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I have seen there is a similar question. But I am still wondering if there is any difference between

Ich kann ein bisschen Deutsch.

and

Ich kann ein bisschen Deutsch sprechen.

?

3

Here is a translation:

  1. Ich kann ein bisschen Deutsch.
    I know a little bit of German.

  2. Ich kann ein bisschen Deutsch sprechen.
    I can speak a little bit of German.

In 1 you say, that you have basic knowledge of the language, but you don't differentiate if you mean reading, talking, writing or listening or all of them.

In 2 you pick out a specific skill. You are talking about speaking only. With the sentence 2 you give no information about your skills in listening to a German speaker, about how good you can read German, or how good you can write in this language.


Grammatically in #1 the verb kann is a full verb, and the verbatim translation is:

I can a little bit of German.

But this is bad English, so you better say

I know a little bit of German.

In #2 kann is a modal verb, and sprechen is the full verb that is modified by the modal verb like in English: can is a modal verb modifying the full verb speak:

I can speak a little bit of German.

  • Vielen Dank für Ihre Antwort! – Dimitris Jan 13 at 21:56
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Well, dimitris, as in most cases, Hubert S. is wrong; this time, too.

"Ich kann ein bisschen Deutsch." is perfect, among others because it's idiomatic.

"Ich kann ein bisschen Deutsch sprechen." is weird, because it's completely unidiomatic. No-one would ever say it, except learners trying to find the boundaries of German. ;-)

Look at the following sentences:

1a) Kannst du Italienisch? Na ja, ich kann es einigermaßen lesen, aber ansonsten ... nein.

1b) Kannst du Italienisch? Na ja, ich kann es einigermaßen lesen, aber sprechen oder gar schreiben kann ich es nicht.

This is the way we say it when we want to stress that we have reading competency, but no others.

Which brings us to the answer to your question. Possible are:

2a) "Ich kann ein bisschen Deutsch."

2b) "Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch."

There's no difference in meaning. It's irrelevant whether you use können oder sprechen. Both mean: I master German to a minor degree.

  • I agree for the most part. But "können" and "sprechen" in this context could be understood very differently. If you take the words' meanings you can tell that "können" suggests there's just >any< kind of ability - which could be text writing, listening OR speaking competence, while "sprechen" implies that you can use it phonetically. – philerr Jan 18 at 11:38

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