German/Level I/Schule

Lesson I.9: Schule

Hello from Berlin!


School in Germany

  • School is not regulated nationwide, but by each Land
  • German "Kindergarten" is optional - it translates rather to "play school", "Vorschule" being roughly the equivalent to "Kindergarten"
  • From the age of six on, all Germans attend a "Grundschule" (elementary school) for four or six years, depending on the Land.
  • After that, they go to either
    • the "Hauptschule" which is industrially oriented,
    • the "Realschule", which is skill oriented,
    • the "Gymnasium", which is academically oriented,
    • or the "Gesamtschule", or comprehensive school.
  • Schooling is obligatory until the age of 16, but the Gymnasium diploma "Abitur" can only be obtained after 12 or 13 years, i.e. at age 18 or 19.
  • Latin and sometimes even ancient Greek are regularly taught at the Gymnasium. For the "Abitur", at least two foreign languages as well as some calculus and analysis classes have to be taken.
  • School days often are from 8:00-13:00. In most 'Länder', only the older students have additional classes between about 14:00-15:30 (i.e. 8AM - 1PM and 2PM - 3:30PM)
  • In most schools, Extracurricular Activities are offered, such as Drama Club or School Choir, but they are less common than in the U.S. Though many students feel some sort of identification with their school, most are just happy when they can go home.
  • Generally speaking, many schools still are more formal than US or Canadian schools.
  • The marking system uses
    • 1 (very good, 87,5% or 96%),
    • 2 (good 75% or 85%), **
    • 3 (satisfactory, 62,5% or 65%),
    • 4 (sufficient 50% or 45%).
    • 5 (faulty) is failed or 25%.
    • 6 (not sufficient) is only used when the student literally hands in a blank sheet or failed.
  • These marks can be modified with a "+" or a "-" to indicate a tendency, so e.g. 2+ is a fairly good mark that corresponds to about 80%.


Silke: Jetzt haben wir Mathe.
Torsten: Oh nein, ich habe überhaupt keine Lust dazu.
Silke: Hast du die Aufgaben gemacht?
Torsten: Ja, im Bus.
Silke: Super! Kann ich sie abschreiben?
Lehrer (Betritt den Raum): Guten Morgen!
Klasse: Guten Morgen!
Lehrer: Wer möchte die Aufgaben an der Tafel rechnen? Florian?
Florian geht zur Tafel, schreibt an und liest vor: 
   "5 plus 8 ist gleich 13"
   "8 minus 5 ist gleich 3"
   "3 mal 8 ist gleich 24"
   "24 geteilt durch 12 ist gleich 2"
Lehrer: Sehr gut, Florian!
Die Glocke läutet. Es ist Fünfminutenpause.
Silke: Schnell, wir müssen zu Musik!
Torsten: Au ja, darauf freue ich mich schon.
Silke: Was machen wir heute?
Torsten: Wir wollen ein Lied von Grönemeyer singen!
Silke: Welches denn?
Torsten: "Alkohol", glaube ich.
Nach dem Musikunterricht:
Silke: Jetzt haben wir nur noch Geschichte...
Torsten: Komm, wir schwänzen und gehen ins Bistro.
Silke: Schon wieder!

Und Satz für Satz ...

Oh nein, ich habe überhaupt keine Lust dazu.

"Lust (zu etwas) haben" means "feeling like (it)". "Ich habe keine Lust (dazu)" is "I don't feel like (it)". "Ich habe überhaupt keine Lust" emphasizes it, meaning "I don't feel like it at all."

Hast du die Aufgaben gemacht?
Have you the tasks done?

"Did you do your homework?"

Ja, im Bus.
Yes, in the bus.

This is a common practice of students everywhere in the world, I guess...

Notice the contraction of "im", which is derived from "in dem", "in the".

Super! Kann ich sie noch schnell abschreiben?
Super! Can I just quickly copy them?

"Super", "Cool", "Toll", are common exclamations ... "Noch schnell" is here meant as "while there is still time"

Lehrer (Betritt den Raum): Guten Morgen!
Teacher (enters the room): Good Morning!

Klasse: Guten Morgen!
Class: Good Morning!

Wer möchte die Aufgaben an der Tafel rechnen? Florian?
Who would like the tasks on the blackboard calculate? 

"Who would like to do these questions on the blackboard?" Note that "Tafel" is related to "table", meaning a flat surface, and indeed German "Tafel" can also designate a table prepared for a feast.

Don't let the weird order of the words disturb you, even if the phrase seems totally incomprehensible at first. I'll try to construct this bit by bit:

This is the basic question and answer pair:

"Wer rechnet?" - "Ich rechne."
"Who calculates?" - "I calculate."

To ask, if you want to do something, you use a construction similar to English:

"Wer will rechnen" - "Ich will rechnen."
"Who wants to calculate" - "I want to calculate."

Note that the "to" is already included in the German word "rechnen". "Rechnen" is clearly already an infinitive, and doesn't need a "zu" to prove it. This is one of the main reasons why complicated conjugations can survive, they contain information that doesn't have to be expressed otherwise then...

