German, the language of love?


Love lures French kids to German:

Come and learn German - a language of love! Hundreds of advertisements in France this week will promote the unusual message to try to woo teenagers to a language they often consider difficult and ugly.

"Language is the key to understand a partner, his culture, working manners and lifestyle," [French President Jacques] Chirac and [German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroeder said in a joint statement on Wednesday ahead of "Franco-German day".

It should be noted that Chirac does not speak German. (At least, not yet.) Schröder likely does not speak French, though the article doesn't mention it explicitly.

Personally, I like the sound of the German language. It's the language for when you mean business and for getting the job done. The sentence structure builds up all this potential energy, and then all those verbs come flying at you in rapid succession - bam bam bam - and the sentence suddenly gels into place. It's like speaking in reverse Polish notation.

What's not to like?

Comments (35)
  1. mike says:

    Charles V: "I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse"

    :-)

    People sometimes say that German sounds "guttural," which is somewhat unfair, since they’re probably referring to the "ch" sound (velar fricative) and the back "r" that are shared by other languages. My non-German-speaking Friend finds the sound of it off-putting, whereas I find it comfortable, it being a familial language. It’s all in the associations one has …

  2. Joe says:

    What’s not to like? The best description is in Mark Twain’s "The Awful German Language":

    http://eserver.org/langs/the-awful-german-language.txt

  3. J. Daniel Smith says:

    "speaking in RPN"…too funny!

    Didn’t Mark Twain say something to the effect of tacking a "gewesen geworden sein" onto the end of every sentence?

    I like German too…it’s a very logical language.

  4. CC says:

    "What’s not to like?"

    The french pronunciation of most german words would be a start ….

  5. I learned german in school because I live in Belgium only few kilometers away from the german border. Actually, just like the Alsass in France, german is the primary language used here.

    Anyway, german is an overly complex language, more than it’d need to be. I prefer english over it, because it lets you say the same things using a smaller vocabulary and a simpler syntax. One thing I love in english is the ability to combine different words to describe something without sounding stupid. My pet peeve with the german language are these fourty trillion different conjugations of a single verb and their special inflections, and their other grammatical BS like Akkusativ, Dativ, Genitiv, and so on. No thanks.

    There are at least two dialects on the german language in use here, simplifying it largely though introducing some words here and there borrowed from french and dutch, yet we understand each other. Even the germans understand the lighter version of it (largely used by the current youth here), and that without resorting to accuse us of talking bad german.

  6. James Curran says:

    >> I like German too…it’s a very logical language. <<

    Hmmm… In German, you refer to a young woman as "it", and the wall as "She"…. very logical…

  7. Mike Dunn says:

    >It’s like speaking in reverse Polish notation.

    I was eating cereal when I read that. Now I have milk on my monitor ;)

  8. Raymond Chen says:

    Yes, that’s entirely logical, because a girl is a "Mädchen", and "-chen" is a neuter suffix.

    You have to let go of the notion of grammatical gender being related to sexual gender. It’s unfortunate that the same word is used for these different concepts.

    Instead of calling them "masculine", "feminine", and "neuter", perhaps they should be called "Category 1", "Category 2", and "Category 3". Then people would be conditioned to view it as a purely grammatical construction.

  9. > Hmmm… In German, you refer to a young woman as "it", and the wall as "She"…. very logical…

    May be because young boys and girls are not permitted to have sex?

    Just kidding of course ;-))

  10. Neil T. says:

    Unfortunately German death metal music is popular around where I live so I tend to associate the German language with death, vampires and unhappiness…

    I spent 4 years learning German and 7 learning French, which as a language I prefer and find infinitely more romantic. Even the most bland things sound alluring when spoken in French.

    But I do like some of the unnecessarily long words in German – I remember writing an essay called something like "Mein Freitzeitbeschaftigungen".

  11. Florian Zschocke says:

    Still, having three different grammatical genders in a language make it difficult to learn because as Mark Twain pointed out there is no real logic behind it, it’s mostly random. French has only two and I find it already hard enough to remember what gender something is in French.

