What you should know about German language.
German is considered to be the most popular language in EU with almost 100 million speakers and it’s an official language not only of Germany, but also of Liechtenstein and Austria. In addition to that it’s one of the official languages of countries like Luxembourg and Switzerland. There are also quite big speaker communities in some parts of Italy, Belgium as well as South and North America. It belongs to West Germanic group of the Indo-European language family, just like Dutch and English.
The written form of this language is quite similar in all speaking countries. For example the difference between Germany and Austria written form, could be compared to USA and UK (English). However when it comes to speaking there are many dialects, which either belongs to High or Low German dialectal groups. The official written language is based on High dialect and it’s spoken in the central and southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Low dialect is mostly spoken in northern Germany and has no official written form. The main difference you will notice between these dialects is in the sound system (mostly in consonants).
How difficult it is to learn?
In general it is considered to be quite difficult to learn for English speakers. What makes it difficult is the fact that there are quite a lot of long words, which requires much effort to pronounce them correctly. For example the longest word in everyday use, according Guinness book is “Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften“, those meaning in English is “insurance companies providing legal protection”. Also numbers in German makes very long words, for example to say or write 4254 you would need to use a total of 36 letters – “Viertausendzweihundertvierundfünfzig“. Watch a short humorous video bellow about how some German words are different compared to other languages.
Other aspects that contribute to being it a hard language to learn is that it has 4 cases for nouns, pronouns and adjectives (nominative, genitive, accusative and dative). In addition most Latin languages usually have two genders; however German has a total of 3, which are masculine (der), feminite (die) and neuter (das). However don’t be confused it’s only grammatical and in some cases doesn’t reflect a real-life object gender. For example “das Mädchen”, which is a “girl” uses neuter form as well as “das Weib”, which is “female”. When it comes to tenses there are a total of basic 6 verb forms. The two simple verb tenses are called present and simple past. The other 4 are considered to be compound and needs a helping verb and an infinite or particle to make them. These are: future, present perfect, past perfect and future perfect. So we could say that when it comes to tenses it’s not that complicated as with languages like French, which has a total of 17. German also has so called moods, which are used to show a speakers attitude. These are: indicative, subjunctive, imperative.
Although it has quite complicated grammar don’t get discouraged yet, because there are a few aspects that makes German also easy to learn for English speakers. Due to the fact that both of these languages belong to the same group of Germanic languages they share a lot of similarities. You will find quite a lot of vocabulary that is almost the same. There are a lot of words that have the same pronunciation and meaning although they have different spelling. A couple of these examples are: mouse – maus and house – haus.
Also learning German might be easier for people who are familiar with Dutch language. These two languages have a lot of similarities so on the contrary by knowing English and German together you would also be able read and even understand a little of a spoken Dutch too.
Some additional facts about German Language.
- The alphabet includes a total of 30 letters, where some of the additional letters are ä, ö, ü and ß. The dots on the 3 first letters are called umlauts. The umlauts aren’t optional like in French therefore they are considered as unique letters in the alphabet. You could say that the ß is not a real letter, since it’s just a way of writing lowercase double “s”.
- The letter “R” in the alphabet has a very distinct pronunciation from other languages, where “R” is pronounced from the back of the throat.
- “W” sound in the alphabet is more similar to English “V” (“W” sound doesn’t exist in German)
- It is the second most used language of the internet and the third most thought in the world after English and French.
- At some point in the history it almost became an official language of USA (English won by only vote).
- Be careful taking gifts from native people. A word “gift” in English has a totally different meaning, which is “poison”.