Nützliche Ausdrücke

a.k.a. "Useful Phrases"

I have decided that my German textbooks and Swiss guidebooks are completely inadequate and out of touch with the modern foreign language learner, quite simply because they have failed to provide me with a couple of today's most essential phrases for survival. So, I asked my Swiss Chefin for some help, and she has delivered the goods.

Situation #1:

I am at Starbucks ordering a Coffee of the Day (because it's the cheapest thing on the menu and sometimes I just need a Starbucks fix). Asking for the drink itself is easy because the menu items are in English and the sizes (Tall, Grande, Venti) are the same as in the States.

If I'd rather not take my coffee black and need a little "room for milk," here's what I can say, "Bitte, lassen Sie Platz für Milch." Or I can say, "Bitte, nicht ganz auffüllen," which means, "Please, don't fill it all the way."

Situation #2:

I am window shopping and a very attentive salesperson is offering to help me find something ("Kann ich Ihnen helfen?") or show me something ("Kann ich Ihnen etwas zeigen?"). Something I could say here in Switzerland, but not necessarily in Germany (where they use the reflexive verb sich umsehen rather than schauen), is, "Nein, danke. Ich schaue nur," which means, "No, thanks. I am only looking." If I want to be a bit more polite, I could say, "Nein, danke. Ich möchte bitte nur schauen," which means, "No, thanks. I would only like to have a look."

I am looking forward to using these phrases, as I am quite sick of smiling at salespeople, pointing to my eyes with my index and middle finger, gesturing to the merchandise around me, and saying in English, "Just looking."


  1. For situation 2 you could also use the Swiss-German "I bi nur am luegue" - with the danger that they then think you know lots of swiss-german!

  2. Thanks for the tip! True, it's a risk to use Swiss-German phrases, but if they start blabbering on in dialect, I could always fall back on the "nod and smile."

  3. I agree we need more useful phrases and less stupidity in German textbooks.

  4. All language textbooks I've come across are totally out of touch with reality. And I've learnt both German and English in books - including this one http://www.amazon.com/English-Second-cking-Language-Effectively/dp/sitb-next/031214329X ;-)

    I've also seen some french text books for foreigners...

    At breakfast:
    - Etes-vous frais et dispos ce matin?
    - Oui, je suis frais et dispos.

    They're so hilarious, I don't know who talks like that.

    But that's also what makes foreign speakers so cute and precious :-)

  5. I most definitely think non-native English speakers sound so precious when they say things like, "Would you like mustache with your bratwurst?" Love it. I just hope I sound as cute when I attempt to speak German...


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