Waldsterben waldsterben lit. "forest dieback", dying floral environment
Wanderlust wanderlust desire, pleasure, or inclination to travel or walk
Weltanschauung weltanschauung lit. "perception of the world": ideology
Wunderkind wunderkind lit. "wonder child": child prodigy, whiz kid
Zeitgeist zeitgeist lit. "spirit of the times": the spirit of the age; the trend at that time
Zugzwang zugzwang chess term lit. "compulsion to move"


Some German words with English translations

null zero, nil
eins one
zwei two
drei three
vier four
fünf five
sechs six
sieben seven
acht eight
neun nine
zehn ten
elf eleven
zwölf twelve
dreizehn thirteen
vierzehn fourteen
fünfzehn fifteen
sechzehn sixteen
siebzehn seventeen
achtzehn eighteen
neunzehn nineteen
zwanzig twenty
ja yes
nein no
ich I
du you (friendly)
er he
sie she
es it
wir we
ihr you (plural, friendly)
Sie you (polite)
sie they
Schweiz Switzerland
Österreich Austria
Deutschland Germany
wer who
wie how
wo where
was what
der the (masculine)
die the (feminine)
das the (neuter (neutral))

Basic German expressions

Guten Morgen Good morning
Guten Abend Good evening
Guten Tag "Hello" (meaning 'Good day', used between morning and evening)
Gute Nacht Good night
Wie geht es dir/Ihnen/euch? How are you?
Mir geht's gut, danke! I'm fine, thank you!
bitte please (can also mean "you are welcome" in response to some form of danke, but not literally)
danke Thank you
Auf Wiedersehen Goodbye
Ich heiße ... My name is ...
Wie heißt du/Wie heißen Sie What's your name?
Entschuldigung/Entschuldigen Sie Excuse me
Woher kommst du?/Woher kommen Sie? Where are you from?
Ich komme aus Deutschland/Österreich I'm from Germany/Austria
Wo wohnst du?/Wo wohnen Sie? Where do you live?
Was ist los? What's up?
Ich wohne in Hamburg, in der Marienstraße im Norden Hamburgs. I'm living in Hamburg, in the Marienstraße (Mary's street) in the north of Hamburg.
Hast du Lust auf Pizza? Ich mache gerade eine. Do you want to have a pizza? I'm preparing one.
Entschuldigen Sie. Wo ist der Bahnhof? Excuse me. Where is the train station?
Wie viel kostet dieser Pullover? How much is this pullover (sweater)?
Wie viel kostet diese Jeans? How much are these jeans?
Fräulein (generally obsolete German) Miss
Frau Mrs., Ms.
Herr Mr.

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