Beer… something I know.
The German language … something I don’t know. The key to learning something new is to relate what you don’t know to what you do know. Germans love their beer … so what better way to learn their language?
Many English words for beer come from German, so we can use this knowledge as a starting point. Though it’s spelled differently, both languages use the same word – beer or Bier (Why did I capitalize it? See below!) – to describe this much-loved beverage. So the good news is… even if you don’t know any German at all, you can always order one of these frosty drinks!
Here are a few things you can learn at Beer Language School:
The word Bier teaches us two things about the German language: First, all nouns are capitalized in German, not just proper nouns. (But the pronoun ‘I‘ (ich) isn’t capitalized. What does that tell you about German priorities?) Next, when it comes to pronunciation, if two vowels are ‘walking’ … the second vowel does the talking. For instance, in the word Bier, the ‘e‘ sound is pronounced. Check out the next word to see what I mean…
This is the German word for white. It’s pronounced Vice. The second vowel (i) does the talking. Weiss also teaches us one more thing: W in German is pronounced like a V. What about V? It’s pronounced like an F. What about F? It’s pronounced like an F!!! (I didn’t say this would be easy!)
Never heard of Weissbier? You may have heard it called Hefeweizen (literally yeast wheat).
This word comes from the German word lagern, which means to store. Beer was invented before refrigerators, so beer was often brewed in the winter and then stored in a cool place until summer. Now you know your first German verb! Lagern, to store. Let’s try a couple of adjectives…
If you curse while you’re drinking, be aware that if you say “Hell!’ you might end up with another beer in your hands. Hell is the German word for light, and it’s often used to refer to a light beer.
If you prefer darker beers, then you probably know the word Dunkel … the German word for dark. The letter ‘u’ is pronounced differently in German. If you want to sound like a true German, don’t pronounce it ‘dunk-el,’ say ‘doonk-el.”
No discussion of German beer would be complete without mentioning a beer stein! Stein is the German word for stone. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Steins are a type of stoneware. But wait – there’s more! There is also a type of beer called Steinbier. It’s made by dropping hot stones into the brew. If you come across one of these, give it a try – this type of beer is becoming quite rare!
You’ve completed you first lesson at Beer Language School! You now know the German words for beer, white, light, dark, stone, and to store. You also learned some pronunciation tips and even a little history.
Not planning a trip to Germany? Oh well – at least this weekend you can impress your friends. (But if you’re not in Germany and you decide to say “Hell!” to your server… better watch out!)
By the way … there’s actually a German Beer Institute if you want to learn more!