Chatterbug’s new podcast, Long Story Short, covers beginners German for English speakers. Each episode is in German and English and takes you on a journey. Listen as the characters navigate their way through chance meetings, miscommunications and surprises.

You can also listen on Apple or the RSS feed. Below is a transcript of the first episode.

Breakfast at Midnight

HELENA: From Chatterbug and produced by Weframe Studios, you’re listening to Long Story Short – Lange Geschichte kurz, ein podcast in Deutsch und English. Language learning is ultimately about a desire to connect more with the people around us: from the hilarious to the complicated, and even the enchanting moments that fill up our days, these stories explore all kinds of connections while teaching you, our listeners, a little bit about language and a little bit about life. I’m your host Helena and I want to give you a quick overview of how our podcast works. Each episode revolves around a story, which is narrated in English, but has dialogue in German. Using context clues from the English narration we’re hoping you can tune into the German conversations with a little more ease.

After each story, I’ll be joined by a German learner and together we’ll break down the German dialogues and discuss the story in relation to life in Germany. Then you’ll get to hear from our German teachers for a quick fire memory technique round called grammatically speaking. In Season One, we’ll focus on talking points we found to be most valuable for A1 German learners.

Our podcast coincides with topics in our Curriculum at chatterbug.com. So, if you’re looking for a deeper dive into language learning, check us out there.  In this story look out for the key themes of today covering getting to know people through talking about hobbies, the must know days of the week and how to buy some pasty treats.

Without further ado here is Frühstück um Mitternacht meaning Breakfast at Midnight. It follows Noah, a young chef in Berlin, whose life is turned upside down after his beloved grandmother passed away. What or who does it take for our life to fall back into place again, after experiencing a great loss?

NOAH: My Gran and I had a ritual. Pancakes at midnight. It didn’t matter where we were, what we were doing – if gran was around and the moon was out – it was flipping pancakes time. It wasn’t so much the eats that had me – although a thin and crispy with the right amount of sugar and lemon drizzling would go down pretty well right about now- it was really that this was our thing. Our way to celebrate the time together.

And these pancakes took me places. I wound up becoming a chef. But when Gran passed, that took me someplace else, and I stayed there for a while.

One day, in this ‘lost’ period, I overheard my colleagues talking.

COLLEAGUE 1: Wie geht’s ihm?

COLLEAGUE 2: Nicht so gut, glaube ich. Ich glaube er war Montag, Dienstag und Mittwoch nur traurig.

COLLEAGUE 1: Hmm ihm geht’s nicht gut seit ein paar Monaten. Ich denke es braucht Zeit.

NOAH: Then they asked me the same question I couldn’t answer every day since.

COLLEAGUE 1:  Na, Wie geht es dir heute?

NOAH: Stumbling, I just asked back:

Welcher Tag ist heute nochmal?

COLLEAGUE 1+2: Donnerstag

NOAH: they said.

Oh ja, dann hm, nicht so toll.

Yep – that was pretty much how every conversation seemed to go. But at the time I didn’t have the ability to reflect on my actions. I couldn’t see the a way out of the hole that I was digging – let alone appreciate that that was what I was doing.

And so it continued.

Another day, more of the blur. My colleague was going through the order.

COLLEAGUE 1: Mmm probier mal – Diese Zitronen sind richtig süß.

NOAH: Huh?

COLLEAGUE 1: Ach egal… Warst du schon einkaufen?

NOAH: Welcher Tag ist heute?

COLLEAGUE 1: Freitag, buddy. Es ist Freitag

NOAH: Richtig – ja. Ich gehe einkaufen. Was brauchen wir?

A delivery hadn’t made it in that morning. So, we were running low. He went through the list.

COLLEAGUE 1: Ich würde sagen, ein paar Eier, Milch, Käse – Mozzarella und Gouda. Wir brauchen mehr Obst – also Himbeeren, Bananen, Erdbeeren. Schreibst du das auf?

NOAH: Ja, ja.

COLLEAGUE 1:  Okay, uh, Gemüse – Pilze, Zwiebeln, Tomaten. Sonst noch was?

NOAH: Was?

