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The Best Place to Start Learning German: Cognates

Learning a new language can seem daunting. One of my lecturers always says that one has to start with the familiar and move towards the unfamiliar. This is why I would recommend your starting with to learn German with cognates.

Perfect Cognates

These words, otherwise known as friendly allies, are words that are the same in both German and English. The only difference is the pronunciation of the word. So, you already know the word’s meaning and spelling, now only add the pronunciation as well as the gender and you are good to go.

der Armder Mast
der Banditdie Mine
die Bankmodern
die Basisder Moment
blinddie Motivation
die Butterdas Museum
digitalder Name
elegantdie Nation
die Emotionnormal
emotionaldie Olive
der Exportparallel
der Fingerder Pilot
die Handdas Problem
das Hotelder Professor
die Immigrationdas Radio
der Importdie Religion
die Inflationdas Restaurant
die Informationdie Rose
die Inspirationder Service
das Instrumentdas Signal
internationalder Sport
irrationaldie Statue
legalder Stress
liberal

Lended and Borrowed Words

Technically these words are not Cognates. I think the reason is that they, except for verbs which are “Germanized”, retain their English pronunciation. Yet, I think that due to the fact that they are already familiar to the Enlish mind, they will be easy to pick up.

das Babyklicken
der Bossmanagen
das Businessder Manager
das Cateringdas Marketing
die CityOkay
der Computeronline
cooloutsourcen
das Eventdie Party
Fashionpink
das Fast Fooddas Shopping
das Feelingdie Shorts
flirtendie Show / die Talkshow
der Headhunterdas Steak
Histoppen
hipsurfen
der Hitdas Team
das Hotelder Thriller
das Internetder Tourist
das Interviewder Trainer
der Jetlagdas T-Shirt
der Jobder Workshop
joggenWow
killen

Near Cognates

Next, we have words that are almost the same, these are words with the same meaning and similar spelling, with the pronunciation, once again, varied.

DeutschEnglish
die Adressethe address
der Aspektthe aspect
der Bärthe bear
blondblond(e)
die Blusethe blouse
braunbrown
die Demokratiethe democracy
direktdirect
der Doktorthe doctor
exaktexact
exzellentexcellent
fantastischfantastic
der Fischthe fish
das Glassthe glass
das Hausthe house
hungrighungry
indirektindirect
die Industriethe industry
die Infektionthe infection
das Insektthe insect
der Kaffeethe coffee
das Kniethe knee
die Komödiethe comedy
die Konditionthe condition
konservativconservative
der Kontinentthe continent
das Konzertthe concert
die Kulturthe culture
logischlogical
das Mandatthe mandate
der Mannthe man
die Maschinethe machine
die Mausthe mouse
die Methodethe method
die Mobilitätthe mobility
die Musikthe music
die Nationalitätthe nationality
die Naturnature
offiziellofficial
der Ozeanthe ocean
das Papierthe paper
das Parlamentthe parliament
perfektperfect
politischpolitical
potenziellpotential
praktischpractical
das Programmthe program
das Salzthe salt
der Scheckthe check
sonnigsunny
der Supermarktthe supermarket
das Telefonthe telephone
die Theoriethe theory
der Tragödiethe tragedy
die Walnussthe walnut

Non-Cognates

I don’t think that non-cognates is a real word but just bear with me. These are the words that look either exactly the same or at least similar. Yet, they have completely different meanings and the reason why I include this in this post is that I think that when learning we should always look at what is similar between things, but also what is different. This will make uncharted waters seem a little less daunting.

In the following table, I will give you the German word, what you might think the English should be, what the English actually is as well as the German of the English word that you think it should be. In the first line, for example, the German word is After. One would think that the English equivalent should also be ‘after’, but it actually is ‘anus’. The Geman translation of after (the English one) is nach or nachdem.

DeutschEnglish That Is ExpectedActual EnglishGerman of Expected English Word
Afterafteranusnach / nachdem
aktuellactualup-to-date / currenttatsächlich
alsoalsoso / therefore / thusauch
bladbaldsoonkahl / glatzköpfig
bekommento becometo getwerden
BootbootboatStiefel
bravbravewell-behavedtapfer
Briefletterbriefkurz / Auftrag / Unterlagen
Chefchefboss / supervisorKüchenchef / Chefkoch / Koch
eventuelleventual / eventuallypossible / possiblyschließlich
fastfastalmostschnell / rash
genialgenialgeniusheiter
Giftgift / presentpoisonGeschenk
Handyhandycellphonepraktisch / geschickt / handlich
HuthuthatHütte
Kindkindchildnett / lieb / liebenswürdig
Komfortcomfortamenitytrösten
Kostcostfood / farekosten
kurioscuriousstrangeneugierig
MistmistmanureNebel / Dunst
Mobbingmobbullying / harassingPöbbel / Rotte / anpöbeln
Mostmostunfermented fruit juice / young fruit winedas meiste
Oldtimerold manvintage caralter Hase (old rabbit)
ordinärordinaryvulgarnormal / gewöhnlich
pathetischpatheticoverly emotionaljämmerlich / armselig
plumpplumpclumsy / tactlessrundlich
PräservativpreservativecondomKonservierungsmittel
ProvisionprovisioncommissionVorsorge / Versorgung
Ratratadvice / counselRatte
RockrockskirtFels
Seeseelake / seasehen
sensibelsensiblesensitivevernünftig
Smokingsmokingtuxedorauchen
spendenspenddonateausgeben
sympathischsympatheticlikeable / congenialverständnisvoll
Tastetastekey (on a musical instrument) / buttonGeschmack

Have fun with this little bit of familiarity in the unfamiliar territory of German.

xoxo,
Charlé

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