When you learn a new language, you are both learning to understand and finding ways to be understood, often in practical scenarios such as in the workplace or when meeting new people. In the early days, comprehension may be more important than learning local colloquialisms, but mastering the art of casual conversation often has the magic touch that can cement long-lasting relationships.
German can seem like quite a complex language at first – and the grammar may leave your head in a spin some days – but just a few simple additions to your vocabulary could help you to sound more like a local. In this article, we look at some slang words and phrases that could add an extra dimension to your German language learning, helping you to connect more personally with your German friends and colleagues.
Introduce friendly slang words into your conversations
When you are getting to know people in a more relaxed setting, the language you use can be dialled down to a more casual level. For example, try using ‘Hammer’ or ‘Hammergeil’ to enthusiastically suggest that something is ‘awesome’ or ‘amazing’; and if you want to agree heartily with somebody, you could try ‘Genau!’ rather than outlining your agreement in formal detail.
A traditional German Oktoberfest experience seems a long way away right now, as we continue to manage our day-to-day lives during the ongoing pandemic. However, if you find yourself out for a celebratory drink (or on a sociable Zoom call!), a sprightly ‘Prost!’ (meaning ‘Cheers!’) as you raise your glass can go a long way towards generating some feel-good vibes.
And when you are getting ready to head home, you can say goodbye in a range of ways, including ‘Viel Spaß!’ (‘Have fun!’ – which might be useful if you are leaving early) or ‘Mach’s gut’ (meaning ‘Have a good one’). Save ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ for the office!
Find useful phrases for the workplace
Small talk and casual conversations are not really the norm in a German workplace. Sure, people do talk – but the lighter end of the conversation spectrum is saved for after work. Nonetheless, there are still ways to insert a little levity into each exchange. For example, if a conversation calls for a non-committal response, you could respond with ‘Jein,’ which means ‘Yes and no’ or ‘Yes, but…’. These kinds of relaxed terms allow for a degree of context to be expressed, which you can then explain in more detail.
If you are feeling a little out of your depth in a business meeting, you could fall back on one of our favourite German phrases, ‘Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof’. While literally translating as ‘I only understand train station,’ it’s a neat conversational phrase that operates in the same way as ‘I can’t make head nor tail of this’ or ‘It’s all Greek to me!’ By indicating that you have tried to understand but you might be a little left behind by the conversation or subject matter, you have an opportunity to add a light touch to the conversation and show an understanding of a different facet of the German language, while hopefully steering the conversation to a more mutually agreeable – and understandable – place.
It is always better to try using your language skills where you can, even if they cannot always deliver the outcomes you need – the effort will almost certainly be appreciated!
Build up your slang vocabulary
These are just a few of the ways you can dial down the formality and ramp up the fun factor as you get to know your new German-speaking colleagues. Many German speakers also have a degree of understanding of English too, so hopefully you and your colleagues will find common ground across the two languages.
Practice makes progress too (‘perfect’ is a nice goal to have, but ‘progress’ feels much more realistic!). Look for ways to practice your formal language skills in different settings, and you may well pick up some additional slang terms along the way that add a fun dimension to your language-learning experience.
Here at Simon & Simon, we understand that learning a new language is about more than scientifically conveying meaning – it is also about emotionally connecting with the people and organisations we work with. If you would like to find out more about learning German in a way that achieves your language-learning goals while keeping in mind the real-life ways you intend to use the language, contact us today. We can work with you and your organisation to create a bespoke language training program that helps your team progress towards achieving its language-learning goals in a practical and enjoyable way.