COLLEAGUE 1: Hörst du mir noch zu?

NOAH: Ja, klar. Ich geh die Zitronen holen.

I know, I know. Desperate times though.

I did, somehow, make my way over to the store. In my haze – I piled up on lemons and approached the cashier. There was a girl at the counter, not that I noticed. But, she spoke and, at once, I was aware of her presence.

LEAH: Das Leben ist großzügig, oder?

NOAH: She said, nodding to lemons. Here we go – I wasn’t giving her a chance.

Nicht wirklich. Nein.

I snapped, but I really did believe it at that point.

LEAH:  Vielleicht müssen wir etwas genauer hinschauen.

NOAH: Smiling, she took the lemon that was resting under my chin and held it up. Like a lightbulb.

Estimating, she then let me off with my ludicrous bundle held close to my chest.

LEAH: Sollen wir sagen, dass es ungefähr dreißig sind?

NOAH: Ehm..

I mumbled something, dropped the cash and marched out with my absurdity very much intact. And yet, moments after arriving back at the restaurant – there she was.

LEAH: Deine Zitronen! Du hast deine Zitronen vergessen.

NOAH:  Again, she held it up in one hand, an eyebrow raised. But her energy was so warm. Plus I definitely looked ridiculous. Embarrassed, I dropped some of the steely act.

Oh, das war nicht nötig.

 LEAH: Ich denke du brauchst sie heute, oder?

As she walked out and left me with:

LEAH: Die schmecken super zu Pancakes!

NOAH: Ja, ich weiß.

She was right, they would. I thought that was it, but the following Friday she was back. And that one after that. Each time she’d bring lemons. My response was still sour.

As I took the fruit from her hands – she started another conversation.

LEAH: Also, Ich habe eine Frage. Was machst du gerne in deiner Freizeit?

NOAH: Keine Ahnung.

LEAH: Du weißt nicht, was du magst. Machst du Sport? Vielleicht  surfen? Oder spielst du gerne Gitarre? 

NOAH: I shrugged.

LEAH: Komm schon, magst du Bier?

NOAH: Warum willst du das wissen?

 I was abrupt, but I honestly couldn’t make sense of it.

LEAH: Ich mag es einfach, neue Leute kennenzulernen. Freunde finden, du nicht?

NOAH:  Nein, nicht mehr.

I knew I was blowing it. But the part of me that cared was still taking a back seat to my bitterness.

LEAH: Also, Ich esse auch gerne.

NOAH: She said again with that smile.

LEAH: …und wie es aussieht kochst du gerne…zeigst du es mir?

NOAH: I was taken aback.

Hier?

LEAH: Klar, warum nicht?

NOAH:  Ok.

 I relented:

 Heute Nacht nach der Arbeit?

LEAH:  Oh!

NOAH: She was surprised.

LEAH:  Wann soll ich kommen?

NOAH: Then I was surprised.

Das Restaurant schließt um Mitternacht.

LEAH: Was essen wir dann?

NOAH: Was magst du denn?

LEAH:  Frühstück!

NOAH:  Frühstück?

LEAH: Ja, Mitternacht ist die beste Zeit zum Frühstück.

NOAH:  Finde Ich auch.

‘Breakfast at Midnight’ Breakdown

[00:08:51]

HELENA: We’re back! It’s Long Story Short, the podcast by Chatterbug. You’ve just been listening to Frühstück um Mitternacht meaning Breakfast at Midnight. We’re joined here by Danielle, our German learner. And let’s take a little deeper look at the conversations we just heard and talk a little bit about life in Germany.

We both live in Berlin. I’m a German speaker and English speaker and Danielle is…

DANIELLE:  An English speaker and a German learner.

HELENA:  German learner! Why are you learning German, Danielle?

DANIELLE: Well, mostly because I live in Berlin, which obviously is in Germany – a lot of people don’t know that – but, um, I’ve actually become even more passionate about learning German because I have a son who’s almost three and he’s learning quite a bit of German right now in his German daycare, his kindergarten, then I just want to make sure that, you know, I can keep up with him when he does start to start learning the language and being able to sort of speak it. Obviously learning the language would make it a lot easier to make German friends as well. So I think that’s, yeah, that’s why recently I’ve become [00:10:00] even more ready to learn the language.

