Learning German can be challenging, enjoyable, exciting, frustrating and many other things. Learning any language is a test of patience and resilience and German is no different. Though many will talk of the difficulty of learning German, it is not always as strenuous as it seems. It is a journey filled with various emotions but I believe it is worth every obstacle. Today I will outline 5 reasons why learning German is really different and 5 reasons why it's not.
I'll start with the difficulties learning German poses:
The first difficulty that may be faced is that German has a large range of vocabulary. This means that there are lots of different ways to say one thing. This may be as a result of the German's obsession with compound words. It also may be due to the nationalist ideology spread throughout Europe in the 19th century which resulted in linguists creating new German words. As a result many things in German have two completely different words with the same meaning. In order to choose which word is more suitable you have to look at the context of a sentence or expression. There are also many ways to say the same thing but in a way this is a good thing because you have many expressions to choose from and can vary your language. My advice would be to keep yourself immersed in the German language and you will get used to the substantial selection of vocabulary and phrases.
The second reason is that the spoken language can be different from the written one. This is especially true for informal conversations. This is probably the most frustrating aspect of German for German learners. The spoken German language even has its own name: "Umgangssprache"~vehicular language. There are various small words that have absolutely no meaning on their own and that Germans use to give a tone to the sentence such as mal, schon, halt, doch. The use of these words will immediately separate a native speakers from German learners. Germans also like to change up the word order with some questions, for example "Wo kommst du her?" and "Wo gehst du hin?" are used as opposed to the common "Woher kommst du?" and "Wohin gehst du?". Germans also like to vary their language with particular expressions and change up the universally known “Wie geht’s?” for a "Wie läuft’s?" or a "Wie ist es?".
The third problem is the fact that there are three genders for nouns and with the exception of a few rules, there is no concrete way to know the gender of a noun. This of course, is why you should always learn nouns with their gender! The three genders are masculine, feminine and neutral. There are a few endings such as -ung whose nouns are usually feminine and -er whose endings are usually masculine. However, gender is not always dependent on endings and can often be completely random. The plural endings are the same in that there are a few rules but sometimes there are none or exceptions. Therefore you must learn both the gender and the plural form of a noun!
The second last problem German learners have is that some sounds of the German language are extremely hard to pronounce. Some people have a difficulty with the "ch": the one found after vowels such as a, o, u (Dach, Buch, Loch) and the one found after the interior vowels i, e, ä, ü, ö (ich, Brecht, lächeln, Löcher, Bücher). Other harder sounds include the "r", but with practice and lots of listening you will get it!
Finally many people struggle with separable verbs and their sentence structure. Separable verbs are verbs such as "ausgehen"~to go out which are split in two and the suffix "aus" is transferred to the end of the sentence. Sometimes learners forget about the suffix so be careful with separable verbs and make a conscious effort to remember to add the suffix at the end of a sentence.
Now the 5 better reasons for which it isn't that hard after all!
Firstly, German is a very logical language. There are very few exceptions to the many grammar rules. You are therefore unlikely to be surprised by exceptions.
Secondly there are few pronunciation rules. Except for the difficulty of the sounds aforementioned, German doesn't have tough pronunciation rules. In German the only sounds that change are eu= oi and ei=ai and the v which is read as f. Most other words are phonetic and are therefore pronounced the way that they are written.
The third thing to note is that nouns are recognized by their capital letter. In German, nouns always have a capital letter. This means that you can recognize a noun straight away and the Germans believe it makes text more readable. The fourth reason why German isn't so hard is that German has rules and grammar that must be followed and therefore isn't as flexible as other languages such as Irish or English. With German there are rules which are usually logical and you can learn to help you progress.
The final reason that German is worth the challenges is that there is one translation for "do" and "am doing". The duration form does not exist in German so, if you’ve been eating for the past hour you will simply say “Ich esse seit einer Stunde“.
You see, easy!
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