Of late I’ve been rather remiss in publishing for one main reason:
I’ve been tangling with that most formidable of foes — the German language.
German cops a fair lot of flak from non-Deutsch-speakers of all denominations.
Jokes about its guttural harshness abound, notably surfacing in that video everyone’s seen and riffed on in heavy metal band Tool’s German lyric song “Die Eier von Satan”, which, despite its menacing tone, is actually a recipe for cookies.
Even old Mark Twain had some many frustrated words to say on the subject, famously declaring “Some German words are so long that they have a perspective”.
I have a different perspective on German, which I shall henceforth declare “the relatively beautiful language”.
This may seem like an extraordinary thing to say, but consider if you will the fact I lived in the Netherlands for almost a year.
I love the Dutch language for all of its quirks, but it often sounds as if the speaker is conversing while half-choking on a potato.
German can be a fascinating thing once you forget about the stereotypes.
In what other language could I call myself a Weltenbummler (globetrotter), describe the feeling of peace only felt by walking alone in the forest with ‘Waldeinsamkeit‘ and try to find an excuse to drop the word Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän into conversation?
Yes, that is a real word and translates to ‘Danube steamship company captain’. I’m still looking for a chance to use it.
Like the Germans themselves, German is very direct – there’s no mistaking what your Hamburger, Berliner or Münchener means (that is, once you can understand exactly what it is that the German in question is saying).
It’s refreshing for someone from New Zealand, where we generally avoid saying what we want to for as long as possible.
This video illustrates the contrast perfectly.
One of the best things, however, is how the Germans approach aspiring language learners. They know their language is difficult but they really appreciate an attempt to learn it and will help you along the way as much as possible.
You’re bound to make some spectacular mistakes along the way and accepting this, as do the Deutschen, makes the learning process so much more enjoyable and the mistakes much less disheartening.
For instance, take one of my more entertaining ‘Deutsch-Fauxpas’ experiences; attempting to tell my flatmate I would buy a toilet brush (Toilettebürste), but instead declaring I would purchase Toilettebrüste – toilet breasts.
I’m not sure if he had finished laughing before I informed him I was leaving the house to visit Berlin’s lovely ‘Alt-Wichsendorfer’* Christmas market. Any German will tell you this should not be confused with the actual name of ‘Alt-Rixendorfer’.
*Note: If you are interested in the translation of this one, please use Google Translate, not Google Search.
It’s all part of the learning process and the feeling of finally successfully conjugating a sentence, to the hard-earned response of “mm, Ja”, is one not easily forgotten.
Perhaps I’m the only one, though – I’d love to hear to hear the thoughts of any other German learners!