HELENA: Yeah, it’s hard to learn German in Berlin actually: there are so many English speakers here and people are really prepared to speak English with you. But yeah, there’s the certain connections that you need to have, like with your kita teachers and your son and your friends that if you don’t know the language you’re really missing out. It’s great to have the opportunity to learn another language and collect your learning with us, Danielle.

DANIELLE: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me!

HELENA: I’m so glad you’re here. A little bit about me: I grew up in California and I’ve been living in Germany for six years now. My mother’s German so I grew up speaking German at home with her. So I have a pretty good knowledge of German and studied here at university and also all my courses were in German. Danielle, let’s take a quick moment to talk about what exactly happened in the story, just so that we can, we can have a recap with our listeners. First he’s at the restaurant with his colleagues and he’s feeling really bummed.

DANIELLE: Right.

HELENA: They are talking about how he needs to go to the grocery store ’cause the restaurant’s running low on some food and he needs to go buy the groceries. Then he goes to the grocery store and he meets a beautiful woman named Leah, but he doesn’t notice it then, ’cause all he cares about is lemons. So, instead of buying a bunch of groceries, he just buys a lot of lemons.

DANIELLE: A lot of lemons.

HELENA: Poor guy.

DANIELLE: She seems to notice that he’s a little bit sad maybe and she’s seems to be trying to – kind of- cheer him up?

HELENA: Yeah, exactly. Or she thinks he’s just cute and wants to get to know him better.

DANIELLE: Yeah, possibly.

HELENA: She starts a conversation with him about all the lemons he’s trying to buy. And then later she keeps one of the lemons for herself so that she has an excuse to go back to his restaurant and get to know him better. And that’s what she does. She shows up and she tries to get him to ask her out, but he’s not really following it. And, at the end, they decide to… do you remember what they decide to do?

DANIELLE: Make pancakes at midnight?

HELENA: Exactly. Well, I’m so glad you’re here Danielle. Let’s take this opportunity to break down the story for our listeners and maybe see if we can understand the dialogue a little bit better.

DANIELLE: It sounds great. Let’s do it!

HELENA: Cool. So let’s first listen to the first conversation, which happens between Noah and his colleagues. Noah’s really sad ’cause his grandmother just passed away and he’s not really with it. So let’s take a listen.

DANIELLE: Okay.

NOAH: One day, in this ‘lost’ period, I overheard my colleagues talking.

COLLEAGUE 1: Wie geht’s ihm?

COLLEAGUE 2: Nicht so gut, glaube ich. Ich glaube er war Montag, Dienstag und Mittwoch nur traurig.

COLLEAGUE 1: Hmm ihm geht’s nicht gut seit ein paar Monaten. Ich denke es braucht Zeit.

NOAH: Then they asked me the same question I couldn’t answer every day since.

COLLEAGUE 1:  Na, Wie geht es dir heute?

NOAH: Stumbling, I just asked back:

Welcher Tag ist heute nochmal?

COLLEAGUE 1+2: Donnerstag

NOAH: They said.

Oh ja, dann hm, nicht so toll.

HELENA: Okay Danielle, how much of that conversation were you able to understand?

DANIELLE: I was able to understand a good bit of it, but not all of it.

HELENA: Right. So Noah’s mourning the loss of his grandmother. What is his friends say since, when is he feeling sad?

DANIELLE: Did he say since Montag?

HELENA: Since Montag, yeah. That’s right. Which day of the week is that?

DANIELLE: Monday?

HELENA: Monday. Yeah. The days of the week in German are really close and similar to the days of the week in English. We have Montag, Dienstag and Mittwoch and you mentioned to me that Mittwoch is a little confusing for you ’cause it’s the one that sounds at least like the English.

DANIELLE: Right, and it’s so different from the other days of the week, which all end in “-tag”.

HELENA: It’s true. Mittwoch, actually, if we break this down: “Mitt” sounds a little bit like “Mitte”, which means “middle”.

DANIELLE: Ah!

