Bud Spencer, Di Caprio, Michael Fassbender: 15 celebrities that unexpectedly speak German 

It’s true, actresses, actors and singers have a talent when it comes to the recognition and reproduction of sound.

German however remains a language that few people, at least in the past generations, decided to learn unless it was for work reasons. What follows is a list (partly inspired from the one made by Smosh) of American, but not only, celebrities that can modestly speak German, as the videos demonstrate.

Bud Spencer

The actor from Naples was a real star in Germany, as so was his colleague Terrence Hill. His autobiography reached the vectors of sale a few years ago. All his movies were distributed in cinemas and in the ’70s it was common to find him on German TV to promote his movies. He studied German in school in Italy and never failed to demonstrate it, as this video shows.


Sandra Bullock

The Oscar winning actress with The Blind Side, and for a few years the most paid actress in the world, is the daughter of a German singing teacher, herself the daughter of a missile scientist that lived in Nuremberg. It was in Baveria that her father, the American John Bullock, at the time serving the American army, met her mother and began a love story lived through the States and Germany. Although she was born in Arlington, Sandra Bullock lived in Nuremberg until the age of 12.

Chris Pratt

The Guardians of the Galaxy start learned (well) German in school. The father, American, has German origins, but not only: as he himself admits in the past he nurtured a true passion for Goethe’s language.

Leonardo Di Caprio

On the one hand, as his surname discloses, he has Italian origins. On the other hand, from his mother’s side, German grandparents. It was his grandmother, from a small town close to Düsseldorf, that taught the Oscar winning actor that he uses at times to make his German audience smile.

Mark Strong

One of the greatest “supporting actors” of this century, the excellent Mark Strong has an Austrian mother, but not only. He studied law in Munich’s university for one year prior to dedicating himself completely to acting, his passion since youth.

Kirsten Dunst

The American actress holds to this day her German citizenship. The father was in fact a doctor from Hamburg that moved to the States and her mother (that has Swedish origins) worked for Lufthansa. German is thus a family affair for the Dunst family

Paul McCartney

McCartney learned German in school as a child. It became useful when the band, unknown at the time, made Hamburg its continental base, performing there any time they had the chance. The first time was in 1960 when, as reported here “Allan Williams, owner of a music cafè in Liverpool had to organize a tour in Germany for “Derry and the Seniors”, a Liverpool-based rock band. But things went wrong and Williams was forced to find a substitute band in a short amount of time. He asked The Beatles, whom no one at the time heard of, that immediately accepted”. Bild also talks about it here

Terrence Hill

Unlike Bud Spencer, Terrence Hill (aka Mario Girotti) speaks German both because he studied it and because his mother came from Dresden. It was there that, along with a chemist father working for the Schering, he moved when he was 4 in 1943, in the midst of the second world war. He lived there until 1945 with his grandparents in the close Lommatzsch, prior to returning to Venice, his father’s city.

Gene Simmons (Kiss)

The singer of the band Kiss was born in Israel (his real name is Chaim Witz). His mother, a Hungarian jew, lived through the time of concentration camps. He spoke German and taught it, and his son today speaks Hebrew, Hungarian, German and English

Vladimir Putin

From the man of KGB to Dresda, eastern Germany, both before and after the fall of the Wall, Putin could have not not known German….

Michael Fassbender

He was born in Germany, in Heidelberg to be precise, even though he always kept his Irish citizenship. In Bastards without Glory that language learned due to the origins of the father (a known German chef) allowed him to convince Tarantino to give him the role that served him as a trampoline for his career.

Kim Cattrall

The Sex and the City star, although having a well-established career in English speaking countries, in the 80s as she was married to Andre J.Lyson (they then divorced in 1989) lived in Frankfurt.

Karl Urban

The Lord of the Rings star (do you remember Éomer?) and of Star Trek, was born and raised in New Zeland, but his father is German and always spoke to him in his language.

Sarah Chalke

Anyone who watched Scrubs knows this very well: Sarah Chalke speaks very good German. It is the series that mostly insisted on her quality, building up different funny scenarios. Her grandparents from her mother’s side live in Peez, close to Rostock.