To be a little more polite (or at least seem like it, since our teacher probably wouldn't take a no for an answer)

"Wer möchte rechnen?" - "Ich möchte rechnen!"
"Who would like to calculate?" - "I would like to calculate"

This is another example for brevity by conjugation. The word "möchte" contains the "would", as it is a "Konjunktiv"-form of the word "mögen" which translates to "like". Don't be discouraged, many Germans don't realize this, and many don't use the Konjunktiv correctly, if ever. However, "ich möchte"-phrases are extremely popular, so just use them, even if you didn't understand yet a word of the explanation above ;-)

Let's introduce objects in our phrase:

"Wer rechnet die Aufgabe?" - "Ich rechne die Aufgabe"
"Who calculates the task?" - "I calculate the task", meaning "Who answers the question"

This is a direct object, "Aufgabe" is in the accusative case. Because this is a feminine noun, this is not so obvious, but the structure is the same as in:

"Wer sieht den Mann?" - "Ich sehe den Mann."
"Who sees the man?" - "I see the man."

Now, we also have an adverbial expression of the place. This is an expression that defines the verb, thus ad-verbial.

"Wer rechnet an der Tafel?" - "Ich rechne an der Tafel"
"Who calculates on the blackboard?" - "I calculate on the blackboard"

Now let's put all this together:

"Wer rechnet die Aufgabe an der Tafel?" - "Ich rechne die Aufgabe an der Tafel."
"Who calculates the task on the blackboard?" - "I calculate the task on the blackboard"

Note that the order expressions is widely interchangeable. You can emphasize something by putting it closer to the end of the question.

And now for the whole phrase in all its glory:

"Wer | möchte | die Aufgabe | an der Tafel | rechnen?" - "Ich | möchte | die Aufgabe | an der Tafel | rechnen."
"Who | would like | the task | on the blackboard | calculate?" - "I | would like | the task | on the blackboard | calculate."

It wasn't THAT bad, was it?

Florian geht zur Tafel, schreibt an und liest vor: 
Florian goes to the blackboard, writes on and reads out:

"Florian goes to the blackboard, writes down and reads out aloud"

"zur" is another contraction, this time of "zu" and "der". Note that after "zu" follows the dative case, so "der" is not the masculine but the feminine article.

"anschreiben" splits to "schreibt an", and means literally "writing on". It is often used when writing legibly on a large, visible surface such as blackboard or a flipchart.

"vorlesen" splits to "liest vor" and translates to "read aloud".

   "5 plus 8 ist gleich 13"
   "8 minus 5 ist gleich 3"
   "3 mal 8 ist 24"
   "24 geteilt durch 12 gleich 2"

So, as you might have guessed, plus and minus are the same as in English - they are just pronounced German. The verbs "addieren" and "subtrahieren" are probably not difficult either... "Ist gleich" or short "gleich" or just "ist" corresponds obviously to "is equal to" or "equals".

"mal" means "times". This is also used in every day phrases, such as "100mal habe ich dir gesagt ..." "I told you a 100 times ..." The corresponding verb is "malnehmen" or "multiplizieren"

"geteilt durch" is literally "divided by", and the verb is "teilen" or "dividieren".

Lehrer: Sehr gut, Florian! Very good, Florian!

Now, that was easy!

Die Glocke läutet. Es ist Fünfminutenpause.
The bell rings. It is five-minute-break

Between single classes, there is usually a break of five minutes to allow teachers and students to go from one classroom to another. In most schools, classes such as German, English, History, Philosophy are taught in the classroom. Classes that use special equipment, such as all sciences, music and arts and of course computers and sport are being taught in a specialized lab classes. Roughly every second break is 15 minutes long, and if there are lessons in the afternoon, there's often a break of 45 to 60 minutes for lunch.

Schnell, wir müssen zu Musik!
Quick, we must to music!

This sentence sounds strange. This is, because in everyday German, sometimes the verb gehen can be left out, if it is clear what is meant. In this case, the complete phrase would have to be "Wir müssen zu Musik gehen". But since Torsten will not think Silke is going to fly there, there will be no misunderstanding. Additionally, the word "class", or "course" is missing, which is the usual way of students to talk about their subjects.

Note: In English, the phrase might be "We have to go to the music room" instead of must. The German translation "Wir haben in den Musikraum zu gehen" would be understood, but is quite formal. Additionally, there is a connotation that the speaker distances himself from the order he is being given.

Au ja, darauf freue ich mich schon!
Oh yes, to this look forward I myself already!

Whew, what was that?

Let's start at the beginning. "Au ja" ist an exclamation meaning "cool", "that's great". It has nothing to do with the German equivalent of "ouch!", which is "au(a)!"

