For members


Denglisch: The English words that will make you sound German

Denglisch - a hybrid of Deutsch and English - can refer to the half-and-half way Germans and foreigners speak to each other. But Germans use plenty of English words amongst themselves - although they don’t always mean the same thing.

A German for Dummies language book sits atop a desk next to a pen and a cup of coffee. Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash
Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

English speakers are no stranger to using certain German words when speaking English—schadenfreude and kindergarten being perhaps the most obvious. The process is possibly even more advanced in reverse.

Many Germans are proud of being able to speak English well, and the Berlin Wall’s fall in 1989 only accelerated the process, as a redefined international community – with English as the main global language – beckoned.

Now English words are found in all parts of German life. Many Germans don’t even necessarily understand why. English-language cultural influence is certainly a part of German life, but the dubbing of television shows, to use just one example, remains far more widespread in Germany than in many smaller European countries, which use original audio with subtitles.

Here’s a selection of anglicisms that Germans use with each other. 

READ ALSO: Could Denglisch one day kill of English?

‘Coffee-To-Go’ or ‘Takeaway’

‘Ein Kaffee zum mitnehmen’ is correct and your coffee shop owner will definitely understand what you want if you ask for it. But plenty of Germans will ask for a ‘Coffee-To-Go,’ even when speaking German to a German barista. This seems to only apply to coffee ordered on the move, however. If you’re sitting down at a table, expect to order the German Kaffee.

Getting a coffee-to-go in Berlin.

Getting a Coffee-To-Go in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

Human Resources, ‘Soft Skills’ and ‘Manager’

‘Personalabteilung’ is still used to describe a human resources department. But plenty of German companies—whether international or mostly German will use Human Resources even in German-language communication. Although ‘Leiter’ and ‘Leiterin,’ meaning ‘leader’ are used, even German job titles will use “Manager.” The word ‘Manager’ has even been adapted to accommodate German noun genders. A female manager, may be referred to as a ‘Managerin’.

READ ALSO: How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The world of work in Germany is also notable for importing another contemporary English term. ‘Soft Skills’ is used in German when recruiters are looking to see if a candidate might fit culturally into a particular workplace. The words actually describing these skills, like ‘Führungskompetenz’ or ‘leadership ability,’ often sound unmistakably German though. But there are exceptions. ‘Multitasking’ is used in German as well.

‘Clicken,’ ‘Uploaden,’ ‘Downloaden’ and ‘Home Office’

As technology that came of age relatively recently, German has imported many English terms related to technology and the Internet. While web browsers might use ‘Herunterladen’ instead of ‘download’ or ‘hochladen’ instead of ‘upload,’ Germans are just as likely to use the slightly Germanized version of the English word, hence ‘downloaden’.

READ ALSO: Seven English words Germans get delightfully wrong

Even before ‘Home Office’ appeared on German tax returns, to calculate what credit workers could get from remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic, ‘Home Office’ was still widely used in German to describe, well, working from home. It can be confusing for English speakers, though, especially those from the UK, because the Home Office is a department in the British government. 

English words that have slightly different meanings in German – ‘Shitstorm’ and ‘Public Viewing’

There are English words Germans use that don’t always mean quite the same thing to a native English speaker. An English speaker from the UK or Ireland, for example, might associate a ‘public viewing’ with an open casket funeral. Germans, however, tends to use “public viewing” almost exclusively to mean a large screening, usually of an event, that many people can gather to watch for free. Placing a large television at the Brandenburg Gate for German Football Team matches is perhaps the most immediately recognisable example of a ‘public viewing’.

Then there’s what, at least to native English speakers, might sound outright bizarre. But former Chancellor Angela Merkel herself used “Shitstorm” more than once while in office. In German though, it can refer specifically to a social media backlash involving heated online comments.

Another typical English-sounding word used in German differently is ‘Handy’ – meaning cellphone (well, it does fit in your hand). It can sound a bit strange to English speakers, though. 

Other words, however, more or less mean what you think they do – such as when one German newspaper referred to Brexit as a ‘Clusterfuck’.

READ ALSO: Shitstorm ‘best English gift to German language’

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For members


EXPLAINED: How do I get a language study visa or permit for Germany?

