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Just how well does Britain’s King Charles III speak German?

On his first official state visit as British monarch, King Charles III impressed his German hosts by beginning not one, but two of his speeches in German. The gesture impressed both guests at Wednesday’s state dinner and parliamentarians during his Thursday address to the German Bundestag. But just how well does he speak it?

Just how well does Britain's King Charles III speak German?
Charles III (2nd from right) and Camilla (2nd from left) arrive at Bellevue Palace and are welcomed by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife Elke Büdenbender. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

Germans love a foreign guest who can speak German — even just a little bit.

Unlike some other countries, where it might take a lot more fluency to impress your hosts, a few words of greeting in German are often likely to go a long way with Germans. King Charles, known to speak German with some fluency, clearly understood this after arriving in Berlin for his first state visit as King.

“It’s very nice for you all to have come and not left me alone for a ‘Dinner for One,’” the King said to his laughing German hosts at Wednesday’s state dinner, referring to the German tradition of watching the British sketch of the same name on New Year’s Eve.

“I’ve established that I’ve actually been to Germany more than forty times,” he told his dinner guests, before demonstrating that he wasn’t done with the jokes. “That naturally shows how important I consider our relationship, but also, I fear, how long I’ve been around.”

READ ALSO: ‘New chapter’: Charles III in Germany for first foreign trip as king

Shortly after his second wisecrack, he continued his dinner speech in English. But German parliamentarians were treated to another display of King Charles’ German chops during his address to the Bundestag on Thursday — the first such address for a reigning British monarch.

This time though, he was more serious — and his vocabulary more advanced. More than giving the opening remarks in German, King Charles also switched back and forth between English and German several times throughout the speech.

During the first part of his speech — in which he spoke entirely in German for around four minutes, King Charles opened by saying “there is hardly a better place than this building to show the history of the 20th century. It demonstrates in itself what connects our two countries,” he said.

“In 1933, it was set on fire. In 1945, heavily damaged. In the 1990s, the parliament of a reunified, democratic Germany would be reconstructed by a British architect.”

Continuing in German, King Charles thanked his hosts for his previous invitation to speak before the Bundestag in 2020 — a speech which he also gave partially in German.

Charles speech

Charles III addressing the Bundestag on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

READ ALSO: Charles warns Europe’s security under threat in landmark speech in German

Not a beginner in the language

Beyond the lighthearted German greetings he gave during his state dinner, King Charles’ Bundestag address shows that he is at least familiar with advanced German vocabulary.

During the German parts of his speech, he referred to Germany and the UK’s common goal to support Ukraine, the inspiration the women’s football team in both countries had given to the next generation, and climate change.

A German learner’s knowledge of these topics would typically be tested in classes at the B2 or even C1 level, suggesting the British monarch’s vocabulary level is at least at an upper intermediate level—if not at an advanced level.

Of course, the speech itself was likely written — and certainly proofread — for him. He also likely had the chance to practice it beforehand. Even so, King Charles did stumble over a few words and speaks German with a noticeable English accent.

That said, he clearly understands what he’s saying.

The German vocabulary he uses when speaking also doesn’t always involve the simplest word choice a German speaker could use on some of the weightier topics he discussed.

He also has a certain sense of timing necessary to make jokes land — something even advanced German speakers can struggle with at times.

Obviously, reading a prepared speech — even one that uses a lot of advanced vocabulary—is easy compared to listening to an advanced lecture, reading a novel, or having a spontaneous conversation about politics or another advanced topic.

Whether King Charles is good enough to have a long impromptu chat with his German hosts isn’t so clear to us — the public.

But he’s certainly not a novice.

The German media is left impressed

German newspapers had a few complementary headlines about King Charles’ German. “Standing Ovations for Charles Bundestag speech in German” read one headline in Bild, Germany’s highest circulating tabloid newspaper.

“With an accent, but without mistakes: why King Charles can speak German so well,” read another piece in Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel.

As this piece notes, it’s not clear exactly where King Charles picked up German, noting that he took French and history during his UK A-Levels, rather than German. Some say that the King has a knack for languages, famously giving part of his 1969 inauguration speech as Prince of Wales in Welsh – a language even more difficult than German.

However, his father. Prince Philip, was known to speak German at or near a native level — and all of Prince Philip’s sisters married into German aristocracy.

King Charles thus has many German cousins on his father’s side, while his mother’s side also has many German relations. In 1947, Prince Philip’s sisters, just two years following WWII, were banned from his wedding to Britain’s then Princess Elizabeth.

As the state dinner Wednesday, many of King Charles’ German cousins accepted invitations to dine with him, in another symbolic sign of reconciliation.

READ ALSO: What are the German roots of the British royal family?

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EXPLAINED: The lingo you need to talk about sleep like a true German

Sleep is a hugely important part of our daily lives, so if you struggle to sort your 'ausschlafen' from your 'einschlafen', this guide to German sleep vocabulary could come in handy.

EXPLAINED: The lingo you need to talk about sleep like a true German

Unless you’re someone who often spends a few days in a row at Berlin’s famous Berghain nightclub, sleep is an activity that most of us do every day.

