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Favorite tongue-twisters

Students taking part in the international Summer University say which German words they like best

Freiburg, Aug 18, 2017

Favorite tongue-twisters

Foto: Africa Studio/Fotolia

Each year guest students from all around the world come to the University of Freiburg’s Summer University. They’re here to get acquainted with German cultural particularities and the country’s special geographic features, to obtain knowledge about German authors, and to gain understanding of German grammar. They are coming in August 2017, too. This year nearly five hundred students and high school graduates will take part in German language and culture courses that the Language Teaching Center of the University of Freiburg offers. Mariella Hutt asked some of the guests about their favorite German words.

Photo: African Studio/Fotolia

“I like the word ‘Rhabarber’ (rhubarb) in particular. In Arabic, we have the same word, but it’s the name of a musical instrument. I didn’t know that the word in German referred to a plant until my German girlfriend asked me to wash the rhubarb. That’s when I asked her why I should wet a musical instrument. I’ll never forget that word again.”

Doaa Bakry studies at the Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt.
Photo: Patrick Seeger


Ilaria Magnani_540.jpg“My favorite German word is ‘Fernweh’ (wanderlust). I like the way it sounds and that it has philosophical significance. But what really fascinates me is the fact that the word is virtually unknown in Italian. It’s got to be paraphrased with words that mean something similar.”

In 2017, Ilaria Magnani received a degree from the Liceo Ginnasio Luigi Galvani in Bologna, Italy, that shows shes qualified for university study.
Photo: Patrick Seeger


“I was in a furniture store and I came across the word ‘Stoffbahn’ (a length of fabric). I knew it had something to do with fabric, but when it came to ‘Bahn,’ (railway/path) I thought immediately of traffic. I asked and someone explained what a ‘Stoffbahn’ is, but I still think the concept is odd.  If I translate it into English literally, it doesn’t make any sense at all. For me, the word is just typically German.”

Austin Hammerli is a student at San Antonio College in San Antonio in the US.
Photo: Patrick Seeger


‘Nachhaltigkeit’ (sustainability) is my favorite word. I learned it during a German course at my university in Russia and since then, I’ve associated it with Germany. In Russian, no one really knows precisely what sustainability means. By contrast, in German culture the word is really something special. That’s why I’m pleased that I know it and can have a say.”

Elvira Shakirova studies at Kazan Federal University in Kazan, Russia.
Photo: Patrick Seeger


“My favorite German word is ‘Streichholzschächtelchen’ (little matchbox) because it shows how the Germans put words together and how much they enjoy doing it. I think the ending ‘-chen’ (diminutive) is particularly funny. Germans taught me the word to see if I could pronounce it. I had a hard time at first, but in the meantime, it can do it quite well.”

Nathan Roubinowitz is a pupil at the Lycée Jean Bart in Dunkirk, France.
Photo: Patrick Seeger