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Communication

Want to learn a new language fast? Find the similarities

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If you want to learn a new language (like German, for example) FIRST find the similarities. The chances are high, that even if you don’t speak a single word of German, you know words you’re not even aware of. Did you know that German and English (just to name those two) come from the same language, that was spoken sometime after 5,000 B.C? Stone age, that was. This language but also its timeframe, unfortunately, is only hypothetical, since the Protogerman (also Indogerman) culture did not leave any writings, that could tell us more.

If you’re a language nerd like me, you want to check out this podcast about the History of English ➡ Episodes | The History of English Podcast. The first 30 episodes are about the Indo-European languages, which include German and English among others.

So, back to where you understand German without realizing it 😊 There is a list of words available here with identical words in German and English, the so-called “true friends”. Check it out and let me know how many German words you actually know! 

Now let’s have a look at how much you already understand a written text in German. Read this short story – you’ll find the translation down below, but I’m sure you won’t even need it.

Short Story in German

Guten Morgen. Mein Name ist Monika. Ich bin Pilotin. Georg ist mein Bruder. Er ist Autor. Er schreibt interessante Bücher und Artikel. In diesem Moment schreibt er ein neues Buch. Der Titel ist noch unklar. Letztes Jahr kam eines seiner Bücher auf die Bestsellerliste. Georg lebt in Dänemark, in Kopenhagen. Er ist 32 Jahre alt, hat blondes Haar und braune Augen. Er hat kein Auto. In den Supermarkt fährt er mit seinem Mountainbike. Im Supermarkt findet er Äpfel, Salat, Tomaten, Bananen, Orangen, Karotten, Kaffee, Milch, Butter, Tee, Bier und Wein.

Dann fährt er zu unserer Mutter und parkt sein Mountainbike vor der Garage. Das Haus ist weiß und grün. Es hat einen Garten mit wundervollen Blumen. Im Sommer sitzt Georg gern im Garten wenn die Sonne scheint und hört laut Radio, im Winter schaufelt er Schnee. Meine Mutter hat eine Katze, sie heißt Tiger. Tiger ist braun, grau und orange. Sie hat auch einen Hund, einen Dachshund. Er heißt Bruno. Jetzt trinke ich einen Kaffee und dann gehe ich. Bis bald. Hab‘ einen guten Tag.

More examples

Im Dezember ist Winter.

Das Papier ist hart.

Meine Hand hat drei Finger.

Bring das Buch her.

Das kostet 10 Euro.

Ich tanze und singe.

Er hat Durst und Hunger.

Die Tomate ist rot.

Der Film ist interessant.

Die Schule beginnt um 8.

Sie fotografiert die Landschaft.

Are you struggling to find the motivation for learning a new language? Check out this blog post with three powerful reasons to start learning a language.

How much did you understand?

Sooo, how did it go? How much did you understand? Or, how many words did you understand? Try reading it a second – or even a third time. Even unknown words will start to make sense.

If you pay attention, you will notice a couple of things:

– The German language usually uses a ‘K’ instead of a hard ‘C’: Copenhagen = Kopenhagen, Monica = Monika.

– The English ‘ph’ often becomes ‘f’: photograph = fotografieren.

– Nouns are capitalized: salad = Salat, milk = Milch, butter = Butter, tomato = Tomaten.

– The English ‘sh’ becomes ‘sch’ in German: shines = scheint, shovels = schaufelt.

– Many words remain exactly the same: Winter, Tiger, November, Hand, Finger, Radio, Film.

Alright, with those things in mind go back to the text in German and I’m sure you’re going to understand even more of it. With each word, you add context and are able to understand even the blanks.

“True friends” vs. “False friends”

Similar words can be related, they have the same linguistic origin, and are called cognates. The words above are just a tiny example of these so-called cognates, there are many more.

However, since we already got to know the “true friends”, there are also “false friends” – check them out here; They sound similar, but often mean very different things, which can be a bit tricky.

For example, the German word ‘Gift’ does not mean ‘gift’ – it means ‘poison’ 💥

But we want to focus on the similarities here.

And especially with globalization reaching even the farthest corners of our world, and English undoubtedly becoming a global language, a global lingua franca, it also finds more and more its way into other languages. Especially when it comes to ICT, the internet, and all things related.

  • Website = Webseite
  • Internet = Internet
  • Blog = Blog
  • E-mail = E-mail

We use borrowed words or even phrases from other languages all the time, without even realizing it. angst, soup du jour, café au lait, poltergeist, bona fide, carte blanche, nom de plume, savoir-faire, or the omnipresent wanderlust 😉

Take away

In conclusion, what I want to underline here is that when you learn a new language you should start with finding the similarities and be surprised by how many words you ALREADY know, instead of being intimidated by all the words you don’t know YET. Actively look for the similarities. This will be the basis on which you will build the rest of the language. Especially at the beginning of a language learning process, it should be fun, not daunting. Look for the words you know, the words you can guess, to get a general knowledge of what the text is about. Then move on to the parts you don’t know. Your progress will be a lot more encouraging.

Translation of the short story

Good morning. My name is Monika. I’m a pilot. George is my brother. He is an author. He writes interesting books and articles. At that moment he writes a new book. The title is still unclear. Last year, one of his books was on the bestseller list. Georg lives in Denmark, in Copenhagen. He is 32 years old, has blond hair and brown eyes. He doesn’t have a car. He rides his mountain bike to the supermarket. In the supermarket he finds apples, lettuce, tomatoes, bananas, oranges, carrots, coffee, milk, tea, beer, and wine. 

Then he goes to our mother and parks his mountain bike in front of the garage. The house is white and green. It has a garden with wonderful flowers. In summer, George likes to sit in the garden when the sun is shining and listens to the loud radio. In winter he shovels snow. My mother has a cat, she’s called Tiger. Tiger is brown, grey, and orange. She also has a dog, a badger dog. His name is Bruno. Now I drink a coffee and then I leave. See you. Have a good day.

Do you know any more “true friends” or “false friends” when it comes to German and English? Let me know in the comments 😊

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