German Sports Vocabulary: Learn About the 7 Most Popular Sports in Germany

Sports play an important role in German-speaking countries. It serves as a unifying force that brings communities together and stands as a symbol. It can also help you start small talk in any German-speaking country. Take a look at this video made by Denisa from Spring German (a project I co-founded) where she explain how you can do just that!

Germany, Switzerland, and Austria all share a deep-rooted appreciation for athletics, and – to probably no one’s surprise – football is the most popular sport of all. But there are other classical sports in these countries and for in the German-speaking regions, moving around and exercising is woven into the fabric of daily life.

Whether it’s for health, social interaction, or national pride, sports encapsulate a significant point of these countries’ way of life.

Let’s learn more about German Sports vocabulary in this in-depth article!

Sports are essential not just for professional athletes but also for the general public in German-speaking countries. They foster a sense of community, contribute to healthy living, and provide a source of local and national pride. In Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, sports such as football, skiing, and ice hockey are not just leisure activities; they are integral to everyday life, reflecting cultural values and often becoming a topic of conversation across all walks of life.

The most popular sports in Germany

Popular sport in GermanySport in English
Fußball
Soccer (Football)
Motorsport
Motor Sports
Handball
Handball
Basketball
Basketball
Eishockey
Ice Hockey
Tennis
Tennis
Leichtathletik
Athletics

The most popular sports in Austria

Popular sport in AustriaSport in English
Fußball
Soccer (Football)
Ski Alpin
Alpine Skiing
Skispringen
Ski Jumping
Eishockey
Ice Hockey
Tennis
Tennis
Radfahren
Cycling
Handball
Handball

The most popular sports in Switzerland

Popular sports in SwitzerlandSport in English
Fußball
Soccer (Football)
Eishockey
Ice Hockey
Tennis
Tennis
Ski Alpin
Alpine Skiing
Schwingen
Swiss Wrestling
Radfahren
Cycling
Segeln
Sailing

You can see that some sports appear in every country, while others are specific to a certain region. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because, well, football is the most popular of all and some others are really specific and only a few countries around the world play them.

These sports in the tables reflect the diverse sporting preferences across these nations, where winter sports hold a special place – especially in Austria and Switzerland due to their alpine locations.

While the sports mentioned above are incredibly popular, there are other athletic activities in Germany that attract huge attention. Formula 1 – renowned for German champions like Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel – is followed heavily. Winter sports are also popular, with many eagerly awaiting events like biathlon and ski jumping.

Here’s a table outlining other popular sports in Germany:

Sport in GermanSport in English
Formel 1
Formula 1
Wintersport
Winter Sports
Golf
Golf
American Football
American Football
Radsport
Cycling
Segeln
Sailing
Wassersport
Water Sports

Ana: Hast du das letzte Formel 1 Rennen gesehen? (Did you watch the last Formula 1 race?)
Nikol: Ja, es war unglaublich spannend. Ich war immer ein großer Fan von Sebastian Vettel. (Yes, it was incredibly exciting. I’ve always been a big fan of Sebastian Vettel.)
Ana: Ich auch. Aber ich freue mich auch auf die Wintersport-Saison. Eishockey ist so ein faszinierender Sport! (Me too. But I’m also looking forward to the winter sports season. Ice hockey is such a fascinating sport!)
Nikol: Absolut. Es erfordert so viel Geschick und Teamarbeit. Hast du ein Lieblingsteam? (Absolutely. It requires so much skill and teamwork. Do you have a favorite team?)
Ana: Ich tendiere dazu, die Adler Mannheim anzufeuern. (I tend to root for Adler Mannheim.)
Nikol: Gute Wahl! Ich unterstütze die Eisbären Berlin. (Good choice! I support Eisbären Berlin.)

3. How to talk about sports in German

Starting a conversation about sports is a great way to engage with locals in German-speaking areas. You might discuss recent match outcomes, share enthusiasm for upcoming events, or even play together. Knowing sports-related verbs can make these interactions smoother and more enjoyable.

Sometimes, you could even throw in some German slang to make it sound more natural.

Here’s a table of 20 important German sport-related verbs:

Important sport-related verbs in German

German VerbEnglish Translation
spielen
to play
laufen
to run
schwimmen
to swim
springen
to jump
werfen
to throw
fangen
to catch
schlagen
to hit
treten
to kick
schießen
to shoot
fahren
to drive/ride
gewinnen
to win
verlieren
to lose
trainieren
to train
kämpfen
to fight
segeln
to sail
wandern
to hike
gleiten
to glide
boxen
to box
starten
to start (a race)
anfeuern
to cheer (on)

Georg: Gehst du heute Abend das Fußballspiel schauen? (Georg: Are you going to watch the football game tonight?)
Lukas: Ja, ich werde es zu Hause mit Freunden schauen. Wir werden unser Team anfeuern! (Lukas: Yes, I’ll watch it at home with friends. We’ll cheer on our team!)
Georg: Hervorragend! Ich hoffe, wir gewinnen. Trainierst du noch für deinen Halbmarathon? (Georg: Excellent! I hope we win. Are you still training for your half marathon?)
Lukas: Sicher, ich laufe jeden Tag, auch wenn es schwierig ist. (Lukas: Sure, I run every day even though it’s tough.)

