(2023) (1)

written by
Benny Lewis

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You know that moment when you can’t find the word to describe what’s happening. Or how you feel.

It can be a pretty frustrating, right?

Learning a new language opens the doors of communication in more ways than one. The word that describes the emotion you’re feeling may actually exist – you’re just searching for it in the wrong language.

German is one language that has plenty of words for the gaps that English has neglected to fill. Here are a few of my favourites.

Fernweh – the Feeling of Wanting to be Somewhere Else

Have you ever had a feeling that you’re not currently where you truly want to be? There’s a word to describe that: Fernweh, which indicates an acute desire to travel. Where the German word Wanderlust is used for someone who is literally lusting to travel, Fernweh means you have an overpowering desire to travel.

It means “distance-sickness”, almost the opposite of homesickness. Time not spent travelling leaves you feeling sad and lost. You don’t want to have one particular home – rather you’re content travelling the world, drifting from place to place, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures.

Fernweh is the word used to describe true nomads, those with an incurable case of “itchy feet”.

Schadenfreude – Taking Pleasure in Someone Else’s Misfortune

Is there someone in the world that you truly despise? Do you revel in happiness anytime they encounter bad luck in their life?

The Germans have coined a word for this: Schadenfreude. It refers to the pleasure gained from another’s misfortune.

There might be one person in your particular social circle who seems to have an insane amount of good luck. You normally wouldn’t care one way or another, but they make a point of rubbing these successes in your face. You pretend to feel happy for them, but there is the odd twinge of jealousy.

Then something awful happens to them. Perhaps they get made redundant for their job. They’re devastated and you pretend to sympathise, but inside you’re dancing with glee. You feel that they’ve finally got their comeuppance and you’re more than happy to gloat over it.

“Harm-joy” – that’s Schadenfreude, and anyone who’s human has probably felt it at some point in their life!

Fremdschämen – the Shame You Experience From Watching Another’s Humiliation

On the flip side, Fremdschämen is a word to describe the empathy you feel for someone else in a truly humiliating situation.

Have you ever been at a wedding when the Best Man/Maid of Honour has tried to give a speech, while being off-their-face drunk? They ended up telling embarrassing stories that no one wants to hear or cracking jokes that aren’t funny. The audience tries to laugh encouragingly, but their insides are twisting in shame for that person. That feeling is Fremdschämen.

Kummerspeck – Excess Weight Gained from Emotional Eating

Kummerspeck has a wonderful literal translation – it means “grief bacon”. The meaning behind it is less amusing.

You might find yourself in a vicious cycle of emotional eating to distract yourself from bad feelings. Kummerspeck refers to the excess flab that appears on your body as a side effect of this situation.

Torschlusspanik – the Fear of Time Running Out

Torschlusspanik translates as “gate-shut-panic”, referring to the fear of opportunities closing forever as you get older. You might wake up one day and realise that you’ve missed the boat on something you’ve always wanted to do. It’s commonly applied to women who are experiencing the “ticking of the biological clock”.

Torschlusspanik is all the more reason to get cracking on the things you wish to do in your life… such as learning a foreign language!

Weltschmerz – a Feeling of World Weariness

Weltschmerz is used to describe the feeling you get when your expectations of the world fall disappointingly short. Whether you feel disappointment at a politician you had high hopes for, or general melancholy over the state of the world, you’re experiencing Weltschmerz.

It’s a common emotion felt by anyone watching the news – and is easily solved by simply turning off your TV!

Backpfeifengesicht – a Face that Needs to be Slapped

Is there someone you know whom you find to be insufferably smug? Maybe every time they open their mouth your palm itches as you feel an uncontrollable desire to slap them silly. That’s Backpfeifengesicht.

It might be the jerk at work who steals your food out of the fridge or the person in your social circle who tells racist jokes in front of another mixed-race friend. All you want to do is sink your fist in their face and that feeling is Backpfeifengesicht.

Verschlimmbesserung – Making Things Worse than they Already Are

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve said something you regret? I know I have. You want to repair the damage and attempt to do so by trying to talk your way out of it. What you end up doing is digging a deeper hole for yourself. The German word for this situation is Verschlimmbesserung.

Verschlimmbesserung means to improve things for the worse. It’s an action that is regularly demonstrated in decisions made by governments and policymakers worldwide. An easy way to avoid verschlimmbesserung is to follow the old adage: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Waldeinsamkeit – the Feeling of Solitude

Waldeinsamkeit translates literally to “the feeling of being alone in the woods”. It’s the emotion you get when you’re feeling most peaceful, undisturbed or in the thick of nature. You’re in a truly meditative state and feel at one with the world.
If you live outside a major city, you can easily experience Waldeinsamkeit by staring up at the night sky and taking in the stars. If that isn’t peace-inducing, then I don’t know what is!

