So far, I've mainly stuck to talking about English on this blog, but I've been meaning to add more content about other languages, as well. I actually studied German and struggled for nearly a decade to learn it, so often it's actually more interesting for me to talk or think about the German language than it is for me to write about English.
On the rare occasions that people ask about German, they often ask, "Is it hard?"
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Yes, it is.
German pronunciation is easier than English, since it's phonetic and English isn't, but that's about it. The main killer of students who are trying to learn German is grammar. I remembered I'd heard the following song about 10 years ago, and believe it or not, it's actually a song specifically written to illustrate German adjective endings. You can feel free to watch the video, although only the song is original; the video was made by some junior-high schoolers as an extra-credit project, apparently, and the video quality seems to verify that fact:
Now, if you don't understand German, then it'll likely seem like a bunch of gibberish. If you do speak German, it'll probably still sound like a bunch of gibberish, because it basically is. I guess that's what you get when you write a song based on grammar. For example, the first line* is:
"Eins, zwei, drei / der gute Mann / ein guter Mann / der gute Mann / ein guter Mann / schlag den guten Mann nicht / schlag einen guten Mann nicht / schlag den guten Mann nicht... gib dem guten Mann einen Fisch / gib einem guten Mann einen Fisch"
"One, two, three / the good man / a good man / the good man / a good man / don't hit the good man / don't hit a good man / don't hit the good man... give the good man a fish / give a good man a fish"
Look at the English, and compare it to the German version. If you notice, there's a lot going on here. In the German, the definite article the appears to be either der, den, or dem, and the indefinite article a comes out as ein, einen, or einem. And it's true! The words "the" and "a" really can have that many variations (or a few more, if you count plurals and genitive/possessive words). And what about "good"? That comes out as gute, guter, and guten. The reason for these linguistic shenanigans? In German, articles and adjectives change depending on whether the noun they're referring to is the subject, object, or direct object of a sentence.
And the worst part of it is this: "Mann" (meaning "man," pretty obviously) is a masculine noun... and German has three genders: masculine, "neuter," and feminine. Plus, you also have to change the articles, the adjectives, and the nouns themselves when you make them plural. And in fact, that's what progressively happens in the following three verses of the song.
English does have quite a few similarities to German due to the two languages' partially-shared history and development, but luckily for today's English learners --and much to the frustration of today's German learners-- English didn't retain a lot of this grammatical complication, while German did.
So, whenever you're having difficulties learning a language, it's sometimes nice to realize that it could always be worse. And if you're struggling with German, remember this: at least it's not Finnish!
Thanks for reading, and have a great day!
*This Turkish site has a kind of half-baked version of the lyrics (For example, it doesn't capitalize nouns, as is necessary in German), but I only direct you there for quick reference. For a better alternative, I suggest checking out Brad Yoder's website. I just realized two days ago that he wrote the song, and in a strange twist of fate, I actually met him in Pittsburgh in 2001. He's a good guy and deserves your patronage. Plus, he looks quite a bit like me, and he might even be my long-lost, evil-twin brother (or vice versa)!