German Travel Phrases

German Speaking Destinations


Willkommen! Welcome to the Fodors German Language Page, brought to you by the language experts at Living Language. Here you'll find over 150 essential phrases for your trip.

For more German language and cultural tips, visit the Living Language German Blog.

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German is spoken by about 95,000,000 people, and it's the official language of Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein, as well as one of the four official languages of Switzerland. Most Swiss speakers actually speak a variety of German called Schwyzerd´┐Żtsch, so the standard German you'll hear here is really a second language to them.


German is a very close relative of English, so pronunciation isn't too terribly difficult. Just keep in mind that vowels are crisp and clear, so the German o is really one simple sound, not like the oh-oo-wuh of English!

Some important vowel sounds to remember are: ei as in line, ie as in lean, ö as in worm, but without the r, ü as in tea, but with the lips rounded, ä as in get, and eu or äu as in boy. The consonant combination sch is pronounced as in shoe, and sp and st are pronounced as shp and sht. You'll sometimes see ß, which is pronounced like boss. Finally, z is pronounced like cats.


A lot of basic German vocabulary will look familiar to you: das Haus (the house), der Hund (the dog/hound), die Strasse (the street), ein Mann (a/one man), machen (to make), sprechen (to speak) and so on. (Notice, by the way, that all nouns in German are capitalized!) That's because English is a Germanic language. But, English became heavily influenced by Latin through the Norman Conquest, so an awful lot of the English lexicon tends to look more like French than like German. Take for instance to compare, which is comparer in French, but vergleichen in German. In some ways, German vocabulary will look more foreign to you than French or Spanish!


If you want to learn to speak German, you're going to have to deal with a few issues that we don't have in English.