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Useful German Phrases for Beginners

The A1 Program from The German Academy Zurich is often regarded as one of the best-quality and highest-value online German language courses. It provides learners in Switzerland with flexible, accessible tuition and one-on-one sessions with our accomplished tutors.

If you’re enrolling in our course and have just started accessing our innovative learning platform, you may be interested in some everyday phrases you need right now–including important expressions like ‘Bitte sprechen Sie langsamer’ (please speak a little slower), ‘Wie ist Ihr Name’ (what’s your name) and ‘Ich verstehe nicht’ (I don’t understand).

Alongside some of the useful phrases we’ve explained below, you’ll also find further knowledge in our guides about great German books for beginners to read and some of the successful ways of improving language skills that have helped other Swiss expats gain confidence in reading, writing, and speaking German in their daily lives.

Basic Phrases for Non-German Expats in Switzerland

Let’s start with some simple phrases you’ll use in everyday conversation. Even if you’re at the beginning of our A1 course, being able to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ or explain that you don’t know a great deal of Swiss German is helpful and will ensure that the people you encounter know you may need a little assistance.

Here are some of the useful phrases you will use most often:

  • ‘Entschuldigung’: This means ‘excuse me,’ and is used in the same context as in English when passing somebody or requesting help.
  • ‘Danke’ means ‘thank you,’ and ‘Danke vielmals’ means ‘thanks very much.’ ‘Bitte’ is used in various ways to say ‘please,’ ‘you’re welcome,’ or ‘excuse me.’ You can also respond to ‘Danke’ with ‘Nichts zu danken’ or ‘Gern geschehen.’
  • If you’re trying to recall a word from your German lessons, you can ask ‘Wie sagt man das auf Detsch?’ (replacing the hyphen with the word in English you’re looking for), or ask ‘Sprechen Sie Englisch?’ to see if the person speaks English.

You’ll also likely wish to greet people in their native language, and you can use ‘Guten Morgen’ for ‘good morning,’ ‘Guten Tag’ for ‘good day,’ ‘Guten Abend’ for ‘good evening,’ or a simple ‘Grüezi’ for ‘hello!’

Asking For Help or Assistance in Swiss German

Next, let’s work through some phrases you’ll need to request assistance, which may be very important if you’ve recently moved, aren’t familiar with the area, or need directions.

  • ‘Was kostet das?’ translates to a query about how much something costs. You can also askBitte schreiben Sie das auf?’ if you’d like the price to be written down for you.
  • ‘Bitte sagen Sie mir wo – ist?’ is a way to ask for directions to a destination or place (again, replacing the hyphen with the location you’d like to find).
  • If you have lost your wallet, you can say ‘Ich habe meinen Geldbeutel verloren’,  the problem. Expats can also say ‘Hilfe’ to request help in an emergency.

As many second-language speakers know, some phrases are used in casual conversation. If you’re making friends, joining a workplace, or socializing, they’ll help you grasp what people are saying. For example, somebody saying ‘goodbye’ might use ‘Auf Wiedersehen,’ ‘Bis später,’ or ‘Tschüss’–all of which mean very much the same thing!

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Anna

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