Is English vocabulary hard?

We’re shaking it up a bit this week on the Bespeaking blog! People always ask me if German is a hard language to learn and my answer always goes a little something like this: “To an extent, yes.” The grammar can be quite difficult. But when it comes to English vocabulary words themselves, it’s relatively easy.

If we are talking about “loan words,” or words that have been borrowed from another language, English usually takes the cake as the “cool” language to borrow words from. But did you know that these five English vocabulary words are actually German loan words?


When you feel angsty- you know that strange mix between fear and depression- you can thank the Germans for having the proper word to describe what you’re feeling. (They’re good at that.)

Angst in German means “fear,” so a sentence I had to learn rather quickly was Ich habe Angst vor Spinne (I’m afraid of spiders).


James Joyce published my favorite Bildungsroman in 1916 with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which tells the intellectual and religious journey of Stephen Dedalus over four years.

A Bildungsroman is a book that primarily focuses on the intellectual or spiritual awakening of the main character. Some other famous examples of a Bildungsroman are Gone with the WindThe Kite Runner, and The Catcher in the Rye.


Do you have a favorite delicatessen that you go to? Because there’s nothing quite like a good American deli, is there?

But what if I told you that the word delicatessen is actually German? It’s true. The German company Dallmayr opened the first deli in Europe in 1700.


Do you drink ersatz coffee when you’re out of the good stuff, or do you have an ersatz key lying around the house?

Well, you have the Germans to thank for that, too. Ersatz in German means a replacement or substitute, which is usually of inferior quality. Don’t you just love those really descriptive German words?

Stay tuned next week for five more German loan words that you might not know are German!

Have a favorite loan word? Share it with us in the comments!

Erin Duffin lives in Berlin, is an English teacher,  yoga instructor, and would NEVER drink ersatz coffee-bleh!