Mutterseelenallein – Absolute Abandonment

There’s loneliness, there’s desolate loneliness, and then there’s Mutterseelenallein. The word translates to “mother soul’s alone”. If you were to experience it as an emotion, you would feel completely and utterly isolated and abandoned.
It’s hopefully a feeling you will never experience in your lifetime.

Schnapsidee – A Crazy Idea

Schnapsidee refers to a mad idea that you have – usually when you’re in a state of inebriation. Breaking up the word itself gives you the literal definition: “Schnapps Idea”!

These are plans that seem fantastic in the moment they’re thought up, but are regretted soon after. The word can also refer to an idea that seems so stupid that it must have been conceived by a drunk person.

So if you’re drinking and you suddenly have an idea so brilliant you can’t believe you’ve never thought of it before – it might be best to wait until morning for re-evaluation.

Feierabend – A Cause for Celebration!

The clock ticks over to 5:30pm and you leave work, rushing home where you take off your tie, and your trousers for good measure. You crash on the couch and turn on the TV. Of course there is a German word for that specific feeling: Feierabend.

It’s something that employees around the world experience, yet there is no word for that emotion in English. Feierabend translates to “celebration evening” – which is almost certainly what you’ll be doing. Work is done, you’re home and you have the whole evening ahead of you to do as you please. Yippee!

Sprachgefühl – A Natural Talent for Language

Most appropriate for a language website, Sprachgefühl refers to a natural talent or feel for a language. I believe anyone can learn a language and anyone can develop a “natural” talent for langauges.

I began to experience something like “Sprachgefühl” after I had learned a couple of languages. The first is the hardest – but from there you have a system in place. You know which study method works for you and you can apply it over and over again. That’s how I understand sprachgefühl.

English Has Some Catching Up To Do!

So there you have it. There is a word to describe the itch in the feet of a perpetual nomad, or the feeling of bliss you get from total solitude. You just weren’t looking in the right language. (2)

Benny Lewis

Founder, Fluent in 3 Months

Fun-loving Irish guy, full-time globe trotter and international bestselling author. Benny believes the best approach to language learning is to speak from day one.

Speaks: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Esperanto, Mandarin Chinese, American Sign Language, Dutch, Irish

View all posts by Benny Lewis


How many words do you need to speak German fluently? ›

In order to feel comfortable speaking German, you really only need to learn about 3,000 words. In contrast, being fluent in German is defined as understanding 10,000+ words.

Is Quatsch a swear word? ›

Quatsch! Pronounced like “Kvatch,” this curse word is one of the most commonly used terms when expressing your anger. While this may not have an exact equivalent word in English, it pretty much means “Nonsense!” It is the perfect word to say as a comeback to someone who is talking nonsense.

What is the most famous German saying? ›

1: “Ich kriege so eine Krawatte

And it comes from the pressure you feel in your throat when you get so angry you could scream. Germans use this saying when they find something makes them really angry.

What are some German curse words? ›

10 German Swear Words and Insults you Really Should Know
  • Quatsch! /ˈkvatʃ/ This curse word stems from the verb quatschen, which means “to chat.” ...
  • Donnerwetter! /ˌdɔnɐ'vɛtɐ/ ...
  • Depp! /dɛp/ ...
  • verdammt. /fɛɐ̯ˈdamt/ ...
  • Scheiße. /ˈʃaɪ̯sə/ ...
  • Halt deinen Mund! /halt 'daɪ̯nən mʊnt/ ...
  • der Mist. /deːr 'mɪst/ ...
  • Leck mich am Arsch! /lɛk mɪç am aʀʃ/

How many years does it take to learn German fluently? ›

It shouldn't take long to become fluent in German. Actually, after 6-8 months of studying in intense courses (about twenty hours every week) you will be able to gain proficiency of your German language to navigate your daily life. It is possible to gain professional proficiency within a mere year!

How many years does it take to speak fluent German? ›

According to the U.S. Foreign Service Institute (FSI), you'll need about 750 hours of study to become fluent in German. This means that if you study 12-15 hours a week, you'll be able to speak like a pro in just a year!

What is the oldest swear word? ›

Fart, as it turns out, is one of the oldest rude words we have in the language: Its first record pops up in roughly 1250, meaning that if you were to travel 800 years back in time just to let one rip, everyone would at least be able to agree upon what that should be called.

