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Learn German Online - Start Speaking Immediately through Basic Conversation Training: Lesson One

Updated on February 11, 2013

Before we Begin

Before you begin learning any language, the most important first step is to know how it sounds and how to pronounce it yourself. Before studying the grammar of German (or the grammar of any language, for that matter), I recommend getting a sense for the sound of the language at first. Of course, I include English phonetic transcriptions of the German texts throughout this introductory course, but we have to remember that language has traditionally been an oral and aural experience first, and a visual experience second.

I recommend starting by listening to German music, radio stations, watching German programs and films (all of this can be easily accessed online). Even though you won’t understand, you will develop a sense for the sound of the language; its rhythm, flow, and stress.

I am also a strong proponent of the Michel Thomas method for language learning. This method is strictly oral and aural demanding of the learner to listen and speak in such a way as to maximize the ability to remember what he or she has learned.

Introductory Notes on the Beginners Lessons

For beginners, the emphasis will be on practical everyday conversational elements of the language. The point is that you not only learn vocabulary and grammar, but that you can also immediately put theory into practice with relevant and useful talking points that are used in a wide variety of situations.

The basic paradigm of each lesson follows that of the first (below). You will find a vocabulary list, explanation of grammar, a text that ensures the learner internalizes and comprehends the theoretical vocabulary and grammar through practical use, and a transcription of the text into English phonetics with the stressed syllable written in bold.

Without further ado, let’s start learning German grammar and basic phrases!

Vocabulary

Note: Don't worry about the seemingly daunting volume of vocabulary and grammar. You will find it beneficial to give the vocabulary a glance, then the text, and then keep returning to the vocabulary for words you have forgotten. Remember, practical use is the key to internalizing all of this new information.

Hallo, Hello

wie, how

gehen, to go

es, it

dir, to you

wie geht es dir?, how is it going? (wie geht’s dir?, how’s it going?)

in, in/into

die, (feminine article) the

Universität/Uni, University

was, what

haben, to have

du, you

noch, still/yet

vor, (preposition) before/in front of

Was has du noch vor?, What are you up to later?

Ich, I

das, (neutral article) the

ins (in das), into the

Kino, cinema

Ich gehe ins Kino, I’m going to the cinema

mit, with

meiner (dative feminine), my

Freundin, girlfriend

viel, much/a lot

Spaß, fun

Viel Spaß! Have fun!

Danke, thanks

sein, to be

gespannt, excited

darauf, (in this case) about it

Tschüss, Bye

Ciao, Bye

Grammar


Definite Article: The

Nominitive (Subject Case)

Masculine: Der

Feminine: Die

Neutral: Das

Accusative (Object Case)

Masculine: Den

Feminine: Die

Neutral: Das

You will notice that for both cases, feminine and neutral remain the same. The nominative case is used when the noun preceded by the definite article is the subject of the sentence (Der Mann geht ins Kino, the man goes to the cinema). The Accusative case is used when the noun preceded by the definite article is the object of the sentence (Ich kenne den Mann, I know the man).

Please make note of this as it is a distinction we do not at all make in the English language.


Personal pronouns

Nominative: ich, du

Accusative: mich, dich (we will meet these forms in later lessons)

*Dative: mir, dir

*We will deal with the details oft he dative case in later lessons.

For the sake of clarity: ich, mich, mir means I, me, (to) me, and du, dich, dir, means you, you, (to) you respectively.


Verbs

German infinitive verbs always end with either -en or -n. Removal of the -en or -n gives you the stem (standard element) of the verb, which is then given a variety of endings depending on the conjugation.

Please note the conjugation of sein (to be) because, as is typical of European languages, it is wildly irregular.

sein (to be)
haben (to have)
gehen (to go)
ich bin
ich habe
ich gehe
du bist
du hast
du gehst
er/sie/es ist
er/sie/es hat
er/sie/es geht
wir sind
wir haben
wir gehen
ihr seid
ihr habt
ihr geht
sie/Sie sind
sie/Sie haben
sie/Sie gehen

Text

S: Hallo Klaus!

K: Hallo Simon, wie geht es dir?

S: Es geht mir gut. Ich gehe heute in die Uni. Was hast du noch vor?

K: Ich gehe ins Kino mit meiner Freundin, Clara.

S: Viel Spaß!

K: Danke, ich bin gespannt darauf.

S: Tschüss!

K: Ciao!


English Phonetic Transcription

S: Hallo Klaus!

K: Hallo Simon, vee gate ess deer?

S: Ess gate meer goot. Eek* gaya huytah in dee oonie. Vah-ss hast doo nawk* for?

K: Eek* gaya ins keeno mit my-ner fruyn-din, Clara.

S: Feel spah-ss!

K: Dahnka, eek* bin gespannt da-rowff.

S: Chooss!

K: Chow!


*Rather than a K-sound, -ch in German is more of a hiss at the back of the throat. It is comparable to the -ch in the Irish “loch”, or the X of the Russian alphabet.

Comments

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    • Spongy0llama profile imageAUTHOR

      Jake Brannen 

      5 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for your input. I will keep that in mind as I construct future lessons. However, as you may have noticed in this lesson, even that simple dialogue sparked a long vocabulary list and advanced grammar that should not have been in the first lesson.

      Still, I will do my best to improve the usefulness and practicality of future lessons. It is after all the learner's needs that are the most important :)

    • skgrao profile image

      S K G Rao. 

      5 years ago from Bangalore City - INDIA.

      Please teach full sentences like:-

      You are a nice person.

      Do you like coffee or Tea.

      Come home for Dinner.

      Like the above sentences so we can speak instead of trying to assemble sentences from words.

      Tschüss /Ciao

    • Spongy0llama profile imageAUTHOR

      Jake Brannen 

      5 years ago from Canada

      Thank you. I really just threw it together. In retrospect, I put way too much grammar in the first lesson than I should have. I'm making a point to more carefully systematize future installments. I am glad you enjoyed it and thank you for sharing.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      SpongyOllama,

      This is a great hub for understanding the grammar of beginning German conversation. I studied German for three semesters in college in the mid 60s with the emphasis on reading and not speaking German. This hub brings back a lot which I thought I had forgotten. It would be great if you could add a recording of your very good dialogue. Voted up and sharing with followers and on Facebook. Also Pinning.

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