10 Difficult Concepts in the German Language
You're probably thinking something like, "Hey! You said German wasn't hard to learn! What is this about now?"
I don't think German is hard to learn. But does that mean learning any language is easy? No, not really. It means that I have figured out a way of language learning that works for me. I've tried many methods and committed myself to a schedule that I follow each week. This allows me to learn multiple languages and enjoy doing so.I have studied German intensely and with a lot of dedication. It took a lot of time and effort but I got there and now can seriously get my paperwork started for my move. You can do it if you are willing to commit!
I am still convinced that German is one of the easier languages for native English speakers to learn, but there are going to be concepts that you aren't familiar with. Even things that are considered easy will require you to learn and apply something. Same with German! There are struggles to push through in every language. Here are a few of the most common mess-ups in the German language.
1. Grammatical Case: German has four cases
Nominative, Accusative, Dative, and Genitive. So basically, this already means there are way too many ways of saying "the". Here is a basic breakdown of the cases:
Nominative: The noun in the nominative case is the subject of the sentence and correlates to the verb.
For example: Er ist ein Hund. He is a dog.
Accusative: The noun in the accusative case is the direct object of the sentence (the thing the verb acts upon).
For example: Er hat einen Hund. He has a dog.
Dative: The noun in the dative case is receiving the accusative noun.
Er gibt mir einen Hund. He gives me a dog
Genitive: To show possession.
For example: Meines Bruders Hund. My brother's dog.
You can clearly see every case with the masculine nouns. It is a bit more difficult with, say feminine nouns since they do not change every time the case changes.
2. Gender: German grammar has 3 genders
Did you know that nouns can be boys, girls, or the third gender neuter? They are in German!
3. Plurals: The construction of plural nouns
In English, you add an "s" to make a word plural. Not so easy in German!
der Apfel becomes die Äpfel
der Mann becomes die Männer
der Hund becomes die Hunde
das Buch becomes die Bücher
das Mädchen becomes die Mädchen (didn't want you to get too comfortable ;) )
Additionally, with four cases, three genders, and the plurals, you have 16 ways of saying "the".
4. Adjectives: Adjective endings change depending on the noun & case
eine Kleine spinne: the small spider
Ich habe einen kleinen Apfel: I have a small apple
Ein großer Hund: A big dog
Die lustigen Frauen: the funny women
5. Case Will Change Definitive Article: When die turns into der
Sometimes you get some extra letters on an article or adjective that will tell you what is going on. Other times, you'll see a feminine word with a masculine article. Say whaaat?
Getting overwhelmed?! Check out some language learning tips to help you out along your German journey!
6. Word Order: Verbs, conjunctions, and past tense, oh my!
In English, you can for the most part put a verb pretty much wherever. That is not so true in German! The verb must be next to the subject in the second grammatical position of the sentence. Unless it is a question. Or has a conjunction. And if it's past tense...well, kind of.
For example: Conjunctions
Wenn er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht: We aren't going if he doesn't come.
Da ich keinen Hunger habe, esse ich nicht: Because I am not hungry I will not eat.
7. Compound Words: German is famous for its long words
The German language shows just how practical the Germans are culturally. When they create new words, they use words they already know. It makes you see how they really see the world.
Here you can see some of the building blocks:
Meerschweinchen: guinea pig (literally ocean piglet)
Another example: Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän: a steamboat company captain on the Danube
And another: Fallschirmspringerschule: A parachutist school (Fallschirm = parachute, springer = jumper, schule=school)
8. The German R: To roll or not to roll
Sometimes we get to do the fun roll with the tongue. Other times, it is more of a...throat noise? *shrugs*
9. Präteritum and Past Perfekt: Two past tenses
In English, past tense is weird but may be not this weird. So in English, you can say "It happened" and that is past tense. Another correct way is "It had happened" which is basically double past tense. "I was swimming" past tense + present tense = past tense?
So in German, there are two kinds of past tense to learn. There is the Perfekt, which is used in speaking. The Präteritum is in things like fairytales, writing....or when people don't feel like using the Perfect.
Perfekt: Ich bin gegangen
Präteritum: Ich ging
Perfekt: Ich bin sein
Präteritum: Ich war
10. Präpositionen: If we didn't need more reasons to switch case
Okay, so we switch cases when the object is switched around or added to a sentence. Cool, then we're done!
Prepositions are bastards in German. Some of them will cause the accusative case just by their presence in a sentence. Others will cause the dative case. There are some that can cause either the accusative or the dative case depending on movement! *cringe*
Das ist für mich: This is for me. "Für" triggers accusative.
Ich bin mit ihm: I am with him. "Mit" triggers dative
11. Regional Dialects
Okay, so you mastered Hochdeutsch and book your flight to Germany. You arrive in Bavaria only to find they have a regional dialect. Time to start over!