I see that some German texts use für and some zum, where the English sentence uses for. Which one of them is going to be used when, e.g. which one is best in the following sentence?

Anwendung einer Sprache ist wesentlich zum Spracherwerb. (Practicing is necessary for language acquisition.)

  • What are you trying to say in your last sentence?
    – Jan
    Jun 30, 2016 at 11:21
  • @Jan I just want to say "someone must practice the language which he learns", so I'm looking for an expression for "practice" but in german.
    – Dragut
    Jun 30, 2016 at 11:44
  • I still can’t make sense of it … I would love to turn it into better English, but I’m at a loss =C
    – Jan
    Jun 30, 2016 at 11:46
  • @Jan I just want to learn what is translation of "practice, practicing" in the sense of "Practicing of a language"
    – Dragut
    Jun 30, 2016 at 11:53
  • So it’s just asking for a translation of to practise?
    – Jan
    Jun 30, 2016 at 11:53

1 Answer 1


I thought about your question for quite a while. In my opinion in those cases where you can translate "zum" as "for" it is almost always possible to replace it with "für".

In your example that would be:

Anwendung einer Sprache ist wesentlich für den Spracherwerb.

This doesn't work however in other examples where you can't translate "zum" as "for" i.e.

Es ist zum Weinen.

For your second question you could use "anwenden", "verwenden" or "benutzen". However you could also use another sentence in German along the lines of "Um eine Sprache zu lernen muss man sie sprechen" which would sound less scientific.

  • I appreciate your answer especially for my second question, although it is written in bad english you understand what I want to convey.Thanks!
    – Dragut
    Jun 30, 2016 at 11:50
  • 1
    I would like to add sth to Dragut's answer. The verb "practice" can also be translated as "üben" e.g. "In order to become a good guitarist you must practice 6 hours everyday" (Um ein guter Gitarrist zu werden, musst du jeden Tag 6 Stunden üben"). Also, the noun "practice" is translated in German as "die Übung" e.g. "Without enough practice, she would not get better at English" ("Ohne ausreichend Übung wird sie ihr Englisch nicht verbessern").
    – nelly
    Jun 30, 2016 at 12:22
  • What I didn't like about "üben" in this context was that it could also mean to learn the language from the books at home, which is imo not what was meant.
    – Axel
    Jun 30, 2016 at 13:01
  • @Axel: Sorry, Axel, I confsued you with Dragut before. And yes, you're right, I just wanted to put the verb into a bigger context.
    – nelly
    Jun 30, 2016 at 13:22

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