Duck herding, extreme ironing or even Hikaru Dorodango (dirt polishing): you’ve probably never participated in any of these activities, but did you know they’re actual hobbies?
Yes, it’s true.
See, the great thing about hobbies is that it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you have fun doing it (and be safe about it, too). So whatever you do to pass the time, meet people or just enjoy life, we salute you.
And we want to help you out by teaching you how to speak about your hobbies in German. Because knowing how to talk about your hobby in two languages makes it even more interesting and you may even learn something new along the way.
Like the fact that das Zugsurfen or train surfing, is potentially dangerous and yet, some Germans do it anyway.
Keep reading to learn more about the activities Germans do in their free time—like their much safer obsession with soccer!—and how to talk about your own favorite things to do.
Why Learn How to Talk About Hobbies in German?
Often, hobbies are a way for us to connect with the world and people around us. We can express ourselves and our interests in a common subject or field. Whether you join others in hiking famous mountains, visiting historic landmarks or even conquering the levels of a video game, hobbies allow you to connect with your peers, both in person and online.
Speaking about your hobby in German also helps you increase your vocabulary. In fact, you might find that it’s easier to memorize vocabulary surrounding your hobby because well, it’s your hobby! You’ll learn new verbs, nouns and adjectives to describe what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.
Finally, talking about your hobbies in German can be a great way to learn about—and even experiment with—other hobbies. As you improve your German fluency, you’ll delve further into the German way of life, hobbies, traditions and cultural aspects of Germany. After all, languages are never too far removed from the people who speak them!
Where to Practice Talking About Hobbies in German
At its core, practicing your German to talk about hobbies is really about pinpointing vocabulary terms for your particular hobby of choice.
For example, if you like to play sports, you’d definitely find these flashcards from Quizlet to be useful. We’re going to talk a bit more about German soccer soon, but if you’d like a preview, check out these German soccer terms here.
On the other hand, if you’ve already compiled a list of vocabulary words, you can use this free wordsearch creator. Sprinkle in a few words you’re struggling with that may not be hobby-related for extra practice. Just remember that you’ll have to use an “e” instead of an umlaut.
Otherwise, we recommend brushing up on these verbs you’ll likely use to talk about your hobby. Plus, they’re a great addition to your growing vocabulary.
How to Talk About Hobbies in German and Express Yourself in Your Free Time
Common German Verbs and Phrases to Talk About Hobbies
Here’s a very important word you’ll want to know for this post:
das Hobby — hobby
If you want the plural form, well that’s pretty easy:
die Hobbies — hobbies
Besides these, when talking about your hobby, there are many different words and phrases you’ll likely use. To help you jump-start your vocabulary, let’s take a look at a few of these key German hobby words.
German Verbs for Talking About Hobbies
Obviously, the verbs you use to talk about your hobby are going to be specific to what you like to do. We recommend looking up the infinitive of your hobby in an online dictionary. For example, if you like to play a sport, you’d use the infinitive spielen, meaning “to play.”
Some verbs you might want to use include:
aufführen — to perform
sammeln — to collect
schreiben — to write
konkurrieren — to compete
spielen — to play
Poets might tell you, “Ich schreibe die Zweizeiler,” meaning, “I write couplets.” Or what if your sister competes in an event where she’ll dance? You’d say, “Meine Schwester konkurriert im Tanzturnier.”
These are just a few ways to talk about the hobbies you love to do.
German Phrases for Describing Your Interests
Beyond describing what we actually like to do with action words, we can also talk about our hobbies in a more general way.
In English, we say, “I like to,” and then add in our hobby: “I like to swim” or “I like to dance.” Here are a few similar German phrases you might consider memorizing to describe how you feel about your hobby:
Ich habe ___ gern. — I like to [verb].
Ich ___ gut ___. — I [verb] [noun] well.
Ich kann gut ___. — I’m good at [verb-ing / noun].
___ gefällt mir. — I like [verb-ing / noun].
Let’s fill in the blanks on the second phrase Ich ___ gut ___. If we wanted to say, “I play baseball well,” we’d insert the conjugated form of spielen (in this case, spiele) and Baseball (since it’s the same word in German). Our sentence would then read:
Ich spiele Baseball gut. — I play baseball well.
Hopefully by the end of this article, you’ll be able to say, “Ich kann gut Deutsch sprechen” (I speak German well).
Now, you may be wondering about the difference between saying, for example, “I like painting pictures” and “I like to paint pictures.” In German, it’s really about what you’re trying to express.
