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Needed: German Words for a Weekend Trip

This past week I travelled through Austria and Germany, both homes to a challenging and somewhat-rough sounding language: German

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I had tried to learn some common German phrases through the online, language-learning program, Mango, before taking this trip. It's great that my public library in the States offers this online program for free! I learned how to tell someone that the meal was good ("Das abendessen ist lecker"), and that I was going to the department store to buy a pair of pants and a dress ("Ich gehe ins Kaufhaus und kaufe eine hose und ein kleid.") To be quite honest, I felt pretty good about my minimal German skills before our trip. But, I didn't realize that I was missing out on some very vital words that would come in handy on a short trip to a German-speaking country. 

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Through experiences and interactions that I had during this trip, here are some words that I wish I had studied before traveling to Austria and Germany. I greatly recommend learning this vocabulary before your weekend excursions!

  1. Numbers! When ordering yummy pretzels (or beers), it is very useful to know how to count in German. I got into a somewhat awkward situation at a cafe when trying to order a wrap, where I kept going back and forth with the clerk about how many wraps I actually wanted to buy (I just wanted one). Also, when you make purchases, it makes the payment portion of the transaction much easier. Here is a website that has a helpful numbers table, as well as a video with the pronounciations of common numbers. I wish I had studied this before my trip! I find videos to be the most helpful for learning, because the pronounciation of most German words is not as it appears at first glance.
  2. "Where is the restroom?" I found once I got to Austria and Germany that I wasn't quite sure what they call restrooms. Is it a WC? A water closet? A toilet? Here is a website that cleared it up for me. This is obviously a vital question to be able to ask, and also an embarrasing one if you can't seem to figure it out.
  3. Water. I knew how to say "wasser" in German when I arrived on my trip, but I didn't know how it was spelled! Sometimes this can be a complicated part of German, unlike a language like Turkish, because the words are not always phonetically pronounced. Once I realized how water was spelled, it cleared up a lot of confusion, especially when visiting the Trick Fountains ("Wasserspiele") at Schloss Hellbrunn in Salzburg. 
  4. Days of the week and months of the year. As soon as I arrived in Vienna, I started seeing signs for exhibits and performances. But I couldn't tell if the advertisements were out of date, or if the activities were occurring during my stay! For instance, in Vienna, I saw a beautiful poster showing Monet and Picasso, two of my favorite artists. But I wasn't sure if they were currently being exhibited at the Albertina or not, because I couldn't read the dates. Luckily for me, they were still there, and I got to view a beautiful Waterlilies painting and some cool surrealism works. I quickly realized that learning the days and months would have been very useful for this trip. Here is a site that helps you learn the days and months in German.
  5. Eingang and Ausgang. When traveling by underground metro in foreign countries, you often see people get off of the metro and stand in place for a while, just looking each way with no idea where to go. That was me. Knowing the words for "entrance" and "exit" can become vital when you are finding your way around a new city. "Eingang" means entrance, and "ausgang" means exit in German; two very important words to learn before a trip. 

Learning the language for a place that you are only visiting for a few days can seem of little value sometimes, and can fall low on your pre-trip priority list. In Germany and Austria, I found that most people did speak English, which was of a huge help to me and my family. But even with all the English speakers, it would have been very helpful for me to know the vocabulary that I listed above. Hopefully you will have an even better experience in these countries with this toolbox of useful vocabulary in hand. 

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Enjoy your travels in German-speaking countries!


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