Travel Guide German Phrasebook
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The main countries German is spoken in are Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. It is also an official language of Belgium, where a small population of German speakers live in the Walloon Region. There are other significant European German communities in Italy (Bolzano-Bozen province also known as Süd-Tirol), France (Alsace) and in some border towns in Denmark. Hungary and Romania used to have significant numbers of German speakers (the so-called Siebenbürger Sachsen), but many of them emigrated to Germany in the 1990's. Yet some pockets of German speakers still remain and due to being neighbors with Austria many young Hungarians have an above-average interests learning German. In Namibia, which used to be a German colony, German is still a recognized regional language.
In many countries surrounding Germany, people are likely to understand you in German, but always ask if it is okay to speak German to them.
Because of these numerous countries where German is understood and spoken, it is a good language to learn as a traveller. Knowing a few phrases in German can get you out of lots of sticky spots in many parts of Europe, particularly Central and Eastern Europe.
The German alphabet has all 26 letters of the English alphabet plus the umlauts ä, ö, ü and the ligature ß. The umlauts and ß are normally not considered to be part of the alphabet. If you are using an English keyboard you should spell the umlauts and ß the following way:
The reason for the spelling is that the umlauts are actually a contraction of the letters a, o and u with the vowel e - spoken together they form a new sound. The umlaut ä is pronounced the same way Americans pronounce a while the German a is pronounced just as in Spanish or French.
ß is pronounced as a sharp s-sound. Tourists will most likely encounter this letter in the word "Straße", meaning "street".
for making numbers above 20, you can use the same construction as is used for 21 and 22. It is always something (below ten) and something. e.g. 73 = drei + seibzig = dreiundseibzig. Above 100, eg 173: 100, 3 + 70 = hundertdreiundsiebzig. Note there is no und between hundert and the first number.
Note that in German like in almost all of Europe decimal numbers are written with a comma. For example the decimal number representing a half would be written as 0,5 in German. The comma that is used in American English when writing big numbers such as € 50,000.00 (fiftythousand Euros) is replaced with a dot and vice versa, fiftythousand Euros is therefore written € 50.000,00 in German.
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Many Germans use an inner compass, instead of saying "turn left at this street and right at that bridge" they point in the general direction, say the distance and you have to figure out your own way.
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The German foreign broadcasting service Deutsche Welle has various online courses. The material is a bit dated (Deutschmarks are still used in some texts), but otherwise it is very good. And the best thing - it is totally free! Most visitors will be especially partial to their PDA- and mobile phone friendly downloadable course for tourists, see Deutsch Mobil
They also offer some other materials and resources for advanced learners of German such as specifically edited texts accompanied by sound, for some of these you need to subscribe and pay for.
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