Do you want to know if german is hard to learn before you embark on that journey? You might’ve heard some people saying that learning german is easy compared to other languages such as English, while others telling you that German is hard to learn, but if you follow a certain method or course, it will be a breeze.
Well, the answer lies in the middle. In this article, we’ll show you why German is hard to learn, and why it’s easy. We’ll also mention why learning german as a second language would be beneficial for you and your child.
So, is German that hard to learn compared to other languages?
Is German Hard to learn: The Scale
There are some official rankings for learning new languages from easiest to hardest based on the average time required for students to reach proficiency. The good news is that according to these rankings, learning german is not that hard. The bad news is that learning itself is hard.
A Trickster Scale
Knowing such rankings or reading about one miraculous learning program can be a tricky piece of information. Setting your language learning expectations -in terms of difficulty, not goals- too early, either positively or negatively can lead to some misconceptions. People learn differently, and as such, there can’t be an absolute “easiest” or “hardest” language to learn.
If you’re a hungry cat and what to know these rankings anyway, you can feed your curiosity here
Why German is hard to learn
There are several reasons why German is hard to learn, but before we tell you about the language part, we’ll begin with why learning anything is hard.
Learning is value
Anything you want to learn has a qualitative value. Otherwise, you wouldn’t choose to learn it. The qualitative value, which you only put to things that are worthwhile, gives you direction towards moving upward. This idea is perfectly illustrated by philosopher Robert M. Pirsig in his book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values”
Sounds simple, right? It leads us to why learning is painful.
Learning is painful
You’ll only learn when you have failed multiple times. So, You have to be good at failing first before you can learn anything valuable and failing is painful.
Failing is the key
It’s very unfortunate that failing is the only way to learn but it’s also fortunate as it gives us the key to succeed at learning.
A quote by Jhon C. Maxwell
“ The more you do, the more you fail. The more you fail, the more you learn. The more you learn, the better you get”
Without further ado, let’s get in the German boxing ring.
German Grammar, the 1st hard to learn punch
Native speakers are sometimes baffled by the language’s grammar. it will take you some time to learn the basics, and it will take you even more time to use those hard-earned basics.
Now, Back to Cases
There are four german cases that help you understand what’s going on in a sentence. These four cases are called: nominativ, akkusativ, genitiv and dativ.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
Good: The first three cases, normative (subjective), accusative (objective), and genitive (indicating possession) are already known to you in English—depending on how well you did in English grammar.
Bad: The Dative (indicating an indirect object) is an additional case that you’ll find fairly difficult to use at first.
Ugly: These four cases decide how the nouns and their articles get conjugated in a sentence.
Normative: Der Ball ist rot ( The ball is red)
Accusative: Der Mann wirft den Ball ( The man throws the ball)
Genitive: Der Ball des Jungen ist rot ( The boy’s ball is red)
Dative: Der Mann wirft dem Jungen den Ball zu ( The man throws the ball to the boy)
German articles, another hard to learn punch
There are two kinds of articles in German, but that shouldn’t be shocking for English speakers. English also has two types of articles (definite and indefinite)
The definite article: The boy
The indefinite article: A boy, an apple
Here comes the punch
Every kind of article is subdivided into four types: masculine, feminine, neutral, and plural. Let’s see some examples in that order.
Der Mann (the man), Die Zukunft (the Future), Das Auto (the car), Die Männer (the men)
Ein Mann (a man), Eine Zukunft (a Future), ein Auto (a car), plural is always definite.
It’s much easier in English as you can see. You stick “the” and “a” for all nouns equally, with the exception of “an” with vowels.
All nouns are created equally in English (talk about gender equality).
There is no logic in the way you use the German articles (male words don’t always get male articles, and female words sometimes get male articles). To top it off, you also have to contend with neutral.
Your only way out is to memorize every word with its article. However, there are some gimmicks, which you’ll learn along the way to use the correct article such as any word ending with “ung” takes the feminine article “die”.
Ok, in case you’re not TKO’d. Let’s continue for another round. Luck is on your side now!
Why German is easy to learn
In nouns we trust
As you may already know about Germans, they like to follow rules. The German Language is no exception. It follows the motto ”In nouns we trust”
All the German nouns are granted capitilazion in German. Unlike English where it’s much more complicated. This makes it a lot simpler when reading as you can easily spot a noun in a sentence.
Der deutsche Mann. It’s obvious that Mann is the noun here (Der, the article is capitalized because it’s the beginning of the sentence)
The German man. Here we have two nouns but only one is capitalized ”German” It’s called a proper noun in English.
All nouns are proper in German. They trust their nouns to behave well.
You already know a lot
English and German share the same roots, I.e., they share the same origin of words. Etymologists call that origin ”West Germanic languages”.
This shared origin produces cognates, which makes it easier for you to recognize the words by sound.
Nein, das ist nicht richtig. No, that is not right,
Guten Morgen. Good morning
Guten Nacht. Good night
As you can see, the vocabulary and the sentence structure are surprisingly similar due to cognates. Before you get too excited, This is obviously not always the case, nevertheless, it lessens the burden.
Pronunciation, that word derived from the verb “pronounce”
Wait, shouldn’t that be spelled “Sye” like “Bye” or at least “Sie” like “Die”
There’s probably a conventional rule that explains why these words are spelled differently but you get the point.
