Tag Archives: germanic languages

Learning German from Trashcans in Vienna, Austria

My European trip began in Vienna since I was working at the New Zealand & Pacific Studies conference at the beginning of July. Michelle then joined me afterwards and we stayed in Vienna for another 5 days. I hadn’t been to Vienna since 1999, so it was nice to refresh my memory of how great this city is. We stayed at Stanys Hotel & Apartments close to Westbahnhof since we arrived by train from Munich and would be doing a day trip to Budapest with an early morning start. (Note that Westbahnhof will no longer serve trains as of December 2015. All trains will be rerouted to Hauptbahnhof instead.)

Wandering around Vienna, I was most struck by how many people were smoking everywhere and how even restaurants did not have smoking bans indoors. It had been such a long time since I was in a place that had smoking and non-smoking sections and it was not pleasant. I heard on the news that a smoking ban will come into effect in 2018, but I can’t imagine it will be strictly enforced since Austria is unfortunately the smoking capital of Europe. 🙁

The other thing that I noticed was the trashcans with witty sayings on them (in German, obviously) encouraging people to take care of their waste and not litter. Apparently they have been around since 2009, and the sayings were decided by an internet vote. In any case, they are quite helpful and entertaining when learning German. Can you understand what they mean?

Austrian trash can  Austrian trash can

Austrian trash can  Austrian trash can

The last one should be relatively easy since it includes the name of the city and an English word…

Here are some hints:

füttern – to feed

Beifall – cheers, applause, acclaim

Abfall – waste

die Uhr – the clock

geöffnet – open

bleibt – remains, stays

In Search of More Multilingual Vocabulary & Verb Conjugation Lists

In my never-ending search for websites that provide multilingual vocabulary lists for comparative study, I came across Poliglottus last week. They have two main sections: Basic Vocabulary of 1,300 words in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian and Basic Verb Forms in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Sardinian.  Yes, Sardinian!

You choose two languages, a “chapter” and click Final Exam, then choose Memorize for the lists to appear to the right.  You can also choose Simulator for a flashcard system or Examination to test your memory by typing the translation.

Each chapter has 48 words or verb conjugations total, with 12 appearing at once. Vocabulary words are not in thematic categories, however, and seem to be just random. The verbs are not actually labeled for tenses (though there are two chapters per tense in this order: present, present perfect, imperfect, future, conditional, past conditional, past perfect, subjunctive, imperfect subjunctive, and past perfect subjunctive when I chose Italian/French) but the same verbs are used for each tense – be, have, do, go, want, know, etc. – and they are always in the classic I, you, he/she/it, we, you (plural), they order.

In addition to the sites I’ve previously mentioned such as Book2 and Internet Polyglot, Unilang also includes a MediaGlyphs Wordlist and Basic Phrasebook for comparing two languages. Yet the only resource I’ve found so far that includes more than two languages side-by-side, except my own Romance and Germanic vocabulary & verb pages, is Frederick Bodmer’s Loom of Language which was published in the 1940’s – meaning many of the words are no longer used and words related to technology are completely absent.

I’m still looking for a website, or even a spreadsheet, that includes multiple languages instead of just two that can be customized or modified.  I’m just wondering if a master comparative vocabulary list with words grouped thematically already exists somewhere.  Someone mentioned this on the how-to-learn-any-language.com forum a while ago, but I don’t know if anything ever came of it.