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GERMAN LANGUAGE

‘6 German words I now use in English’

One of the consequences of learning a foreign language is that some words end up slipping into your everyday English. Sarah Magill explains why she uses these German words more often than their English equivalents.

Two employees enjoy their
Two employees enjoy their "Feierabend" (end of work) with apple wine in a deck chair on the Main River in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

Getting to a stage where I feel comfortable using the German language has been a long, arduous process which has taken me nearly eight years.

But one thing I didn’t expect about becoming a German speaker, was that I would find myself using German words in my everyday English, too.

READ ALSO: 10 German words that English should adopt

Sometimes due to laziness, sometimes for conciseness, or sometimes just because I like the sound of the word, I often use these words now amongst German-speaking friends instead of their English equivalents. 

(die) Bescheinigung

I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I love this word. Be-schein-i-gung. It’s got a nice, bouncy ring to it, even though it means something pretty dull.

Bescheinigung is a German word for “certificate” or and is used for all kinds of formal certifications.

Sick notes lie on a table. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Büttner

It’s often stuck to the end of other words too, to mean a specific type of certificate, for example – Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung (sick note) or Anmeldebescheinigung (registration certificate).

I often find myself saying things like “But I don’t have the right Bescheinigung” or “do I need a Bescheinigung for that?”

anmelden

The frequency with which you have to anmelden in Germany, may explain why this word is so firmly rooted in my everyday vocabulary.

Anmelden is a verb which can mean “to register”, “to enrol” and “to login”, and it’s a word I encounter on a daily basis, as it appears on most websites, as well as in front of Covid test centres or at reception areas in medical and government buildings. 

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The German versions of famous English sayings

I’m ashamed to admit that I have also corrupted this word slightly for my own convenience and sometimes say things like “oh I need to anmeld myself” which is of course, very, very wrong.

(die) Kupplung

If you don’t drive or only drive automatic cars, this isn’t a word you generally need to know. But for me, the German word for “clutch” is forever seared into my brain after having it shouted at me by an enraged German driving teacher on numerous occasions.

The interior of a Skoda Octavia TS 1200, with the clutch and brake pedals visible. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/SMB | Skoda Auto Deutschland GmbH

Kupplung is a very nice German word in that it describes what the mechanical elements of a clutch do – they connect and disconnect two rotating shafts, or “couple” them.

I can sometimes be heard saying things like: “Oh I took my foot off the Kupplung too quickly”.

Leider

Whereas the English equivalent – “unfortunately” – can sound a bit clunky and overly formal, leider is a nice little word which you can use to add a touch of polite regret in all kinds of circumstances in German.

The sign above a shop door reads “sadly closed”. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

Thanks to its brevity and the way it can be stuck quite easily into a sentence, this word has crept into my everyday English, and into phrases such as “we are going to have to wait, leider”.

(der) Feierabend

This is just one of the many German words that we don’t have in English, so it’s perhaps more forgivable that I use this in English conversations quite a lot. 

Literally meaning “celebration evening” the word Feierabend is used for the free time after work and it invariably gets a nice response when you tell colleagues or shop assistants schönen Feierabend! (have a nice free evening!).

(die) Kasse

I like to use this German word a lot because – surprisingly – it’s actually easier than having to find the right equivalent word in English.  

A notice reading “No free choice of seats – please register at the entrance” hangs on the outside wall of an inn in Freiburg’s old town. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

For example, in English we have separate words for “checkout”, “till”, “paypoint”, “ticket office” and “cash register”, but in German, the word Kasse covers them all. 

So it’s a rare example of a German word being less specific than English, and it’s also short and easy to say. 

READ ALSO: 7 ways to talk about money like a German

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GERMAN LANGUAGE

Freudenfreude: Why we should all embrace this made-up German word

The term 'Freudenfreude' was recently identified by mistake as a German word. Here's why that is not such a bad thing.

Freudenfreude: Why we should all embrace this made-up German word

The German word Schadenfreude – or joy at another person’s misfortune – is widely used in the English-speaking world, where it was adopted over 150 years ago. But its opposite, Freudenfreude, is a new, and somewhat accidental, invention.

On November 25th, a San Francisco-based psychologist penned an article for the New York Times on how we need more Freudenfreude – a supposedly commonly used German word meaning joy at the happiness of another person, even if we don’t share that same happiness ourselves. 

A few international media outlets then heralded the “German“ concept, until the word got out (quite literally) in Germany. Some scorned the author’s mistake, while others praised her for inadvertently enriching die deutsche Sprache

“Since language is something that’s very much alive, you can always be happy when a new word appears somewhere,“ wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung. 

The Munich-based newspaper pointed out how other now-popular German words “took a while until they were finally widely used” – and then were often incorporated into other languages’ vernaculars when they lacked a similar word.

READ ALSO: ‘6 German words I now use in English’

Let’s face it: sometimes to sum up a concept in English (or Spanish or Slovenian or whatever our language) we need a word in German, even if it doesn’t exist yet. 

The now ubiquitous Wanderlust, a desire for travel, or Zeitgeist, spirit of the times, were also once made-up words that could only be neatly described by placing two German nouns together.

The same goes for Freudenfreude. Sure, we have “empathy”, but that also could mean feeling someone‘s pain during a sad moment, not just their joy during good times. Otherwise, we could say we’re happy for someone, but why use three words when it can be so neatly summed up in one?

We still don’t have a single, snappy word that describes when your good friend passes the important test you failed a week ago, and you still feel proud that she’s making progress. Or that feeling that even though life is not going right for you right now, someone else’s success shows that it still can.

A few days after the New York Times article was published, the newspaper ran a correction on the article that Freudenfreude is not a German word.

But by that point, it was already on the path to becoming one.

READ ALSO: 10 German words that English should adopt

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