Donna Summer

The american singer that passed away in 2012 lived for long in Germany throughout the 70s as she became the protagonist of the theatre version of Hair. There she met Austrian Helmut Sommer with whom she had a child with. This is where here surname comes from (she was born Donna Gaines).


© PROGage Skidmore CC BY SA 2.0


Do you wish to make it one day on this list? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes in Belrin here!

5 ways of saying that demonstrate the importance of Beer in Germany

In German there are several expressions that confirm the importance of Beer in the country’s culture. One of the best known expressions goes “if you don’t find an attractive woman it means you haven’t drank enough”. We gathered five other funny expressions which confirm the passion of Germany and its citizens for their brews.

1.Man soll das Bier nicht vor dem Kater loben

Literally, “do not praise the beer until you have tried tipsy drill”, and, to think about it, is a very wise statement applicable also to other alcoholic beverages.

2. Durst wird durch Bier erst schön

“Thirst is nice only if accompanied by a beer”: thirst seems to be what the Germans fear most, but at the same time are well aware of having at their disposal all the weapons necessary to defeat it.

3. Bei kaltem Wetter läuft die Nase, bei kaltem Bier läuft die Blase

“When the cold comes, your nose runs, when the beer is cold, the bladder.” Nothing to add.

4. Am Morgen ein Bier und der Tag gehört dir

Probably the most cheerful among these exclamations, partly because of the kissing rhyme that bring joy. It means: “Drink a beer in the morning and the day is yours.” [ It is not so advisable to do so during the working week.]

5. Ein Bock ist jenes Tier, der auch als Bier getrunken werden kann

This aphorism dates back to the nineteenth century and refers to a particular type of beer called Bock (translated “goat”) with an alcoholic rate of 6.5%. Translated, it means “the goat is that animal that can also be drunk as beer”.

These German ways of saying are added to others that do not spin exactly around the motif of beer, but they focus on drinking alcohol in general.

1. Wenn ich Durst habe, sieht es keiner. Wenn ich besoffen bin, sehen es alle

This pearl of wisdom refers again to thirst: “If I’m thirsty, no one will notice. If I’m drunk, everybody will know”

2. Der Wirt ist nicht der Beste, der mehr trinkt als die Gäste

Everyone likes to talk with the bartender, but nobody likes to pick it up from the ground, lost drunk. In Germany there is also a saying about this situation: “A barman is certainly not the best, if he drinks more than his guests”. What to say, there is really a saying to address any situation!  

3. Halb besoffen, ist rausgeschmissenes Geld

If there are sayings that call for prudence in drinking alcohol, this one reverse them all: “getting half drunk is a waste of money”

4. Durst ist schlimmer als Heimweh

To reconfirm the fact that the Germans know that there is nothing that can not be solved with a good drink, this saying goes “it’s worse to be thirsty than feeling nostalgic” and probably does not refer to apple juice.

5. Hast du Kater, nimmst den Rat, trinke früh, was du trankst spät

In mezzo a cosi tanti detti non poteva mancare un consiglio su come affrontare al meglio una sbronza: “Se hai una sbronza, accetta il consiglio di bere prima quello che hai bevuto per ultimo”.

In the midst of so many sayings there could not be missing an advice on how to deal best when drunk: “If you are drunk, accept the advice of drinking first what you drank for last”


Cover photo:CC0

Are you getting intrigued by the German language or wish to refine your vocabulary? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes! 

8 German compound words that have a surprising meaning whether you speak German or not

Compound words? They are a classic of the German language. These however have a very unpredictable meaning

When learning German, one of the most common obstacles encountered by students lies in the difficulty of memorizing a very large lexicon of which one often struggles to remember the meaning, especially due to the difficulty in recognizing the root of the word. One advantage of German is, however, the tendency to make extensive use of compound nouns and verbs. Learning the meaning of suffixes and prefixes is therefore very useful to construct the meaning of a compound verb of which we know the primary meaning. During this meticulous process of destruction and composition of the language (evidenced by the German correspondent Wortzusammensetzung), which is becoming more and more pleasing to those who wish to know German and master it better, it is also possible that German will make us smile, giving us words that have an unusual meaning longing to a remote past.