For example, you’d say, “Ich mag Bilder malen” if you wanted to say, “I like painting pictures” and “Ich male gerne Bilder” if you wanted to say, “I like to paint pictures.” Both sentences express that you like to paint pictures. However, subtle differences exist between the two: The first expresses that you like the act of painting pictures, while the second implies that you like painting pictures, rather than something else. You could just as easily say “Ich male gerne Landschaften,” meaning, “I like to paint landscapes.”
Like any language, it’s all about what you’re trying to express.
You can get a better sense of how to speak more naturally by listening to German speakers talk to each other. Not sure where to do that? Just bring the immersion to you with FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
That means you can listen to real German as it’s used by German speakers! You’ll find it useful to watch this video, which talks about hobbies. Once you’ve finished watching, you can test yourself on your understanding by taking the end-of-video quiz. Plus, you can click on any word while the video is playing to see its definition and add it to your vocabulary list for later review.
Useful Adjectives and Adverbs
For most of us, the hobbies we enjoy are those we’re good at. However, maybe you want to qualify your skill or how you feel about a certain hobby that might not be your favorite.
Here are some words you can use:
gut — good/well
sehr gut — very well
wunderbar — wonderful
gern(e) — like
autodidaktisch / selbst erlernt — self-taught
You can use these words in many situations surrounding your hobbies.
For example, you might say, “Ich esse gern” (I like to eat). But if you don’t like a certain food, you could politely refuse and say, “Danke, aber ich habe das nicht gern” (Thanks, but I don’t like that). Many autodidaktische Köche (self-taught chefs), unfortunately, might hear this last phrase more often than not.
Common Words for Hobbies in German
Here are some popular hobbies and how you’d say them in German:
singen — to sing
Ski laufen — to ski
bowlen — to bowl
tanzen — to dance
fischen — to fish
zeichnen — to draw
kochen — to cook
mahlen — to paint
reisen — to travel
nähen — to sew
zocken — to gamble
einkaufen — to shop
campen gehen — to camp
fotografieren — to photograph
Popular German Hobbies
Though the German people cannot be stereotyped into specific pastimes or hobbies, there are quite a few popular activities that they share with the rest of the world.
Cooking (and Drinking)
For example, Germans love to cook. They bake breads and, of course, cook up some sausage for their guests, family members and friends. Good food is something almost anyone can enjoy.
And to go with good food, Germans love their alcohol! Though, to be fair, for many, drinking is more of a lifestyle than a pastime. Societal restrictions on drinking alcohol are much looser than you’d find in the States, so many times it’s more casual than anything else.
Foreign Flicks and Whodunnits
Like most of us, Germans love their TV and movies. Most Americans are exposed to few foreign films but in Germany, they’re just as prevalent as domestic footage. This gives the German audience a wider cultural view than you might find among American films.
But, of course, both cultures—and likely many others—enjoy the thrills of dramatic TV shows. Germans love their Tatort, meaning “crime scene.” There’s nothing as satistfyingly suspenseful as figuring out a whodunnit (and how).
Sating That Wanderlust
Germans also love to explore the world around them. Whether it’s weekend trips or excursions to countries close by and far away, Germans are explorers and adventurers. Perhaps it’s related to the proximity of many other cultures or just simply a case of wanderlust (did you know that this is derived from a German word?), but the itch to see new places and experience new things engulfs the German people.
Sports, or, More Specifically, Fußball (Soccer)
But one of the biggest hobbies consuming die Deutschen (the Germans) is soccer, and by that we mean Fußball.
Take a peek into the world of professional American football (not soccer), and you’ll get a glimpse of what it’s like for Germans and their soccer league. The Bundesliga Manager is a soccer program similar to that of U.S. Fantasy Football leagues. If you ever want to dabble in the world of German soccer, the Bundesliga Manager is a great place to start.
The word Bundesliga translates to “federal league” in German. Mention it to probably any German you meet and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. In fact, there’s an entire culture built around teams, games, coaches, players, etc. The culture is similar to that of American football and there are even entire songs and chants surrounding German football.
If you’re interested in German soccer or the Bundesliga, check out these sports terms to memorize and add to your vocabulary. Not only will you be participating in a large cultural German movement, but you’ll also be improving your language skills at the same time.
Hobbies bring people together. Now you can speak about your hobbies in German—and maybe you can discover some new German-speaking friends who share the same interests as you!
Rebecca Henderson holds a degree in German and Creative Writing. She’s the editor behind The Kreativ Space and hopes to shift your world perspective through her words, because looking out the same window every day hardly makes for an interesting life.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.