Saturday, 19 November 2011

Wohin fahren Sie?

Do you know the verb to go in German? Probably the first word you think of is gehen as the words have the same derivative, but unless you are going on foot then the word you probably want is fahren. In English the derivate is farewell - travel or go well. Think that the person to whom you are saying farewell cannot get there on foot and you will have the correct word for go.

If you are asking where something is then the German word is wo but if the question implies movement then wohin may be the word you are looking for. Wohin gehen Sie? Gehen obviously implies movement so you want to ask where are you going to. Wohin gehen Sie in Urlaub normalerweise?

Did you spot the mistake? I hope so as the answer is in the previous paragraph. Wohin fahren Sie in Urlaub normalerweise?

Bis bald

Friday, 18 November 2011

I see you tomorrow

In English we have a very easy way of describing the future. We are going to do something. It is the same in German. There is an auxiliary verb werden which means to become and this always goes with an infinitive at the end of the clause or the end of the sentence. Ich werde ins Kino gehen tells you it is going to happen in the future.

In German you can also use the present tense for the future as long as you make it clear that it is the future. Tomorrow I will wash the car becomes tomorrow I am washing the car. It doesn't sound quite right in English but in German it is fine to say morgen wasche ich das Auto. Sometimes we use the present tense in English e.g. I am working over Christmas, or Ich arbeite über Weihnachten but in German the present tense is often used. That's why if you meet a German speaker, who will inevitably have a great command of the English language, you will sometimes hear 'I see you tomorrow'.

Bis bald

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Darf ich...

I was looking at one of those cheap phrase books and it started with some grammar. I opened the page on auxiliary verbs. It didn't explain the meaning of auxiliary but it means that it provides help or support. If I give this type of verb their full title they are modal auxiliary verbs and the mode bit means they provide mood. In English they are verbs like would, could, can or may.

The page that I opened showed how to decline the verb dürfen which means to be allowed to (or more usually we say 'may') and it reminded me of the way I was taught German in the 1970s. Ich darf, du darfst, er darf - you get the idea. As a teenager I felt my language training meant I could decline nouns and conjugate verbs but it is the rest of the phrase book which is not only much more interesting but also much more useful if communication is important to you.

The beauty of modal auxiliary verbs is that the verb with which they combine stays in the infinitive. You don't have to think about the second verb so that must be helpful. So some examples that are easy to use are darf ich mich vorstellen? If you want to introduce another person you just say darf ich xxx vorstellen? Just as in English you could say darf ich and then make a gesture but then you don't get to use an infinitive.

The only example my book gives for dürfen is 'darf ich rauchen?' It's not a common verb to use nowadays, especially if you don't smoke but at least you get to add on a simple infinitive.

Bis bald

Monday, 12 April 2010

Improved communication through film

Over the last few months I have managed to watch some films in which you can hear spoken German. One of these films was by Quentin Tarentino and is called Inglourious Basterds which, if you like correct spelling, should be Inglorious Bastards. It is a violent film and it is far from historically correct but you can appreciate it from a non-fiction perspective. At least there are authentic German accents because German speaking actors are involved.

If you don't like inglorious actions from people who are not sure about the name of their father then this may not be the film for you. However you do get to hear some French as well as some German language, and as per yesterday's blog, it is only by using the language that you get better at communicating in that language.

Bis bald

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Is it a German word?

I returned home yesterday after a couple of days in Cambridge and by driving down I was able to hear 8 CDs by Michel Thomas. When I went to school in the 70s I knew how to conjugate verbs and decline nouns. I wasn't sure how to speak with people but the Michel Thomas course has certainly given me confidence to speak.

However I haven't had many opportunities to speak German recently but I do work with two German speakers. I said to one "man kann jetzt Deutch sprechen?" and she replied "Oh super duper". I didn't know that super or duper were German words but they were said with a very good accent. I went home to look in my dictionary and super-duper translates as superklasse, but there may be (very) small areas in Germany where they say super-duper.

I know what to ask when I see her again. Is it a German word?

Bis bald

Friday, 19 June 2009

When Jan Comes Marching Home

In the last blog I said I need to hear things three times before I can learn them. That's why I like songs. You sing songs more than once. You sing them gently and you sing them loudly. You sing them quickly and you sing them slowly. You also sing them in your head. Here is my version of 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home'. It is one more way of learning about helping around the home.

Ich sauge Staub
Ich mache mein Bett
mein Bett, mein Bett

Ich decke den Tisch
Ich füttere den Hund
den Hund, den Hund

Ich wasche ab, ich trochne ab
Ich gehe einkaufen
Ich wasche das Auto
Ich koche das Abendessen
Ich koche das Abendessen

Bis bald

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Listen for the clues

When I was observing a German class a couple of days ago, I could see clues in sentences that some of the class could not see (they were year 7). I think they soon understand ich mache das Bett and the clue was in the title of the lesson 'what I do to help at home' and Bett is bed. It doesn't take much to work out that the sentence means I make the bed. Ich wasche ab has a clue with waschen very close to wash. You still have to know it is washing the pots and not clothes.

If you can see the clue that Auto is car then you will know that ich wasche das Auto is I wash the car. Garten is close to garden but if you don't know the verb then you have to learn the sentence 'I work in the garden' - Ich arbeite im Garten. One method of getting the class to learn the vocabulary was through mime. Later in the hour there was a game, and some of the class would mime the answers to their team members. It was great to see because I think that I can concentrate quite well but I still need to hear new things three times. The mime gave them one more chance to learn the vocabulary. There are lots of clues in German. It's just a case of hearing (or seeing) them.

Bis bald