Here are just a few German words that have an unexpected meaning.


When you first arrive in Germany and hear speaking of “toilette glasses” it might be quite disorientating. After asking to repeat the question we discover that, yet, klobrille is actually a word, and it is simply the toilet seat!


This word is composed by two terms, wart and breast, that blended together might create a not so pleasant image. In reality it does not refer to strange anatomical blemishes, but to a part of the body that Germans, perhaps for the analogy of the form, call warts: nipples! When you will find yourself talking about nipples in German, be sure that this part of the body will have lost all of its charm.

There is no need to change zone then to find out that the most intriguing female garment, the bra, in German has a name similar to that of a posture corrector tutor, Büstenhalter, “breast-sustainer”.


If you think that this term, which literally means “donkey bridge” is a German invention to further confuse non-native speakers, you are mistaken. Nowadays the term is used in German to indicate a method, a word or phrase that allows you to remember something better. The question is: what do donkeys have to do with this?

The answer is sought in the past and in the latin location of pons asinorum, used in philosophy to indicate figures that allow less experienced subjects to understand a more complex concept, and in mathematics it is used in reference to the difficulty of understanding the fifth Euclide theorem on the isosceles triangle. It has thus an ambivalent meaning, on the one hand, of a device that facilitates understanding for the less learned, on the other, it indicates a “dormant” donkey backbone difficult to overcome.


Even if this term might seem hard to grasp, the English correspondent diarrhoea presents a morfology deriving from the Greek δια+ρρέω (dia+rrheo) “to scroll through”. If you unpack the German word, the Greek influence becomes apparent.


Thursday in German is the day of thunder. Translated in English, the German correspondent Donners-tag would be Thunder-day, an analogy that shows the link amid these two languages. After all also in Italian (Giovedì), French (Jeudi) and Spanish (Jueves), the reference to Jupiter becomes clear. The fourth day of the week is thus dedicated to more than one nation to the god of thunder!


When they talk about “mom’s cake” Germans don’t refer to a dessert to have for breakfast but to something very different. Mutterkuchen means placenta, but also this compound word doesn’t come out of nothing. The term placenta derives from Greek πλακοῦς (plakous), an adjective that indicates something with “crushed form”. The adjective then passed through latin with the meaning of flatbread. Why call flatbread this vascular organ? Because the placenta has a crushed form and through it the fetus can be fed, just like a flatbread.


To understand why in German television is referred to with a term that literally means “distant observer”, it is enough to trace the etymology of the word. The prefix comes from Greek and means “far away”, so it indicates a vision from afar, just like that of images projected from the screen of a TV. In German, the correspondent of ‘tele’ is fern.


Even for this last example, before we put our hands between the hair of despair and blaming Germans for being incomprehensible, we should think of the origin of the corresponding term in English. Flusspferd, literally “river horse”, in English means hippopotamus. This term from a somewhat funny sound comes from Greek where hippos means horse and potamos river, so the German language copied the same structure of the word, using the terms of its own idiom.  

In conclusion, to have some explanation about some creative composite words, we should ask the direct people concerned, that is, our ancestors who created them!


Is German stating to intrigue you? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes!

Deutsch, we love you. But why are there 15 different ways to say meatball?

To aim to become bilingual or at least fluent in German requires for a lot of patience and acceptance of the fact that there are different words that have the same meaning.

It’s a struggle, but nobody said it was easy. Not only is the German language more complex compared to others due to its syntactic structure and vast lexicon, there is also the context-specific meaning of a certain term that varies concurring to when it is employed. German words in fact vary according to the language register or the region. So to avoid feeling like a stranger in a multiethnic nation as Germany, it would be advised to know, if not all, at least some of these variations. We have selected the ones referring to the culinary tradition – which, as we all know very well, is the meeting place of different cultures.