"Sich freuen" means "being happy". It is reflexive such as in "I help myself", because the subject and the object are the same. Some phrases simply are constructed like this, even if there seems to be no real reason to this, and many languages know this phenomenon. The "sich" here is technically the accusative of "he, she, it" and is being changed depending on the person:

ich freue mich                 I am happy
du freust dich                 you are happy
er, sie, es freut sich         he, she, it is happy
wir freuen uns                 we are happy
ihr freut euch                 you are happy
Sie/sie freuen sich            they are happy

Note that "to be happy" actually would be rather translated by "glücklich sein", but it is the closest English equivalent to "sich freuen".

"Sich über etwas freuen" means "to be happy about something". This is kind of self-explanatory. But "sich auf etwas freuen", literally "to be happy on something" means "to look forward to". This is a common phrase that uses the on in the same wide sense as in "on drugs", or "living on something" - there is no spatial relation here...

In "darauf" you recognize the "auf". The "da" is a demonstrative prounoun such as in "that place". "Darauf" actually is another contraction which developped a long time ago from "da-herauf". The "darauf" is referencing the word "Musik" from Silke's sentence.

So "Au ja, darauf freue ich mich schon" or "to-this look-forward I myself already" just means "Great, I'm already looking forward to that"

Maybe it comforts you a little that the English phrase in a word-by-word translation to German would be just as unintelligible...

Was machen wir heute?
What make we today?

"What we (are going to) do today?" Note again, that "machen" often does not translate to "make", but to "do"!

Wir wollen ein Lied von Grönemeyer singen!
We want a song of Grönemeyer sing!

"We want to sing a song by Grönemeyer!"

Welches denn?
Which then?
"Alkohol", glaube ich...
"Alcohol", believe I...

Note that adding a "glaube ich" is another common phrase, exacly as "I think" or "I believe" can be added to an English phrase. (Never mind the word order, this is because Alcohol is the object, so the verb is at the second position in the text)

Herbert Grönemeyer is a very popular German rock singer from the Ruhr region. His most famous songs include "Männer", "Bochum" (a city in the Ruhr region), "Mensch" and also "Alkohol".

Nach dem Musikunterricht:
After the music class:

"Unterricht" comes from "unterrichten" "to teach", and means simply "class". Better not think about "under" and "right" here, which you might have correctly recognized as the word's components "richten" literally means "to correct".

Jetzt haben wir nur noch Geschichte...
Now have we only still history...

"Now we have only history left"

Komm, wir schwänzen und gehen ins Bistro.
Come, we skip and go in the bistro.

"Come on, let's skip class and go to the bistro instead". As in English, "Komm" can be used to motivate others.

There is yet another contraction here "ins" is derived from "in das", meaning "in the". "das" is the neutral article in accusative case here.

Schon wieder!
Already again!


  • Make a list of all the contractions used in this chapter. Can you determine the full tables?






Lesen                                                 To Read
Schreiben                                             To Write
Rechnen                                               To Calculate (doing maths)
Studieren                                             To Study
Lernen                                                To Learn
Zeichnen                                              To Draw
Malen                                                 To Paint

School Subjects


Deutsch                                               German
Englisch                                              English
Russisch                                              Russian
Französisch                                           French
Latein                                                Latin
Mathe                                                 Maths
Mathematik                                            Mathematics
Sport                                                 PE or Gym
Kunst, Zeichnen                                       Arts
Musik                                                 Music
Werken                                                Crafts
Sachkunde, Sachunterricht                             Science Lesson in Elementary School
Geschichte                                            History
Erdkunde                                              Geography
Politik                                               Politics
Biologie                                              Biology
Geografie                                             Geography
Religion                                              RE or Religion
Ethik                                                 Ethics
Chemie                                                Chemistry
Physik                                                Physics
Informatik                                            Computer Science
Elektronische Datenverarbeitung                       Computer Science

School Supplies and Ect.


der Radiergummi                                       Eraser/Rubber
der Bleistift                                         Pencil
der Stift, der Kugelschreiber                         Pen
der Füller, der Füllfederhalter                       Fountain pen
das Fach                                              Subject
die Klasse                                            Class
der Lehrer                                            Teacher (male)
die Lehrerin                                          Teacher (female)
die Schule                                            School
der Schüler                                           Pupil
der Student                                           Student (College/University)
die Stunde/Schulstunde                                school hours
die Pause                                             Break
die Schultasche                                       Backpack

Die Straße the street

(edit template)   Level I Lessons (discussion)

  I.0 Introduction

Section I.A:   I.1 Wie heißt du? (1. Teil)  I.2 Wie heißt du? (2. Teil)  I.3 Bitte buchstabieren Sie  Review Section I.A

Section I.B:   I.4 Freizeit  I.5 Geburtstag  I.6 Essen  Review Section I.B

Section I.C:   I.7 Kleidung  I.8 Familie und Nationalität  I.9 Schule  Review Section I.C

Section I.D:   I.10 Das Fest  I.11 Privileg und Verantwortung  I.12 Wetter  Review Section I.D

Section I.E:   I.13 Zu Hause essen  I.14 Filme  I.15 Das Haus  Review Section I.E