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So you want to speak german ?

Learning languages | Choosing your language | Francois Micheloud

German Indo-European:Germanic –––
Precise language of a great nation, widely understood in central Europe, this is a demanding but rewarding language, not as difficult at you might think. 

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Introduction - ©www.micheloud.com

Usefulness
definition

If you trade with Germany, Autria or Central Europe, a good command of german is a  good asset, although people there tend to speak english quite commonly. The problem is that going half way is no use, Germans being usually demanding and precise people, they expect you to master their language either perfectly or not to try.
Beauty
Definition...
Beautiful but this is not the top reason why people usually want to learn it. 
Chic factor
Definition...
In France and Italy, speaking french is seen as the hallmark of outstanding people. It is actually so rare in Italy that once I was in a trade show in Milan, trying to find out which language to speak with the short, sympathetic man on the stand. When I said we could speak in french, spanish, english or german, he immediately picked il tedesco (german) whereas he also spoke english. And all the italians around looked at the magic dwarf who spoke tedesco and shined with pride. I later learned that he could, being among the 3% of Italians who spoke german well or rather well
Speakers
Definition...
About 90 mio of people speak it as their mother tongue, and another 10 as a second language.
Countries
Definition...
Germany, Austria, some parts of the Netherlands and Belgium, spoken in dialects in France and Switzerland.
Regional variations
Definition...
There's a standard german, the so called Hochdeutsch, but every region has a specific dialect, often very different. In Switzerland, people tend to be willing to talk to you either in their own brand of schwyzertŁtsch, or in english.
Travel
Definition...
Travelling in Germany while speaking german is pleasurable, but germans as a whole speak good english and like to show it off, so it's absolutely not a must.
Culture
Definition...
Great european culture, with a load of litterature and philosophy (not easy to read, I can tell you!), some movies, good TV channels, a lot of excellent classical, romantic and baroque music.

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Difficulty - ©www.micheloud.com
Phonemes
Definition...
Quite easy for most people, with some difficulties with the mŁde, the Ach, and the difference between the two ch sounds in Geschichte.
Syntax
Definition...
Rather tricky, with the verb, verbs or verb parts at the end of the sentence,  some weak grammatical cases and a very rigid phrase structure. The result is very surprising, but quite regular.
Vocabulary
Definition...
A nice feature of german is that vocabulary tend to be analytical. What's that? Most german words can be broken down in roots that are used in other words. For example, aussergewŲhnlich (unusual), can be broken down in ausser (outside), gewŲhnen (to get used to) and lich (suffix for adjectives), and then reassembled to make ausserlich (exterior, superficial). Howver nice this can be, it does not make the language easier, far from it. The logic behind word formation, especially for small ones, is not easy to grasp, and the meaning of the small word parts can escape you for years.
Orthograph
Definition...
As simple as spanish, you write as you speak and you speak as you write thanks to much needed reforms (look at a Nazi era book if you want to see what I mean). A nice feature is that all nouns begin by an uppercase letter, like der Kaiser (the emperor)
Overall difficulty
Definition...
I rate this language as –––, that is, rather difficult to learn, because of the strange vocabulary and unusual, rigid syntax. Actually, I think that no language is really close to german except dutch, so it's a flat battle field.
Time needed
Definition...
One or two years should be sufficient if you begin from scratch.

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Learning material - ©www.micheloud.com
Books and tapes
Definition...
There's a wealth of material to learn german. Among the best - if not the cheapest - packages, are :

Pimsleur Speak and Read Essential German, 3 volumes, 90 lessons, 45 hours, to be purchased through Amazon.com (they have a 20% discount)

FSI Basic German, that you can purchase through Barron's Educational Series for about $79 a volume, or pay more at Audioforum.

(no, I neither work for Pimsleur nor for the FSI)

Schools
Definition...
Anywhere in Germany or Austria. Some people like to work with the Goethe Institut, I've been very satisfied with OISE (very expensive but top quality),
Links
http://www.yahoo.de

 

Learning languages | Choosing your language | Francois Micheloud