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


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
    Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 1:53
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? How would you say, "I speak a little bit German"? Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 9:36
  • 3
    This is clearly not a duplicate. He asks how to emphasise that he understands more German than he speaks himself. Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 12:17

1 Answer 1


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.

  • 4
    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. Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 12:26
  • I don't see this implication at all. Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 22:25
  • 2
    What does the "dafür" express in your opinion, if not "in exchange for that"/"as a compensation for that"? Commented Feb 16, 2020 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. Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 4:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.