Sunday, April 17, 2005

German Practice

A Very Short Wittgenstein Reader

Parts of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus are astonishingly complicated. But at its best, Wittgenstein's style is elegant in its clarity and directness. It is with little more than a handful of propositions that he lays the groundwork for his first all-encompassing philosophical system. Far from being esoteric mishmash, these statements are simple, precise and mindblowingly general. Indeed, one need have hardly any German at all in order to follow section one of the Tractatus. It's easier than "The House that Jack Built"!

Below is the original German, with literal and idiomatic translation and a short glossary. In ten minutes, you'll be able to casually remark upon having a go at Wittgenstein in the original. Won't your friends be impressed!

A note on the glossary: Parentheses () and slashes / indicate different forms of the same word that occur in the reading. Words only given in the first line in which they are used. Notice how much the vocabulary repeats.

1 Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist.

1 The World is all, what the Case is.
1 The world is all that is the case.

1 die, der the, of the ... Welt world ... ist/sind is/are ... alle(s) all ... was what ... Fall fall, case, what befalls or comes about

1.1 Die Welt ist die Gesamtheit der Tatsachen, nicht der Dinge.

1.1 The World is the Totality of the Facts, not of the Things.
1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not things.

1.1 Gesamtheit totality (gesamt = entire) ... Tatsache fact (Tat = deed, Sache = matter, fact) ... nicht not ... Dinge thing

1.1 1 Die Welt ist durch die Tatsachen bestimmt und dadurch dass es alle Tatsachen sind.

1.1 1 The World is through the Facts determined and therethrough that it all Facts are.
1.1 1 The world is determined by the facts and by it being all the facts.

1.1 1 durch through, by ... bestimmt determine(d) ... dadurch therethrough, thereby ... dass that (dadurch dass = by) ... es it

1.1 2 Denn, die Gesamtheit der Tatsachen bestimmt, was der Fall ist und auch, was alles nicht der Fall ist.

1.1 2 Then, the Totality of the Facts determines, what the Case is and also, what all not the Case is.
1.1 2 So the totality of the facts determines what is the case and also everything that is not the case.

1.1 2 denn then ... und and ... auch also

1.1 3 Die Tatsachen im logicshen Raum sind die Welt.

1.1 3 The Facts in logical Space are the World.
1.1 3 The facts in logical space are the world.

1.1 3 logisch(en) logical (Logik = logic) ... Raum room, space

1.2 Die Welt zerfällt in Tatsachen.

1.2 The World falls apart into Facts.
1.2 The world is divided into facts.>

1.2 zerfallen/zerfällt to fall apart, break down into (zer- = apart, fallen = fall, befall)

1.2 1 Eines kann der Fall sein oder nicht der Fall sein und alles übrige gleich bleiben.

1.2 1 A thing can the Case be or not the Case be and all left over alike remains.
1.2 1 A thing can be the case or not be the case and everything left remain the same.

1.2 1 ein(es) one, a (thing) ... kann can ... sein (to) be ... oder or ... übrige left over, overage ... glech alike, the same ... bleiben (to) stay or remain

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Body of evidence… the torso and internal organs

English / German / Dutch / Swedish
neck / Hals / nek / nacke
heart / Herz / hart / hjärta
lung / Lungenflügel / long / lunga
stomach / Magen / maag / mage
skin / Haut / huid / hud

What you put in your mug, winds up in your Magen/maag/mage.
Haut/huid/hud is like “hide”

Going out on a limb… arms, hands, etc.

English / German / Dutch / Swedish
arm / Arm / arm / arm
hand / Hand / hand / hand
finger / Finger / vinger / finger
leg / Bein / been / ben
foot / Fuss / voet / fot
toe / Zehe / teen / tå

Bein/been/ben is like “bone”
German “ss” (or “ß”) often corresponds to “t” in English, so Wasser=water and Fuss = foot
German “z” is pronounced “ts” and sometimes correspondes to English “t” at the beginning of a word:  Zehe=toe, zahlen=count (or recount, like tell, tale), zu=to, Ziet=time (like tide, as in “eventide”), zwischen=between (like “twixt”)

Getting ahead of yourself… parts of the head

 In the body parts sections, we’re just going to get very basic vocabulary.  We’re doing it five or six words at a time.  When you’re done, you won’t know everything, but you’ll have a good idea of some of the essentials.  Tips follow for those words that aren’t obvious.

English / German / Dutch / Swedish
head / Kopf / hoofd / huvud
eye / Auge / oog / öga
ear / Ohr / oor / öra
nose / Nase / neus / näsa
mouth / Mund / mond / mun

Germ. Dummkopf=stupid head
The other terms should make sense in their own ways.

Monday, July 12, 2004

How are you feeling?

Mir ist heiss - I'm feeling hot (To me it's hot)
Mir ist kalt - I'm feeling cold
Ich bin schläfrig - I am sleepy (schlaf- = sleep)
Ich bin müde - I am tired (think moody)
Ich habe Hunger - I am hungry (have hunger)
Ich habe Durst - I am thirsty (have thirst)

Ik heb het warm - I'm warm (I have the warm)
Ik heb het koud - I'm cold (think kalt/cold/koud)
Ik ben slaperig - I'm sleepy (like Ger. schläfrig)
Ik ben moe - I'm tired (like Ger. müde)
Ik heb honger - I'm hungry (have hunger)
Ik heb dorst - I'm thirsty (have thirst)

Jag är varm - I am warm
Det är kallt - It is cold
Jag är sömnig - I am sleepy (like somnifer)
Jag är trött - I am tired
Jag är hungrig - I am hungry
Jag är törstig - I am thirsty


Ich bin... - I am...
glücklich - happy (lucky)
traurig - sad
einsam - lonely (one-ish)
böse - angry
dankbar - thankful
Es tut mir leid - I'm sorry (It causes me pain)