Do Germans curse a lot? ›

German is known for being a tough (and harsh) language to speak. And that's no different when it comes to cursing. German swear words often sound strong, harsh and work quite well when conveying one's anger or frustration.

Did people use the F word in the 1800s? ›

Did people use the F word in the 1800's? Westerners in the US certainly used it as part of their colloquial speech, particularly when they were under emotional stress. More modern and imaginative variants of it usage as we here today were not, however, yet developed.

What German say before eating? ›

Because saying “Guten Appetit” before a meal in German is mandatory. You can also say “zum Wohl” (good health) or “Mahlzeit” (mealtime), particularly at lunch. Another mandatory German saying is the “Prost!” when you clink glasses.

What is the hardest word to learn in German? ›

1. Eichhörnchen (Squirrel) Although squirrel is also tough to pronounce in English, it's a classic when it comes to difficult German words to pronounce. Many English speakers struggle, and some even consider this the hardest German word to pronounce.

What do German children call their parents? ›

Mutter (mother) or Mutti. Vater (father) or Vati. They use the familiar form - 'du', when speaking to them.

What language is 17 a swear word? ›

There are several levels to cursing in Swedish, and the expressions seen as less naughty are those made up by numbers. In Sweden, bad words mostly have a religious origin and in the past it was common to amplify them with numbers, such as 'sjutton' (17), 'attans' (an old word for 18), and 'tusan' (meaning 1,000).

Is Frickin a bad word? ›

Yes, "fricking" or "freaking" are basically milder substitutes for the "F-word". They are thus LESS offensive than that word.

Is it illegal to curse in Germany? ›

§ 185 StGB: “The penalty for insult is imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or a fine and, if the insult is committed by means of an assault, imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine.” Under German defamation law, an insult can be considered a crime.

Can you learn German in 2 months? ›

Language students who practice a method of complete immersion, with eight hours of practice per day, could learn German to a high level in a matter of months. Those who dedicate at least one hour per day to language learning can achieve an intermediate level within two years.

Can I learn German B2 in 6 months? ›

Can I Complete B2 German in 6 Months? On average, you would need 7-9 months to reach the B2 level and get a good rating, but with enough determination it is possible to complete it for 6 months as well if you simply immerse yourself in the language.

Can I learn German in 5 months? ›

As you can see, rapid learning is undoubtedly doable even if you want to learn German from scratch to a B2 level in 5 months or faster. I have done it with dozens of students using the outlined strategy, and results are always great.

Can I learn to speak German in 3 months? ›

You need more than 3 months to be fluent. But even with such a short time, if you adjust your strategy, you can actually learn German and get really close to being fluent. And I don't mean being able to say, 'I'm doing fine' in German as fast as a native speaker or being able to combine words you learned on Duolingo.

What language is hardest to learn? ›

Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center puts Mandarin in Category IV, which is the list of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.

How long does it take to learn B2 level German? ›

How long does it take to learn German?
Assess your current level & test your German online!Intensive course (20 lessons/week)
A1beginner8 weeks
A2elementary8 weeks
B1intermediate8 weeks
B2upper intermediate10 weeks*
2 more rows

Is fart a curse word? ›

When used in an attempt to be offensive, the word is still considered vulgar, but it remains a mild example of such an insult. This usage dates back to the Medieval period, where the phrase 'not worth a fart' would be applied to an item held to be worthless.

What is the number one cuss word? ›

'Fuck' is America's most commonly-used swear word, with 11.62 uses for every 1000 posts on Twitter. With 48 curse words per 1000 tweets, residents of Georgia use the most profanities of any U.S. state, with Minnesota (15 per 1000 tweets) swearing the least.

Is bloody a swear word yes or no? ›

Bloody is a common swear word that is considered to be milder and less offensive than other, more visceral alternatives. In 1994, it was the most commonly spoken swear word, accounting for around 650 of every million words said in the UK – 0.064 per cent.

Do Germans avoid eye contact? ›

Eye contact is expected and respected in Germany. Uninterrupted eye contact can be awkward for those not used to such etiquette and misinterpreted as staring. However, it shows attention and interest in a conversation. It is polite to make eye contact with superiors at work as well.

Why do Germans stare a lot? ›

Once the shock of people staring a little longer than expected wears off, it becomes clear that staring in Germany is actually a sign of politeness in certain circumstances. Staring into the eyes of others is an important part of saying 'prost' (cheers) before drinking a beer or a glass of wine.

Was speaking German illegal? ›

On May 23, 1918, Iowa Gov. William Harding banned the public use of all foreign languages: in schools, on trains, at meetings, in church, even on the phone. They called it the Babel Proclamation. America was at war, and German—commonly spoken in Iowa at the time—was the language of the enemy.