Pancake – Tabeajaichhalt CC0

If in Berlin you order Pfannkuchen, you won’t find yourself in front of some pancakes as in the rest of Germany, but doughnuts! In German there are exactly 12 different words whose meaning is pancake. So in Berlin we would have to ask for “Eierkuchen”, whereas in western Germany and at the borders with Switzerland we would have to order “das Omelett”, as similar to the French die Omelette. Around the area of Lipsia and the confine with Poland pancakes have yet a different word, and that would be “Plinse” or “Plinz”, whereas in Austria we might even meet someone that calls them “Pataschinke”.

Gingerbread man

gingerbread men – Gaetan Lee – CC BY 2.0

12 seems to be the lucky German number, for there are 12 different ways even to address Gingerbread men! Typically they would be called “Lebkuchenmann”, which appears to be the most common term also in Munich, Berlin and Hannover. In the south-western region however they prefer to call them “Weckmann” or “Weckmännchen” whereas in the north-west they would be “Stutenkerl”. In Austria gingerbread men are called Krampus and they represent a legendary creature, the punisher of children that misbehaved during the Christmas time. Around Stuttgart and Karlsruhe we would instead call it Dambedei. Our famous Gingerbread man may also be called in a different way according to the ingredients used to spice the cookie – a very common term even in Berlin would be Spekulatius, which derives from the belgian Speculoos (typical cinnamon Christmas cookies).


meatballs -SLT-A33 CC0

When moving to Germany one of the first things that stands out is the prevalence of meat in the menus, from sausages to meatballs. The most diffused term would be “Fleischkloß”, but in total there would be 15 different words that refer to meatballs! “Frikadelle” is very common in the centre and north-west areas of Germany, whereas “Fleischküchle” would be more common in the south-eastern region. In the areas of Leipzig and Dresden they would instead call them “Klops” or “Kloß”. A proper “berlinerisch” term would instead be “Bulette” or “Boulette” (again, the resonance with French is quite striking), whereas in Austria they would be “Fleischaiberl”.

“The heel” of the breadloaf

Breadloaf – pixel1 CC0

In english it is an ongoing debate: how to call the last (and first) bits of a breadloaf? “The butt”, “the heel”, the “devil’s elbow” or “duck bread” are variations, but Germans have more than 50 different terms! Here are some of the ones used in Germany: Kanten, Anschnitt, Kipf, Ranft/ Ränftchen, Knorze, Knust, Rankl, Krust, Kirshte and several others. In Switzerland they use a lot Anhau, Scherz, Mürggu, Mutsch, Chäppi, Houdi and Scherzerl is used also in Austria and in the south of Germany.


Mouth – RobinHiggins CC0

When you or friend will get caught by a hiccup, you can choose out of 25 words to address it! The first one that comes to mind is “Schluckauf” or even “Schluchzer”. In the regions bordering French and in the southern part of Germany they would prefer “Hädscher” instead. In Austria, “Schnackler” and in Switzerland “Hitzgi”.


Slippers – Didgeman CC0

With “Hausschuhe” you can play it safe, for it literally means “house shoes”. But there are well over 10 different variations! “Pantoffeln” is common in Berlin and Hannover, whereas “Schluffen” is common in Rheinland and Frankfurt. “Bambuschen” is more common in eastern Germany, in Switzerland, instead, you may hear oftenly “Finken”.

Currently, Spiegel Online is taking an online survey on the use of the language variations in Germany. By taking this online test you too can contribute to the mapping of German variations in your region!

Cover picture:  © Weisswurst – Thomas S. Pubblic domain

Are you getting intrigued by the German language or wish to refine your vocabulary? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes! 


Why should I learn German? 15 typical situations in Germany that will make you understand why

Several foreigners arrive in Germany without speaking a word of the language. To those thinking that they can live happily without any knowledge of German, you’ll soon think twice.

We put together a list of 15 situations  that exemplify why you need, and should want, to learn German when in Germany.

1. At the pharmacy

To avoid having to open your mouth and “aaaah” at the saleswoman/man’s face to explain that you desperately need a spray for your throat. The pharmacist will be grateful.

