Learning German has a reputation for being a challenging endeavor, but it doesn't have to be. Knowing how to speak English gives you a considerable leg up when learning to speak German. Afterall, German and English are considered linguistic siblings because they originate from the same mother tongue, both being Germanic languages. Consider that 80 of the 100 most common words in English are Germanic in origin. "Water," for example, is derived from the German Wasser (water)—as in Brot und Wasser (bread and water)—and the word "day" is a cognate of the German Tag (day)—as in Guten Tag (good day). These most basic, most-frequently used words in English and German derive from the same roots, making them somewhat similar.
Whether it's for vacation, business, or curiosity, you can hit the ground running in the German language by familiarizing yourself with some of these basic German words and phrases.
Basic German Words
Guten Tag / Good day
Hallo / Hello
Auf Wiedersehen / Goodbye
Bitte / Please
Danke / Thanks, Thank you
Entschuldigung / Sorry
Gesundheit / Bless you (after someone sneezes)
Ja / Yes
Nein / No
Wer? / Who?
Was? / What?
Warum? / Why?
Woher? / Where?
Now that we've got a handle on a few basic German vocabulary words, we can dive into the conversational phrases that'll help you ease into real-world conversations.
Basic German Phrases
The basic conversational building blocks are a great place to start. Simple phrases like "How are you?" grease the wheels of daily conversation in most every language, including German.
Ich heiße Ben. / My name is Ben.
Wie heißt du? / What's your name?
Wie geht es dir? / How are you?
Gut, danke. / Fine, thank you.
Nett, Sie kennen zu lernen. / Nice to meet you.
Wo ist die Toilette? / Where is the bathroom?
Was kostet das? / How much is this?
Sprechen Sie Englisch? / Do you speak English?
Wie komme ich zum Busbahnhof? / How can I get to the bus station?
Gibt es ein Restaurant in der Nähe? / Is there a restaurant nearby?
Kann ich zahlen, bitte? / Can I have the bill, please?
Wie viel Uhr ist es? / What time is it?
Ich habe mich verlaufen. / I am lost.
Ich verstehe nicht. / I do not understand.
Ich vermisse dich. / I miss you.
Ich liebe dich. / I love you.
Learn vocabulary in an order that's tried-and-tested to ensure better understanding of how to communicate effectively in German with Rosetta Stone. Engage with German at your own pace, and start speaking German from day one.
Wondering what's the deal with all of these capitalized words? Find out on the Rosetta Stone blog.
Why are so many words capitalized in German?
How to Learn to Pronounce German Words
Because German is a much more phonetically consistent language than English, German words almost always sound the way they are spelled. You can use this phonetic knowledge to pronounce long, multi-syllable words that otherwise might be overwhelming. Let's breakdown some of the more difficult sounds.
In German, the "ch" sounds like the hiss a cat might make in words such as ich (I), mich (me/myself) and Licht (light). In words like Buch (book) and Bach (stream), it sounds like the Scottish pronunciation of the "ch" in Loch Ness. While the "ß" (called "scharfes S") looks tricky, you can make it sound as a "ss."
The vowels that German doesn't share with English are ä, ö, and ü. These vowels appear with two dots above them. These double dots are called umlauts and they signal special vowel sounds. Some sound like English vowels, but other pronunciations are a little harder to master; let's try to break them down together.
The ä sounds like the short-e sound in English, like in "bet" as in fällen (fêl-en) (to fell [a tree]). The ö sound is created by forming the vowel ‘e' as in "her" (without the "r" sound) with forward rounded lips schön (shern) (pretty). The ü sound is made by making a "ooh" sound as in "lure" only with pursed lips, as in Tür (tuer) (door).
By far, the best way to figure out how to pronounce these tricky vowels correctly is to practice and get feedback from native speakers. From the very first lesson, our TruAccent® speech engine will help you fine-tune your pronunciation. Because there's no point in knowing the words if people can't understand what you're saying.
Learn German Words with Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone gives you a skillset beyond vocabulary with an immersive approach that combines learning vocabulary with real-world situations, building toward a greater contextual understanding of key German phrases. Rosetta Stone's Dynamic Immersion® method prepares you to adapt in new conversations by applying the context of what you already know to new words and phrases–so you'll learn the language and build upon it with your own experiences.
At Rosetta Stone, we believe every person can learn to read, write and speak German with confidence. Learning German words is much like learning vocabulary in any other language: practice makes perfect.