German beats English for another simplicity round as German words are pronounced phonetically. What you say is what you write. You just have to take it easy, and learn simpler words before jumping into compound words.
Speaking of compounds
Compound Words, a blessing in disguise
In languages, a compound is a word that is made of two or more words. That means that out of two words, their third (compound), you will already have known.
Compounds make it easier to expand your vocabulary without having to learn new words.
If you learn the words ”Flug” and ”Hafen” their compound is ”Flughafen”
That doesn’t impress you, right?
The same is true in English. If you learn in the words “air” and “port” their compound is “airport”
It’s true that English uses compound but it’s far more common in German. You’ll be predicting loads of German words because of that blessing.
Slow down Compound!
Admittedly the compounds in German get out of hand sometimes. You will find illogical words like “Handschuh” Which literally means the hand shoe for the word “glove” not a great example for german engineering.
Also, the compound gets carried on sometimes. You end up with too many words like “Wohngemeinschaft” which means shared living apartment as when students share an Appartement. Germans are practical nevertheless, and most often than not you will find abbreviations for such words. “Wohngemeinschaft” become W.G.
Advantages of learning German as a second language.
Before we get into the advantages of learning German, we would like to touch on the advantages of learning a second language from a neurological standpoint. Some studies say yes vehemently, others say absolutely not.
Let’s find out.
Learning a second language. Friend or Foe?
There are plenty of studies that promote language learning as a way to improve various brain functions. Many articles have been written referring to these studies and promising to become nothing short of a superhuman.
Well, according to some studies, learning a second language can increase your; brain power, IQ, memory, intelligence, multitasking abilities, creativity, financial stability, problem-solving, self-esteem, decision making, time management, entrepreneurial skills, music learning skills, and finally the best; help you find a spouse.
We can’t deny the benefits of these studies, but we are wary of a magic pill that solves all problems.
A retarded human?
Other studies – during much of the twentieth century- found out that people who spoke multiple languages scored poorly on verbal tests that measured cognitive abilities. Concluding that learning multiple languages in early childhood confused children and lead to cognitive impairments.
Finally, in recent years, other studies according to Dr. Mark Antoniou have failed to prove that bilinguals show any reliable differences than monolinguals and that all advantages are maybe entirely false.
The problem of course is that this complex research field is full of confounding variables. Therefore, different research has produced conflicting results on the bilingual advantages of executive functions. However, Scientists agree that the advantages of bilingualism vary across the life span with a tendency to be more reliably detected in children and elderly people.
Ok, with that in mind, let’s go back to Deutschland
Advantages of learning German for children
As we have stated above, learning a new language for children – when the foundations of cognitive functions are being laid out- is one of the activities that are likely to produce favorable results to their executive functions. Learning german in particular will help expose them to the good old german values; precision, conscientiousness, industriousness, and can-do attitude, to name a few.
Free Higher education
We all want to secure a better future for our children. However, with the prices of colleges increasing far more than wages, it’s important to consider college education in Germany. They have several universities ranked among the top 100 universities worldwide, and they’re free from tuition fees.
As of 2014, all German states have decided to make all universities free of charge, including for international students; provided they speak german and obtain the correct visa to stay.
Hamburg’s senator for science, Dorothee Stapelfeld, one of the first adopters to the ”free for all” approach explains, “Tuition fees are socially unjust. They particularly discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up studies. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high-quality standard free of charge in Germany.”
Advantages of learning German for adults
Improve you’re English
As you have seen already, German is a methodical language in many aspects. and the two languages (German and English) share some features. As you study German grammar, you are bound to refresh your English grammar. Perhaps even get a better understanding of it. Not bad, huh?
Activities that stimulate the brain to slow down the cognitive aging process. Think about sudoku, brainteasers, and so on. Learning German is quite a brain teaser for adults. Therefore, you may improve your memory and slow the degeneration of your brain as you grow older.
Although the effects of modernization have swept the world, the traditional arts, festivals, and entertainment still co-exists with modern life in Germany, with many well-known cultural celebrations such as Oktober fest. It’s also famous for astounding philosophy and architecture.
Learning german also gives you access to countries that are not only economically successful but culturally also. Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg to name a few. These countries would make for a great vacation, and as a German speaker, you can avoid the tourist traps and connect with the locals.
Suggestions for learning
There are plenty of free resources online, but we particularly recommend the free courses offered by Deutsche Welle. They offer courses from beginner to advance according to the European framework. The courses are exhaustive and entirely free.
Learn with Oliver
Learn with Oliver is an online platform that sends you a free newsletter every day at a specified time. The newsletter contains a new sentence, a new word, and previous words already learned
It’s great for practicing without investing too much time. There’s also a paid version where you can hear the correct pronunciation of words and write essays.
After learning the basics with free resources, you might want to invest in some of the paid options.
Vivaling is an online language academy. It’s mainly for children but they also offer classes for adults. We found it interesting because it provides the human interactive element. They provide one-to-one video sessions with native coaches.
We hope by now, you have a better understanding of the German language, and why it’s worth investing time in. We also hope you find our suggested resources for learning German helpful. Remember, the more you fail, the more you learn.