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German Language Mining Podcast
15 minutes | May 29, 2016
Language Partner – How to find one …
Wouldn't it be nice to have a language partner? A native speaker who would answer your questions and correct you when necessary? Well, yes, that's actually called a language trainer, unless, you do the same thing for him that he does for you. Find out more about how to find a language partner on http://languagemining.de/ including: - Dating your language teacher - Finding a language partner on social media - Language Partner sites - Criteria to select a language partner - Sex (meaning man or woman) - Level of education and interests - Country of origin - Paid or free service? - Liability or sent me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
14 minutes | May 8, 2016
Language Training Myths
Actually 10 Language Training Myths is not the right title I have to admit that I have stolen the idea to this episode. Language training and strength training – or sports activities in general – are very similar. You just have to think of building brain muscles. So, my inspiration has come from a blog post on prevention.com called "10 Strength-Training Myths You Need To Stop Believing". And here are the 10 myths as seen from a language learner's perspective: 1. It's a guy thing 2. It'll turn you into a hulk. 3. It burns fewer calories than cardio. 4. It's hard to regain muscle once it's gone. 5. Light weights are all you need. 6. You'll never have time to fit it in. 7. You need a gym. 8. It's all about muscle. 9. Body-weight exercises are just as good. 10. You'll see results instantly. Okay, and don't forget: trainings myths are not your friend. Get rid of them as soon as possible.
9 minutes | Apr 28, 2016
Do NOT Learn German
Do not learn German. Stop it! Yes, you have heard me: Do not learn German. And I mean it. So, you are saying that this is a very strange piece of advice from somebody who is offering his German language coaching and teaching services, hmm? No, it is not. Please, rest assured that I am aware of what I am doing and I did it on purpose. So, why by no means shouldn't you learn German? As always, you will get the short answer right away: Because I don't want you to lose time and money and energy. There are so many languages that I have started to learn and then – for whatever reason – I gave up. Shouldn't I have stopped it in the very beginning before spending time and money and energy? And yes, there are so many other languages that I started out to learn, and I kept learning, I am still learning, I have never stopped using them, and, in the end I have reached a nice comfortable skill level that I am happy with. In other words: I became fluent in those languages. Let's compare this issue to other things in your life. Say, you want to build a house or buy an apartment. For most people that would be a major investment. It is not an easy decision because so many things depend on it. After all the decision has a major impact on your wallet and your time, and your energy. Once you have built that house or bought that apartment you want to live in it. And if the house is not finished, if you haven't got furniture or even a roof and windows, you just can't move in. Meaning that it is finished when it is usable. Let's assume you build a house and your running out of time, money and energy. Wouldn't it be better not to have made that decision in the first place? How to know if learning German is worthwhile? First of all you should imagine your life after having mastered the language. What is different from now (I don't speak German) to then (I speak German fluently)? Now, your answers could be something like: 'I will have a wonderful time in Germany speaking to a lot of friends.' or 'I will understand everything in German business meetings even when they don't speak English.' or 'My sales will go up by at least 25% once I am able to speak German fluently.'. Okay, good answers. All of them. Another possible answer to the question 'What will be different then' could be: 'Nothing will change. I will be able to speak German, however, that doesn't change my life.' That's not a good answer. To be honest, there are no good or bad answers. You should be able to make a better decision based on that answer. Learning German or any other language is not something you do along the way. It is a major project that requires time and money and energy. So, use your resources wisely.