HELENA: And “-woch” sounds a bit like “Woche”, which means “week”. So Mittwoch is the middle of the week.

DANIELLE: Aah! Mid week. Nice!

HELENA: German says smart. Yeah, it’s a, it’s a very logical language. So what are the other days of the week that we’re missing?

DANIELLE: Donnerstag, Freitag, Samstag und Sonntag.

HELENA: Wow. Danielle knows her days of the week. That’s really great. So let’s talk a little bit about Noah and him feeling sad about his grandmother. It sounds like he had a really good connection to his grandmother, Oma, as we say here in Germany, and he loved to make pancakes with her at midnight. Did you have any connection with your grandmother and how you like to cook with her?

DANIELLE: Well, yeah. I’m from the US, obviously. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and my grandmother and my, the rest of my family actually, lives in Mobile, Alabama. And so I didn’t grow up with, you know, seeing my grandmother every day, but we would [00:15:00] go to Alabama like twice a year. One of my best memories of our trips to the South when I was growing up was when we first arrived, my grandmother always cooked this huge breakfast and the star of the breakfast was always the pancakes because she would like fry them in like Crisco oil and they were just so amazing and I’m really, really bad for you. But I actually, when I really think about wanting to have something like, kind of, some comfort food that’s what I always think about: it’s those pancakes that my grandmother made. Not at midnight, but early in the morning when we would first arrive at her house in Alabama.

HELENA: Wow, that sounds amazing. I love a big Southern breakfast. Now, my grandmother also cooked pancake sometimes and because I grew up in the States and, but also have these roots in Germany, I thought it’s really interesting how German pancakes are super different than American ones. Have you tried them?

DANIELLE: Yeah, they are. They’re a lot more, I would say cake-y here, aren’t they?

HELENA: Yeah. They’re thicker, there’s higher concentration of egg in them. So, yeah. American pancakes have like one egg and German pancakes have three or four. So they’re a little hardier, a little bit chewier, yeah.

DANIELLE: Yeah.

HELENA: Still very tasty.

DANIELLE: Yeah. They’re still really good, but yeah, every now and then I just have to have the pancakes like my grandmother made them.

HELENA: It makes total sense.

DANIELLE:  Yeah.

HELENA: Let’s move on to the second dialogue in our story, in which Noah’s talking about the food that he needs to get from the restaurant or, actually, his colleagues are telling him what they need from the restaurant. Let’s take a listen.

NOAH: He went through the list.

COLLEAGUE 1: Ich würde sagen, ein paar Eier, Milch, Käse – Mozzarella und Gouda. Wir brauchen mehr Obst – also Himbeeren, Bananen, Erdbeeren. Schreibst du das auf?

NOAH: Ja, ja.

COLLEAGUE 1:  Okay, uh, Gemüse – Pilze, Zwiebeln, Tomaten. Sonst noch was?

NOAH: Was?

COLLEAGUE 1: Hörst du mir noch zu?

NOAH: Ja, klar. Ich geh die Zitronen holen.

HELENA: So, like we just heard, Noah’s colleagues are telling Noah that he needs to go get some things from the grocery store for the restaurant that they run together. He listed a very long list of words. Were you able to catch all of them?

DANIELLE: I’ve, I caught most of them. I don’t know if I can recall them. I know the first one was Eier-milch?

HELENA: Eier und Milch?

DANIELLE: Eier und Milch.

HELENA: Yeah, is …

DANIELLE: Eggs?

HELENA: Milch?

DANIELLE: Milk.

HELENA: Right.

DANIELLE: Aah!  I was like, what is Eir-milch?

HELENA: Well, that’s a good point because in Germany you often put the words like you stick them together, like a compound word spoken quickly. Sometime it’s hard to differentiate between where one word starts and where one word ends. So we have the dairy products that they mentioned, which were: Eir, Milch und Käse. He mentioned they need the mozzarella and the Gouda. So those are two kinds of cheeses.

DANIELLE: Gouda? Is, is that Gouda?

HELENA: Yeah. It’s Gouda

DANIELLE: In English, obviously, [00:18:00] yeah.

HELENA: And then they have the fruit.

DANIELLE: Uh, yeah

HELENA: He said the fruit.