2. To register in Germany

For all of those that wish that their Schufa (the document that states that you have no debts) stays immaculate and without shame.

3. At the bar

Because ordering a cappuccino or a latte, with the exact amount of milk or sugar, in perfect German is priceless.

4. Amongst friends

You’re looking for a new job. Your friends are concerned for you, they can feel that you’re one step away from packing your bags and heading back home…till when you’ll find yourself making orders for a table of 20 hungry and demanding people. The glory is tangible.

5. The meanders of German bureaucracy

Knowing the language of who will accept your request for the Hartz IV is surely something.

6. At the counter

When you’ll meet that particular cashier on a personal fight against mankind, you’ll know it. For who already has, how many times have you wished to be able to face her/him and respond adequately?

7. With your landlord

It is indispensable to make him understand that with you, the shark games won’t work. You are no amateur and it is important to put things straight immediately. In German.

8. With the Brazilian wax-lady

It might be kind of easy in Spanish, but in Portuguese it’s a different matter. To be able to speak German as a glowing wax lady from Belo Horizonte is covering your bikini area with incandescent honey will definetly come in handy.

9. With your colleagues

In particular during the first days of your new job when you’ll all be heading to the Kneipe for a cold beer, you surely don’t want to find yourself without words whilst everybody else is happily chirping their order.

10. During a job interview

Not every company demands you to know German, in particular the young-hip start ups. Considering the salary that they will offer you, one would expect them to be very flexible. However, understanding what you’re signing up for, including but not only those tiny German ‘oh that doesn’t mean anything’ asterisks in your contract, will surely make a difference.

11. To surprise co-national tourists

Ever overheard an unpleasant comment on what you’re wearing or on your new hairstyle by part of a co-national tourist? That’s where the fun starts: express your disappointment in German, look at them severely, and conclude with a nice “I love my co-nationals!”.

12. To conclude important transactions

Your girlfriend can’t live with the hat she just saw at that stand in Alexanderplatz, yet the vendor won’t negotiate? Try in German. You’re not a tourist after all, and it’s guaranteed that you’ll walk away with a smile and a bargained hat.

13. To conquer that German boy or girl

You don’t necessarily have to be fluent. But everybody knows that there is nothing cuter than having a foreigner trying to get your attention with some, more or less correct, expressions in your own language.

14. To understand Berlin’s exotic menus

In Berlin to step out of the house and look for a restaurant or Imbiss that inspires you is like traveling the world in 80 steps. Yet, no matter how exciting this may be to all food lovers, be sure that when you’ll find yourself in front of that 101-dish menu written in a different language (whether it be Siam, Japanese or Lebanese-Arabic) you’ll be quite concerned. The explanation in German of the dishes however helps (and is particularly useful to avoid unpleasant surprises, such as finding out that your dish is covered in coriander).

15. To really integrate

To stop obsessing over those two Germans chatting in the ubahn, thinking that they are talking about you after a glance and a smile. Beyond the irony, to understand / kind-of-speak German in Germany (as much as for any other language in any different place) allows us to be aware, and not feel lost, in our surroundings. Is there really anything more important?

13 thoughts that pass your mind when you listen to German and it’s not your first language


Anna Dushime from BuzzFeed Germany wrote a very interesting and funny article about the thoughts that pass your mind when you live in Germany and German is not your first language.

1.In a sentence it is hard to grasp where and when words begin and end

Example: Grund­stücks­ver­kehrs­ge­neh­mi­gungs­zu­stän­dig­keits­über­tra­gungs­ver­ord­nung


Lifetime / Via giphy.com

2. Words that, by the way, often appear to have no vowels

rebloggy.com / Via giphy.com

3. Commas can be used concurring to fairly arbitrary rules


4. Genug (Almost) und Genau (Exactly) sound quite similar, but have a very different meaning

ABC / Via reactiongifs.com

5. Every imperative sentence sounds like a soldier’s order 

6. Entschuldigung is a word that sounds quite aggressive when trying to convey that you are sorry


7. If I have to say that “the pen is on the table”, why should I use two different verbs, liegen and stehen, concurring to whether the object has been placed horizontally or vertically?

