You’ve mastered the Akkusativ, Nominativ and even the dreaded Dativ case.
You’re an expert on adjective endings.
You’re the queen of German word order and could explain it to someone in your sleep.
You believe you’ve managed to successfully immerse yourself in the German language. All those German YouTube videos must have really paid off!
Confident in your Deutsch abilities, you decide to call your German health insurance or the German guy you just started dating.
And you completely freeze up.
Looks like it’s time to practice the art of German conversation!
Why Is It Important to Practice German Conversation?
There are a few different reasons why it’s important to improve your German beyond simply memorizing adjective endings and learning how to separate verbs.
- Conversations can often take unexpected turns. One of the most important things you can do as a new language learner is learn to think on your feet. It’s easy to memorize a dialogue, but it’s a lot harder to interact with people in a natural and easy-going manner when you don’t know where a conversation is going. Practicing the art of conversation in a foreign language will prepare you for those days when you’re out and about and dealing with the unexpected.
- People in movies and TV shows don’t always speak realistically. Movies and TV shows as well as news and videos can be a great way to practice your German comprehension skills. However, remember that movies and TV shows are written by writers, and, as such, are not always the best reflection of how real people talk and interact (especially if the movies or TV shows take place in the past). For real practice, you’ll need to interact with people in real life.
- If your conversational skills aren’t up to snuff, people will switch to English. If you’re planning to use your German within Germany, keep in mind that many people, especially in the former West Germany, are at least bilingual. That means that if people sense hesitation or uncertainty, they just might switch to English—and you’ll lose your chance to practice.
Where Can I Practice My German Conversation if I Don’t Live in Germany?
Before we tell you all about the different scenarios you can use or imagine to practice your German conversation, let’s take a quick look at places to work on your conversation skills if you live outside of Deutschland.
The concept of TandemPartners is simple; it pairs you up with a person who wants to learn your language and who also speaks the language you want to learn. So, for example, if you’re a native English speaker, Tandem might help you find a German speaker from Hamburg who wants to work on his or her English skills. Tandem partners typically meet up for drinks or events a few times a month to practice their conversation skills.
The magic of the Internet is such that you can practice German with native speakers without even leaving your house. If you take advantage of one of the many chat services online, like WeSpeke, you can practice your German conversational skills from anywhere in the world.
Local Goethe Instituts
The Goethe Institut is Germany’s most famous language school, with locations all over the world. Goethe Instituts often run events where you can meet other German learners who might want to practice their speaking skills with you.
5 Everyday Scenarios to Get Your German Conversation Practice Rolling
Of course, if you’re lucky enough to live in Germany, you’ll have access to plenty of everyday scenarios in which you can practice your German conversational skills. But although you can use each of the following five scenarios for practice in real life, you can also use these scenarios to inspire conversational role-play with language learning partners, or even to write out your own practice dialogues. Either way, these will get you started on studying some important aspects of real German conversation that will pay off immensely!
1. At the Apotheke (pharmacy)
What’s an Apotheke?
An Apotheke is a German pharmacy—but it’s a bit different from pharmacies in the United States, for example. Whereas an American pharmacy usually appears at the back of a store like Rite Aid, CVS or Walgreens, German pharmacies are separate stores that typically only sell medicines and remedies to prevent or treat illness or disease. You need a prescription to buy certain medications at the pharmacy, but you can also buy non-prescription treatments for maladies such as dry eye or the common cold. The best part? Pharmacists are there to help you figure out just what you need to buy to get better.
Sample conversation at the Apotheke:
You: Hallo. Ich suche nach Augentropfen. (Hello. I am looking for eye drops.)
Pharmacist: Warum? Haben Sie ein Problem mit Ihren Augen? (Why? Do you have a problem with your eyes?)
You: Kein großes Problem, aber meine Augen werden manchmal trocken. (Not a big problem, but sometimes my eyes get dry.)
Pharmacist: Okay. Brauchen Sie eine Flasche, oder einmalige Tropfen? (Okay, do you need a bottle, or one-time-use drops?)
You: Einmalige, bitte. (One-time-use, please.)
2. At the grocery store
What kinds of grocery stores are there in Germany?
Germany is home to a wide variety of different grocery stores. It’s possible to buy plenty of food for very few euros at budget grocery stores like Aldi, Lidl or Netto; it’s also possible to blow your whole paycheck at fancy Whole Foods-esque stores like Denn’s Biomarkt. Then there are the middle-of-the-road stores like Kaiser’s and Rewe, plus farmer’s markets and convenience stores that sell fruit and dry goods.
