When I started learning German, many of my friends and colleagues said: It was hard to learn German. Due to the limited resources back then, it was indeed challenging. In this article, I will explain my answer to the question: is it hard to learn German?
With abundant resources today, learning German should no longer be challenging. In this blog post, I’ll explain why learning German is not as difficult as you think.
German is a logical language with clear rules
For those who speak English, German or “Deutsch” might be a complex language to learn at first sight. German grammar is indeed complicated, but on the other hand, the language itself is very logical.
So once you understand the basics, you will have no problem as you advance from there. You would soon recognize many parallels if you learned Latin as a secondary language at school.
Besides its logic, the German language is also very efficient and precise. On the other hand, German plural forms may show some irregularities as other European languages do. So, is it hard to learn German as a foreigner?
Germans also tend to put nouns together to create new words. If you take, for example, the term “Kraftfahrzeugshaftpflichtversicherung,” it can be split into three parts “Kraftfahrzeug,” “Haftplficht,” and “Versicherung.” In English, it means motor vehicle liability insurance.
If you need a “KFZ-Haftpflichtversicherung,” you should look no further than my post about insurance in Germany.
It’s beneficial if you already speak English
It is easier to learn German if you already speak English. Why? There are some words that both languages have in common. The English language borrowed those words a long time ago.
Examples of common words in German and English
Some great examples are: angst, ansatz, blitz, bratwurst, doppelgaenger, gestalt, hinterland, kindergarten, kraut, poltergeist, ricksack, sauerkraut, schadenfreude, wanderlust, wunderkind, and even zeitgeist.
There are some components of the English language that help you learn Germany. Component number one is that both languages inherit the same language family.
Same patterns for verbs
The second component is that verbs are easy to learn. You learn to recognize and use the same patterns quickly as soon as you start. For example, I first realized that irregular words are used with you “du” or he/she/it “er/sie/es.”
Shortcuts for learning German verbs
The third and last component is that there are some shortcuts to learning German plural forms. An example: The plural form for “Frau” (meaning woman) is “Frauen” (women). Most feminine plural forms have an ending with “-n/-en/-nen.”
Most of the masculine plural forms end with an “-e/-er.” An example here is “Mann” (man) and its plural form, “Männer” (men).
With neuter forms, it becomes even more accessible. Most of the time, only a “-s” is added to the singular form. So the plural form for “Auto” (car) is “Autos” (cars).
Practice is the key, as with learning any other language
From my own experience, I can tell that the more you practice speaking, reading, and writing in German, the easier it gets. I learned the most when I started talking to locals and asked them not to speak English with me.
Is it hard to learn German without daily practice?` there are so many situations in your everyday life where you can learn by practicing. For example, during grocery shopping, if you have any questions. Or by speaking with your neighbors or coworkers.
For sure, because the more you practice with locals, the more you get used to the language, intonation, and everything else.
Pronunciation is pretty straightforward, with minor challenges
28 consonant sounds and 17 vowel sounds exist in the German language. As a native English speaker, you already do know 20 consonant sounds. You also already know seven of the vowel sounds.
So you will only have to learn eight new consonants and ten new vowel sounds to master German pronunciation.
You will only have to get used to German intonation. I can tell from my own experience that this will come over time the more you communicate daily.
You don’t have to worry as much about grammar as some might think
Even if German grammar might appear complex, the variations used in day-to-day conversations are limited. Mastering German grammar will take a while.
As soon as you understand the basic principles, it can be beneficial. Communication in German is usually exact, but mastering German grammar is easier if you know English grammar.
In reality, I experienced German grammar to be not that hard. There are many recognizable patterns. You will quickly move forward from there when you recognize those.
And by the way, Germans tend to pronounce words the same way they are written. Compared to English pronunciation, where “naked” and “backed” sound different, it is not always straightforward.
Is it hard to learn German for an Indian?
You might wonder: is it hard to learn German for an Indian? I can give you an example from one of my coworkers from India who has lived in Germany for several years.
The biggest challenge for him is and possibly ever will be pronunciation. He arrived in Germany with zero knowledge of the language. But after putting much effort into taking private courses and learning German online, he was able to bring it to a good enough level (C2).
Different vowels, consonants, and alphabet
Since Hindi uses many different vowels and consonants, the pronunciation of a few characters and words was specifically hard for him at the beginning. Amongst the biggest is the letter “r.”
In addition to the different vowels and consonants, Hindi uses a different alphabet, meaning writing. German, in comparison, is based on the Latin alphabet. So probably, learning German for an Indian is not that easy.
The advantage is that many Indians speak English
But there is one significant advantage for Indians when they try to learn German. Due to their history with the British Empire, most Indians can speak and write in English. As mentioned above, this will be handy when you want to learn German.
How difficult is it for an American to learn German?
There are some reasons why it might be challenging to learn German as an American. First, it takes work to pick up. Second, German tends to have long words, four noun case endings, and a rough pronunciation.
Third, German is very descriptive. American English is much “softer” in its pronunciation, so your tongue must get used to the German language. Let me give you one example. Television is called “das Fernsehen” in German. The word “Fernsehen” consists of “Fern” (meaning far) and “sehen” (meaning watching). It means far-watching.
As mentioned, both languages have many words in common, so you have some advantages as an American who wants to learn German.
How hard is it to learn German as an adult?
Generally, learning a new language as an adult is more challenging than it is for kids. Even if adults have a far more developed brain, kids seem to acquire a new language easier.
So, is it hard to learn German as an adult? Research suggests that their immature prefrontal cortex helps them acquire new skills. You can know much more about why in this exciting article on neuropsychology here.
Try to focus less on the correct language usage at the beginning and learn from your mistakes over time. For some of you, it might still be easier to learn new languages, even as an adult. From my own experience, I can tell that it’s easier to learn German in Germany or while being amongst native speakers.
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