DANIELLE: Right. I’ve heard… Apfel?

HELENA: No Apfel.

DANIELLE: Heidelbeeren?

HELENA: You’re just listing fruit, you know? Yeah. Well, that’s good that you don’t know …

DANIELLE: Birne? Pears, right?

HELENA: So we have the Himbeeren, Bananen and Erdbeeren. So we have our …

DANIELLE: Raspberries, bananas and strawberries.

HELENA: Right. And then, last but not least, vegetables.

DANIELLE: I don’t remember the vegetables.

HELENA: Ok, so they need Pilze and Tomaten.

DANIELLE: Pilze is mushrooms. Zwiebeln.. I always have a hard time with that word.

HELENA: Zwiebeln.

DANIELLE: Zwiebeln.

HELENA: The Z sounds like the “z” in pizza.

DANIELLE: Pizza. Zwiebeln.

HELENA: Yeah! Pretty close.

DANIELLE: So that’s onions and Tomaten is tomatoes.

HELENA: Yes, that one is pretty obvious. Sounds like they’re making a pizza. So what does Noah end up getting from the grocery store though?

DANIELLE: He gets lemons instead.

HELENA: That’s right. That’s the next part of dialogue. We can dive into that next.

NOAH: … and, at once, I was aware of her presence.

LEAH: Das Leben ist großzügig, oder?

NOAH: She said, nodding to lemons. Here we go – I wasn’t giving her a chance.

Nicht wirklich. Nein.

I snapped, but I really did believe it at that point.

LEAH:  Vielleicht müssen wir etwas genauer hinschauen.

NOAH: Smiling, she took the lemon that was resting under my chin and held it up. Like a lightbulb.

Estimating, she then let me off with my ludicrous bundle held close to my chest.

LEAH: Sollen wir sagen, dass es ungefähr dreißig sind?

NOAH: Ehm..

I mumbled something, dropped the cash and marched out with my absurdity very much intact. And yet, moments after arriving back at the restaurant – there she was.

LEAH: Deine Zitronen! Du hast deine Zitronen vergessen.

NOAH: Again, she held it up in one hand, an eyebrow raised. But her energy was so warm. Plus I definitely looked ridiculous. Embarrassed, I dropped some of the steely act.

Oh, das war nicht nötig.

 LEAH: Ich denke du brauchst sie heute, oder?

As she walked out and left me with:

LEAH: Die schmecken super zu Pancakes!

NOAH: Ja, ich weiß.

HELENA: So in this little snippet, Noah and Leah meet each other for the first time. Leah’s the cashier at the grocery store that Noah went to. So, like I mentioned before, what does Noah buy?

DANIELLE: He buys Zitronen. 

HELENA: Zitronen, exactly. He just buys a huge pile of lemons, which is…

DANIELLE: So he didn’t buy any of the things that he was.. that were on his shopping list.

HELENA: The restaurant is it’s going to be having some issues tonight.

DANIELLE: Like, what exactly do they make with just a bunch of lemons, I wonder.

HELENA: His restaurant turned into a lemonade stand. So Leah says to him: “Das Leben ist großzügig, oder?”

So do you know what that means?

DANIELLE: It’s like…life is… life is something

HELENA: Großzügig.

DANIELLE: It means too big?

HELENA: Oh, no. It means generous.

DANIELLE: Aaah!

HELENA: So I think Leah’s making a, like a reference to this saying “When life gives you lemons”, because the more lemons you have, the more you can turn it into lemonade.

DANIELLE: Yeah. So “life is generous to you” is what she said to him.

HELENA: Yes.

DANIELLE: Interesting.

HELENA: And Noah said…

DANIELLE: “No, because I’m very sad right now”. 

HELENA: Yeah.

DANIELLE: So is this a reference to that expression that we have in English “when life gives you lemons, then you make lemonade”? Do you have something like that in German?

HELENA: I don’t know if we have something like that exactly in German. But maybe as an English speaker  was just thinking about that in reference to herself, she’s international, just like all of us here. All right, so in the last dialogue, Leah shows up to the restaurant, bringing the lemon that she didn’t ring up, she just rang up all of them except for one. And she’s like, I’m going to keep this one for myself. Found Noah at the restaurant he works at and try to get to know him better. So great way to get to know people better: talk about things you like to do.