A language study visa or permit could let you study German in Germany intensively for anywhere from three months to a year. It’s relatively unbureaucratic to apply for, but expect a fair few restrictions.

EXPLAINED: How do I get a language study visa or permit for Germany?

If you’re looking to both improve your German and potentially check to see if it might be interesting to live and work in Germany down the line, the language study visa and permit may be for you.

What’s the difference between the language study visa and the permit?

The visa allows you to stay in Germany for up to three months for the purposes of studying German. You apply for it from a German mission abroad.

The permit allows you to stay for anywhere from between three months to a year for language learning, and you’re required to apply for it from your local immigration office after arriving in Germany.

Who needs this visa and permit?

Not everyone necessarily needs the visa, depending on your nationality.

Plenty of German courses in Germany last for less than three months and nationals of countries like the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Israel and Japan can already visit for up to three months as a tourist with no visa.

Anyone who doesn’t have a visa-free right to travel to Germany for up to three months can apply for this visa from a German mission abroad.

Any non-EU/EEA or Swiss national who wants to stay in Germany to learn German for more than three months needs the language study residence permit.

Nationals who have a visa-free right to enter Germany for up to three months may be able to enter without the visa, but will still need to visit their local immigration office to apply for a residence permit if they plan on staying longer than three months.

“Applications for issuance and extension” is written on a display stand with applications for residence permits. Any non-EU national planning to stay in Germany for longer than three months typically requires one. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

Someone who isn’t entitled to visa-free travel to Germany would have to apply for the visa before arriving and apply again for the residence permit for language learning within three months of arriving—if they intend to stay longer than three months.

With the language study residence permit, you can stay longer than three months—potentially up to a full year. Officials will typically grant it up until the end of the month that your language course finishes.

The language courses applicants are expected to enrol in and complete also need to have at least 18 hours a week of lessons.

READ ALSO: COMPARED: Germany’s Chancenkarte vs. Austria’s Red-White-Red card for skilled non-EU workers

What do I need to apply for this visa or permit?

The documents needed to apply for either the language study visa or residence permit are essentially the same.

You’ll need to find an accredited German course and typically register and pay the course fee. At least part of this fee may be non-refundable in many cases. The language school should then be able to issue you a confirmation of when your course is, that you’ve registered and paid, and how long your course will last. You’ll typically need this confirmation to apply.

Along with your application forms, you’re also going to need two recent passport photos, proof that you’re either reserved or booked accommodation, and a passport that has at least two free pages and is valid for at least three months beyond the end of your stay. Your passport also cannot be any older than ten years.

German language course

Internationals take part in a German course at a language school in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

You’ll also need to prove financial resources and insurance coverage. You’ll need to provide proof of health, travel, and accident insurance that covers you for the entire length of your stay in Germany if something goes wrong.

You’ll also need to prove that you have the financial resources to cover you during your stay in the prorated amount of €11,208 per year. You can submit a number of documents for this, such as a fixed deposit statement from a blocked account, bank statements from the last three months, a guarantee from your German hosts or your parents—if they can provide their salary slips or bank statements, or a scholarship award certificate.

READ ALSO: How to open a blocked account in Germany

If you’re an employee, you may need an official letter of leave from your employer that is signed and stamped.

If you need the visa, you may have to write a letter of motivation for attending the German course and prove your accommodation for the entire stay.

To apply for the residence permit to stay for longer than three months, you won’t typically have to submit the letter of motivation – but be prepared to have most of the other documents ready.

You’ll need to provide evidence that you’re attending the course, such as your certificate of registration or agreement with the language school.

To prove your accommodation, you’ll typically need your registration certificate—or Anmeldung—from your nearest Bürgeramt and possibly your rental contract.

What can’t you do under a language study visa or permit?

Under a language study visa or permit, you cannot study at a university for any qualification other than bettering your German language skills.

You also cannot typically convert your status into one that will let you work or study at a German university for a degree without first returning to your home country, or in the case of some nationalities applying for a new residency status.

READ ALSO: Germany or Austria: Where is it easier to get an EU Blue Card?