Imagine your boss has asked you to schedule an on-line video conference call with your business partners in Germany on the following Tuesday. When that day came, everyone was in the conference room and ready to go, but the Germans weren't online.
As it turned out, when you scheduled the appointment with them, you had confused Dienstag and Donnerstag.
To prevent that from happening again, let's make sure that we know all the Wochentage ('days of the week') really well.
German Days of the Week Vocabulary
|Day of the Week||Pronunciation||Translation|
- Ich gehe am Sonntag um 10 Uhr zur Kirche. (I go to church on Sunday at 10 a.m.)
- Am Montag beginnt die Arbeit wieder. (On Monday work starts again.)
- Am Dienstag wird es kalt. (On Tuesday it will be cold.)
- Wo wirst Du am Freitag sein? (Where will you be on Friday?)
- Ich habe Urlaub von Mittwoch bis Sonnabend. (I will be on vacation from Wednesday to Saturday.)
The Meaning of the Weekdays
Most of these names are very old. In fact, they are so old that they reflect the names of pagan gods from the time before the Christianization of Germany and England.
The Anglo-Saxon Saint Boniface was a leading person in bringing Christianity to the Germans in the 8th century. Some of those pre-Christian names are more visible in the English names of the weekdays.
- Sonntag (Sunday) goes back to the pagan Germanic sun goddess Sunna
- Montag (Monday) was the day of the moon god Mani, brother of Sunna.
- Dienstag (Tuesday) was the day of the Roman god of war, Mars, whose Germanic name was Tyr or Tiu.
- Mittwoch denotes Mitte der Woche (middle of the week). This day was connected to the pagan god Wotan, closer to the English Wednesday.
- Donnerstag goes back to the Germanic god Donar, also called Thor, which sounds similar to Thursday.
- Freitag (Friday) takes its name from Freya, the pagan goddess of spring, beauty, and love.
- Sonnabend is the eve (abend) before Sonntag (Sunday). The alternate term Samstag is connected to the Jewish Sabbath, whereas the English Saturday shows the connection to the Roman god Saturn.
Let's say you are on vacation in Vienna, Austria. You and your friend Anna are enjoying a coffee and you are discussing going to the movies at some point that week.
You: Der neue Krieg der Sterne Film ist im Kino. Wollen wir am Freitag gehen? (The new Star Wars movie is in the theaters. Should we go on Friday?)
Anna: Freitag ist nicht so gut für mich. Vielleicht Donnerstag? (Friday is not good for me. Maybe Thursday?)
You: Am Donnerstag habe ich einen Arzttermin. Wie sieht es am Montag oder Dienstag bei dir aus? (On Thurday I have a doctor's appointment. What does it look like on Monday or Tuesday?)
Anna: Nicht schlecht, aber Sonnabend wäre am besten. (Not bad, but Saturday would be best.)
You: Okay, es ist der Sonnabend! Möge die Macht mit uns sein. (Okay, Saturday it is! May the force be with us.)
In this lesson we have learned the German Wochentage (days of the week). These are Sonntag (Sunday), Montag (Monday), Dienstag (Tuesday), Mittwoch (Wednesday), Donnerstag (Thursday), Freitag (Friday), and Sonnabend or Samstag (Saturday). Now it won't be difficult working with a German calendar.
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Days of the Week: More Practice
This lesson taught you how to talk about the days of the week in German. The following activities will give you opportunities to explore this concept further and practice what you have learned.
How well can you remember what you learned in this lesson? Try writing down all of the days of the week in German from memory. If you are struggling, consider making flashcards that have the German word on one side and the meaning of the word on the other. For instance, a flashcard might say ''this name comes from the German for 'middle of the week'.'' Return to this lesson if you get stuck.
Another great way to practice what you have learned in this lesson is to practice saying it out loud. Try writing a short dialogue between two people that incorporates several days of the week into its vocabulary, just like the example conversation in this lesson. Practice saying this dialogue with a friend or family member to improve your understanding and your German pronunciation.
Linguistic Deep Dive
You may have noticed that there are a lot of similarities between the English names of days of the week and the German ones. If you are interested in etymology, see if you can trace back the origins of the English and German days of the week. Did these languages ever use the same words? What earlier languages do English and German get their days of the week vocabulary from? Create a chart showing your findings.
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