Learning German is not Easy
September 18, 2012 VisitBerlinTips 0
Learning to speak German as a second language is often challenging… but it is important, as we will see.
Modern, “standard” German is spoken as the majority language in Germany itself, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Lichtenstein, making German the largest first-use language in the entire European Union, ahead of both English and French (interestingly, Lichtenstein is the only country on Earth which has German as its sole official language, since Germany itself accepts the minority tongues of Danish, Frisian, Romany and Sorbian for official use).
German is also used to write 7.7% of all the web pages on Earth, and Google reports that fully 12% of users connect through the German language portal, making German the second language, after only English among the European group, of the information age.
When it comes to technical papers, German’s use is even greater. Granted, German has often simply adopted English words for various IT objects and processes. The German words “internet,” “blog,” and “instant messaging,” are spelled and pronounced exactly the same as the English originals.
In older and more established sciences however, the word adoption is often the other way ‘round. German terms such as “angst,” “automat,” “blitz,” “doppelganger,” and “gedankenexperiment” have been imported without change into English.
More problematic for the English speaker—especially one who speaks no other language—who wishes to learn German is its still-complex grammar. That’s actually not quite true… the grammar of English and German is virtually identical… but in English, grammar is mostly only implied, whereas in German, as with its Indo-European cousins Latin, French, and Spanish, cases, genders, and tenses are explicitly stated… and the average English-only speaker doesn’t know how to deal with them. When English split off from German and skittered off to its new Island home, German lost its dental fricatives (such as the “th” sound), but English lost most of its tenses, and all of its genders and cases except for a fossil few in the personal pronouns.
The English-only speakers are almost certainly going “What? Cases? Genders? Who dat?”
Sigh. That’s the problem… and that’s what you’re going to have to learn.
Fortunately for you, there are affordable (translation: “cheap”) language schools all over Berlin with many, many years of experience teaching you in this subject… and far better than I can do in this short article.
…and the rewards are legion.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller