Whether you are traveling to Germany, Austria, Switzerland or interacting with people, here is a list of extremely useful basic German phrases. Whenever I travel or my coworkers/friends travel I prepare this very same list for them. I have found that these are the top phrases that can handle 90% of any native conversation you would need to have. Even with a travel phrase book, this list printed out can be a quick life saver.
My mother one-upped me when she went to Germany. She seemed to get by on two words: “schön” (shurn) meaning “nice” and “danke” (Dahn-kah) for thank you. These and smiling a heck of lot seemed to do it for her. Please try a little harder than she did.
1) Hi / Bye
Hallo (Ah-lo) / Auf Wiedersehen (Owf Vee-dur-zay-en)
2) Yes / No
Ja (Yah) / Nein (Nine )
3) Please / Thank you
Bitte (Bit-tah) / Danke (Dahn-kah)
4) Excuse me
Entschuldigen Sie (ent-Shool-dig-gun Zee)
5) Where is . . .? (…the bathroom)
Wo ist …? (Voh Ist) (… das Badezimmer) (Dass Bah-duh-zim-er)
The train station Der Bahnhof (Dair bahn-Hohf)
The bus station Der Busbahnhof (Dair Boos-bahn-Hohf)
The police station Die Polizeistation (Dee Poh-lit-Zie-shtat-Zee-ohn)
The embassy Die Botschaft (Dee Boht-Shahft)
The hospital Das Krankenhaus (Dahs Krahn-ken-How-ss)
6) Take me to … please.
Nehmen Sie mich … bitte. (Nay-men Zee Mihck … bit-Tah)
TIP: For this one, I have found it most helpful to have a business card card (especially from your hotel), or a written name of the location you wish to go to and point to it as you say “hier” (heer) in between “mich” and “bitte”. It gives the driver/person a chance to study the location without asking you to repeat anything or to get into a lengthy conversation.
7) Do you speak English? / I don’t speak German.
Sprechen Sie Englisch? (shpreck-Ken Zee Eng-lish) / Ich spreche kein Deutsch. (Eeck shpreck-Kuh Kine Doytch)
8) How much is this?
Wie viel ist das? (Vee Feel Ist Dass)
TIP: A nice shortcut for this is to just say “Wie viel?” Most Germans will understand what you mean and, in fact, use this abbreviated phrase themselves.
9) My name is… / What is your name?
Ich heisse … (Eeck hi-Suh) / Wie heissen Sie? (Vee hi-Sen Zee)
TIP: How the person answers this one will tell you a LOT in Germany. If they answer, “Frau …” (Frow) meaning Misses, “Fräulein…” (fraw-Line) meaning Miss, or “Herr …” (Hair) meaning Mister, they want to keep their relationship with you on a formal basis only. If they answer with just their name, then they are more relaxed and you can be too.
10) I need a doctor!
Ich brauche einen Arzt! (Eeck brow-Kuh eye-Nen Ahrrst)
Now that you have the basics . . . get out there and meet some people!
The Cheat Sheet:
- Hi / Bye Hallo / Auf Wiedersehen
- Yes / No Ja / Nein
- Please / Thank you Bitte / Danke
- Excuse me Entschuldigen Sie
- Where is…? Wo ist…?
- Take me to…please. Nehmen Sie mich…bitte.
- Do you speak English? Sprechen Sie Englisch?
- I don’t speak German. Ich spreche kein Deutsch.
- How much is this? Wie viel ist das?
- My name is… Ich heisse …
- What is your name? Wie heissen Sie?
- How much does it cost? Wie viel kostet es?
Author: Robert J. Gorman, Jr.