What German is like
I know that there are a lot of stereotypes about all kinds of languages, and I thought I’d start with my own and explain a little about it. Even if you’re not aspiring to learn it, I hope this post might interest you.
1. “German people always sound angry.”
I don’t think this is true. German can sound angry, yes, because we have a hard pronunciation (I can’t think of a better description right now) and use a lot of nouns, which make everything sound more formal and less emotional (also known as “Beamtendeutsch” = official german). But I think the reason why people from other countries associate anger with the german language is because in the media, you probably only see german politicians in the parliament holding speeches - and, of course, 80% of them are yelling at other politicians and speaking in formal terms.
Here are some music videos in which you’ll hear a different German:
Sarah Connor’s “Wie schön du bist” (How beautiful you are) from her album “Muttersprache” (Mother Language);
Andreas Bourani’s “Auf anderen Wegen” (On different ways) (please also check out the english translation of the lyrics!)
Adel Tawil’s “Lieder” (Songs)
Of course there are tons of other German artists, feel free to browse Youtube or iTunes and I’m sure you’ll find something you like.
2. “German isn’t useful at all. “
Every language is useful! Secondly, German is among the 12 most spoken languages of the world, and it’s an official language in six countries. Almost 100 million people speak German as a first or second language. (x) It’s also a minority language in several other countries.
Most importantly though: There are a lot of languages that are easier to learn once you speak German - Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch… I learnt Latin in school and everyone told me it was useless because literally no one speaks it. With the help of Latin, I’m now able to understand almost all Roman languages, like Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French. Learning a language always has more positive side effects than we think. Plus, German is a challenge! It’s different from English, it’s different from Roman Languages, but all in all it’s very consistent.
3. “German is way too difficult to learn - even German people can’t speak German properly. “
Yes, it’s difficult to learn. What isn’t? We have tons of fun grammar and tenses and weird exceptions, but that’s what makes it cool. It will also improve your knowledge of grammar terms in general so you can apply it to almost any language in the world. (Worked for me that way with Latin, which has some big similarities to German.) Plus, the basic grammar you need to master daily situations isn’t all that bad.
Well, there certainly are German people who aren’t as capable of German grammar as they should be - but I guess there are also British people who confuse affect and effect and forget to use the subjunctive. I can assure you that people whose first language is German are not bad at German. Not everyone knows the grammar rules, but we use them correctly subconsciously.
4. “I can’t pronounce most of the words.”
The wonderful ä, ö, ü, ch.. Yeah, I can see how the pronunciation can be a problem. However, rest assured that
a) 80% of the German native speakers have equally as much trouble with the “th” in English and
b) no one will judge you if you speak with an accent. We’re going to congratulate you on trying your very best to learn our language, and we certainly won’t mock you if you pronounce things wrong.
Learning a second language (mostly English) is obligatory in Germany, so really everyone here can relate to having problems with foreign languages, no matter if the problem is grammar, orthography or pronunciation. I learnt three foreign languages in school. Half of my year is probably still trying to figure out how the famous english “if-sentences” work, which verbs are used with the spanish subjuntivo and what the hell a latin ablativus absolutus is. So yeah, don’t worry. We’ve all been there.
5. “Even Germans sound so different, it’s like they don’t speak the same language!”
True. We have so many dialects in Germany that I can’t even count them, and of course Austria and Switzerland probably have even more than we do. It’s said that people from Hannover speak the “best” German, but to be honest, I don’t know if that’s true. Maybe. I’ve never been to Hannover.
The most famous dialect is probably Bavarian. Berlin and Cologne have their own dialects, as well as Sachsen, Hessen and basically every other city or region. If you wanna catch a glimpse of it, watch Peter Frankenfeld’s scene “Die Wetterkarte” (Weather Report). It’s really old and the content doesn’t apply to nowadays, but the dialects he does are really accurate and super funny - even I don’t understand everything he says tbh. Keep in mind though that most people don’t use dialects especially when they are in contact with people from all over the country and it’s necessary that they’re understood, like lawyers, doctors, teachers, professors et cetera. I don’t even really speak “my” dialect because we never used it at home. And don’t worry, most people will try to speak their best non-dialect German when they notice you’re not a native speaker!
This turned out much longer than I thought, but I hope this was helpful in some sort of way. :)
Any more questions? Ask me! x