I don’t know about you, but before I visit a new place (or return to a semi-familiar one), I like to learn or brush up on some of the language. I rely heavily on things Duolingo, Google Translate (although I don’t always trust it), and refer to an old textbook or two if I have some. Don’t get me wrong—these can be great resources, but you can bet your bottom’s dollar that they’ll teach you to sound like an American German textbook. If you’re cool with that, I’m not judging! But if you’d rather not completely give yourself away, here are 15 German phrases that’ll make you sound like a native:
Whether you want to say “hi,” “how are ya?”, or both, this one-syllable word will do. It’s the simplest (maybe in the entire world) to greet someone, so why not give it a go? It can also be used if you want to ask how something went, like a date or an exam. Whatever it is, “na?” will do. Just try to remember that “Na und?” means something totally different—“so what” to be exact.
2. “Was geht ab?”
This is the common way to say “what’s up?” to your comrades, but just like in English, it can be used as a greeting. An easy way to remember this one? It sounds a little like what it means, minus the “geht.”
3. “Mach’s gut!”
Make your goodbye’s less bland by using this phrase. It’s literal translation? “Make it good.” But it’s meaning is taken as “make it a good one” or “have a good one.”
If you’re a people person, you’re bound to make a good friend or two during your visit—especially if you stay for a while. In this case, you might get the urge to call them “dude” or “bud.” That’s when knowing the term “alter” or “alta” comes in handy. But be warned: it’s literal translation is “old one,” so don’t jump the gun and wait till you find your German soul brother.
5. “Ist gebongt.”
This phrase is a succinct way to confirm agreement or understanding about something for all kinds of situations. Whether you’re asked to get the groceries on the way home or to go to dinner at 8pm, “ist gebongt” will seal the deal.
6. “Auf jeden Fall.”
While this phrase really translates to “in any case,” it’s often used to say “for sure.” In a sense, it’s another good way to confirm something, whether it’s plans with friends or an idea someone has.
7. “Na ja…”
Need a couple seconds to remember the correct conjugation for what you’re about to say? Use “Na ja” as a filler word to give yourself some time. They’ll think you’re just saying “well…” and collecting your thoughts—which—in another sense—you are.
Disagree with someone but don’t want to come off as judging? Or maybe you’re not sure what you think about something, and want to express that? The word to use is “jein” at the beginning of your sentence. It combines the German words for “yes” (ja) and “no” (nein) to create something like “yes but…”
If you’re someone who’s just enthusiastic about life, you’re going to love this one. “Krass!” is used to express a strong reaction to something—anything, really! It’s usually used in a positive way, but it can be used if you feel profusely negative about something as well.
10. “Das ist bescheuert!”
This is the phrase to use when something just really stinks. Whether you forgot your wallet for dinner, missed the bus, got stood up for a date, or failed an exam, “Das ist bescheuert!” will express the disappointment.
This one’s simple. When you’re out with friends and enjoying a nice meal, or after someone’s given a toast, “prost!” is your German version of “cheers!”
12. “Stimmt so.”
A handy phrase when out to eat—or even at the corner store, if you’d like—use the term “stimmt so” to tell your waiter or cashier to keep the change.
13. “Bock haben”
Use the saying I’m “in the mood for” a lot? Well, whether it’s cookies, a nap, or an adventure, “bock haben” will convey it.
I like this one mostly because it sounds fun, and because I’m an avid fan of “just chillin’.” If you’re the same way, you’ll find this term very useful when you want to let people know that you just want to relax for the evening or hang out with some friends.
15. “der spinnt”
Whether you’ve got a crazy friend that you’re slightly embarrassed of, or there’s an actual loon across the street, “der spinnt” is the phrase for “he’s crazy.”
Now that you’ve got some not-so-textbook idioms under your belt, get out there and start sounding like a true German!
Contributing Author: Arliss Veldhuizen
Arliss is the Managing Editor at http://trekbible.com as well a social media editor at IncomeStore. She is also a writer and aspiring novelist. Arliss has family all over the world including the Ivory Coast, Denmark, Germany, and the Dominican Republic—a fact that greatly contributes to her passion for travel and culture.