Written German Language: 5 Resources to Make Yours Better + Examples

The German language has a rich written tradition. Now, I don’t want to say that speaking German isn’t important but learning everything about written German language will come in handy in different situations.

Easy German made a video about the main differences between spoken and written German. Time to check it out!

Don’t miss this chance to explore written German and find the best resources to practice it!

1. History of written German language

The history of written German language can be traced back to the 8th century.

These early texts were written in different German dialects rather than a standardized form. It wasn’t until the 16th century that a more unified written German language began to form.

written german language in a notebook

Can you guess why?

That’s thanks largely to Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible.

Over the coming centuries, writers and grammarians continued to standardize the written German language.

The Duden dictionary helped cement many of the rules and spellings of modern written German: today it’s known as Standard German (Standarddeutsch) or High German (Hochdeutsch).

The 1996 German spelling reform brought written German more in line with the spoken language.

2. 5 differences between spoken and written German

If we’re talking about written German, we also have to mention how it behaves in contrast to spoken German.

Here are the 5 main differences between the two:

Formality

Written German tends to be more formal and follows the grammatical rules strictly, while spoken German is often more casual and relaxed.

Written GermanSpoken German
Ich habe diesen Film nicht verstanden, da die Handlung sehr komplex war. (I did not understand this movie, as the plot was very complex.)Ich hab’ den Film nicht gecheckt, die Story war echt verkorkst. (I didn’t get the movie, the story was really messed up.)

Syntax

The sentence structure in written German is generally more complex. It follows a stricter word order (e.g., verb at the end in subordinate clauses).

Spoken German often uses simpler sentence structures, and word order can be more flexible.

Written GermanSpoken German
Obwohl er sehr müde war, nachdem er die ganze Nacht gearbeitet hatte, ging er dennoch pünktlich zur Arbeit. (Although he was very tired after having worked all night, he still went to work on time.)Er war voll kaputt, weil er die ganze Nacht gearbeitet hat, aber er ist trotzdem pünktlich zur Arbeit gegangen. (He was totally exhausted because he worked all night, but he still went to work on time.)

Vocabulary

Written German uses a more formal vocabulary, including many compound words.

Spoken German often uses more colloquial expressions, slang, and shortened forms.

Written GermanSpoken German
Die Geschwindigkeitsüberschreitung führte zu einer empfindlichen Geldbuße. (The speed violation resulted in a substantial fine.)Ich bin viel zu schnell gefahren und hab’ ne fette Strafe kassiert. (I drove way too fast and got slapped with a hefty fine.)

Contractions

Spoken German frequently uses contractions and elisions (e.g., “hab‘” instead of “habe“), which are generally avoided in formal written German.

Written GermanSpoken German
Ich habe heute leider keine Zeit, da ich arbeiten muss. (Unfortunately, I do not have time today as I must work.)Ich hab’ heute leider keine Zeit, ich muss arbeiten. (Unfortunately, I don’t have time today, I have to work.)

You can also take a look at our German challenge, which is full of these real-life examples for contractions with chunks.

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Written German uses a more elevated register. It avoids colloquialisms and vulgar language common in some spoken contexts.

Written GermanSpoken German
Das Verhalten des Schülers war absolut inakzeptabel und respektlos gegenüber dem Lehrer. Solch eine Verfehlung wird nachdrückliche Konsequenzen nach sich ziehen. (The student’s behavior was absolutely unacceptable and disrespectful towards the teacher. Such a transgression will result in emphatic consequences.)Der Bengel hat sich voll daneben benommen und dem Lehrer frech widersprochen. Dafür kriegt er vollen Ärger. (The brat behaved completely out of line and talked back to the teacher rudely. He’s going to be in serious trouble for that.)

3. 5 resources to make your written German better

If you’re learning to take a German exam or if you’re just looking to make your written German better, these are the best resources to check out!

Duden Dictionary

The Duden Dictionary is the authoritative dictionary for the German language. It’s used to check German spelling, German grammar, and proper word usage.

This dictionary has played a huge role to form the standard German.

Style Guides

Style guides in German are reference works that offer advice and rules on effective writing style, proper language usage, and clear communication.

One of the most important style guide is Duden: Richtiges und gutes Deutsch.

Duden - Allgemeinbildung kompakt: Was jeder wissen muss
  • Divided by topic
  • Compact, easy-to-understand
  • Perfect for every level

Grammar Books

Comprehensive grammar reference books like the “Duden Grammatik

Der Duden in 12 Banden
  • Readable, enjoyable (even if it's a grammar book)
  • A-Z full perspective

or the “Hammer’s German Grammar and Usage” can help you understand the German grammar rules for writing.

Hammer's German Grammar and Usage
  • Comprehensive book
  • User-friendly book

Reading Quality Publications

Make a habit of reading well-written easy German books, newspapers, and magazines to expose yourself to proper writing styles.

Writing Practice with Feedback

Continuous writing practice and getting feedback from native speakers or teachers on your writing samples is essential for improvement.

There’s a great Reddit subreddit that could be useful for this, it’s called WriteStreakGerman.

It’s a fantastic community which will be of help in making your written German better.

4. German essay phrases used in writing

When writing German essays or academic papers, it’s helpful to have a repertoire of standard German essay phrases to use for different purposes.

Here are some common German essay phrases:

Introducing a topic

GermanEnglish
Dieses Essay/Dieser Aufsatz behandelt…This essay/paper deals with…
Das Thema dieser Arbeit ist…The topic of this work is…

Stating a thesis

GermanEnglish
Die vorliegende Arbeit vertritt die These, dass…This paper argues that…
Die Hauptthese lautet…The main thesis is…

Structuring the essay

GermanEnglish
Zunächst wird… erläutertFirst, … will be explained
Im Folgenden wird… diskutiertIn the following, … will be discussed
Abschließend wird… zusammengefasstFinally, … will be summarized

Providing examples

GermanEnglish
Ein Beispiel dafür ist…An example of this is…
Veranschaulicht werden kann dies anhand von…This can be illustrated by…

Expressing opinions

GermanEnglish
Meiner Meinung nach…In my opinion…
Es ist anzunehmen, dass…It can be assumed that…

Concluding

GermanEnglish
Zusammenfassend lässt sich sagen…In summary, it can be said…
Abschließend kann festgehalten werden, dass…In conclusion, it can be stated that…

5. Learn German grammar with Conversation Based Chunking

One effective method for learning German grammar (without much hassle) is through Conversation Based Chunking.

This method involves breaking down natural conversations into manageable “chunks” or phrases, and studying the grammar within those contexts.

Instead of learning grammar rules in isolation, you can study a common conversational phrase like “Ich habe es nicht verstanden” (I didn’t understand it). By analyzing the components of this phrase – the subject (“ich“), the present perfect tense (“habe … verstanden“), the negation (“nicht“), and the word order – you can pick up various grammar points in a more natural, contextualized way.

What are you waiting for? It’s your chance to grab the German Conversation Based Chunking Guide: in it, you’ll find essential chunking lists, a study program, and gain access to our Practice Worksheet Library.

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