14 minutes | Apr 20, 2016
Since a lot of people speak English in both Germany and Austria, do you actually need to learn Business German? The short answer is no, you don't have to. If you are visiting Germany every now and then English would probably do in most cases. Does something like Business German even exist? Unfortunately, it does. Actually in any language and in any given context a specify language is used. In a normal context that would be the very language itself plus some technical terms which are not used outside that context. Business German however consists of German grammar and a lot of English terms mixed into the German language. Some of these words aren't English at all such as beamer, which is the projector that you can connect to a computer or a handy, which is a cellphone. Other English words are subdued to conjugation and declension. So, 'gedownloadet' would be the participle 'downloaded' or 'des Managements' is not the plural of management but the genitive meaning 'of the management'. Most of the words borrowed from English are neuter thus having the article 'das'. Sometimes, however, the article of the English word is derived from the German word. Two examples for that would be 'der Style' where 'der Stil' is the German word, or 'der Computer' which is a synonym for 'der Rechner'. And there are some English words used in Business German where nobody knows why the respective gender is used. 'der Look' is such a word, the German translation is not 'der' but 'das Aussehen'. The funniest thing about Business German, however, is the pronunciation of the English words. Well, yes, we do pronounce them "the English way" but we add our own accent to it. That is really not a big deal. Even when spoken with a German accent these words are easily understood by any native (and non-native) speaker. The funny aspect about it is that one should not try to use a British or an American accent. It just doesn't sound well. For our German ears it is like an interference in the German flow of the sentence. German speakers who have lived an English speaking country and therefore know how to speak with a native English accent, should really avoid to pronounce the words properly. It sounds a little posh or snobbish. Well, that's not your problem, it is definitely ours. With this in mind, it sounds even worse to us when English speaker are unable to adopt the German accent. Believe me, 'America' sounds a lot different from 'Amerika'. If this is not enough for you, here are 21 phrases to help you get on in a German office from the local.de
8 minutes | Apr 15, 2016
Speaking English In Germany
So, your mother tongue is English? Well, you have a big advantage because English is spoken by many many people. And the Germans may not be as good as the Dutch or Scandinavians, however, you can do whatever you want to do in Germany using English in Germany. This big advantage is also your biggest enemy. And I would like to invite you to read this blog post from the non-profit organisation Historic Highlights of Germany e.V. Wow! We German really do speak English very well. Although, in that article it says “the younger generation, which I would qualify as anyone 40 years old or younger” speaks very well. Hmm, that excludes me. What a pity! When paying close intention to writer of this post you will discover that he does not speak German (or very little, that is). And he claims that one can speak English in Germany wherever one wants to. So, my conclusion would be: WHY BOTHER TO LEARN GERMAN AT ALL? No. You shouldn’t do that. And I am saying this for two reasons. First, I would like the occasional business or leisure traveller to refrain from learning German and hence save a lot of time. (I will share a secret here: I was just struggling with a word. I didn’t know whether to choose hence, therefore or thus. Anyway, hence seems the best choice. What do you think?) Well, some simple words such as ‘danke’ (thanks) or ‘Guten Morgen’ (good morning), ‘Guten Tag’ (good day or good afternoon) and ‘Guten Abend’ (good evening) are not really helpful but rather polite. One sentence that I would definitely learn in any language is ‘Excuse me. I don’t speak … Do you speak English?’. That sentence will break the ice. Believe me. WHAT’S THE BIGGEST MISTAKE WHEN USING ENGLISH IN GERMANY? Yes. That’s the biggest mistake. Which mistake, you are asking? Well, I have just described it. You have forgotten to say the most important sentence: ‘Excuse me. I don’t speak German. Do you speak English?’ Always, always ask that question. You are a foreigner, remember? And we German are not as hospitable as …, well as …, say, Americans. So, we don’t like people who visit our country and feel at home. Just like that. No. But if you break the ice but just saying one single sentence in German. Wow. That’s it. I mean, it is breaking the ice. Just remember that one … for the rest of the countries you are going to visit, and not only Germany. SO, WHAT’S THE SECOND BIGGEST MISTAKE? This one is not so obvious. And most people would not be able to frame it as a mistake. English native speakers assume that everybody speaks English in Germany. So, they start out in English. Yes, that was the biggest mistake number one. Here is a variation of mistake number one: Once you speak German, do NOT use English words. Yes, that is weird. Let’s say, I am a native English speaker and I am in Germany. And I want to say: May I see the room, please? Unfortunately I don’t know the word for ‘room’. So, I say: Kann ich das ‘room’ sehen, bitte. Wow! That sentence is wrong. And I even applied the English word order in the German sentence. And that is not such a big problem. The big mistake is using the English word ‘room’ instead of the German word ‘Zimmer’. Just learn this simple rule: When speaking German, speak German. Okay, so what are you going to do in this situation when you have to admit that you don’t know the German word for ‘room’?
