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Conversation 26 comments by 18 users
  • bogdan
    +8

    I guess German language fits in the "easy" category too? It definitely should. For an English speaker it is probably the easiest of them all to learn.

    • typesprite
      +5

      As a native speaker I wouldn't classify German as a language that is easy to learn. But it doesn't really fit in the medium category either. Yeah, there are several words that are similar in English and German but you can't build a sentence based on similar words. And then again German is easier than Hindi or Russian but more difficult than French/Spanish/Italian. From what I see, most non-native speakers struggle the most with the gendered nouns and grammar.

      Well, here's a little digression on the German language and then can judge for yourself. :)

      One of the easiest ways to tell if someone is a non-native speaker (apart from the pronunciation) is the use of gendered nouns. There are 3 gendered nouns: "der" (male), "die" (female) and "das" (neutral, neuter) and these change based on: plural, accusative & genitive case. Most of the time it's not that easy to guess the gendered noun. For example: the car - das Auto (neuter). That makes sense. A car is an object so 'das' fits in perfectly. But not all objects go for the neuter like: the cup - die Tasse (female) or the apple - der Apfel (male), the garden - der Garten and so on. I'm not sure why but most people I met from the US or Canada say 'die Auto'. This might be a coincidence though. You could say that this is similar to French with one additional article.

      Animals have an additional layer (category name) and are separated by gender. The general/category name can come with the female article (the cat - die Katze), the male (the dog - der Hund) or neuter (the pig - das Schwein).
      Pro tip: most animals which are in the category 'farm animals' have a neuter article. You would eat it? Then use 'das'. This works 90% of the time. The female and male animals also have a specific name and a lot of them don't use the same noun for both genders or are completely different. The pig: das Schwein, die Sau (female), der Eber (male).
      Again similar to French but in French the female and male nouns are stronger connected and follow a logic (most of the time):
      a/the cat - ein/der Kater - un/le chat
      a/the cat - eine/die Katze - une/la chatte
      a/the dog - ein/der Hund - un/le chien
      a/the dog - eine/die Hündin - une/la chienne

      Ok, let's talk about the plural form: Most nouns don't have a simple plural 's' in German like in English or French. In some nouns you swap the vowel with an umlaut and in others you add an 'n' or 'en' at the end. For instance: the brother / der Bruder - the brothers / die Brüder. Yes, you use the female form for your brothers in German! :D Most if not all plural forms are used with the female article… (not sure if there are exceptions though lol) Well, I won't cover the word 'my' here… this post is long enough already. :P
      German for 'my': mein, meine, meinen, meinem, meiner, meines
      French: mon, ma, mes

      Well, and about grammar in general: Sentence building is a bit different in German than in English. I have a hard time with this too when I write something in English. That is because you can't directly translate a sentence word by word. That's why most suggestions in google translate are garbage or simply sound weird.

      Maybe some of you noticed: A lot of Germans use the present or past perfect in their sentences. That's because it's pretty common in German to use the present/past perfect instead of the present/past tense. For example: We played [insert favorite game] last weekend.
      Wir haben [Lieblingsspiel einfügen] letztes Wochenende gespielt. (I think you gue...

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      • Squid4Hire
        +2

        I think German is still probably easier. French and italian are more unfamiliar imo. Most of those words have English cognates. We wir, haben, have, letztes last, wochen week, ende, end, gespeilt no cognate.

        • RsonW
          +2

          I'm a native English speaker who learned French. French has a ton of cognates with English also. You vous, reason raison, season saison, final finale, simple simple, clock cloche, one un, etc

          • typesprite
            +3

            I had the same impression when I learned French. There are similarities in all three languages but I had the impression that French is bit closer to English than German is. And imho the grammar seems more logical in French than in German. Sometimes German feels a bit chaotic and there are some cases I can't even explain as a native speaker...

            Well, speaking about similarities; wasn't there a meme:
            English: surprise
            French: surprise
            German: Überraschung :D

            • ddecator
              +1

              Which is interesting, considering English comes from Germanic roots

            • typesprite
              +2
              @ddecator -

              Definitely! I never thought about it up until now, but it seems that German and English have a stronger connection from their ancestry compared to the Italic/Romance languages French/Italian. It's a bit odd that they aren't more alike. Like Dutch for example which sounds to me like a German dialect, even though I never learned it.

