5 Things I Learned about German in April 2017

Here’s a quick recap of new German language learnings from the month of April:

  • “Ich liebe dich” is not a universal “I love you.” You say “Ich liebe dich” to a lover but “Ich hab dich lieb” to family and friends. English doesn’t make this distinction. More info here.


  • German has multiple words meaning “to try.” “Versuchen” and “probieren” are two of the ones I run across most frequently. They are used in slightly different contexts. More info here.


  • “Gewesen” is a word. I had not ever seen it prior to this month. It’s a conjugation of “sein.” “Ich bin gewesen” means “I was/have been.” More info here.


  • I know a lot of new words thanks to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast soundtrack in German — and especially this song. Among those new words are “Schicksal” (fate, destiny), “Märchen” (fairy tale), and “unerreichbar” (unattainable). Those are only a few examples.


  • I’m getting a little closer to understanding, and accurately using, the strange “da-” words, such as dabei, damit, dazu, davon and dafür (and there are more, I know). I don’t know of anything to compare them to in English. They’re just…odd. More info here.

Make the Most of Your Next Road Trip with a Language Learning Plan

My family and I have a couple of road trips planned over the next couple of months. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t love road trips and never have. I’m like a child in the car: “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” I get bored and fidgety and irritable whenever I’m in the car too long.

For this upcoming season of summer road trips, I have a plan, though. A language learning plan. At a high level, it’s this: optimize my time in order to progress in my target language, German. If I’m in the car for five hours, I should at least be two hours better by the end of the trip than I was at the beginning.

As for the actual plan for my next road trip (five hours one way), I haven’t finalized it yet, but here’s a rough outline:*

  • Listen to and work through a lesson of Pimsleur Plus (30 minutes)
  • Listen to a podcast by a native German speaker in a topic that interests me (15 minutes)
  • Listen to a German learning podcast (10 minutes)
  • Do five Duolingo lessons (10 minutes)
  • Go through Anki flashcards (10 minutes)
  • Read in my parallel English-German book (20 minutes)
  • Listen to German music on Spotify or Hoopla (30 minutes)
  • Write two video scripts to be edited on Lang-8 (20 minutes)
  • Read a children’s book in German to my toddler (2 minutes if I’m lucky because he doesn’t like books)

In all the above activities, I will have covered three of the four pillars of language learning: listening, reading and writing, and I will have kept my mind occupied so that I don’t lose it to boredom and frustration. By the end of the trip, my head should be so bursting with my language study that I’m able to rest it the next day (i.e., be content in taking a one-day break from language learning) and then am able to get back after it on Sunday, the day of our return, when we’re in the car for another five hours.

Are you road-tripping too this summer? Make the most of your time in the car with your own language learning plan! If you’re like me and dislike road trips, it’ll make the travel more bearable.

*Note: This post assumes that you are the passenger instead of the driver. If you’re driving, do not attempt anything more than listening to Pimsleur or music in your target language. Safety for yourself, your passengers and your fellow drivers is the number one priority when you’re behind the wheel.

My Language Learning Fantasy

If you saw the word fantasy and went “Oh yeah,” go ahead and get your mind out of the gutter because it’s not like that. Here’s what it is:

I dream of being a spy.

…OK, not really because:

  • I’m a bit high strung and a complete scaredy-cat (I’m even afraid of the dark sometimes)
  • I’m a mom (and I don’t see being a spy is compatible with that at this point in my life)
  • I’m not the greatest at acting or at keeping secrets

But if someone ever wanted to create a fictional book or movie starring yours truly, pleeeeease write my character as a world-class spy who speaks three to four languages fluently. That would be super cool.

As language learners, we’re often told by the experts to keep our “why” in mind as the goal. I say get creative with your “why.” I have several reasons for learning German, but my list isn’t without my “stretch” reason of being a spy. It’s fantastical and romantic both, don’t you think? Maybe in another life.

Your turn: What’s your language learning fantasy? Leave a note in the comments.

Also, what’s your favorite spy movie or book? Bonus points if the main character(s) speak two or more languages with no trace of a native accent. I’m starting a list of top spy stories, so I’d love to hear recommendations.

World Book Day 2017

What Are You Reading on World Book Day?

@YEAROFGERMAN (3)Today, April 23, 2017, is World Book Day. Fittingly, I spent an hour in Half Price Books searching for my next German read. I grabbed Alles Über Autos ($7.49) for my toddler and the German Pimsleur Plus set ($9.99) for myself. By the way, if you live near a Half Price Books, be sure to enter your email address on the website before you go (or while you’re there) for a 10% off coupon.