10 minutes | Apr 12, 2016
That’s it. Here you will get first hand information about something you always wanted to know: What is the meaning behind the articles. I mean, come on, there are articles in English. There is one definite article and one or maybe two indefinite ones. They really don’t mean a thing. It is just about saying if something is specific or unspecific. So instead of saying ‘the house’ and ‘a house’ one might also say ‘specific house’ and ‘unspecific house’. And here is the good news: German is no different – at least not on this behalf. Yes, we distinguish between specific and unspecific just as speakers of the English language do. However, (now comes the whole truth), … THE HIDDEN INFORMATION INSIDE THE ARTICLE … we put information into the article. We use the article as a carrier that is piggy-backing information. Wow! You would never have guessed that. There is even a Wikipedia on German on German articles alone. Hmm, my curiosity led me to the Wikipedia page about English articles, and guess what, it is a lot longer!!! So, there must be something simple about German articles that we haven’t noticed yet. Let me give you a simple example. So, there are basically three articles in the German language, meaning there are three German translations for the English word ‘the’ which are ‘der’, ‘die’ and ‘das’. The funny thing about German nouns is that you (almost) never know which of the three to choose. In the following example sentences we will talk about ‘die Straße’ (‘the street’ or ‘the road’). It is “die Straße”, hence ‘der’ or ‘das’ would be the wrong article to choose. Let’s not call it feminine even though grammatically speaking ‘die’ is the feminine article, however, there are very few feminine aspects about a street if you think about it. Well, you might argue that both a street and a woman can be curved or straight, but that has nothing to do with what I am trying to explain here. The following two German sentences are both correct. Believe me. It’s my mother tongue. 'Ich gehe auf die Straße.' 'Ich gehe auf der Straße.' A word-by-word translation would be something like ‘I go on the street.’ At a first glance you might consider the first sentence correct and the latter incorrect because of the article ‘der’ instead of ‘die’. But let me reassure you that it is just a first glance for a non-native speaker who hasn’t gotten very far yet in his approach to learn the German language. ‘der’ in the second sentence is not wrong but a modified version of ‘die’. Now you know why I was refraining from calling it feminine because now we would be talking about sex transformation instead of German grammar. With this, two questions come up: How do you know that ‘der’ is a modified ‘die’ and not the original ‘der’, and, why does it change at all? Okay, first things first … WHY DO ARTICLES CHANGE? It has to change because it bears information. The first sentence says that I move from here to there with ‘here’ being somewhere off the street, and ‘there’ being on the street. So, I relocate. In the second sentence I just go (or walk) on the street without neither walking onto the street nor leaving it. In English you would probably change the preposition from ‘onto’ to ‘on’. In German, however, we change the article instead. HOW DO YOU TELL AN ORIGINAL FROM A MODIFICATION? Very good question. Imagine you are at a carnival ball. And there is a woman dressed like a man. Can you tell the original from the modification? Of course, in most cases, you can. The same is true for German. Just as in real life when you meat somebody new, you will put him or her into one of two categories, man or woman, right? When learning German you will do exactly the same thing. You encounter a new word such as ‘die Straße” and you put it into one of three categories ‘der’, ‘die’ or ‘das’. Can you forget the article? No, you also don’t forget that Jack is a man and Jill is a woman, do you?