Fox / Via giphy.com

8. Why are certain words spelled in a way and pronounced in a completely different way? I.e. why is geröntgt pronounced geröncht?

Walt Disney Pictures / Via reactiongifs.com

9. Why are definite articles so complicated?


10. And why do Germans insist on being ‘so original’ with certain words?

Twitter: @(twitter.com/ExoZizou)

11. Although it is one of the languages with most words in the dictionary, to express certain concepts the choice is quite limited…

12. Although you might have live in Germany for several years, I love you (Ich liebe dic) will never have a very loving sound

via in1.ccio.co

13. At least, to express certain desires, German can be very concise and precise

Google via Translate Google


If you are starting to get intrigued by the German language, take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes.

6 German expressions on the weather that will make you smile (and understand more about the German people)

Dog weather or monkey heat?German will always make us chuckle with its original association of ideas.

For all those metereopathics out there, here are six of the most interesting German sayings (already cited by The Local) on the weather.

1. Das Hundewetter

Recalling the English expression “it’s raining cats and dogs”, Hundewetter is the perfect word to describe that terribly rainy day each of us experience at least once in Germany. Even the most ferocious of dogs won’t stand a chance. It is such a common expression that the German version of “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day” was entitled “Winnie Puuh und das Hundewetter”.

2. Das Kaiserwetter

This expression takes us back to “the time of the Kaiser”, more specifically to Emperor Francesco Giuseppe of Austria’s birthday on the 18th August. Today the term is employed to describe that radiant, flooded with sunshine and carefree, without-a-cloud-in-the-sky day. Literally, an emperor’s day.


3. Die Affenhitze

“Mokey heat” reflects that kind of heat that will suffocate you and drive you to exasperation and it is usually employed in the sentence «Es herrscht eine Affenhitze». Apparently the origins of this word reside in the 19th century, when the monkey’s cage in Berlin’s Zoo was notoriously the most sultry place.

4. Etwas Sonne tanken

Literally, “to soak up some sun”. This expression conveys the need to regenerate, for instance by lying out in the sun and enjoying its warmth on our faces. The verb tanken, to refuel, associated to the sun, means to absorb and store up as much heat and light as possible (especially when stocking up for winter time in Germany).

5. Du siehst aus wie ein begossener Pudel!

Have you ever been called a wet poodle? Be sure that you will if you get caught in one of Germany’s notorious rainstorms. Although the etymological basis of poodle and puddle binds the two terms, along with the fact that poodles are notorious for being fans of these, the association of these words makes the saying “You look like a wet poodle” on of the most creative German expressions.


6. Ein Gesicht wie sieben Tage Regenwetter

If today is not your lucky day, you might as well have “a face like seven days of rainy weather”.


If you are starting to get intrigued by the German language, take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes.


Cover photo: © Bjoern Schwarz Indi Samarajiva, ,Selda EiglerVinoth Chandar  CC BY SA 2.0

Tongue twisters that will make you love – or hate – German

Every language has its own array of tongue twisters that have no purpose beyond than to test our ability to pronounce correctly words that share a similar sound.

One of their defining features is their nonsense and impossibility to translate them in a different language, precisely due to the fact that the sound of the words counts more than their meaning. Also German, obviously, has several: tune into the tongue twisters rhythm and think of those wonderfully long German words packed with consonants and hard sounds.. Ready for the challenge?


In German tongue twisters are called Zungenbrecher, which literally means “tongue-breaker”, an ever more fitting term given that when attempting to pronounce them the feeling is more about not being capable of speaking anymore!
If you want to test your German pronunciation and impress you German course teacher, along with your patience, here are a few tongue twisters, selected by The Local, that we have elaborated with a few examples.

1. Fischers Fritz fischt frische Fische, frische Fische fischt Fischers Frizt.

This is amongst the most notorious German tongue-twisters: protagonist is Fritz, son of a fisherman, who fishes fresh fish. Although seemingly logical, try to read it quickly in German..