4. A special mention: Bundesliga – the football league in Germany

Football in Germany is not just a game; it’s a cultural phenomenon.

At the heart of this phenomenon is the Bundesliga, the top-tier football league that commands the attention of millions.

german sports vocabulary for football teams locker room

Established in 1963, the Bundesliga consists of 18 teams that compete annually for the championship title. The league operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the 2. Bundesliga – a dynamic competition structure.

Clubs represent their cities and regions, and match days are often a showcase of local pride and community spirit.

Bayern Munich, undoubtedly the most successful club in the Bundesliga, has set the benchmark for excellence with a staggering record of 33 league titles to their name. This success has established them as a dominant force in German football, and they are often the team to beat – and not just in Germany but all over Europe.

The most famous of intense rivalries is ‘Der Klassiker‘—the clash between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, two of the league’s most successful teams.

Lately, other clubs such as RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen are aspiring to make their mark in the history of the Bundesliga. So, if you’re already visiting Germany, don’t miss out on these chances to watch maybe the greatest football showdown on the continent!

5. The Olympics: A Sporting Spectacle Every Four Years

The Olympics remains one of the grandest stages for athletic achievement and national pride, and German-speaking countries have consistently made their mark on this event that’s held every four years.

german sports vocabulary for olympics

Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have not only participated, but they have excelled, especially in specific sports that highlight their strengths.

Germany has historically been a powerhouse in several Olympic sports. Gymnastics, athletics, and swimming have seen numerous German athletes on the podium. In the Winter Olympics, Germany has excelled in bobsled, luge, and biathlon. As of the latest Olympic Games, Germany has secured 201 gold medals in the Summer Olympics and 104 gold medals in the Winter Olympics.

Austria’s presence is strongly felt in alpine sports such as skiing. The country’s mountainous regions provide a natural training ground for winter sports athletes, contributing to their successful record, particularly in the Winter Olympics (71 gold medals!). In the Summer Games, Austria has also made its presence known, with 20 gold medals to date.

Switzerland, with its majestic Alps, is synonymous with winter sports. They have consistently shown their dominance in alpine skiing and snowboarding, sports that are practically a way of life in the country. Switzerland has 63 gold medals at the Winter Games. In the Summer Olympics, however, they’ve also made their mark, securing 53 gold medals until the latest event. The Swiss have shown particular prowess in equestrian sports, gymnastics, and rowing, where precision, endurance, and technique are critical.

Olympic words in German

German WordEnglish Translation
Olympische Spiele
Olympic Games
Sommerolympiade
Summer Olympics
Winterolympiade
Winter Olympics
Goldmedaille
Gold Medal
Silbermedaille
Silver Medal
Bronzemedaille
Bronze Medal
Athlet
Athlete
Wettbewerb
Competition
Eröffnungsfeier
Opening Ceremony
Schlussfeier
Closing Ceremony
Olympisches Dorf
Olympic Village
Sportveranstaltung
Sports Event
Wettkampf
Contest
Nationale Mannschaft
National Team
Medaillenzähler
Medal Tally
Fackellauf
Torch Relay
Maskottchen
Mascot
Olympischer Rekord
Olympic Record
Qualifikation
Qualification
Siegerehrung
Medal Ceremony

6. Learn More About Sports in Germany with Conversation Based Chunking

Whether it’s football, tennis, skiing, or cycling, these sports are loved in German-speaking societies and can offer a small context for engaging in conversations in German. You will naturally pick up new vocabulary, idioms, and speech patterns used in the world of sports if you practice it with language learning partners or native speakers. In no time, you will feel like they are just common German phrases to use.

Involving yourself in sports can also make the experience of learning a new language more enjoyable, and can even create opportunities to connect with other people who love sports! From discussing the latest Bundesliga results to skiing conditions in the Alps, sports can provide a wealth of topics to talk about.

By giving a context to the language, sports can also help learners understand and remember new words and phrases more easily, as they can attach them to specific scenarios or actions. Lucky for you, the Conversation Based Chunking method is here to help you along the way: focus on observing lexical chunks in conversations, then implement them in your speaking opportunities!

Sports culture in German-speaking regions is a fantastic tool for language learning. It helps you learn more about the lifestyle of the people who speak it.

By making the learning process more fun and engaging, sports can turn the challenge of learning a new language into an exciting adventure.

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