"I am on vacation for two months."
Translation:Ich habe zwei Monate Urlaub.
I think they are mostly the same and may be interchangable (I am not 100% sure). In this sentence, I am quite sure you can interchange them.
However, Ferien also gives me the feeling of being about holidays (like school holidays, Easter, Christmas) while ''Urlaub'' feels more like taking a vacation from work. Schulferien are very important in the lives of Germans and even business matters. Feiern means to celebrate and Feiertag is a public holiday. Feierabend is a wonderful German word that means the workday is over, time to be happy :)
One of the differences I came across was that Ferien is plural and Urlaub is singular, much like, "I'm on holidays," as opposed to, "I'm on vacation." I understand that this wouldn't be very helpful for people in the UK who (in my experience) generally don't use the word holiday in the plural. http://www.linguee.de/englisch-deutsch/uebersetzung/vacation.html
I think it's possible that, although they are virtually interchangeable, one would translate, "I'm going on a vacation during my holidays," as "Ich bin auf einem Urlaub fahren während meiner Ferien."
I'd appreciate any feedback on this from someone who knows! ☺
My dictionary gives two version: Urlaub haben and Urlaub machen.
Urlaub haben is to be on holiday
Urlaub machen is to go on holiday.
This sentence says ''I am on holiday'', where ''am'' is a version of ''to be''. Maybe because of that it needs haben instead of machen??? Just my guess based on this info.
I believe the answer you're looking for is that in German the verb habe is 'present perfect tense' meaning the English translation is similar to an action now. "am presenttly having now (a) two month vacation", or, specifically "am on vacation"... (for) two. months.
In German, since the tense is understood as on going in the present, Literally "I am having two months vacation." which doesn't quite sound right in English, thus "I am on vacation for two months." or perhaps even better "I am on two months vacation."
No extra 'a', 'having now', 'presently', or 'for' is needed. These small words are not needed in German if phrased properly. Just like they are understood and unneeded in English when they are phrased properly too.
According to the Cambridge dictionary:
Holiday = a time when someone does not go to work or school but is free to do what they want, such as travel or relax (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/holiday)
Vacation = a time when someone does not go to work or school but is free to do what they want, such as travel or relax (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/vacation)
Both the terms seems to be synonymous, since the exact same definition. According to these definitions, the terms refer to both "Urlaub" and "Ferien". Moreover two months are more common for the "Ferien" than for the "Urlaub".
Therefore "Ich habe zwei Monate Ferien." seems as perfectly fine translation to me and should be accepted, since there is no other context.
For the sentence, "Ich habe zwei Monate Urlaub", isn't zwei Monate (2 month(s)) an adjective/adjectives describing Urlaub (vacation). If so, 1. why is Monate capitalized? 2. Urlaub is masculine, singular, accusative here, so shouldn't Monat/zwei Monat agree with Urlaub. And if Monat is used as an adjective agreeing with Urlaub, should it use strong declension ending (-en for strong declension, masculine, singular, accusative) since no accompanying article? 4. Does the adjective 2 months (zwei Monate) function as 2 separate adjectives (two, months) or is it a compound word (two-months) or does 2 (zwei) function like a (non-declined) indefinite/definite article triggering mixed/weak declension usage? 5. In the US, we/I might say 2 month vacation or 2 months vacation. Is there a right/wrong/preference form in German?
No, "zwei Monate" is a numeral with a noun. I think that explains almost all of your questions. "Monate" is the plural form of "Monat". Actually in English, Month is a noun, is it not? (I am not a native speaker.) At least according to online Cambridge dictionary (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/essential-british-english/month). "Two months vacation" is therefore numeral + noun + noun in English as well as in German. (Adjective forms are only "monthly" and "monthlong" as far as I know). Ad 5. In German, I would say "ein Monat Urlaub" or "zwei Monate Urlaub". It depends on the numeral. But I am not German native speaker either.
bobr21, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Regarding "2 month(s) vacation", in English, month(s) in question here, is equivalent to month(s)long and I would therefore say functions as an adjective. I am a native English (US) speaker and that is my understanding. I certainly am not an expert on English grammar so I will have to do some more digging.