2. Blaukraut bleibt Blaukraut und Brautkleid bleibt Brautkleid.

Literally, this tongue twisters says that red cabbage remains red cabbage, and the dress of the bride remains the dress of the bride. Beyond the meaning, the language play is based on the consonance amid Blautkraut and Brautkleid.

3. Am zehnten zehnten um zehn Uhr zehn zogen zehn zahme Ziegen zehn Zentner Zucker zum Zoo.

This time around we are talking about 10 tamed sheeps whom on the 10th October at 10 o’clock transport 10 quintals of sugar to the zoo. Although the sheeps aren’t being eaten by the sixth sick sheikh, as in the notorious English tongue twister, they still remain protagonists of one of the toughest German ones.

4. Wenn Fliegen hinter Fliegen fliegen, fliegen Fliegen hinter Fliegen her.

If the flies fly behind the flies, then the flies fly after the flies. The sentence has no sense, but might be useful when revisiting the construction of the conditional period in German.

5. Zwischen zwei Zwetschgenzweigen sitzen zwei zechenschwarze tschechisch zwitschernde Zwergschwalben.

This sequence will challenge you, not only for the length of the sentence but also for its absurd meaning “two coal-black Czech-twittering pigmy swallows are sitting between two plum-tree branches” (or something like that…)

6. Lang schwang der Klang am Hang entlang.

The sound vibrates slowly along the slope. Might seem easy at first, but try to repeat this poetic sentence a few times in a row.

7. Gudruns Truthuhn tut gut ruhn.

Gudrun’s turkey is resting well. Blending both common expressions and a good dose of imagination, this is a particularly useful tongue twister.

8. Schnecken erschrecken, wenn sie an Schnecken schlecken, weil zum Schrecken vieler Schnecken Schnecken nicht schmecken.

Snails are horrified when snails lick snail, because to the horror of many snails, snails don’t like snails.


Cover photo  © Cdn.familie.de

Those foods and dishes that in Germany change name, region by region

Have you studied German, or wish to do so,  and think to have reached the finish line with a B2 or C1 level? Think again. Although your efforts will surely pay off, it will be enough to talk with a native speaker to realize the difference between the language you studied on books, and the spoken one.

One of the first things that you will become aware of when conversing with native speakers is the strong regional dimension of the German language. In Germany there are several terms used to describe the same thing: these vary on the linguistic register on the one hand, and on the region (Bundesland) and its dialect on the other. Some regional terms derive in fact from French, whose influence is very much present also in several German words. Other regionalisms are instead heirs to antique dialects, for instance the German spoken in the south-western regions, today’s Baden-Württemberg, confining Switzerland and Alsace, have a lot of local expressions that are incomprehensible for Germans from other regions. The terms used are thus reflective of the German region of origin. The newspaper Spiegel Online published a study with an interactive map through which it is possible to locate the origins of 24 German regional expressions.


Even the purchase of a simple white-flour bread, Brötchen in everyday German, may become a complicated matter if one is not aware of the term in use in the region in question. Who lives in Friburg in Brisgovia (Baden-Württemberg) calls it Weckle. Imagine someone from Freiburg walking into a Bäckerei in Berlin asking for a Weckle. The most likely reply would be Wat denn? Eine Schrippe meenen See? (What? Would you mean a Schrippe? in berlin-german). From south-west to north-east something as simple as a white-flour bread has in fact different terms,  Weckle or  Schrippe. Going north, at about 300km from Berlin, the same contested, white-flour bread will be referred to in a different way: in Hamburg you will have to order a Rundstück.
The situation is further complicated if one wishes to refer to a sandwich: officially in German it would be a Butterbrot, but in Freiburg in Brisgovia it would be a Vesperbrot, in Berlin a Stulle and in Hamburg a Schnitte. To further complicate the matter, concurring to the word employed the gender will change.


