What to Say When You Feel Sick, Part I

A puzzled head: taken by student Johanna in German class in Berlin-Kreuzberg


Whenever you have to go to a doctor, you need to know the vocabulary of the parts of your body that are most important for your singing career.
Brustkorb m chest, thorax
Kehlkopf m larynge, larynx
Kehlkopfspiegelung f laryngoscopy
Nasenhöhle f nasal cavity
Nasennebenhöhle f air sinus, paranasal sinus
Nasenscheidewand f nasal cartilage
Stimmband n medical term: Stimmlippe f vocal chord
Stimmritze f glottis
Stirnhöhle f frontal sinus
The director, a collegue or a doctor might see that you are not well and will ask you how you are doing.
“Wie geht’s?”
Be aware of a possible slip-up that happens to many English speakers when they answer this question.
Their answer is often, “ich bin gut”, translated literally from English. If they are sick, they will answer, “ich bin nicht gut”, or more directly, “ich bin schlecht”.
Don’t be surprised when the person who asks takes a step back after the first answer or frowns upon you after the second.
Ich bin gut means “I am a great person, and in addition, I am a fantastic singer”.
Ich bin schlecht means “You should never trust me, because I am a terrible person and a lousy singer, too”.
If you want to tell that you are sick, say,
“Mir geht es nicht gut” (mir is a dative object),
“Mir geht es schlecht”,
“Ich fühle mich nicht gut” (I don’t feel well; fuehlen here as a reflective verb.),
“Ich fühle mich krank” (I feel sick).
Read part II on Wednesday, March 7: “Was fehlt Ihnen denn?”

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Bernd Hendricks. Born in Duisburg, Germany. Based in Berlin. Writer, German Language Educator. I was six years old when I went to the opera for the first time. My Grandma took me to Hänsel und Gretel at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Duisburg. The first time I met an opera singer personally was during my time as foreign correspondent in New York when at a Christmas party a baritone pelted me with questions about the language of Zauberflöte. He was preparing for his role as Papageno. After my return to Berlin in September 2010, I have been giving German lessons to singers on their audition tours. My workshops in Berlin, Vienna, and London are based on my widely read book Ach, ich fühl’s—German for Opera Singers in Three Acts: Studying, Speaking, Singing. My latest book, Die Frist ist um—Navigate the Language of 10 German Operas, takes you on a journey through the language of the most popular and often performed operas in the German-speaking countries. I am also the author of several non-fiction books and two novels.

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