When I moved to Germany more than one year ago, I barely knew anything about the language or the culture. My first conversation with a local took place with an Über driver via Google Translate and, at that point, I couldn’t even say “Sorry! I don’t speak German”. After some time I realized I had everything to gain from learning the language, but still it took me a while until I really committed and started taking classes. More than a year has passed and I now realize just how many preconceptions I had about this language. So, here are 5 misconceptions about learning German and why you should get started with it instead!
1. “German doesn’t sound nice”
When I first moved to Germany, I quickly noticed that the language sounded like nothing I had heard before. At school, I learnt English, Latin, Russian and Spanish but I had never been in contact with German-speaking people. Some may say German sounds like a very strict and harsh language, but for centuries it was known as one of the most melodious languages! Actually most of the great opera works are written in Italian, German, and French. With the most amazing composers such as Mozart being Germanophone, there is no denying this language has a musical charm. Also, remember Goethe? The Frankfurt-born was a master in lyrical poesy. Still not convinced? A portion of German words are derived from Latin and Greek, and fewer are borrowed from French and English: sounds like a good mix doesn’t it?
2. “German is only spoken in Germany”
Another common excuse for non-Germanophones is that German is only spoken in Germany. This is not true! Actually, German is the first language of about 95 million people worldwide and the most widely spoken native language in the European Union! If German is the only official language of Germany, it is also the case in Austria, Liechtenstein and in 19 cantons of Switzerland… but did you know many other countries had German as a co-official language? You can count Belgium, Luxembourg, and South Tyrol, a region in a north of Italy, all in there. Who could have known you’d actually have to speak German on a ski vacation in the Italian Alps?
Even more surprising… you can find many German speakers outside of Europe! German dialects make up the second most spoken first language in Brazil, after Portuguese. Yes, Sir, Brazil is home to the second largest German-Austrian population outside their respective nations, after the USA! This is due to immigration flows between 1824 and 1972, when about 260,000 Germans settled in Brazil, concentrated in the state of Santa Catarina, in the south. Believe it or not there are actually entire cities peopled with German-speakers in the South American country!
3.“It is too late for me to learn a foreign language”
This is simply not true! The scientific field of neuroplasticity actually suggests that one can never be too old to learn something new, but that the older we are, the harder it is for us to do so. But keep reading: according to neurologists, whilst some aspects of language learning become progressively more difficult with age, others may get easier: “Older people have larger vocabularies than younger ones, so the chances are your vocabulary will be as large as a native,” explained Albert Costa, a professor of neuroscience who studies bilingualism at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. And that’s not all, if you already speak a foreign language – which you probably do if you are reading this article in English – you might even learn grammar specificities more easily than a child. So cheer up and get started: learning a language as an adult is even beneficial for your brain! According to this same Guardian article, a number of recent studies suggest that learning a foreign language can slow age-related cognitive decline and perhaps even delay the onset of dementia. Amazing!
As a Munich-based expatriate, I would also encourage you to get started with learning German, not only because most of the brightest people on earth were German-speakers – Einstein, Freud, Goethe – but also because you might actually stay longer than you expect in this part of Europe due to an overload of well-being. Indeed, German-speaking countries tend to top the lists of the old continent’s best places to live. With a high quality of life, Munich has a lot to offer and expatriates tend to be very happy here (and not just because they are employed by Stylight ;)). For more information on that, check out our article on 6 reasons why we love the capital of Bavaria.
4. “German is SO difficult”
Come on, people! There are so many languages that are harder than German! With only 3 and a half cases (genitive only counting for a half due to German people slowly giving up on it), applying almost solely to adjectives and articles, German is a piece of cake compared to other languages including declinations. Russian for instance counts a total of 6 cases which apply to nouns, pronouns, and adjectives to name a few. Even first and last names are declinated! Chinese, Latin, Hungarian and Finnish are also considered much harder languages to learn than German, especially for English or Latin-language natives (Italians, Frenchies, we’re looking at you!). The Finnish have 26 different cases, so don’t you dare say German grammar is hard again!
Furthermore, when you take a look at the German language, some of it sounds and looks a lot like English. English modal verbs such as “can”, “have” or “will” come almost directly from their German equivalent “können” “haben” and “wollen”. Of course this is no coincidence since the English language was developed from West Germanic dialects spoken by the Teutonic tribes who invaded Great Britain. But it certainly makes it easier to learn German if you are already fluent in the language of Shakespeare (or close enough).
On a lighter note, we guarantee that after a few tasty German beers, you’ll be able to quickly ramp up your Deutsch skills. Somehow, the “Weißbier” seems to be the magic push anyone needs to strike up a discussion with German-speakers.
5. “I don’t need to learn German to visit/live in Germany“
Most German-speakers are very good at speaking English, making interactions and daily life convenient for visitors and expats. It might appear as a shocker, but German-speakers may not be as outgoing as the bros you’re used to meeting on nights out. Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean they’re not “sympathisch”, but they would assume you should learn their language, and we agree. It’s only fair, right?
Most importantly, not learning German whilst being in Germany would be unfortunate, and a missed opportunity. Think of all the things you’re depriving yourself of: interacting with locals, learning how to pronounce “Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz”, the longest word in German *eek!*, or even going to the movies.
Last but not least, with German-speaking sex symbols such as Heidi Klum, Til Schweiger and Diane Kruger, you might find locals incredibly attractive, and would have to learn some basic German chat up lines anyway! So, cast these assumptions about the language aside and get started! You might even fall in love…
You have been warned 😉
|By Pauline Reuter|