DANIELLE: Absolutely.

HELENA: Leah’s trying to figure out what Noah’s hobbies are. Let’s listen the back snippet.

NOAH: As I took the fruit from her hands – she started another conversation.

LEAH: Also, Ich habe eine Frage. Was machst du gerne in deiner Freizeit?

NOAH: Keine Ahnung.

LEAH: Du weißt nicht, was du magst. Machst du Sport? Vielleicht  surfen? Oder spielst du gerne Gitarre? 

NOAH: I shrugged.

LEAH: Komm schon, magst du Bier?

NOAH: Warum willst du das wissen?

 I was abrupt, but I honestly couldn’t make sense of it.

LEAH: Ich mag es einfach, neue Leute kennenzulernen. Freunde finden, du nicht?

NOAH: Nein, nicht mehr.

I knew I was blowing it. But the part of me that cared was still taking a back seat to my bitterness.

LEAH: Also, Ich esse auch gerne.

NOAH: She said again with that smile.

LEAH: …und wie es aussieht kochst du gerne…zeigst du es mir?

NOAH: I was taken aback.

Hier?

LEAH: Klar, warum nicht?

NOAH:  Ok.

 I relented:

 Heute Nacht nach der Arbeit?

LEAH:  Oh!

NOAH: She was surprised.

LEAH:  Wann soll ich kommen?

NOAH: Then I was surprised.

Das Restaurant schließt um Mitternacht.

LEAH: Was essen wir dann?

NOAH: Was magst du denn?

LEAH:  Frühstück!

NOAH:  Frühstück?

LEAH: Ja, Mitternacht ist die beste Zeit zum Frühstück.

NOAH:  Finde Ich auch.

HELENA: So Danielle, what are the hobbies that Noah asked Leah about?

DANIELLE: She kind of suggests a few things like Surfen?

HELENA: Surfen, yeah. What else?

DANIELLE: Carte spielen?

HELENA: No, close. She says: Magst du bier?

DANIELLE: Magst du bier!

HELENA: Yeah. What does that mean?

DANIELLE: Do you like beer?

HELENA: Yeah. It’s not really a hobby, but it’s a good way to get to know somebody.

DANIELLE: It can be, I guess if you, if it’s, you know, craft beer tasting, that could be a hobby.

HELENA: It’s many people’s hobby.

DANIELLE: It’s true.

HELENA: Yeah, so she asks: Was machst du gern in deiner Freizeit?  Which means: what do you like to do in your free time? And drinking beer is actually a great way to get to know somebody. So that’s probably why she suggested it. And the last thing she asks him is whether he likes to cook.

DANIELLE: He works in a restaurant, so I sure hope so.

HELENA: Yeah. Or he hates it because it’s his job.

DANIELLE: Right, that’s also true.

HELENA: They figure out that Leah likes to, to eat because she asks him if he’s good at cooking and they agree eventually to meet up. When do they decide to meet?

DANIELLE: Well, they want to meet up after he’s off of work, right? I guess when the restaurant closes so midnight, it seems like when it’s, when they’re meeting up.

HELENA: Das Restaurant schliesst um Mitternacht.

DANIELLE: Das Restaurant schliesst um Mitternacht.

HELENA: Exactly, the restaurant’s closing at midnight, and then they decide to cook Frühstück. Frühstück um Mitternacht.

DANIELLE: Ah, breakfast at midnight. That’s a weird time to meet up with somebody, but I guess when you’re off work, you know, you meet up with people after work and he just so [00:26:00] happens to get off of work late. Yeah.

HELENA: I mean, if you’re working at a restaurant, that’s just a, it’s a very busy job to have. You don’t have a lot of free time.

DANIELLE: Is it common practice for German people to eat breakfast at midnight? Like that? Is that something cultural?

HELENA: No, I think that’s just a cute little thing in the story that people do that.

DANIELLE: Okay.

HELENA: So I remember when I was a kid and I would travel to Germany, I would always get really hungry at weird times because of the time difference. And my mother would make me Haferflockensuppe, which is porridge.

