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  How to Learn the German Articles - The Superhero Technique

What is an Article?

Certain words in German have a grammatical gender. Those genders are masculine (m), feminine (f) and neuter (n). The only words that have a gender are called nouns. Those are words that in English can be used with the. So house is a noun because you can say the house. And that‘s why the German equivalent for house - Haus is also a noun and it‘s of neuter gender - das Haus.


Learning Technique

The German articles don't follow any logical rule. There are a couple of endings that give away the gender of a German noun but learning those a) only covers possibly 10-15% of the nouns you'll come across and b) is less intuitive than the technique that I'll show you in this lecture. I call it the Superhero-Technique. There is even a very wonderful app for that. Check below.

By the way, in our main course you'll find another lovely technique that will teach you the most common article signals (= endings that give away a German noun's gender) that I mentioned above so that you have another helpful tool at hand to finally master the German genders.

I have created an app with wonderful illustrations that will help you to memorize the genders of ~1800 German nouns. It's available for iOS (click here) and Android (click here).

Let‘s start with three examples and then I will explain the technique in detail to make sure it is clear. Please imagine the following situations:

  • A superhero has a long, grey beard that he plays with.
  • The Queen owns the worlds largest pink potato collection.
  • A big fat German baby is playing the piano.

Go through these examples once again. This time, make it more vivid, add some mojo to your fantasy. The imagery has to be very remarkable. In German we say merkwürdig i.e. remember-worthy. Let me give you an example of what I mean:

I see the Queen standing in a giant room. That‘s the room in which she keeps her pink potatoes. Those potatoes are huge. She loves them. She caresses them. She breathes in the air of that room and I can smell what she smells: a strong potato scent.

Did you feel the difference? Add sensations and feelings to your imagination and you will never forget any article ever again. What article? Well, read on.


Explanation of the Technique

As you hopefully remember there are three genders in German: masculine, neuter and feminine. Those mostly follow no logic and are therefore hard to remember. What I did with the superhero, the Queen and the baby was that I substituted the gender with a concrete, easy to visualize image. So now, whenever you learn a new noun, you simply add one of these three figures to the word‘s meaning and will memorize its gender easily. Take a look the examples from before:

  • The superhero had a beard. Beard is Bart in German. As it is connected now with superhero I know that it is masculine and can use the appropriate masculine articles. Yes, there are more of them but that‘s for dessert.
  • Potato >> Kartoffel is feminine as indicated by the Queen in our example.
  • And, you might have guessed it already, piano >> Klavier is neuter, given away by its connection with baby.


Practise it yourself

Now practice this technique and then test your new skill. Imagine the following twelve scenes and pay special attention to the highlighted words:

01 | A baby is sleeping in a glass sink.
02 | Its face is painted in gold.
03 | Every day it is bathed in original German beer.
04 | Life is a pleasure in paradise for German babies.
05 | The Queen is at the post office waiting in line.
06 | She‘s picking up a giant horse-meat sausage.
07 | The waiting time passes extremely slowly.
08 | She stretches by pressing her hands against the wall.
09 | Our Superhero walks on top of a forest.
10 | A super rain and wind are making his beard wet.
11 | He takes out his super-umbrella in form of a fish.
12 | He‘s on holiday. Nothing can bother him.

Take a short break, make yourself a cup of coffee and go through these images one more time. Make them even more remarkable. Soon you won‘t have to invest that much time into memorizing any more. But if you invest half an hour now you‘ll benefit from it for the next 40 years. Remember to eat healthy, sleep enough and learn German to grow old. Later today or tomorrow test yourself by trying to remember the articles of the following words: holiday, glass, sink, fish, face, wall, post, gold, beer, umbrella, hand, beard, life, time, pleasure, wind, sausage, rain, line, forest, paradise .

Words which genders you have just learned

+beer - das Bier ;)


Share your Thoughts

Also try to explain in your own words what you have learned in this lesson.

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