Leçons Allemand


Beware of False Friends!

False Friends: word pairs in two languages that look or sound similar, but differ in meaning.

Have a look at the text below about the video Balztanz: für Fortgeschrittene, which includes a few false friends in German (in bold italics) and see if you can determine their true meaning in English!


A recent study investigating male dance moves that catch a woman's eye has shown that certain dance moves executed by men are more likely to grab women's attention than others. Neither robot impersonation and windmill-like flailing of the arms nor dezente dance moves (...noch dezente Tanzbewegungen...) set female hearts racing! Men might sich auch blamieren if they dance in circles (Männer könnten sich auch blamieren, wenn sie im Kreis tanzen.)

If they, however, emphasized upper body movement, paid attention to the right action in the left shoulder, the neck and the right knee and incorporated variety into their dance patterns they might bekommen what they are after ( ...könnten sie bekommen, was sie suchen). This just leaves one question open: Which traits lie hidden behind those moves?

  • dezent = discreet, subtle ≠ decent
  • sich blamieren = make a fool of oneself ≠ to blame
  • bekommen = receive, get ≠ to become

Consider an example from one of our videos.


Bitte, seien Sie jetzt ganz still.

Please, be completely silent now.

Caption 60, Magie - Die Zaubershow

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For more examples of false friends, please go here. This quiz will test your grasp of some common false friends!



Learning Tip

Pick two to three clips from one category, e.g. food, which discuss the same or a similar subject. Watch them in ascending order according to their level of difficulty. While watching you will notice that some of the vocabulary is the same. This exercise will enhance your contextual understanding, as well as, reinforce familiar words, consolidate your grasp of newer words and improve your listening skills.

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Pesky Prepositions

Pesky Prepositions:

At Easter time in (in) Germany, außer (aside from) the popular Easter egg hunt, there are also old Easter customs. My grandmother always used to tell me that young women would go to a brook am (on the) Eve of Easter Sunday and trickle water über (over) themselves. Durch (By) this practice they hoped to attain and preserve beauty. The catch was that they were not allowed to utter a single word auf (on) their journey. Whether or not it is true remains a mystery. I hope you all had a Happy Easter!


Now for something completely different. What comes to mind when you hear words like construction waste, scrap iron, sheet metal, etc.? ...Scrapyard!

Swiss musicians Bubble Beatz recycle and collect such items and incorporate them in (into) their so called "Trash Machine." Going unter (by) the name of "most attractive scrap heap von der (of) Switzerland", Bubble Beatz jump herum (around) and deliver a wild, sweat-inducing performance mit (with) elements of house, industrial and drum 'n bass auf (on) said Machine.

So prepositions are on the menu today! Those essential little words that usually introduce prepositional phrases to indicate the relation between things in a sentence.

Take a look at a few examples:


Im Augenblick mit ihrer "Trash Machine" auf Deutschland-Tour.

At the moment with their "Trash Machine" on Germany tour.

Caption 4, Bubble Beatz - Supertalente vom Schrottplatz

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Some prepositions are identical in German and in English. But others just make us want to tear our hair out.


Ich hab' gesucht und gesucht

I've searched and searched

In den hintersten Ecken

In the furthest back corners 

Nach Augen, die mich interessieren

For eyes that interest me

Captions 28-30, Frida Gold - Wovon sollen wir träumen

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Das Tier um die Beine geschlungen und dann Kopf an Kopf posieren.

The animal looped around the legs and then posing head to head.

Caption 22, Summer Cheergirl - Fotoshooting mit Riesenschlangen

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If prepositions seem difficult, don't despair! As you know, practice makes perfect. So test yourself with these fun exercises here and here.