            • ddecator
              +1
              @typesprite -

              Dutch and German are closely related, and share overlap with a good number of words.

              English is sort of weird case when it comes to language, as it has effectively gone off in its own direction compared to the other languages it shares its roots with. Several books on the topic are available, such as Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue.

        • typesprite
          +1

          Yes, there are similar words in German. Some of them even have their origin in the English/French/Italian language because languages do evolve over time. Some people here still say "Ciao" instead of Tschüss / Auf Wiedersehen / Servus / Fieti. Even though it's a bit old fashioned by now. But then again when I learned English and French I got the impression that both share a lot of vocabularies compared to German. The pronunciation differs of course.

          In the end I'd argue that these are only vocabularies that will help you at the beginning to learn a language. What I think makes German more difficult than French/Italian/Spanish is the grammar. Sadly, similar words won't help you with grammar.

      • Cheski
        +1

        Thanks for typing this up. I've been working on German in Duolingo for a bit. You hit the trouble spots for me right on the head.

      • bogdan
        +1

        I actually took the time to read all that! I'm learning the language as we speak, so all of this has been tremendously interesting to me.

        I know about the problem with the sentence building, I always get the negation placement wrong. It's driving me insane!

    • Csellite
      +5

      I found German and Dutch to be very similar. However, from what i've heard around, German was suppose to be a more difficult language.

      • Havok
        +1

        I'm an Afrikaans native speaker, so I approached the languages from a bit of a different angle. However, I'd say German is more difficult to learn in terms of linguistic structure and vocabulary, especially with the case system that meh mentioned, while the pronunciation in Dutch is a bit trickier. In essence, if you can gargle, roll your r's and spit, you can speak German. With Dutch it's a bit more melodic.

        • Csellite
          +2

          Very well put! I'm not a native speaker in any way. I took German in throughout all of high school and have a friend from the Netherlands and we were just about able to understand one another.

      • meh
        +1

        English is a germanic language, but German has a (relatively simple but still present) case system, which adds just one more chart to memorize.

    • o0o
      +2

      I wouldn't place it there. German is the only (indo-european) language I know that has three grammatical genders, including another six variations (sometimes in abbreviated forms) which you bump into as soon as you realise that prepositions dictate accusative and datives (e.g. making feminine into masculine) .

    • xelim
      +2

      English itself is considered a germanic language so it actually is easy for english speakers to become proficient in german and vice versa. However mastering is another story. In this case the similarity of the languages causes you to make a lot of wrong assumptions.

      I speak both English and German as a foreign language, so I can observe both sides of the struggle from a neutral point of view.

      • bogdan
        +2

        I understand what you mean. It does actually make sense. Some languages may be easier to learn at a casual level, but harder to be truly good at.

      • Revikus
        +1

        at the very least, many words are similar in both English and German.

        e.g. apple, apfel

    • Teakay
      +2

      I think German's biggest hurdle for English speakers is the more complex grammar system. I took two years of Latin in high school and despised the ridiculous number of possible endings a verb could have depending on case, number, person, etc., but I feel like German might have a manageable number. Basic German to me feels very... natural, I suppose is the word, so I hope to master it someday (far in the future).

    • Kysol
      +2

      I've never officially learned Deutsch but through a few people I know, I've been able to easily grasp simple snippets of the language. If a conversation is fairly simple I can follow bits and pieces. English is the bastardisation of a lot of European languages, we should have no issue picking them up as our language was built using them.

    • mithrandir
      +2

      Frisian is kind of like the halfway point between German and English. I bet that's even easier.

    • Bazill
      +1

      That's why I'm working on learning German over anything else. Every now and then I'll run across something like "beer" to "bier" or "house" to "haus". What kills me about French or Spanish is words having a gender. It always throws me off. However that's nothing compared to having to memorize thousands of characters to learn Japanese or Chinese.

      • Aleenik
        +2

        Why do gendered nouns kill you about Spanish and French, but not German? They only have 2 noun genders while German has 3.

    • the7egend

      This comment has been removed