One of the most interesting German movies I’ve watched in recent months is Eine Frau in Berlin. It’s the sobering true story of a German woman — representative of nearly two million German women — raped by Russian soldiers after Germany’s defeat. I ordered the book on Amazon just last week, and it’s being shipped from the UK, so it hasn’t arrived yet. However, it’s worth mentioning on World Book Day because it is an actual German book, in German, rather than a translation of an American book.

Also, my husband and I just had an interesting discussion about the fate of the German women.  The Guardian article addresses it in this paragraph:

Hoss is aware of the ambiguity of a character who was both a victim of the Russians and a convinced Nazi. “I had to ask myself, why did this young, educated, well-travelled German adopt the ideology of the National Socialists?” she says. “I could not portray her simply as an innocent victim. On the other hand she is impressive – amid all the horror she finds the strength to reflect on who the Russians are and why they are doing this to her. It requires a lot of strength and honesty to be able to think five minutes after a rape that it is revenge for what the Germans did in Russia.”

It’s an understandably sensitive topic for all involved, and as an American, it’s not my place to publicly comment about. It is an intriguing period of history that’s rarely discussed here in the U.S. I can’t wait for the book to get here so I can start working my way through it and learning some new vocabulary and grammar along the way.

What are you reading for World Book Day?

Glücklicher Masse Tag!

Are you learning another language? If so, head over to PlanetPals.com to find out how to say “Happy Earth Day” in your target language.

The weather in Dallas on this “Tag der Erde” is a bit chilly, so we haven’t taken our obligatory long Saturday walk yet. After nap time (and maybe gym time), though, we’ll definitely bundle up and head outside for a stroll.

Here’s some German vocabulary related to Earth Day that I’m ruminating on today:

  • Der Wald: The forest, the woods
    • auf den Wald zu: toward the forest
  • Der Hügel: The hill
    • am Hügel hinunter: down the hill
  • Die Insel: The island
    • eine Insel im Pazifik: a Pacific Island
  • Der Fluss: the river
    • unten am Fluss: down by the river
  • Der Bach: the stream, the brook
    • am Bach entlang: along the stream

Also, Howily.info provides a great set of graphics for all things “Die Umwelt” (the environment), so I’ll be spending some more time there today as well.

Hab einen schönen Tag der Erde!

Take Me to Those German Castles

I saw the new Beauty and the Beast in the movie theater a few weeks ago. I already want to watch it again. And again and again. It’s a gorgeous, nearly flawless movie. I’ve seen the Disney animated original more times than I can count, but it was only upon seeing the new one that I began to realize how enchanted I am with castles.

It got me wondering whether America has any castles. A quick Google search led me to “The 12 Most Beautiful Castles in the United States.” One of them, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, I have actually visited. It was incredible. Still, I’m more enamored by all the Instagram photos I’ve seen of castles in Germany. Take me there.

Where I Am in My Journey to Learn German: March 2017

If you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you’ll know that I started learning German at the end of 2015 through Duolingo. In 2016, I went through the Pimsleur series. Today, I do a little bit of this and a little bit of that to keep progressing in my journey to learn German. I haven’t taken a test in a while, but I’m likely at A2 level, which means I’m no longer a beginner but am approaching intermediate level.

I know 100+ verbs and a few hundred more nouns, adjectives and adverbs. I understand the basics of German grammar. I can string together a simple sentence although I may leave out a word here and there due to some oddities in the German language, such as separable verbs, reflexive pronouns that need to accompany certain verbs, and so forth.

My Instagram language is set to German, so I’m always tapping the “Übersetzung Anzeigen”option to see if I can correctly translate back and forth between German and English Instagram captions. I assume Instagram uses something similar to Google Translate, so I’m obviously not naive to the fact that the translations probably aren’t 100% accurate. Frankly, I don’t care, though. I am constantly learning new vocabulary through my favorite social media channel, so I’ll take a less-than-perfect translation.

How would I hold up in a conversation with a native speaker? Nicht so gut, I’d guess. Maybe someday soon I’ll actually do some Skype lessons or go to a German Meetup in Dallas. For now, I’m proud of the progress I’m making for someone as busy as I am. Learning German is my favorite hobby, and I’m basking in the journey of learning it rather than fretting about not being more fluent yet.