Learning Tip

Choose a clip according to your level of proficiency. While watching it, click on the words whose meaning you’re unsure of. After watching the clip, access your flashcards by clicking the Flashcard tab. All the words that you clicked have been compiled into sets. Review your flashcard set. Now watch the clip again. Has your listening comprehension improved? Finally, speaking aloud in German, recount what you saw and heard in the clip. Summarize the gist. Try using words you’ve just learned. At first, this will seem difficult. But over time you’ll be amazed at your increased fluency!

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Lightning-quick, crow-black and Co! Compound Adjectives

Compound Adjectives:

I invite you to take a journey with me back to the Middle Ages. At the Medieval Christmas Market, soul-snatcher Markus lures us to abandon ourselves to the vice of gambling. Of course, there is a reward involved!


Für jeden Mitspieler gibt es einen Edelstein des immerwährenden Glückes.

For every player there is a precious stone of everlasting happiness.

Caption 9, Mittelalterlicher Markt - Mäuseroulette

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What makes this precious stone so enticing? The aspect that it's immerwährend, right? Immerwährendes Glück is something everyone dreams of. When you use compound adjectives you can include additional information in a sentence and still keep it compact. They prevent you from having to write lengthy versions like ...einen Edelstein des Glückes, das immer währt. This clause is grammatically correct and has the same meaning. (There is another compound adjective hidden in the above clip. See if you can find it!)

Compare the sentence lengths of the German and English clauses below.


Diesmal mit systemkonformen Kunstwerken.

This time with artworks in conformity with the system.

Caption 6, Restituierung von Raubkunst - aus der Nazi-Zeit

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The words in bold emphasize clearly that compound adjectives can shorten a German sentence without having to omit any wanted information.

Have you seen and spoken this tongue-twister before? Kohlpechrabenschwarz (coal-pitch raven-black). If you haven't, try saying it just for fun! This compound adjective emphasizes the absolute blackness of something. So compound adjectives are also used to intensify and creatively underscore a noun's attributes in ways that one of the off-the-shelf variety cannot achieve.

Note: If you're searching for the definition of an adjective and aren't getting results, it may be a compound. In this case, break it into its component parts and search their meanings individually.



Learning Tip

Set small, achievable short-term goals. While watching the videos:

  • Write down and learn 10 words or useful phrases of your choice every day. Repeat them on Saturday. Take Sunday off.
  • Make a list of your typical German errors. Do an error analysis and consciously review the grammar.

Finally, if progress is slow, keep at it. Take the long view. Recall where you started and how far you've come. Always bear in mind that learning a second language is a life-long endeavor that will enrich your life for years to come!

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Do you speak Germish?


anglicism: an English word or phrase that is used in another language

Germans can't do without them. There are some though, who don't feel the need to add a couple of English words to their mother tongue for good measure. Three students sharing an apartment in Berlin, for example, went as far as translating anglicisms back into German and introduced fines for every slip-up in Germish.


March is Carnival season or "The Fifth Season" in Germany. People dress up and masquerade to chase and scare away winter. In this month's featured video three veterans explain the old Carnival tradition, dating back to the Middle Ages. Note the following anglicism:


Und am Sonntag is' Pause, "beauty sleep", oder...

And on Sunday a break, beauty sleep, or...

Caption 65, Fastnacht - Karneval - Karnevalisten

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Anglicisms are very common in German.
In our video about the famous Austrian tattoo artist Mario Barth, in which he expresses his support for the animal rights organization PETA, you'll find a number of them.


...und hat das "Statement" gesetzt "Ink, not Mink" [Tinte nicht Nerz].

...and has made the statement "Ink, not Mink".

Caption 10, Tierfreund Mario Barth - Der Tätowierer der Stars

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Finally: Longing for your summer vacation or just a brief holiday get-a-way to a warmer clime? Then take a look at Christiane: fährt in den Urlaub. Test your understanding of spoken German in this practical scenario and search for das Handy* in the clip. Regarding this anglicism, German has taken an English adjective and morphed it into a noun. Can you guess what it is? She says before leaving on her trip: Ah, was ich immer vergesse, das Aufladegerät fürs Handy.