A trip at the supermarket will be enough to find out that there are different words used to refer to potatoes, commonly known as Kartoffel. The german Kartoffel derives from the Italian word tartufo (truffle). Potatoes in fact arrived in Germany from Italy passing through Switzerland. Having however similar shapes, and being both two tubers, potatoes and truffles were initially confused : that is how Kartoffel spread around Germany to refer to potatoes.
The term Erdapfel has instead different roots and indicates “a fruit from the soil” (Erde= land, Apfel= apple). The origins of Erdapfel can be traced to the French language, which similarly refer to pommes de terre (apples from the soil). This word is employed more commonly in the south of Germany, in Austria and Switzerland. The denomination Grundbirne (or Grumbeere, Grumbire, Gromper) derives instead from the similarity of potatoes with a tuber that arrived in Germany in the same period, the topinambur: when referring to potatoes, it is commonly employed in Renania-Palatinato in the regional dialects.

Krapfen and omelette

In standard German, by Krapfen it is meant a particular austro-german dessert. If however you are in Freiburg and wish to order it, you will have to call it Berliner. On the other hand in Berlin you will have to ask for a Pfannkuchen. The same Pfannkuchen in Freiburg would instead mean an omelette, which in Berlin is instead called Eierkuchen. So to avoid unpleasant surprises, it would be thus advised to study the local jargon! Or, to be safe, you could order a nice, universally known in Germany, Schnitzel (escalope).

Jelly meat and tripe

Sülze or Sulz is a cold dish, usually prepared with boiled meats and vegetables, finely cut in small cubes and incorporated with jelly, also known as aspic (Aspik in german). The term Sülze derives from an antique term used to define brine. However in south-western Germany, more precisely in the Baden region, you would have to specify what you mean if you don’t want to risk to find yourself facing a smoking place of tripe. The dish derived from a bovine’s stomach is in fact called Sulz in this region, whereas in the rest of Germany it is commonly known as Kutteln (in Saxony it has a different name: Piepen).


Cover photo: Kartoffeln / Potatoes © Marco Verch CC BY 2.0


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10 German words known and used worldwide

German: not such a foreign language after all.

As everyone is aware of, German is not an easy language to learn. Whoever wishes to embark on such an adventure faces a complex grammar, three different genres of gender (masculine, feminine and neutral), along with lengthy words and unfamiliar sounds. To facilitate the learning the process it might be useful to remember that in all the world there are words that have German origins and that belong to everyday language. Examples include Müsli, Strudel, Kitsch, Bunker or Realpolitik. The teutonic influence can be found in the food sector as much as in the cultural, military or political setting.
Let’s look in detail at some of the most common and widespread German words and their usage in the world.


Literally, “the land behind”, it is a word used in english, french, spanish and italian. By Hinterland it is meant the circumscribing territory of a big city, or more broadly a space situated inland from a coast, and it reflects the economic, social and cultural particularities of the place. In Italy, for example, we talk about the milanese hinterland.


A word commonly employed in english to express joy or satisfaction for other’s misfortunes. In italian the literal translation would be “malignous joy”.


Literally the “children’s garden”, it is a word common to english language when referring to nursery school.


Zeitgest, or the spirit of time, is a term known worldwide. The expression derives from the field of philosophy to indicate the intellectual, cultural and moral characteristics of a certain time.


Literally, “itchy feet” it is a word common to english to express the desire to travel.


Familiar to languages across the world, leitmotiv, literally to “lead a motive”, indicates a dominant theme or aspect of a work of literature and music, as much as a dominant attitude or idea in a person’s life. From the musical field, in everyday language its meaning has expanded to other fields.


Literally “a child wonder”, it is a word employed in english as well when referring to a child prodigy.


Term used in english as well to indicate a counterpart, a lookalike or duplicate of one person.


Whereas Spiel means “game” in German, it is used informally in english to refer to a well-prepared speech intended to praise and/or received as lengthy and monotonous.


Abbreviated to Deli in english, Delicatessen refers to a shop specialized in gastronomic specialties, such as cheese and cold meats. The german word Delikatesse, which refers to a delicacy, in turn derives from the French word délicatesse.


Cover photo: Public domain