In English, “to study” means to learn, read, memorize, practice, and reflect on a subject. In German, the verb lernen is used to talk about these learning activities.
|Wir lernen Deutsch.||We are learning German. (i.e. as a general activity: taking a course or learning it on our own)We are studying German. (i.e. as a specific activity: doing homework, studying for a test)|
|Ich lerne für die Prüfung.||I am studying for the test.|
The German verb studieren has a more limited meaning than its English cognate. It means “to be a university student” or “to major in” a particular subject.
|Karsten studiert an der Universität Frankfurt.||Karsten is studying (is a student) at the University of Frankfurt.|
|Er studiert Chemie.||He is studying (majoring in) chemistry.|
|Seine Schwester studiert in Dresden.||His sister is studying (is a student) in Dresden.|
The distinction between the two words also reflects a cultural difference. In the German educational system students are not required to take general education courses, a full range of courses outside of their field and major, to earn a degree. But a German university student may optionally take a course outside of the requirements out of interest.
|Karsten studiert Chemie.||Karsten is studying (majoring in) chemistry.|
|Er lernt auch Spanisch.||He is learning (is taking a course in) Spanish.|
Studieren can also mean “to examine something in detail”.
|Stuttgart studiert die Kosten des Projekts.||Stuttgart is studying (is examining, looking into in detail) the cost of the project.|