Did people cuss in 1800s? ›

Coupled with the tantalizing but few Victorian examples of obscenities that have come down to us, it seems safe to say that by the 1860s, and perhaps even earlier, people in America and Britain were swearing much as they do today.

When did cursing start? ›

However, it wasn't until the 18th and 19th centuries that swearing really came into its own. Back then, the extreme avoidance of even mild taboos gave the words associated with these forbidden subjects more power to shock and disgust.

What time do Germans eat breakfast? ›

The typical meals are divided in a rather copious breakfast (6 am – 8 am), lunch (12 pm – 2 pm) and dinner (6 pm – 8 pm). Breakfast usually consists of bread that can be topped with cheese, cold cuts, jam, honey, Nutella etc., if you prefer something salty.

What time do Germans eat lunch? ›

Lunch. Lunch in Germany is called Mittagessen and is usually eaten between 12 pm and 2 pm. Germans traditionally enjoy their main cooked meal for lunch rather than dinner. Lunch is often served after a starter such as potato salad.

What do Germans say after sneezing? ›

German. Interestingly, Gesundheit, the German response to a sneeze, is also the most common expression for English speakers who prefer not to say “bless you.” It simply means “health,” which is used in a number of languages when someone sneezes (makes sense).

Is German harder or Spanish? ›

Overall, Spanish might be easier than German at the beginning stages, but the two tend to even out in difficulty once learners get to the more advanced stages. German has more complicated grammar rules that need to be mastered early on, but once learners get familiar with them, they find that they're pretty consistent.

What is the hardest word to say in English? ›

The Most Difficult English Word To Pronounce
  • Rural.
  • Otorhinolaryngologist.
  • Colonel.
  • Penguin.
  • Sixth.
  • Isthmus.
  • Anemone.
  • Squirrel.
Oct 26, 2018

What do Germans call their wife? ›

Fräulein is the diminutive form of Frau, which was previously reserved only for married women. Frau is in origin the equivalent of "My lady" or "Madam", a form of address of a noblewoman. But by an ongoing process of devaluation of honorifics, it came to be used as the unmarked term for "woman" by about 1800.

What do German men call their girlfriend? ›

Nevertheless, it's quite common for a man to call his girlfriend or wife a "Maus." The term is also a favorite for small children (which, admittedly, have more in common with the tiny animals). In that case, the diminutive, "Mäuschen," is most appropriate.

What do Germans call their girlfriend? ›

Practice and memorize these ten terms of endearment, study up on your romantic German phrases and learn a romantic song in German. You'll be wooing your new Freund (boyfriend) or Freundin (girlfriend) in no time at all.

Is 7000 words enough to speak a language? ›

And since an average adult native speaker knows around 20-35 thousand words, you 20%-target would be to cover 4,000-7,000 words. And if we quickly refer back to the Rivenc's vocabulary sun we will see that core and frequent vocabulary altogether comprise exactly around 5,000-7,000 words.

Is 10000 words enough to speak a language? ›

People who know 250 to 500 words are beginners. Those who know 1,000 to 3,000 words can carry on everyday conversations. Knowing 4,000 to 10,000 words makes people advanced language users while knowing more than 10,000 words puts them at the fluent or native-speaker levels.

Is 3000 words enough for a language? ›

To attain a so-called fluent level, a vocabulary of more or less 3,000 words is required. This wealth of vocabulary will enable you, for example, to watch a film in its original version without the subtitles. What does fluency mean?

How many words does average German know? ›

The basis for the calculations is a huge databank collecte from a pool of factual and literary texts in the equivalent of 40,000 books. But the latest edition of Duden gets along with 145,000 keywords. And the average speaker uses only 12,000 to 16,000 words in their vocabulary.

What is the easiest language to learn? ›

And The Easiest Language To Learn Is…
  1. Norwegian. This may come as a surprise, but we have ranked Norwegian as the easiest language to learn for English speakers. ...
  2. Swedish. ...
  3. Spanish. ...
  4. Dutch. ...
  5. Portuguese. ...
  6. Indonesian. ...
  7. Italian. ...
  8. French.
Nov 9, 2021

How many words a native English speaker knows? ›

The researchers found that native adult speakers of English understand an average of 20,000 to 30,000 vocabulary words, and native speakers learn about one word a day from ages 16 to 50.

What does 7000 words look like? ›

7,000 words is 14 pages single-spaced or 28 pages double-spaced. Typical documents that are 7,000 words include college dissertations, theses, and in-depth blog posts and journal articles.

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