Up your knowledge of German and Germany with three online options

Up your knowledge of German and Germany with three online options

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

It’s likely been a while since you’ve heard the words “OK, class. It’s time to settle down and turn to page 198.” While book learning might not be part of our busy daily routines these days, the opportunity to educate ourselves with the tap of a finger exists anytime we have a 15-minute block of downtime and a smartphone. Instead of killing time playing Call of Duty while you’re waiting for that dental appointment, for a change of pace why not turn to an app or website offering a mental workout and the chance to learn a bit of German language or culture?

Geography quizzes: How well do you know the 16 states that make up the Federal Republic of Germany? Familiarize yourself with the lay of the land with one of the many map quizzes on the Seterra website. Once you’ve thoroughly versed yourself on the physical difference between Saxony and Lower Saxony, you can take on cities, countries bordering Germany, rivers and lakes, state capitals and more. Proud of your score? Pin it on Facebook to impress and inspire your friends. Ready to advance to “profi” level? Check out a game such as one by Geoludum, in which the challenge is to quickly drop a pin as close as possible to the city whose name pops up.

Learn German idiomatic expressions: Think just how often everyday speech is peppered with idiomatic phrases that may be fun but don’t make a lot of sense, raining cats and dogs or fit as a fiddle being only the tip of the iceberg. Germans tend to use plenty of idioms in everyday conversation too. Theirs are so totally different, however, that translating their literal meanings into English can be cause for both giggles and head-scratching. For a bit of fun as you build your vocabulary, check out lists of German idioms as posted on chatterbug or a number of other language-learning websites. Alternately, simply google the phrase “Funny German idioms.” Don’t shove it off to the long bench; do it now!

Translate song lyrics: Have you ever, while flicking through the radio dial, encountered a German earworm? The wonderful German expression Ohrwurm refers to one of those catchy tunes you just can’t get out of your head. Once you’ve managed to name that tune (no idea? Shazam might be of help here…) go onto youtube and google the song title, followed by the phrase “mit Liedtext,” or “with lyrics.” You’re likely to find a video in which the words to the song appear in the order they’re sung, karaoke-style. Singing along will help to improve your German pronunciation and introduce you to some new words and phrases. But what do the words actually mean? Conduct a search for the lyrics, this time with google, and once you’ve pulled them up, right-click with your mouse and choose the “translate to English” option.

Should Google’s literal translation of the words leave you baffled, you’ll be happy to learn that a number of budding linguists find it a great exercise to translate song lyrics with poetic license, seeking to capture the essence of a song with an English word pattern that fits in time to the beat. These keen learners will then post the results of their efforts on a website such as lyricstranslate.com.

Another fun way to pair a love for music with language learning is to seek out the German-language version of a popular English song. For example, anyone who’s ever been to a German fest can attest to the locals’ enduring love for John Denver’s Take me Home, Country Roads. So it’s probably not a surprise to learn there’s a German version of that (Dieser Weg führt nach Hause) along with lyrics for singing along. A handful of German-language versions of songs in English were even recorded by the original artists: the Beatles She Loves You (Sie liebt dich), David Bowie’s Heroes (Helden) or The Temptations’ My Girl (Mein Girl). Now there’s some sunshine on a cloudy day.

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