English and German are both members of the West Germanic branch of languages, which itself is a member of the Indo-European family of languages. While they are quite similar in linguistic terms, German has a reputation for being a difficult language to pick up among English speakers.
Due to its long, winding words, four noun cases, three grammatical genders, and pronunciation, German is considered to be a difficult language to learn by English learners.
But, because German and English are related, you will find several similarities that make learning German easier. In German, you will enjoy learning compound words, an easy sentence structure and German grammar is believed to be quite logical. You just have to pay attention to the exceptions.
In this article, we will explain why German is an easy language to learn and what are the main difficulties German students face.
How easy is it to Learn German?
Learning German is not difficult, but it depends on how committed you are and on a few other factors.
If you’re new to German, you’ve probably seen some long and complicated words that look impossible to learn. If you’re a fan of German movies and TV shows, there’s a chance you’ve sometimes watched dialogue so fast and incomprehensible that you’d rather not even try to learn German online.
In German, words tend to be composed of long compounds which appear to be like sentences. For example, there are words such as:
- Freundschaftsbezeigungen (displays of friendship)
- Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften (Legal protection provided by insurance companies)
- Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung (speed restriction)
- Hochgeschwindigkeitsbahnsystem (rail system for high speed)
- Löschwassereinspeisung (means a fire hydrant)
Wow! There are a lot of letters in those words. Think of how hard it would be to pronounce those words?
No need to fret, though. These are just a few funny examples to scare you. When you realize that the longer German words can be broken down into smaller words that are forming them, you will not have much trouble learning German. When you start and commit to learning German, the long and in comprehensive words won’t scare you anymore.
How to Judge German Learning Difficulty?
It is generally true that language learning is difficult due to a few factors. The Japanese language uses a complicated alphabet, while the English language is known for employing random words for complex items, rather than using compound words, as German does.
Are there any factors that will affect your advancement in language learning? Here are a few questions to help you prepare as you start to learn German:
- Did you learn a language in the past?
You are well aware that learning to speak a new language is no easy task. However, if you have already trained your brain to absorb new linguistic information, comprehend new grammar, and memorize loads of new words, you will learn German faster.
- Did you become fluent in that language?
You shouldn’t have much difficulty learning German if you’ve already gained fluency in another foreign language. Make a list of the elements that caused your difficulties in learning the previous language, and focus on working on these points along the learning process.
- Are you self-taught or have you taken classes?
Choose the method that works best for you based on your past learning strategies. In that way, you will learn German more quickly. For example, some people need to attend classes to retain information and study regularly. Other people prefer online platforms such as italki and enjoy learning individually, at their own peace.
- Do you speak English?
As you practice, beginner and intermediate German will resemble English more and more. The two languages are similar at first, but as you progress they diverge more.
- Do you know anyone who speaks German?
Is it possible to speak and practice with them regularly? This is one of the best ways to figure out if you’ll have a hard time learning German. If you speak with someone every day or every week, you should be able to learn with ease.
All of the above-mentioned factors might be helpful, but you are still likely to encounter difficulties when learning this new language. When that’s the case, you can always find a German teacher online who can help you learn German more efficiently.
Cognates in English and German
In the West Germanic world, English is spoken by about 400 million people, followed by German, which is spoken by 100 million people. They share numerous cognates, since both evolved from the same common ancestor.
A cognate is a word whose pronunciation or spelling is similar in two different languages, and it has the same meaning. There are a lot of common words between English and German! You can start by learning some common everyday cognates, such as the months of the year. Other popular cognates are the words “album”, “alphabet”, “demonstration”, “station” and many others.
German Language Tricks to Watch Out For
In this section, we will speak about some peculiarities of the German language that students should pay extra attention to. No matter whether you pick up a textbook, attend a class or learn German online, these grammar rules are likely to present some difficulties. While some are difficult to learn, others are simpler. What parts of the German language are most challenging?
- Conjugating verbs:
When you get the hang of conjugating verbs, they are easy to understand, but if you’re unfamiliar with conjugations from other languages (i.e., French, Spanish), they may be scary at first. The verb spelling and pronunciation will change depending on the subject and tense.
- Regular and irregular verbs:
It is important to make the distinction between regular and irregular German verbs and remember how they are used. As a rule, you will have to memorize which verbs are irregular by rote memorization.
- Random noun genders:
German nouns have gender, and most do not have any rules about the gender that each noun should take. The gender of German nouns can be identified by the article they take; der for masculine, die for feminine and das for neuter. It is, therefore, necessary to remember each noun’s gender when learning and spelling them.
- Grammatical cases:
Nominativ, Genitiv, Dativ, and Accusativ are the four grammatical cases used in German. In a sentence, the case of a noun depends on its function. A Nominativ noun, for example, is the subject who completes the action.
Overall, German is an easy language to learn, but as with any foreign language, it requires time and dedication to learn it well. German grammar is very straightforward because of its regular patterns and easily recognizable rules. As with any language, you have to learn the rules and truly master them over time.
Moreover, German and English are similar in many ways, because they originated from the same language family. This is another reason why German is an easy language to learn for English speakers.
Additionally, German words are generally pronounced the same way they are spelled phonetically, so pronunciation is not to be a big issue.
In the beginning, German grammar might seem complex and intricate. Case, gender, plural, and other grammatical constructs, however, follow clear rules.
You can fill the knowledge gaps while practicing and gaining valuable exposure to the German language by focusing your practice and using the tips and tricks mentioned in this article.
And finally, you should not be intimidated by learning German. Even though the language seems complicated, as we have seen in this article, behind that facade, things are often much simpler than they seem.