10 Things You Didn’t Know About The German Language
10. German is famous for its compound words
German is famous for its compound words which are words are formed from a number of other words put together into one. German can have ridiculously long words you could never get in English.
As many words as there is German imagination. So just think of a word and you might be able to create it.
9. The wide-scale immigration of millions of Turkish people into Germany
Since the wide-scale immigration of millions of Turkish people into Germany over the last few decades, Turkish culture and language had become a large and important part of Germany.
Particularly interesting is the phenomenon of Turkish German which is a variety of German mostly spoken by the children of Turkish immigrants.
Some of the characteristics of Turkish German are short abbreviated sentences and a certain type of vocabulary.
Some of the vocabulary you will frequently hear are “Ische” which means bitch, “Alda” which is an abbreviated form of “Alter” referring to an old man but now means any person the speakers referring to.
Frequent use of the word “Hure” which technically means whore but now can refer to anyone and the universal application of the informal you without ever using formal you which is to say in Turkish German everyone is a Du.
Of course this is fairly normal as different communities always tend to branch out and culturally enrich the language of their host countries and nowhere is this more true than with Turkish German.
8. German is distinguish between formal you and informal You
Classically German is distinguish between formal you and informal you which in German is “Sie” or “Ihr” or “Du”. But in recent years there’s been an interesting trend whereby the formal you have begun to disappear in many contexts where it formally would have been required.
“Sie” is supposed to be used with strangers, older people and people you just don’t know too well.
Just a few decades ago formal you was still being used by students at university to address each other but that is long gone and these days every student at university is a “Du”.
However the change is greater than that, online everyone is a “Du” or will get “geduzt” rather than “gesiezt” and even in places such as shops and cafés people these days have an overwhelming tendency to use “Du” rather than “Sie”.
“Sie” is still used in official places such as banks and business meetings but it is increasingly losing ground to “Du” just about everywhere.
There have been parallel developments in languages such as Swedish where the formal you simply disappeared from the language during the 20th century so it might be that the German language will follow suit.
7. Many languages in the world are more complex than German
While many languages in the world are more complex than German, as far as West European languages go, German is still pretty difficult particularly for English speakers.
It has a different word order, grammatical gender and host of other things that can drive people batty.
Take the following German sentence, for example. “Er teilte mir mit, dass er gestern einen großen Geldbetrag auf sein Sparkonto überwiesen habe, weil die Bank kürzlich höhere Zinssätze angekündigt habe” Which idiomatically translates as “He informed me that he had transferred a large sum of money to his savings account yesterday because the bank had recently announced higher interest rates”. But literally would be translated as the following.
He has me informed that he yesterday because of the recently by the bank announced interest rate raised a large sum of money to a savings account transfer had.
This difficulty of the German language has been alluded to by Mark Twain wrote an essay titled “The awful German language” in which he stated never knew before what attorney was made for, it is to give some of us a chance to learn German.
6. English is everywhere these days and German hasn’t done a good job standing up to its influence
English is everywhere these days and German hasn’t done a good job standing up to its influence. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of English words and expressions in German these days such as “Just for fun”, “Fair”, “Liken”, derived from like, “Baby”, “Cash”, “Checken”, derived from check, “Catering” and many more.
Sometimes this is referred to as Denglish but these days these words might as well be German given their frequent use and the fact that so many employ them.
5. Speaking of Grammatical Gender
Speaking of grammatical gender, if you’re used to Spanish or French, German might throw you off a bit because it has three genders and oftentimes there is no rhyme or reason to it and it just needs to be memorized with the word.
Sure, there are some patterns such as most words ending with “-tum” tend to be neuter or neither masculine or feminine such as “das Heiligtum”.
Which refers to a sanctuary or sometimes sainthood or “das Deutschtum” which refers to Germanness or German culture but there are exceptions such as “der Reichtum” and “der Irrtum”.
Which both end with “-tum” but are masculine in gender and mean wealth and error respectively.
The biggest challenge for English speakers however is that some German words look identical but have different genders and correspondingly different meanings, for example, “der Laster” is a masculine and refers to a truck but “das Laster” is neuter and refers to vice others are “der Kiefer” which refers to a jaw bone and is masculine but “die Kiefer” which refers to a pine tree and is feminine.
“Der Ekel” which refers to disgust or revulsion and is masculine but “das Ekel” which is neuter and means an obnoxious or monstrous person.
“Der Verdienst” which is masculine and refers to financial earnings but “das Verdienst” which is neuter and refers to achievement.
There are many others like these and they only serve to confuse and troll the poor learner of German.
4. German language has a Long Philosophical Tradition
The German language has a long philosophical tradition embodied in such thinkers and philosophers as Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and others.
Nazi party member and philosopher Martin Heidegger was known for his descriptive claims about the special properties of the German language for the purposes of philosophy as he stressed the abstract and inscrutable nature of German for creating philosophical concepts.
The original works of German philosophy are often incredibly difficult to read in the original, let alone translate.
Many German words also tend to be “mehrdeutig” or ambiguous such as “Geist” which can mean both spirit and mind at the same time and do not allow for an easy English translation.
3. You might be Surprised to hear this but Germans make Mistakes too
You might be surprised to hear this but Germans make mistakes too. In fact the current generation of Germans makes more mistakes than you would probably guess.
Despite the fact that German spelling is very simple, many Germans these days cannot distinguish between spelling certain words.
One of the most prominent examples of this is the word “dass” meaning that which many Germans tend to write as “das”, also meaning that but in a different context. But despite this anywhere you see written German you’ll see “das” written set of “dass”.
Germans also get the gender of words, for example the identical word pair “Der Verdienst” versus “Das Verdienst” is misunderstood by most Germans and they tend to say “der Verdienst” all the time even when it means achievement rather than financial earnings in which case the proper form would be “das Verdienst”.
There are many other instances of this such as German saying “einzigste” instead of “einzige” which is incorrect, meaning only.
Or “besser wie” instead of “besser als” which means better than. They might have learned it all in school but somehow it just got lost in transition.
2. Reduce the Complexity and make it even Easier
Called the “Rechtschreibreform” in German, in 1996 all German-speaking countries agreed to reform the German spelling system to reduce the complexity and make it even easier than it had been.
One e of the fundamental changes involve changing the near-universal letter “Eszett (ß)” which is a sharp S, to a double S or SS. Provided the vowel that preceded was short.
An example of this would be “Fluss” or river which used to be written as “Fluß” with ß but because it has a short vowel it now has a double S instead of an ß. On the other and a word such as “Fuß” meaning foot has retained the ß because the vowel is long.
Generally speaking the spelling reform has been poorly received with large numbers of people continuing to write in the old way and others just mixing it up quite a bit.
There have even been polls in recent years that indicate that many people simply wish to return to the old way but given the tense political situation in Germany, it is unlikely that spelling reform will take centerpiece anytime soon.
1. German has a number of words that many Germans think are English in origin
German has a number of words that many Germans think are English in origin but are never used in English in the same way despite seeming English.
Over the years they have become so anchored to the language that few people think about them much anymore but they are a bit strange at least for English speakers.
Some of these words are “Handy” which means mobile phone in German but its original English meaning actually translates the German “handlich”. “Mobbing” which means bullying in German that means crowded or crowding in English.
“Public Viewing” which means watching a football match from outside but not just watching people walk by and “Wellness” which generally refers to a spa and massage parlour rather than actual health.
There you have it, but Germans are known for the creativity even being creative with words from other languages.