“Daily routine” in German

January 13, 2007 at 12:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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It’s probably nothing that you’d expect, but “how to say daily routine in German” has been one of the most popular search queries leading people to this blog. As the answer hitherto wasn’t to be found here, I’ve decided to solve the enigma.

The standard translation for “daily routine” is “Tagesablauf” (m.). A common task in German textbooks might be:

“Beschreibe deinen Tagesablauf.” (Describe your daily routine.)

Or: “Was machst du so in deinem Tagesablauf?” (What’s your daily routine like?)

The ‘so’ is rather idiomatic. You can add an ‘üblich(em)’ if you want to (Was machst du so in deinem üblichen Tagesablauf?). The ‘üblich’ doesn’t have much of an impact on the translation (and is very difficult to pronounce for English speakers), but it would stress that this is something that happens everyday.

Apart from the context of daily routines, “Tagesablauf” might also be used to describe what is going to happen in the course of a special day. “Tagesablauf” therefore is also what you might find as the heading of the programme of a conference programme that begins with ‘breakfast from 7-9:30 a.m.’ (i.e. including everything, not only the items on the conference agenda).

If you want to impress a German native with your command of idiomatic expressions, you’d ask (strictly informal, don’t use this in assignments):

“Wie sieht’n so dein üblicher Tagesablauf aus?”

The ‘n is what remains of a ‘denn’. But in order to achieve a truly native accent, the’ t’ would have to be followed by an almost nasal glottal stop, which would in turn immediately be followed by an ‘n’.

In English, a glottal stop (transcribed as ? – but therere shouldn’t be a dot in proper phonetic transcription) may be an allophone of ‘t’, i.e. a sound that is a derivation of the t, as in “bo?l” for bottle.

In German, the glottal stop is typically used at the beginning of a word that starts with a vowel, in particular when it’s pronounced sharply. You’ll find that, whenever somebody says “Achtung!” (which is an exclamation of alarm), you’ll hear a little explosion before the A. That’s the glottal stop. It can also be heard between two vowels in German (e.g. Be?amter, civil servant).

Try producing a nasal glottal stop in “Wie sieht’n”. It’s difficult, but if you manage to do this, all natives of German will marvel at the proficiency of your pronunciation skills.

33 lurking around corner

January 12, 2007 at 8:59 am | Posted in Language | Leave a comment

Yesterday I bought a carton of milk that has my birthday as best before date printed on it. Barely three months to go until I complete the double three.

Mein Geburtsdatum

Trivia for you learners of German: A double-digit number with identical digits is called Schnapszahl (schnapps number) – the idea being that all drunks see double.

Urinal cake

January 10, 2007 at 6:10 pm | Posted in Learning English | Leave a comment

I’ve always wanted to know what English speaking people call a Klostein.

Thanks to suggestion from my colleague Michael, I now have a whole range of labels to choose from:

Urinal deodorizer blocks are the small disinfectant blocks found in urinals. Other informal terms include “urinal mint”, “urinal cake,” “toilet lolly” (Australian), “urinal puck” or “trough lolly” (chiefly British).

Visit Heligoland while it lasts!

January 8, 2007 at 8:49 pm | Posted in German, Global Warming | 6 Comments
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This thought came to my mind today when walking home and once more pondering the issue of global warming. Heligoland is an island in the North Sea. In the ancient days, it was controlled by Frisian, Danish, and British rulers until in 1890, Britain traded it with Germany for Zanzibar. The German name for the island is Helgoland, but the vernacular language spoken is Halunder, which is a kind of Frisian. Today, Heligoland’s highest point rises 61m above sealevel – if the sealevels rose, I suppose quite a big chunk would be torn out of the island’s flesh. It consists of the main island, Helgoland, and the uninhabitaed Düne (dune).

Heligoland is two sailing hours away from the German mainland. It enjoys tax-exempt status, which is the reason why Heligoland is also a popular destination of the so-called Butterfahrten (German, literally: butter trip). A Butterfahrt is a trip with a ship to buy duty-free goods. As soon as such a Butterschiff (butter boat; boat used for such a trip) reaches the duty-free zone, the sale may begin. On the ship. Butterfahrt tourists do not usually disembark the ship at their destination.

Over the centuries, the inhabitable area of Heligoland has been severly reduced, partly due to the hunger of the sea and partly due to the hunger of war:

There was a large allied air raid on the island on 15 October 1944, destroying many of the buildings of the Unterland; then, on 18 April 1945 over a thousand Allied bombers attacked the islands leaving nothing standing.[…] The islands were evacuated the following night.

From 1945 to 1952 the uninhabited islands were used as a bombing range. On 18 April 1947, the Royal Navy detonated 6,800 tonnes of explosives in a concerted attempt to destroy the island (“Big Bang” or “British Bang”); while aiming at the fortifications, the island’s total destruction would have been accepted. The blow shook the main island several miles down to its base, changing its shape: the Mittelland was created.

In 1952 the islands were restored to the German authorities, who had to clear a huge amount of undetonated ammunition, landscape the main island, and rebuild the houses before it could be reinhabited. Wikipedia

Btw, the 18th of April, which has twice been an unholy day for Helgoland, is also the date of my birthday.

Surprisingly, Google Earth hasn’t put Heligoland on the map yet, literally. They are retrieving the data from the sightseeing attractions’ database correctly – but no picture of the island itself is attainable:


This is truly a pity, as Heligoland is probably one of the most scenic natural landscapes of Europe. Have a look at some of the pictures a stefanlb (via Panoramio) took from the Island:


And before I forget: One of my favourite authors from my childhood days was born on Helgoland: James Krüss. And the one book which I’ve probably read a half dozen of times is set on the island: Mein Urgroßvater und ich (My greatgrandfather and me). It’s the story of a boy and a greatgrandfather who spend their days writing poems and stories on the back of the raw planks that are supposed to be made into a boat. Here is an excerpt from the book. Do you notice anything special about this poem?

Zanthens Yacht Xanthippe
war völlig unberechenbar,
trieb stets regelwidrig quer,
prosperierte oft nicht mehr,
landete kreuz-jammerbar
im Haitihafen gar,
fuhr entgegenkreuzend dann
Cubas Blumenküste an.

The next time I go home to my mother’s I should probably take the book with me to read it another time.
P.S.: If you’re clueless, read the comments!

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