* Tipp auf Deutsch für Fortgeschrittene: Das Handy ist eine Erfindung der modernen Kommunikationstechnologie, ohne die viele von uns nicht mehr aus dem Haus gehen.


Learning Tip

If you want to reinforce the use of words in your favorite vocabulary list, go to the Video tab on Yabla German and type the word into the search box on the upper right side of the page. A list of every video containing this word will be generated. The captions from each clip in which the word occurs will appear. Try this and easily discover the word's correct use in different contexts.

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Fun with Idioms

Although languages are always changing due to influences of society, forms of government, and historical events, some elements of language, such as idiomatic phrases, have been preserved in languages for centuries. They come in handy in every context, for example, in the lyrics of Berlin hip hop/reggae band Culcha Candela.


Alles im Eimer...

Everything's down the drain [in the bucket]...

Caption 2, Culcha Candela - Schöne neue Welt

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Let's look at something else that can be im Eimer (ruined; done for; broken).

Nachdem er das Auto gegen die Wand gefahren hatte, war es im Eimer.
After he had driven the car against the wall, it was broken.

You are probably familiar with the sensation of having a dry mouth. Well, Thomas Raudnitzky was experiencing just that while being awarded the Metropolitan Prize for hosting the trendy magazine RheinMain Szene.


... mir blieb auch irgendwie die Spucke weg.

... somehow the spit stayed away from me [idiom: at a loss for words].

Caption 4, Preisverleihung - Bestes Magazin

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Now take a look at Lucas' "dry mouth" experience while test-riding a crazy new roller coaster in our video about Lucas' not so run-of-the-mill hobbies.


Da bleibt einem wirklich kurz die Spucke im Hals stecken.

For a moment, the spit really gets stuck in your throat [it's astonishing].

Caption 24, Lucas' Hobbys - Achterbahn und Bungee

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Figuratively, this expression means to be utterly surprised, stunned or at a loss for words. In biblical times already, it was observed that someone salivates less when afraid. This was interpreted as a sign of God that the accused was guilty, who, out of fear, was unable to say anything that could have saved him.

Use these sites to find more examples of idiomatic phrases: phrasen.com, German proverbs



Learning Tip
A great way to improve your listening skills is watching the clips first once without captions. This will help you to focus more on the audio. Then watch them again, this time with captions. Repeat these two steps a couple of times. Do you notice an improvement? Keep practicing!

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Versatile Verbs

aufheben: to suspend; to pick up

Have you ever longed to put the pedal to the metal? Car enthusiasts throughout the world dream of hitting the Autobahn in their favorite gas guzzler. In a recent move that has environmentalists upset and speed demons ecstatic, Germany has removed more barriers to high-velocity travel:


Das Verkehrsministerium hat einige Tempolimits aufgehoben.

The Ministry of Transport has lifted some of the speed limits.

Caption 2, Deutsche Autobahnen - Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen

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The infinitive of the verb in boldface is aufheben. As with many other German verbs, it has numerous meanings in different contexts. In this case it means to "suspend something", to "declare something as invalid."

Die Geldstrafe wurde aufgehoben.
The fine was cancelled.

Mit dem Ende der Apartheid wurde das Handelsembargo gegen Südafrika aufgehoben.
With the end of apartheid, the trade embargo against South Africa was lifted.

In our video about Karlsruhe's phenomenal ultimate frisbee team, we encounter another meaning of aufheben, "to pick up":


... und du würdest ihn einfach aufheben.

... and you'd simply pick it up.

Caption 19, Ultimate Frisbee - Oli erklärt das Spiel

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Have you heard the expression Viel Aufhebens um etwas machen? In the figurative sense, the expression means to "make a fuss about something." It originated from the language of fencers, who, prior to fighting, picked up their swords from the ground, accompanied by elaborate ceremonies and boastful words.

Keep an eye out for these and other uses of aufheben, an extremely versatile German verb!


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