Easy German Lesson 2 Cognates

Easy German Lesson 2 Cognates are German words similar to English.


German words similar to English words are called COGNATES.

Many German and English Words are similar, because German was the source of many English words.

English is a Germanic language that evolved first from the Germanic language of the Angles and Saxons who invaded from 500-800 AD. after the Romans left England.

Later in North America, English adopted German words from the German immigrants who moved to the United States in the mid 1800’s and for the next fifty years.

Borrowed German words began a new life in English and found new uses.

Many German words, especially those for the basic aspects of life, remained frequently used and became the core of the English vocabulary. Over time, other Old German words gradually sank from prominence.

Since many of the adopted German words entered the English vocabulary long ago, by now some are spelled differently, and pronounced differently than their current German counterparts.

Meanwhile, back in Germany, the old German words were evolving to become the modern German of today. In the process, many German words changed in meaning and pronunciation over the centuries, as words tend to do in all languages.

Spellings also changed in both languages until they became uniform in the 19th century.

All through the centuries, mutual borrowings continued between English and German. Historical events, such as the industrial revolution, helped spread English words throughout Europe.

The most recent borrowings are still recognizable as somewhat foreign.

Many English speakers know German words such as ‘blitzkrieg’ and ‘bratwurst’.

On the other hand, ‘hot dog’ and ‘playboy’ are just two of the many modern English words that are commonly used in Germany.

Globalization and the Internet will bring another wave of imports, which will further mix the languages.



Knowing which words are similar in the two languages will primarily help you begin to learn German more easily.

But this will also increase your understanding of your native language. You will see how many English words are spelled the way they are because of their German origin. You will see which German words have retained their usefulness in everyday English. You will also see which words have been relegated to being rarely used synonyms for more frequently used English words.

You will also learn more about words in English that still seem German, especially ones you may have seen or heard before but aren’t sure how to pronounce or spell. You may also find some useful new words in English.

So while using this book about cognates as the best way to begin learning German, you will also learn more about English as a side benefit. Just as when you learned English, you were unwittingly learning quite a bit about German also.

What you learn about may surprise you. For example, have you ever wondered why we sometimes say "Gesundheit" instead of “bless you” when someone sneezed? The answer is that “Gesundheit” in German means ‘health’. So in saying "Gesundheit" you wished someone good health, without you even knowing it.



Easy German Lessons begin by explaining how Easiest German is easiest because so many German words are similar to English words.

This Easy German Lesson Two has been about German Cognates, the German words that are similar to English words.

Easy German Lessons next introduces English words that have been adopted into German, in the Lesson English Words in German

Then Easy German Lessons focuses on German words that have been adopted into English, in the Lesson German Words in English.

The next lesson covers German Words Spelled Like English.

Words similar to English but with accent marks in German over some letters are in the lesson German Words with Accent Marks.

The next lesson is German Words Spelled Somewhat Like English. Progressively it will show you German words increasingly different from their English relatives, although still clearly recognizable as related.

The next lesson examines a different topic – a German word that looks similar to an English word but has a different meaning -- although it is somehow related enough to suggest the correct meaning of the German word.

For example, ‘Land’ in German means ‘country’.

So ‘Land’ in German is different from the English word it resembles because it means ‘country’, but similar in that both have to do with terrain, making it easier to remember.

This will take you to another level of similarities-with-differences between the two languages.

The lesson German False Cognates reveals how some treacherous German words that look like English words have different meanings, which can be misleading.

The last chapter, German Pronunciation You Know from English, unlike preceding lessons about look-alikes, focuses on sound-alikes. These are German words you know how to pronounce, because some German words you already know how to pronounce in English.

Sound similarities are far fewer than spelling similarities. So this lesson will take you a step farther from the likenesses between the two languages toward the differences. It will prepare you for one of the logical next steps of learning -- listening to and then speaking German.



Although the main purpose of Easy German Lessons is to present the similarities between English and written German, the secondary purpose is to prepare you for the next steps in learning -- listening to and then speaking German.

Since you are already familiar with these look-alike words in English, it is easier to focus on learning the new German pronunciation of a familiar word.

Mispronouncing German Words that Look Like English

Even while reading, which is the focus of these Easy German Lessons, you may find yourself trying to pronounce these German words that look like English ones.

Seeing any unfamiliar word in print sometimes prompts the urge to try to pronounce it.

In our native language we often can come close to the correct pronunciation of a new word by following pronunciation guidelines we have unconsciously assimilated over years of speaking our native language.

Your first reaction when you see a German word spelled exactly like an English one may be to pronounce it as you would in English.

With German, that is often NOT the way it is pronounced.

You have previously learned to associate a certain English pronunciation with a cognate that has a different pronunciation in German.

So whenever you see the word in German, your previously learned English pronunciation of it may interfere with your attempts to pronounce it the German way.

German pronunciation gives some people trouble, because when first seeing a new word and attempting to pronounce it, the natural tendency is to follow the rules of English pronunciation that most people assimilated subconsciously.

So when it comes to guessing how a word is pronounced in a foreign language, the guess is often wrong.

A printed pronunciation guide is included so you will have help when you try to pronounce these cognates.

By sounding out the pronunciation guide, you should get the basic sound of the word — and a German person would probably understand you.

This pronunciation guide describes the sounds of German in a very simple way. Wherever possible it uses letter combinations of sounds from English that are closest to the sounds in German, so that you can combine these common English sounds into German words.

You don't have to try to make the word sound foreign -- yet. Be aware that it is difficult to reproduce the sound of German perfectly, just from reading a phonetic guide.

German has a different system of pronunciation than English, so you would hear these words pronounced somewhat differently by a native German-speaker.

However, you don't need perfect pronunciation to make yourself understood in a German-speaking country (even though it would help greatly because German people like it).

Tourists are not primarily concerned with perfect pronunciation -- they just want to communicate their needs.



These Easy German Lessons is the easiest way to introduce yourself to German, by concentrating on the likeness between the two languages.

This progressively leads you into German by using its similarities to English to make learning less difficult.

So read through these Easy German Lessons first, before trying to listen to a recording of tourist phrases, because most of the similarities are in the written form.

In the spoken form, few German cognates sound identical to their English counterparts.

The many written resemblances between the two languages will enable you to read a little German more easily than speak it or listen to it.

While words that look alike can help you learn German, care must be taken with any differences in meaning (explained in later lessons), because some meanings have drifted apart in the two languages over the centuries.

Care must be also be taken with differences in pronunciation (which are explained more fully in a later lesson).

In order to keep the following lessons simple, all lists of German words similar to English contain the most familiar examples to demonstrate the point of each lesson.

These lists are not intended to be complete, and more examples exist for each category.

These Easy German Lessons are the easiest way to begin learning German – guaranteed.

These Easy German Lessons will prepare you easily and enjoyably for your next steps in learning German.


Return to Easy German Lessons.


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