German Difficult to Like

German can be a difficult language for an English speaker to learn, and it can be a difficult language to like.


The agglutinative tendency of the language can produce 20-, 25-, or even 30-letter words in many cases. These words can be very difficult to pronounce or to spell, and this makes translation errors much more frequent when you are using Babelfish or similar translation software. Such words are more frequent in technical publications, where I have encountered much of the German I have seen - well into the 20th century, German was considered the language of science and many fields are still dominated by Germans.

In addition, the sound of the language can be rather unpleasant - it has a guttural, harsh sound that is difficult to get accustomed to. (This may be a lingering cultural effect of the two World Wars, but it does make it a bit tougher to get used to the language.) The umlauts are difficult to type with most word processing programs, an admittedly small but annoying part of learning the German language.

The similarity of the language to English can make it somewhat easier for English speakers to start learning than other, more distantly related languages. However, this can also lead to many "false friends," seemingly similar words with very different meanings, so be very careful about these.

On the positive side, few languages have the cultural history of German. Few languages can boast the wealth of artistic masterpieces that are written and sung in original German. (German becomes much less harsh when sung, I find.) And few languages can claim the economic importance of German, the primary language of the world's fourth largest economy.

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