    And those are not the only things you have to learn by heart, but there are all the grammatical rules with dozens of exceptions.

  12. Sven says:

    Wird sicher nicht mehr lange dauern, dann schreibt Raymond seinen Blog in Englisch UND Deutsch. ;o)

  13. Raymond Chen says:

    Ich würde eher auf Schwedisch schreiben, weil ich jene Sprache zurzeit lerne. (Vielleicht werde ich es neu überlegen, nachdem die Neuheit einer neuen Sprache verklingelt.)

  14. Sven says:

    Dann doch lieber weiter Englisch, das verstehe ich wenigstens. ;o)

    PS: Ausgezeichnetes Deutsch! :o)

  15. Mike Dunn says:

    Je ne comprends plus ce blog ;)

  16. Guido says:

    This is getting to be as amusing as the "What language is that" posters around Microsoft’s hallways nowadays. Any chance of a Tagalog blog, Raymond?

  17. Edwin says:

    The comment about RPN is a good observation. The strange

    thing is that "officially" the verb should be at the second position in German (as in English). However the grammar works in a

    peculiar way and we always seem to put the important

    verbs at the end. Thus German ends up placing verbs a bit

    like Latin.

    German has certainly been the language of my loves.

    I think you should judge any language by the nicest people

    and the finest books. eg. I used to abhor French until I started

    to read Marcel Proust. Now I really regret my lack of attention

    in school.

  18. Edwin says:

    BTW women (Frau) is female in German. It’s correct, however,

    that girl (Mädchen) and wife (Weib) (which was used instead

    of "Frau" in older times) are neutral, which is not very romantic

    indeed. :) Mädchen is most of the time only used for children.

  19. Rob says:

    Re: German being "like speaking in reverse Polish notation" –

    That’s *so* insulting to us Poles it’s not even funny.

    :)

  20. Christian says:

    "Freitzeitbeschaftigungen"??? Who uses that word?

    We just say "Hobbies" or singular: "Hobby". Where’s the problem?

    Oh, maybe the "Verein zur Wahrung der deutschen Sprache e.V." has some problemes with it, but how cares anyway?

    And if you look for a logical language: Use Latin!

    A computer programm which builds all declinations and conjugations (or how do these

    words translate into english?) correctly can be build in few hours

  21. Louis Parks says:

    I’m not familiar with German, but the uses of verb cases and noun genders sounds similar to Russian, which I find to be a very logical language.

    I agree with Raymond on the category vs. gender argument. It’s a classification system. No more. No less.

  22. MilesArcher says:

    Louis,

    Classification system. Hmm. What are the rules for the classes? Is it arbitrary?

  23. Louis Parks says:

    Miles,

    The rules are based on the endings of the noun.

    Generally speaking –

    feminine nouns end in -a, -ya, or soft sign

    masculine nouns end in a consonant or short ee

    neuter nounds end in -o, -yo, or -ye

    Numbers and adjectives conform to gender and quantity of the noun. The one exception, with respect to gender, is that there are femenine nouns for masculine things. For instance, the word for uncle is femenine. In that case, you always decline the noun accorind to femenine rules, but you use the masculine rules for the numbers and adjectives. So, in that case, gender of the actual object does matter. Hmm, I guess that hurts my case about it being only a classification system, huh?

  24. Moi says:

    "> Hmmm… In German, you refer to a young woman as "it", and the wall as "She"…. very logical…

    May be because young boys and girls are not permitted to have sex?"

    Whereas a wall…?

    Hmm. Got to wonder about those Germans…

  25. lex3001 says:

    Actually, you are not referring to those people/objects as he/she. You are referring to them using the article that matches their gender. That is something different, and only sounds odd in English if you think of it that way… it doesn’t sound odd to Germans at all.

  26. Ilya Minkov (eye/midiclub) says:

    Simple grammar and small vocabulary simply *don’t* go together. While this may be somehow true for an ability to express yourself in a limited set of situations, it is not enough to be able to understand native speech and literature.