DANIELLE: Haferflockensuppe.

HELENA: It means oat soup

DANIELLE: Oat soup.

HELENA: And I would get hungry so early in the morning and it would be around midnight and she would make me this, the soup. Uh, it’s porridge so it’s basically getting breakfast at midnight, so I can relate to that story.

DANIELLE: Yeah, sure. And actually, when I was growing up, it was always like a treat when my mom would make breakfast for dinner.

HELENA: Oh, yes.

DANIELLE: Yeah. Like, like, Oh no, not hamburger! You’re going to have breakfast.

HELENA: I love doing that.

DANIELLE: It’s such a treat actually.

HELENA: Yeah, because breakfast is usually sweet. Who doesn’t love sugar? Well, that’s a wrap for our breakdown. I don’t know about you Danielle, but I’m feeling pretty hungry with all this food talk.

DANIELLE: Oh my Gosh! Yes. I think maybe I’ll go and have me some pancakes.

HELENA: Make sure to deep fried ’em in Crisco!

DANIELLE: Just like my Granny.

HELENA: Though I don’t think you can get that in Germany, can you?

DANIELLE: Maybe not, but yeah, I can improvise a bit.

HELENA: Just use lard instead.

That was Danielle and I breaking down “Breakfast at Midnight”. In our next segment, Grammatically Speaking, we have our two wonderful language teachers, Inda and Steffi here in studio. I’m not a language teacher, but Inda and Steffi are, and they’re going to give you some wonderful memory techniques that will help you, hopefully, master German grammar – something that’s pretty scary though, with these girls is actually going to be pretty fun. Inda and Steffi, take it away!

Gramatically Speaking

[00:28:04]

INDA: Thanks Helena! I am Inda and this is Steffi.

STEFFI: Hi!

INDA: So we are here to teach you grammar. Not rather teach you, I would say more help you with memory techniques to remember, yeah those concepts that are pretty hard to grasp, but more so to use in the context of language. 

So I’ve learned German as a foreign language myself, and developed a series of memory techniques to remember grammar. And this is what I want to do: share with you.

STEFFI: That’s interesting because I’m a German teacher, so I’ve been teaching for some years now and every time I have to explain grammar, students struggle. They just struggle. Sometimes not only to grasp it, actually, they do understand it, but to remember how to use it, when they’re actually practicing it you mastered the language. So how, how did you do it?

INDA: I am a little bit of a memory technique buff. I’ve started reading about the Memory Palace many years ago, and I became very interested in it.  And I’ve used different techniques to associate this very abstract grammar concepts, to things that are more relatable to me, to my experiences, to my concrete world. And I don’t find it that scary actually. Uh, once you, you, you get the hang of it.

STEFFI: So today’s topic is actually “Articles”. Yeah. Those are scary in German. Every time I’m in front of a new class and I have to start talking about the different articles we have in German – three, we have masculine, feminine, and neuter- students just stare at me. They always ask me for some rules and sometimes I just say “Well, there are no rules really”. There are some, but a lot of articles are just unpredictable: you have to learn them. How did you do that?

INDA: One of my, my favorite ones, well, German, as you said, has der, die and das. So the masculine one, der Mann for instance, the man and feminine, die Frau, the woman and das Kind, the child is a neuter. So I use those three as anchors for memorizing almost every other noun in German.

For example, if I want to memorize a masculine noun, I will try to relate it to something masculine, maybe imagining an illustrated form of the object like: if it’s der Käse, for instance, the cheese is masculine in German, so you imagine this cheddar dressed as an English man, or something with a cane.

STEFFI: Like a Lord!

INDA: Like a Lord and he says like “Ich bin der Käse”. So if you kind of put that picture in your mind then, and then you relate the cheese, you start seeing the cheese or something masculine, then that will help you remember that it’s “der”.

STEFFI: Yeah, and I think the voice helps, right?

INDA: Yeah, you have to say that.

STEFFI: And what about the other two?

