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Today’s blog comes from a special guest: website Lingholic, specialized in the art of learning languages, has contributed to our German Week providing us this post about the particularities of German language. We strongly recommend you to follow their page, where you will find info, advices and curiosities about learning languages. Such a paradise for polyglots and language lovers!
Anyone who has bravely tried to learn this language probably agrees with Mark Twain who once declared: “Never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.”
I’m not going to lie, German is difficult to learn (have you ever wondered why it was Einstein’s native language?) although the level of difficulty may be under conditions such as your mother tongue and your everyday proximity with it.
Even two hours of German lessons per week, for instance, might lead you to an endless journey until you learn it effectively - I mean be able to keep a regular conversation! Anyway, it is undeniable that this is a powerful language, since it’s the most spoken one in Europe! So why not learn it? Jobs for German speakers in Europe have exploded in recent years; if you want to make business in Germany you have to speak German, otherwise there will be no business. This post is to give you a general idea of how amazing and surprising the German language is.
The German alphabet has one more consonant than English
German and English, for instance, make use of Roman alphabet but German contains an extra consonant “ß” and it’s called “scharfes s” which literally means “sharp s”. The grapheme “ß” is pronounced just like a normal s.
Examples: beißen = to bite; draußen = outside; Gruß = greeting.
English and German share 60% of their vocabulary
If English is your native language and you have already been in touch with German, you have found many similar words. To name only a few, words like arrogant, loyal, triumphant, gold and hunger have the same meaning in both languages.
German is spoken over all six continents
In Europe, it is the most widely spoken language with a population of almost 100 million native speakers and it’s an official language in Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, and Belgium. It’s a recognized minority language in Russia and Kazakhstan as well as in Namibia and the southern tip of Brazil. Considerable German-speaking minorities are also found in Australia, South Africa, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina.
Extra tip: If you are looking to relocate to Austria with your German language skills, make sure you check out the Austria visa requirements.
First letter of every noun begins with capital
German uses upper case for the first letter of a noun. Scholars recently wanted to abolish this rule but they realized that putting capitals actually makes reading much faster and easier. Here is an example:
Trauben, Birnen und Bananen sind meine Lieblingsfrüchte.
Grapes, pears, and bananas are my favourite fruits.
Words can get incredibly long
German has the ability to create compound words, meaning you can make a long word by fusing one or more together. The results can end up in a word like Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, or
German has three genders
It’s true, nouns shall have a gender. Thus, masculine, feminine, and neutral are indicated by articles like der, die, das.
Der Vater = the father
Die Mutter = the mother
Das Kind = the child
Fun fact: das Mädchen = the girl is neutral, not feminine!
Whereas Germanic languages don’t use declensions, German does, however. Although it’s rather a thing in the Latin languages, for some reason German has also adopted it.
Fortunately, there are only four cases in German, while Latin has six.
Take for example the word Schatz = treasure.
Nominative: der Schatz
Genitive: des Schatzes
Dative: dem Schatz
Accusative: den Schatz
It has a lot of funny false friends with English
Although German and English are closely related, there are some deceiving words which meaning you’d better check twice before you say something wrong.
bad = evil but Bad = bathroom
boot = shoe but Boot = boat
gift = present but Gift = poison
Attention to the very end is required
The word order in German is fairly rigid. You have to read or listen to each and every one of the words so as to grasp its meaning. Depending on the nature of the sentence, an important word, such as a verb, is placed at the very end.
Sie kommt heute nicht, weil sie krank ist.
She is not coming today, because she is sick.
German can be very subtle
The beauty of German is that it enables the speaker to express an idea in its deepest complexity with only one word. Other languages might need a whole sentence for the same meaning. The following don’t have a word-by-word translation in English:
sich vergegenwärtigen – to refresh a past idea and apply its value in the present
mitdenken – to actively think in a teamwork for a common cause
Sprachkrise – the spiritual inability to express oneself through language, often referring to artists
German is worth learning since it’s very flexible, practical, and expressive. Don’t get discouraged by its complexity, you don’t need to learn it perfectly but with enough practice, your language knowledge will extend to further horizons.