Stepping into the world of the German language is like unlocking a treasure chest ✨ – it’s a discovery that can enrich travel experiences, expand business opportunities, and deepen connections with a culture known for its precision and depth.
In this video from Spring German (a project I co-founded), Denisa shares the 3 most important German conversation skills:
The key to this treasure is: having a German conversation! Mastering it starts with a solid foundation in basic phrases.
This guide provides the fundamental phrases and cultural insights to help you communicate confidently and sound like a natural among German speakers.
1. How to Have a Basic German Conversation – Etiquette Guide
There’s one secret you have to know about Germans: they typically value directness and honesty in their communication style.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any informalities.
Informal chats are common but they tend to be more structured and purposeful compared to other cultures. Common subjects of discussion include the weather, daily routines, work, and holidays. Also, lively conversations about TV shows or movies often occur, but only when a bond has already been established.
When having a basic conversation in German, it’s helpful to know common greetings. You might already know how to say good morning in German or good night in German but let’s look at some other phrases that form the backbone of German conversational etiquette.
2. Basic German Phrases to Start a Conversation: Learn German Greetings
Initiating a German conversation appropriately can set the tone for a warm interaction.
We already created a table with essential German greeting phrases and their English translations.
Take a look!
Basic German phrases to start a conversation
Wie geht es Ihnen?
|How are you? (formal)
|How’s it going? (informal)
An HTTP error occurred during file retrieval. Error Code: 403Mein Name ist…
|My name is…
Freut mich, Sie kennenzulernen
|Pleased to meet you (formal)
|Pleased to meet you (informal)
Now, these are only examples. Let’s imagine a real-life conversation between two people, Ana and Hans, at a café.
This way, you’ll see how all of these essential German conversational phrases exist in real-life situations and discover chunks! What are chunks?
Sign up by clicking the button below and gain access to the knowledge of German Conversation Based Chunking!
Ana: Guten Tag, mein Name ist Ana. Wie geht es Ihnen? (Good day, my name is Ana. How are you?)
Hans: Guten Tag, Ana. Mir geht es gut, danke. Und Ihnen? (Good day, Ana. I’m doing well, thank you. And you?)
Ana: Auch gut, danke. Freut mich, Sie kennenzulernen. (Also good, thank you. Pleased to meet you.)
Hans: Ebenso, freut mich. (Likewise, pleased to meet you.)
3. Formal and Informal German Conversation Starters
Knowing the right way to break the ice can help you make a good first impression in a business meeting or at a social event.
Germans will admire you if you know the difference between formal conversation starters and informal greetings.
Formal Conversation Starters
- Wie geht es Ihnen heute? (How are you today?)
- Was bringen Sie zu diesem Event? (What brings you to this event?)
- Haben Sie über das aktuelle Projekt gehört? (Have you heard about the current project?)
- Könnten Sie mir vielleicht helfen? (Could you perhaps help me?)
- Gibt es Neuigkeiten bezüglich…? (Is there any news regarding…?)
Informal Conversation Starters
- Was machst du beruflich? (What do you do for a living?)
- Wie war dein Wochenende? (How was your weekend?)
- Hast du den neuen Film schon gesehen? (Have you seen the new movie yet?)
- Was ist dein Lieblingsrestaurant hier? (What’s your favorite restaurant around here?)
- Wie findest du das Wetter heute? (How do you find the weather today?)
4. Useful German Phrases to Ask for Directions in German
When visiting Germany, Austria, or Switzerland, finding your way around is vital.
If you need to ask for directions in German, here’s how you might approach someone:
Ask for directions in German
Entschuldigung, könnten Sie mir helfen, … zu finden?
|Excuse me, could you help me find…?
Wissen Sie, wo X ist?
|Do you know where X is?
Ist X weit von hier?
|Is X far from here?
Wie komme ich zu X?
|How do I get to X?
Können Sie es auf der Karte zeigen?
|Can you show it on the map?
5. How to Order Food in German
Exploring the culinary delights of German-speaking countries is a treat for any foodie. You most certainly have heard a lot about traditional German food.
So, if you want to try it, you’ll need to have the basic German phrases for it.
Here’s how to start a conversation in a restaurant:
German phrases you’ll need in a restaurant
Ich möchte bitte bestellen.
|I would like to order, please.
Könnte ich die Speisekarte sehen?
|Could I see the menu?
Was empfehlen Sie?
|What do you recommend?
An HTTP error occurred during file retrieval. Error Code: 403Ich bin allergisch gegen...
|I’m allergic to…
Kann ich bitte die Rechnung haben?
|Can I have the bill, please?
You know Ana and Hans from our previous example? Well, Ana and Hans decide to grab lunch together. Let’s read the next conversation and look for chunks!
Ana: Könnte ich die Speisekarte sehen? (Could I see the menu?)
Hans: Natürlich. Ich empfehle den Wiener Schnitzel, es ist ausgezeichnet hier. (Of course. I recommend the Wiener Schnitzel, it’s excellent here.)
Ana: Gute Wahl, ich nehme das gleiche. Was für Getränke gibt es? (Good choice, I’ll have the same. What drinks do you have?)
Hans: Ich werde ein Bier nehmen. Möchtest du auch eins? (I’ll have a beer. Would you like one as well?)
Ana: Ja, bitte. (Yes, please.)
6. Basic German Phrases You Need in Any Situation
Traveling in a German-speaking country can feel like navigating a dense forest, because… well, these countries are full of forests. And having the right phrases is your compass in this world.
Check out the next table and get prepared for any situation in a German-speaking country.
Basic German phrases you need in any situation
Wo ist der Bahnhof?
|Where is the train station?
Ich brauche einen Arzt.
|I need a doctor.
Kann ich Geld wechseln?
|Can I exchange money?
Wo ist die Bibliothek?
|Where is the library?
7. Sound Like a Native with German Slang!
German slang is your secret handshake into a more casual and fun side of the language
Picture yourself laughing with new German friends at a cozy pub or walking through a bustling street market with ease – all because you’ve got a grip on the playful, ever-shifting slang that locals love.
Slang makes your German sound natural, like you’ve been part of the conversation for years. It’s not just about learning the language; it’s about living it and showing that you get what’s happening on the ground.
|Awesome! or Intense!
|To hang out
|Cool or Awesome
|Buddy or Pal
Null Bock haben
|To have zero interest or Can’t be bothered
|Really? or Are you serious?
|Amazing! or Fantastic!
Läuft bei dir!
|You’re killing it! or Things are going well for you!
8. How to Practice Conversation in German with Conversation Based Chunking
The journey to fluency in German is paved with practice and immersion. Utilizing language learning apps like Speechling (we have a Speechling review!) can help practice your pronunciation.
Conversation Based Chunking allows you to internalize phrases and use them spontaneously.
To really engage with the German language, seek out opportunities for conversation with native speakers, whether through language exchanges, private tutors on platforms like italki, or simply striking up a chat in a German café.