It helps us prepare for the day ahead and sift through events in our lives, or alert us to something we’re worried about with a dreaded anxiety dream. When we’re deprived of it, it’s absolute hell, but nothing is more heavenly than a blissful lie-in. 

Unsurprisingly, sleep is a topic that comes up regularly in conversation in Germany, so it’s essential that these words are part of your German Wortschatz (vocabulary). 

Here’s our guide to some of the key terms that may crop up, whether you’re coaxing a child to finally go to sleep or enjoying some kip yourself. 

The basics 

As you probably know, the German word for sleep is der Schlaf, which can be turned into the verb schlafen, meaning to sleep. 

If you want to announce to whoever will listen that it’s bedtime for you, you can use the phrase: “Ich gehe ins Bett” (I’m going to bed), “Ich muss schlafen.” (I need to sleep) or “Es ist Schlafenzeit” (It’s bedtime) to make it clear that you’re ready to sleep.

For a slightly less direct way of indicating how tired you are, you can also reach for sich hinlegen, which means to lie down. As an example, you might say, “Jetzt ist wohl Schlafenzeit – ich glaube, ich lege mich hin.”  (It’s probably bedtime, I think I’ll lie down.) 

If you’re dealing with a child who’s determined to stay up past their bedtime, you’ll probably require the following phrases (and you may need to use them a number of times):

“Es wird langsam Schlafenzeit” – It’s slowly getting to your bedtime. 

“Du müsstest schon lange im Bett sein!” – It’s way past your bedtime. 

Your sleep habits 

When it comes to talking about your sleep habits, a lot can be done by simply adding prefixes to the word schlafen

For example, if you want to talk about falling asleep, you can use the word einschlafen. For example, you can say: “Ich bin um 22 Uhr ins Bett gegangen, aber um 23 Uhr eingeschlafen.” (I went to bed at 10pm but fell asleep at 11pm.) 

This might be a little confusing for English speakers, because einschlafen instinctively sounds like “sleeping in” – so try not to confuse the two.

If you do want to talk about having a lie-in and getting your fill of sleep, the word you need instead is ausschlafen. Generally, when “aus” is at the start of the word – i.e. ausreden (to finish talking) or auslesen (to finish a book) – it means you’ve done an activity to completion, and the same is true of sleeping.

READ ALSO: Eight of the most common (and funniest) mistakes German learners make

A man falls asleep next to his phone

A man falls asleep next to his smartphone and headphones. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Franziska Gabbert

But what about those awkward moments when you snooze through your alarm and wake up far later than you should? For those you’ll need the word verschlafen, which means to oversleep.

Of course, some of us have problems falling asleep in the first place, and that can be helpfully described by referring to die Schlaflosigkeit, which means sleeplessness or insomnia. 

Over a long period of time, this may develop into a fully blown Schlafstörung, or sleep disorder, which you may want to talk to a doctor about.

One important thing to note is that, as in English, schlafen can also have a double meaning, so if you say, “Ich habe mit jemandem geschlafen.” (I slept with someone), people will usually assume you’ve done a lot more than having a snooze.

Starting the day

The opposite of being eingeschlafen (asleep) is being wach (awake), and when you want to talk about waking up, the word you need is aufwachen.

The thing that wakes you up is called der Wecker (the alarm) and after you wake up, the next thing you may do is get out of bed, or aufstehen (stand up). Like einschlafen and aufwachen, this is a separable verb, which means you say: “Ich stehe auf” (I’m getting up) rather than “Ich aufstehe” when using it in the present tense. 

However, the two parts of the verb come back together when you use it in the past tense. 

An an example, you might tell a friend: “Ich bin um 8 Uhr heute wegen meinem Wecker aufgewacht, und um 8:30 bin ich aufgestanden.” (I woke up at 8am today because of my alarm clock and got up at 8:30.)

READ ALSO: 10 German words with hilarious literal translations

Dreams and feelings 

Sometimes we may not be so keen on describing our sleep regimen, but we do want to communicate with colleagues and friends that we’re desperately in need of it.

For these situations, you may find the following adjectives useful:

Müde: Tired
Erschöpft: Exhausted
Kaputt: Broken / Exhausted (colloquial)

And what if you want to talk about your dreams? Well, luckily, the word for this isn’t too different from the English: der Traum (the dream) or die Träume (the dreams). 

A woman sleeping in bed.

A woman sleeping in bed. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Bernd Diekjobst

The verb form of this is träumen, which can be helpful if you want to describe your dreams or say that you don’t often have them. For example, you could say:

Ich habe gestern von dir geträumt. (I had a dream about you yesterday)


Ich schlafe sehr tief and träume sehr selten. (I sleep very deeply and dream very rarely)

READ ALSO: The 10 false friends English and German speakers keep muddling up

As we know, not all dreams are particularly pleasant, so the word Albtraum (m.) – meaning nightmare – may come in handy. This apparently dates back to Germanic mythology, in which mythical other-wordly beings called Alben were believed to be responsible for dreams.

As in English, you can also use this word metaphorically to describe a particular unpleasant experience or situation.

For example:“Ich hoffe, ich verpasse mein Flug nicht. Das wäre ein echter Albtraum!” (I hope I don’t miss my flight. That would be a total nightmare!)