Intricacies of Learning the German Language
German language, like English, is part of the same Indo-European
group of languages that includes Latin and Greek languages also. English
and German languages are somewhat similar in some words. For example
“der Garten” means “garden”; “das Haus” means “house”. This does not
mean that it is easy to learn it! German is reputed to be one of the
toughest foreign languages to learn. There are vast differences in
grammar, word order and verb utilization between German and English.
These differences are compounded by a distinctive pronunciation that
non-native speakers find it difficult to replicate. This article
enunciates some of the pitfalls that a beginner in German language might
The German language is divided into several regional dialects with
differences in pronunciation and sometimes, even grammar. Two main
groups of dialects occur: Low German and High German, with important
variations within these two categories. A standardized German language
also occurs across most of Germany and is spoken in major cities and
other German-speaking countries. The beginner will probably be focusing
on standard German but he should be aware of the existence of these
Another important language difference from other European languages
is that German has three genders instead of two: masculine, feminine and
neutral. Every noun is attached with an article indicating its gender,
that is, der (masculine), die (feminine) and das (neutral). The beginner
has to learn the genders of each noun and attach the right article to
it. It is therefore easier to learn each German noun with its article.
For example, instead of learning “Garten” (Garden) only, learn “der
There are four types of cases in German: nominative, genitive, dative
and accusative. These cases are expressed by inflections in the nouns
(that is different endings to nouns and adjectives); for example “-ung”,
“-schaft”, “-heit” and “-lein”. Misuse of these cases can lead to much
German syntax (word order) is very different than English. In fact,
German is more flexible in the word order used. For instance, the
subject is not always at the beginning of the sentence and verbs can be
at the very end. The phrase: “the old man gave me the book today” can be
translated into any of the following ways:
- Der alte Mann gibt mir das Buch heute.
- Der alte Mann gibt mir heute das Buch.
- Das Buch gibt mir der alte Mann heute.
- Das Buch gibt der alte Mann heute mir.
- Das Buch gibt mir heute der alte Mann.
- Heute gibt mir der alte Mann das Buch.
- Mir gibt der alte Mann das Buch heute
Because of these complexities, learning German language takes a lot
of time. It therefore should not come as a surprise for beginners that
it takes more than a few years to fully master the language. Experts
recommend that the learning process begin with a lot of passive
activities, for example, listening to tapes and reading German-language
books and newspapers. When the active phase is started (speech), a lot
of practice should be thrown in. The learner should also be consistent
in his work, otherwise he/she would tend to forget what he has learned.