We must completely change way we treat Germanic languages

I have a friend who is learning German from CDs; these CDs are designed much the same way as their French or Spanish equivalents. My stepson is about to start German at school; he will be taught it much the same way he has been taught French. I have acquaintances who have attended German night classes; which were much the same as French and Spanish night classes.

This is madness.

German isn’t like French or Spanish because German, like English, is a Germanic language. That means English and German are fundamentally the same language; but English and French, and English and Spanish, are not. This should completely change the way we tackle it, because it also makes German easier, not harder.

There is no point in the endless nonsense of teaching people how to order a vanilla ice cream or ask the way to the station, when in fact they may never need to do so and this merely wastes time doing much more obvious things to make a new language accessible. If it is not accessible, people (particularly boys) will lose interest.

A few immediate vocabulary hints would suddenly make the language more accessible from the beginning:

– hier ‘here’, ich kann ‘I can’, wir machen ‘we make’, neu/alt ‘new/old’, etc.

A quick sound shift suddenly makes more words much more obvious (note this shift generally does not apply to Dutch, given in brackets, with the exception of the last one):

– Apfel (appel), Pfeffer (pepper), Schiff (schip) – ‘apple’, ‘pepper’, ‘ship’ (thus German <f/pf> to English/Dutch <p>)

– geben (geven), haben (hebben), leben (leven) – ‘give’, ‘have’, ‘live’ (thus German <b> to English <v>)

Wasser (water), Fuss (voet), Zehn (tien) – ‘water’, ‘foot’, ‘ten’ (thus German <s/z> to English/Dutch <t>)

– Kirche (kerk), Kind (kind), Hecke (heg) – ‘church’, ‘child’, ‘hedge’ (thus German/Dutch <k/g> to English <ch/dg>)

Generally, some German prefixes can be ignored (at least initially), notably be-, g(e)-, er-:

begreifen (begrijpen), Glueck (Geluk), erschiessen (schieten) – grip/grasp, luck, shoot [and hit]

Generally, German ver- may be ignored or switched to ‘for-‘:

– vergeben (vergeven), verschiessen (verschieten) – forgive, shoot [and miss]

German -en may be a verb ending corresponding to (‘to…’); -er/-est may be a verb ending corresponding to ‘-er/-est’ as in English; or they (together with -em, -es or just -e) may be adjectival endings we don’t need to worry about at the start:

– schiessen (schieten), lauter (luider), reichem (rijke) – ‘to shoot’, ‘louder’, ‘rich’.

There now… we have already made a raft of German texts more accessible, and we’ve thrown in exactly the same service for Dutch at the same time. They, like English, are West Germanic languages and ultimately they derive from precisely the same source and are thus fundamentally (I use that word carefully) the same.

Forget your vanilla ice cream or your directions to the station, the above text alone would take someone new to German (or even Dutch) far further than a year’s course set up for French and Spanish rather than German (or Dutch).

We must completely change the way we treat Germanic languages.

8 thoughts on “We must completely change way we treat Germanic languages

  1. harryaswell says:

    You are possibly perfectly correct here. However, why learn German at all? In my experience many Germans learn English at school as a second language. Surely, Chinese Mandarin, Indian or Japanese even, would be better?

    • Firstly, German is the language of the largest economy in Europe and our most significant trading partner.

      Secondly, German is the language of specific areas of engineering and export services.

      Thirdly, Germans most certainly do *not* all speak English. Quite on the contrary, as my wife will confirm, the standard of English among the general populace is not high. Just because they’re better at English than the French, doesn’t make them good at it!

      Fourthly, German is much more accessible than the languages you mention. Instantly, as per above, you can begin to read German. Good luck trying that for Chinese!

      Fifthly, we do far more trade with Germany than with China. Once we’re driving Chinese cars, using Chinese wind turbines and drinking Chinese wine, I’ll begin to think about it!

      • harryaswell says:

        Nonsense! China and India are hugley impressive and advancing economies, far greater than Germany. As for speaking German because they are engineers! Well, so what? I can assure you that the language of business is still English.Chinese wine? It can be very good. German wine? It can be very bad. French wine remains the best, although the new world wines are excellent also. As for wind turbines, I sincerely hope that this foolish craze for wind turbines is rapidly dismissed as totally noncost effective and inefficient.Oh, and most schools of any use have Mandarin as a choice.

  2. madhava says:

    die Mehrheit der nordirischen Bevölkerung sind Analphabeten sprachlich. zu viel für sie zu verstehen Deutsch.

    • madhava says:

      I’ve heard it said . English is the language for trade and commerce , Spanish is the language for love , German is the language for training dogs !!!! But I like German anyhow !

  3. […] Here is the thing: most German words are cognate with (meaning for the purposes of this article that they are identifiably originally the same as) words in Dutch, as is obvious here. […]

  4. […] the real chaos starts. As a fluent speaker of German with a degree in Linguistics, I find another West Germanic language like Dutch (and Afrikaans, but let us stay in Europe) relatively easy to read, and in many […]

  5. […] have written many times before on how German (as a Germanic language) is more closely related to English than any Latinate language (like French, Italian or Spanish), […]

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