INDA: So in the story, we’ve heard a few nouns. One I can remember was die Frage so “the question”, it’s feminine. Again, no real apparent reasons. Very arbitrary. So how do you remember that? I have a personal story related to that: my best friend, she is the most curious person I know, she asks so many questions, so I started calling her in my mind Ms. Question, and that’s why I relate to the word “question” to her. And so that’s how I know that it’s feminine.

STEFFI: So the most important question there is: does your friend know how you call her?

INDA: She will know now.

STEFFI: Okay and then you have das Kind. Why? Why is it das Kind?

INDA: Well, it’s interesting in German. I relate almost every neuter noun in German to memories of my childhood.

Because it’s das Kind in mir,  and this is how I managed to remember neutered nouns in German.

STEFFI: If you say that you associate nouns to, like neuter nouns to das Kind, what happens with das Bier?

INDA: What do you mean?

STEFFI: How would you associate that to das Kind?

INDA: Well  that’s actually a  very easy one for me because I remember the time where I, when I tried beer for the first time and it was a child and I didn’t like it.

STEFFI: How old were you?

INDA: I don’t remember, it was an uncle’s birthday or something, and I had a sip and I was like “This is horrible! I don’t understand why everybody’s drinking this”. So yeah,  I usually associate all neuter nouns to some childhood memory, if I can. If not then I just try to come up with a crazy story or even imagine. 

STEFFI: Just put everything like, maybe in one place right? Just like all the neuter nouns in that one place, in das Restaurant, for example.

INDA: Yeah, I mean, that would be a good one. If you say like, okay, das Kind is too hard for me to use as an anchor word for all the neuter nouns, maybe you want to use das Restaurant or some other neuter noun that is more accessible to you. You could totally do that.

STEFFI: I guess the key is the funnier, the better.

INDA: And even das Wetter, for example, is another good one for me, because I remember that the weather in my hometown, when I think of that word I think of rainy afternoons and summer rain. So, it helps me really, go back to my childhood and think about the weather as something I would associate with my childhood and then I know it’s das.

STEFFI: Oh, that’s nice.

INDA: I was curious, you’ve been teaching German for so long, how do people teach nowadays?

STEFFI: So nowadays.. Now, but there are rules right? In the story we have the days of the week, der Montag, der Dienstag, der Mittwoch and so on. So those are all masculine. And the months of the year are also masculine. Um, so yeah, I would give him students some rules, some basic rules they can learn to just help them at first, because otherwise it’s too overwhelming if you just tell them “Okay, these are the three articles we have in German. Learn them!” You have to give them something and students love rules, but combination of those two things like having rules and also using memory techniques to remember some other concepts you don’t have rules for, right? Like that would help, right?

INDA: Right. I remember it blew my mind when my German teacher once told me almost every noun that ends with “-e” in German it’s feminine because there are a lot of German nouns ending in “-e”: if you have those endings, and this is actually a nice fun fact to know that the gender is conditioned by the ending of the word, that helps a lot because German is very consistent in terms of how words end. You have endings like -kite and -icht that are feminine and yeah, there are more of those that you can learn and that helps you a bunch.

STEFFI: Yeah, I guess just the nice combination between rules and some techniques would help and yeah, you have to choose whatever works for you as well.

INDA: Yeah, totally. It’s, it has to be personal. I’ve heard of people associating genders with the places of the house and this is kind of the Memory Palace technique. So where you associate the places or buildings with something more abstract: some people don’t do shopping lists, they rather imagine the place, the cabinets in the kitchen where the thing they want to buy is missing. So they have kind of a more concrete image in their mind of the things they want to buy. It’s associated to the places where they find those items in their kitchen.

STEFFI: Nice. Instead of  just to make a shopping list.

We hope that helped you and we look forward to sharing more and memory techniques with you, next time.

INDA: Next week! All right, bye guys!

HELENA: Well, that’s a wrap on this episode of Long Story Short. A special thanks to our actor, Luca Rosendahl, for his reading of this episode. If you’re following along with Chatterbug’s Curriculum, you can find links to this episodes topics in the podcast notes and on Chatterbug’s blog.

Long Story Short is from Chatterbug and produced by Weframe Studios. We will have a new story for you next Tuesday. I’m Helena, see you then.

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