12 minutes | Apr 10, 2016
Fluency in German
WHAT IS FLUENCY ANYWAY? Wikipidia has a nice sentence on the fluency page saying “Fluency is a speech language pathology term that means the smoothness or flow with which sounds, syllables, words and phrases are joined together when speaking quickly.” I once met somebody from California who said to me, Carsten, you know what, I speak German fluently. Wow, that’s great. I didn’t know that. Yeah, he said, I only know to how to say one sentence but I know how to say that sentence fluently. Although this might seem funny, isn’t that actually the way fluency works? You say the right sentence in the right moment and your conversation partner gets it. Of course, what you want to do is to say more than just one sentence. With one sentence after another the sentences become fluent. And when you think about it even with one single sentence and several words in that sentence, the very sentence can be spoken fluently. So, fluency is just about how long you want to put somebody to the test. If the situation is short enough, one sentence alone will do. I had a similar situation in China. I went into a coffee shop and ordered a coffee in Chinese. My accent was probably far from perfect, however, I could get the message across in such a way that the person behind the counter handed me a coffee and took my money. So, the whole situation only took one single sentence. Okay, this is not what most people think about when talking about fluency. For the majority fluency is being able to say whatever you want to say in any given moment. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO REACH FLUENCY? What does it take? Hmm, it takes both time and practice. And it really depends on how you define fluency. So, you can limit your personal fluency to just a few sentences. Let’s say you want to spend your vacation time in Germany and you only have to know the sentences that you need in the hotel. You can probably reach that kind of fluency in a week or so, mastering eight or nine out of ten given situations. Limiting the number of situations will definitely help you reach your personal level of fluency in a short time. That’s probably also not what people want. So, what can you do in order to speed up the process to become fluent in German? Well, you can reduce the complexity of the sentences. Actually there are techniques or methods to do that. Less complex sentences will help you to express yourself more clearly and precisely. And, of course, we are only talking about your own sentences here, meaning the sentences that you say, not the ones you want to understand. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? Okay, just give me a number of months or years or so. Isn’t that what you are thinking? Well, it is not that easy. It is not like asking the price for a new car, it is more like asking how it will cost you to bring up a child. Well, it depends, doesn’t it? Here is an answer anyway, because I know you are not content with what I have written so far. You can make it a few months. Believe me. You will have to have a good strategy, and you can achieve fluency faster than you would ever have imagined. Would you like to subscribe on iTunes? https://itunes.apple.com/at/podcast/language-mining-podcast-fremdsprachen/id861387178
10 minutes | Apr 10, 2016
Is German Hard To Learn?
SO MANY PEOPLE THINK THAT GERMAN IS HARD TO LEARN What makes them think that German could be a difficult language to master? Hard to learn? Well, there are several reasons why a lot of people think this way. We will address many—if not all—of those reasons in the context of this podcast. Oh, yes, and there are also a lot of reasons why German isn’t hard to learn. I have known a lot of foreigners in both Germany and Austria who spoke the language fairly well within a few months. Natural talents? No, not at all. They have used certain methods. They avoided certain distractions. They … well, I will tell you little by little, step by step. IS GERMAN HARDER THAT ENGLISH? The short answer is yes, for most people. The slightly longer answer is a question: Why do you bother to get an answer to that question? The answer is not beneficial. Why would you want to choose between the two languages? Maybe you are from Spain and you have two job offers, one from Germany and one from the UK. Would you really base your decision on the language? That would be dumb. I would rather ask myself if I like the country, the people, and, most importantly, do I like the job. If English is your mother tongue, and say, you would discover that German is harder than English, what you do with that fact? Right. Nothing at all. You won’t learn German the same way you learnt English. So, you are comparing the incomparable. HOW HARD IS IT REALLY? Actually the BBC has already done a pretty good job on giving 10 facts about the German language. Have fun reading them, and don’t let them discourage you. And remember: Any language is easy if you apply the right methods and strategies. If you are still not convinced, why don’t you listen to the German Language Mining podcast?
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