    I’ve been learning English words for 13 years, German for 5 – now i know enough German words but still not enough English ones.

    English has the simplest grammar and the largest vocabulary of the known languages, German has harder grammar but smaller vocabuary. French has even smaller vocabulary, but as far as i heard (i have not studied french myself) even more complex grammar.

    Russian (which is my native language) seems to be some kind of exception, since it has a large, very unambiguous vocabulary (if i remember correctly it’s larger then German), and a fairly extensive grammar, though i certainly can’t put it into any relation since it’s my one and only native language. :)

    How do you think, how does complexity of the Russian grammar compare with that of the other languages? And if it is more compex than i.e. German, does it give Russian in connection with the large vocabulary more expressive power? Or is it divided by unambiguity of the vocabulary, roughly the same?

    As to German, the language is not a great deal of trouble to learn, until it comes to the few rare points with extremely many exceptions. It’s easy as well: just don’t make up a rule, then you have no exceptions. This works anyway, since one doesn’t don’t talk using rules, one talks using experience. You would never have enough time to remeber any language rule while talking anyway.

  27. Alexander Bepi says:

    I have heard so often that German is not a really beutiful language. But dear English speaking people: Don´t forget that English is more a Germanic language that a latin like French, Spanish, Italian or Portuguese. And one language or even culture is as long not pompular as you fall in love with someone who is from that region.

    Concerning the "long words" I have to say that in German you can combine all words, if you want to express something. the wheel OF a car is a Autoreifen (Auto = car, Reifen = wheel) or Autoreifenventil = the valve of the cars wheel. And I think that the German meaning i much shorter than the english one :)

    By the way the Germans learn a lot of languages although all are not beautiful. But we are openminded. When you are in Italy, France or Spain you can be very happy if one of 20 people can one foreign language!

  28. Christin says:

    I’m from Germany and I think

    german is not easy to learn , because

    its a difficult language.

    A lot of germans can’t speak german very well.

    Some people are unfairly to the foreigners which wants to learn the german language, because they speak colloquially very often.

    But I think if you want to speak german

    then you can learn it if you really want.

    All in all German is a nice (but difficult) language.

  29. Curryhuhn says:

    It’s funny to watch at foreign speakers how they learn the german syntax.

    During the time I readed this thread, I get happy that I don’t have to learn it as a foreign language.

    And Christin is right. A lot of germans can’t speak german very well. Especially the distinction of "als" and "wie" seems to be very difficulty.

    In diesem Sinne:

    Ich spreche besser Deutsch wie Du!

    Ouch, mistake ;-)

  30. Aida says:

    Honestly i prefer to learn french and spanish. I think it’s really useful for you to know a lot of languages, but I have no desire to learn german.

  31. Rudi says:

    I have studied German a little but I gave up soon. But it was more because of the teacher whom I didn’t like than German language. There are many kinds of languages in the world. All of them can sound beautiful and ugly. English is no exception and hey, it’s not easy to pronounce by no means because of the lack of clear spelling rules.

    But if you prefer a language that is easy: Go for a constructed langauge. Esperanto isn’t too bad but it has plenty of enemies. How about Toki Pona or Omena? They are simple and beautiful.

  32. Dagmar says:

    Ja, ich liebe die deutsche sprache. Ich lernte sie nur zwei Jahren. Ich glaube aber, das es gibt nie sprache, die ist die einige Sprache der Liebe. Ich denke das meine Grammatik ist jetzt nicht so gut, verzieh mich bitte.

  33. ash says:

    But are there actually any german words, not with french influences that actually sound really nice or even romantic?

  34. Raymond Chen says:

    "Gemütlichkeit" is a nice-sounding word, I think.

  35. Raymond Chen says:

    Commenting closes after two weeks; I was slow to close this one.

    http://weblogs.asp.net/oldnewthing/archive/2004/02/21/77681.aspx

Comments are closed.