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I want to say that:

I speak a little German. But I can understand some German.

I mean that I can understand spoken German more than I can speak it.

The first phrase could be translated as either:

Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch

or

Ich spreche nur ein wenig Deutsch.

I've heard that the second phrase could be translated as:

Aber ich kann ein wenig Deutsch verstehen.

But I'm not sure if that is accurate, because "ein wenig" is the same as "a little", and what I really want to say is "some" and not "a little". Maybe I should use "etwas" instead?

  • There is no difference in meaning between those two phrases, neither one with etwas. Context is key, and the word nur. That one expresses you are sorry. – Janka Feb 16 at 1:53
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    Does this answer your question? How would you say, "I speak a little bit German"? – Hubert Schölnast Feb 16 at 9:36
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    This is clearly not a duplicate. He asks how to emphasise that he understands more German than he speaks himself. – infinitezero Feb 16 at 12:17
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It's difficult to say with the words bisschen, wenig and even etwas are more or less synonymous in this case. You actually provided us already with a good way to express it in English:

I can understand spoken German more than I can speak it.

So let's just phrase that in German

Ich verstehe Deutsch besser als ich es sprechen kann.

Alternatively, if you want to use the adjectives that you provided

Ich spreche nur ein wenig Deutsch, aber dafür kann ich ein bisschen mehr verstehen.

By using mehr you emphasise that ein bisschen is more than just ein wenig.

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    I would skip the "dafür". It seems to imply the OP's speaking skills are somehow intentionally low so they could be better at comprehension, which is nonsensical. – O. R. Mapper Feb 16 at 12:26
  • I don't see this implication at all. – infinitezero Feb 16 at 22:25
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    What does the "dafür" express in your opinion, if not "in exchange for that"/"as a compensation for that"? – O. R. Mapper Feb 16 at 23:30
  • Yes, it is a compensation, but I don't see how that would implicate intention. It's the same as in "Ich habe das alte Auto meiner Tante geschenkt bekommen. Es ist zwar nicht schnell, aber dafür geräumig." There's also no intention in that sentence. – infinitezero Feb 17 at 4:39

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