Even though I got really frustrated with learning German, it wasn’t always a struggle. One of the interesting things about learning German is how certain really long words are just a series of words strung together. Once you figure out which word is what, you can usually decipher most or all of the word. One of my favorite words to say (that I have utterly no use for in everyday conversation) is the word for hot air balloon: Heissluftballon. Heiss is hot, Luft is air, and Ballon is balloon. Easy!
I also like how clear-cut and logical the language can be. The word for shoe is Schuhe. The word for gloves is Handschuhe. Get it?
I think that with any language, the first words you should learn are yes, no, hello, please, thank you, and good-bye. Swiss German has some really unique alterations to those basic commands. Most Swiss folks drop the “n” sound off the end of nein, and sometimes their ja sounds more like a “joh”. Bitte is always “please,” but I’ve heard about a half a dozen variations on how to say “thank-you.” The proper (high German) way to say thank-you is Danke schön. You’ll also hear Vielen Dank, Merci Vilmal, Danke Vilmal, Danke, and Merci (said with a German and not French accent). Saying hello the wrong way can also immediately place you as an outsider. Guten Tag may be the proper way to say hello in German, but everyone in (northern) Switzerland always says Grüezi. For more than one person, you can say what I like to call the translation of “Howdy Y’all” or Grüezi Mitenand. You can also tack on the word Mitenand to your good morning (Guete Morge, short for Guten Morgen) and good evening. I have no idea how to spell how the Swiss say good evening, much less pronounce it, but it is a take on the proper Guten Abend and sounds like “chairnobik” to me. The Swiss good-bye is different from high German as well, though you will hear a lot of shop folks say Auf Wiedersehen because it is considered polite. Uf Widerluege is goodbye, but so is the more informal Tschüss or Ciao!
And of course, in any language, you need to know how to order a beer: ein bier, bitte! 😉
Eddie has a German picture book (Mein kunterbuntes Wörterbuch) with all kinds of vocabulary in it – food, animals, parts of the body. I think one of the funniest is the word for skunk, an animal that only lives in the Americas: Stinktier or literally “stinky animal!”
NOTE: In case you were wondering, all proper nouns when written in German have the first letter capitalized, which makes me a little nuts, but I wrote it correctly in this post. 😉