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The Many Ways to Say “Well”

Sounding like a native speaker in a newly acquired language can be tricky. There are all of those grammar rules and new vocabulary words and social conventions to be considered. One way you can make yourself sound more like a German speaker is by learning some of the common “filler” words people use in conversation. The word “well” is such a word in English. Let's learn some equivalent words a German speaker might use.

Here are two variations on ja (yes) which are used in this way:

Tja, was hat das mit Hollywood zu tun?
Well, what does this have to do with Hollywood?

Caption 6, Fastnacht - Karneval - Quartier Latin - Part 1 of 2

Na ja, das is' halt mein Titel, ja.
Well, that is just my title, yes.

Caption 83, Bürger Lars Dietrich: Schlecht Englisch kann ich gut - Part 2 of 2

Deciding whether to use tja or na ja is a bit of an art, but you can think of it this way: tja might also be translated as "hmm" or "let me think"; na ja might be translated as "you know."

Also, which is commonly used to mean “therefore” or “so,” often finds its way into conversations like this one:

Also, wir waren schon damals eigentlich...
Well, we were already back then actually...
Caption 33, Bürger Lars Dietrich: Schlecht Englisch kann ich gut - Part 2 of 2

When used as a filler, also is generally applied for one of two reasons. In the example above, it is used because the speaker is thinking back or reminiscing. It can also serve to add emphasis or impact to a declarative statement, like this one about a subject of controversy:

Also, da scheiden sich die Geister.
Well, here the spirits divide [opinions differ].
Caption 13, Fastnacht - Karneval - Quartier Latin - Part 1 of 2

Well, that's it for now! 

Learning Tip

Trying to learn how to pronounce German? Go through a video that is short and sweet at least two or three times. Then practice saying the things that are said by the participants of the video. Take turns speaking each individual participant, so that you start to get the hang of some of the nuance of tone and pronunciation.

Vocabulary

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