Sample conversation at the grocery store (at the cash register):
Cashier (scanning your groceries): Haben Sie eine Kundenkarte? (Do you have a customer card?)
You: Nein, um… was eigentlich ist eine Kundenkarte? (No, um… actually, what is a customer card?)
Cashier: Ah, mit einer Kundenkarte können Sie Punkte und Rabatte verdienen. (Ah, with a customer card, you can earn points and discounts.)
You: Also, ich könnte Geld sparen. (Ah, so I could save money.)
Cashier: Genau. Es it doch sehr sicher—wir sammeln keine persönlichen Daten. (Exactly. But it’s very safe. We don’t collect your personal data.)
3. At the doctor’s office
What are doctor’s offices like in Germany?
Doctor’s offices in Germany are probably different from what you would expect. They tend to be small, cozy rooms on the first floors of apartment buildings. Most of them offer walk-in hours, not appointments, and visits are very cheap (approximately 20 euros), even without insurance.
Sample conversation at the doctor’s office:
You: Ich habe Rückenschmerzen. (I have back pain.)
Doctor: Hm. Wie lange haben Sie solche Schmerzen erlebt? (How long have you had this pain?)
You: Seit Dienstag. Ich glaube, dass es von einem unbequemen Stuhl verursacht wird. (Since Tuesday. I think it’s coming from an uncomfortable chair.)
Doctor: Okay, ich schreibe Ihnen eine Einweisung. (Okay, I’ll write you a referral.)
4. At the kebab shop
What’s a kebab shop?
Wursts, potatoes and sauerkraut are no longer the only foods that define Germany. Since the mass migration of Turkish workers to the country in the middle of the 20th century, Turkish food has infiltrated German life—and the kebab is its most famous ambassador. A kebab is a piece of bread loaded with meat, vegetables and sauces. Not the healthiest food, but certainly pretty delicious. Fast food stands selling these delicacies are all over Germany’s major cities, and in many of its small towns as well.
Sample conversation at the kebab shop:
Man behind the counter: Hallo! Was soll es sein? (Hello! What’s it to be?)
You: Ich hätte gern einen Kebap, bitte. (I’d like a kebab, please.)
Man: Fleisch? (Meat?)
You: Bitte. (Please.)
Man: Alles? Gemüse? (With everything? Vegetables?)
You: Ohne Zweibeln. (Without onions.)
Man: Okay. Und welche Soße? (Okay. And which sauce?)
You: Scharf und Knoblauch, bitte. (Spicy and garlic, please.)
5. At the Kneipe (pub)
What’s a Kneipe?
A Kneipe is sort of like a bar, sort of like a British pub, but really, Kneipen are their own institution. A Kneipe is a corner bar, usually a bit dingy, usually very neighborhood-oriented, where Germans go to hang out, drink, smoke, play pool and socialize. In Berlin, you’ll find hipster Kneipe where the decorations are artfully shabby and the clientele are all young Brits or Americans; you’ll also find decidedly unfashionable Kneipe that were founded in 1913 and cater to Germans who have lived in the city since before the Wall fell.
Sample conversation at the Kneipe:
Random woman (pointing at the chair at your table): Ist hier noch frei? (Is this free?)
You: Leider nicht. Eine Freundin kommt noch. (Sadly, no. A friend is coming.)
Woman: Kein Problem. Sie haben einen Akzent—woher kommen Sie? (No problem. You have an accent—where are you from?)
You: Amerika. Und Sie? (America. And you?)
Woman: Ich bin in Berlin geboren. Ost Berlin. Eigentlich wohne ich noch in Ost Berlin, in Pankow. (I was born in Berlin. East Berlin. Actually, I still live in East Berlin, in Pankow.)
You: Und wie finden Sie das “neue Berlin”? Alles ist anders als bevor, oder? (And how do you find the “new Berlin”? Everything is different than before, right?)
Woman: Ah, Pankow hat sich nicht geändert. (Ah, Pankow hasn’t changed.)
When you’re visiting Germany or living and working in the country, it’s easy to stumble on everyday interactions that will help you practice your conversation skills and navigate the unexpected, whether you’re dealing with a rote conversation about back pain or an unanticipated question about a customer card at the grocery store.
These scenarios can help you think about what to expect. You can also use these scenarios as inspiration to craft imaginary situations with a conversation partner or by yourself to practice your skills before interacting with real-life Germans.
As long as you’re always working to practice your conversation, you’ll soon be adept at navigating Germany and confidently talking through anything that comes your way!
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