Ik ben... - I am...
blij - happy
treurig - sad (like German)
eenzaam - lonely (one-ish)
boos - angry (like German)
dankbaar - thankful
Het spejt mir - I'm sorry (It spites me)

Jag är... - I am...
glad - happy
ledsen - sad
vred - angry
tacksam - thankful
Jag beklagar - I'm sorry

Name calling - Introductions in Germanic

In the Germanic languages, you're less likely to say "My name is..." than "I am called..."

heissen - to be called
ich heisse - I am called
Sie heissen - you are called
wie - how

Wie heissen Sie? - What's your name?
Ich heisse John. - I am John.

heten - to be called
ik heet - I am called
u heet - you are called
hoe - how

Hoe heet u? - What's your name?
Ik heet John. - I am John.

att heta - to be called
jag heter - I am called
du heter - you are called
vad - what

Vad heter du? - What's your name?
Jag heter John. - I am John.

Having come this far, it would be a shame to lapse into impoliteness. So next, say:

German: Angenehm.
Dutch: Aangenaam.
Swedish: Angenämt.

All three responses could be translated, "A pleasure."

Now to make sure you got it all, fill in the table below, mentally or by printing it out and writing in responses. Look above to confirm your answers.

- Hi, I'm John.- Tag. Ich heisse John.- Dag. Ik heet John.- Hej, -
What's your name? - - Vad heter du?
- I'm Frank. - - Jag heter Frank.
- A pleasure.- Angenehm. - Angenämt.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Beginning numbers

Though they look a little funny, on close inspection you'll notice that the Germanic numbers look pretty familiar. Here are the first ten:

English : German : Dutch : Swedish
zero : null (nool): nul (nool) : noll (noll)
one : eins (ine-ss): een (ayn) : ett (ett)
two : zwei (ts-vie) : twee (tvay) : två (tvaw)
three : drei (dry) : drie (dree) : tre (tray)
four : vier (fear) : vier (fear) : fyra (foora)
five : fünf (foonf) : vijf (fayf) : fem (fem)
six : sechs (zex) : zes (zess) : sex (sex)
seven : sieben (zee-ben) : zeven (zayveh) : sju (shoe)
eight : acht (akht) : acht (akht) : åtta (awt-ta)
nine : neun (noyn) : negen (nay-kheh) : nio (nee-o)
ten : zehn (tsayn) : tien (teen) : tio (tee-o)

Very approximate pronunciations are in parentheses. To say these properly you should consult a native speaker or a decent cassette pack. I've given pronunciations that should be understandable but have deliberately avoided some finer distinctions that are evident to those who have learned these languages' phonetic systems and would only confuse things for those who haven't.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Ordering a drink

Feeling thirsty? Time to get a drink. Here's how:

ich = I
trinke = drink
ich trinke = I (will) drink
gern = gladly
iche trinke gern = I'd gladly (have a) drink
bitte = please
ein Bier = a beer
Ich trinke gern ein Bier, bitte. = I'll have a beer, please.

ik = I
drink = drink
ik drink = I (will) drink
graag = gladly
ik drink graag... = I'll drink ...
een bier = a beer
Ik drink graag een bier (alsjeblieft). = I'll have a beer (please).

jag = I
vill = will
ha = have
jag vill ha = I will have
en öl = an ale
tack = thanks
jag vill ha en öl, tack. = I'll have a beer, thanks.

Here it is all put together:

German: Ich trinke gern ein Bier, bitte.
Dutch: Ik drink graag een bier.
Swedish: Jag vill ha en öl, tack.

And now, let's add a few other drinks:

English / German / Dutch / Swedish
a glass of water / ein Glas Wasser / een glas water / ett glas vatten
a cup of coffee / eine Tasse Kaffee / een koppje koffie / en kopp kaffe
a cup of tea / eine Tasse Tee / een koppje thee / en kopp te
a Coke / ein Glas Cola / een glas Coca Cola / ett glas Coca Cola

Got it? Let's make sure by ordering a cup of coffee in Berlin, a cup of tea in Copenhagen and a glass of water in Stockholm... You should have said:

German: Ich trinke gern ein Tasse Kaffee, bitte.
Dutch: Ik wil graag een koppje thee.
Swedish: Jag vill ha ett glas vatten, tack.

And now, after all these beverage, a final question of some importance:

German: Wo sind die Toiletten?
Dutch: Waar zijn de toiletten?
Swedish: Var är en toalett?

If you haven't guessed, that means, "Where is there a restroom?"

*Our thanks to correspondent Frank, a Dutch student who has given us a more semantically appropriate version of the Dutch (and corrected our spelling here and there).

And a reminder: is the effort of English speakers who enjoy languages. Our efforts - as with all efforts to learn another language - are imperfect. If you find a mistake, please let us know for the benefit of all our readers (e-mail

Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Terms are given in the order of the first entry. Memory clues are marked by an *.

German: Familie
Dutch: familie
Swedish: familj

man and woman
Mann und Frau / man en vrouw / man och kvinna
*kvinna is like queen

husband and wife
Mann und Frau / man en vrouw / man och fru

Eltern / ouders / föräldrar
*think elders

father and mother
Vater und Mutter / vader en moeder / far och mor
*far, mar lose middle "t" sound, just like Fr. père, mère

boy and girl
Knabe und Mädchen / jongen en meisje / pojke und flicka
*knave and maiden / young'n and missy / ?

son and daughter
Sohn und Tochter / zoon en dochter / son och dottor
*out loud, they all sort of work

Kinder / kinderen / barn
*kindergarten / the "born"

brother and sister
Bruder und Schwester / broer en zus / bror och syster
*broer and bror as Fr. frère, lost the middle "t" sound


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