The German Language: Peculiarities and Dialects


Mark Twain, a distinguished classic American writer, wrote about his attempts to learn German: “… a person who has not studied German can form no idea of what a perplexing language it is. Surely, there is not another language that is so slipshod and systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp.” Well, the famous writer a bit exaggerated, but, truly, there are legends about the complexity of the German language.

Der, Die, Das and cases

German language is characterized by a large number of articles, unlike such languages as English or Spanish. In English you have got “the”, “a”, “an”, and it is pretty enough. In German, you have got more than a dozen of various articles that you should use at different times. And the reason why there are so many articles is the thing that sounds hellishly terrible for most Western Europeans: cases.

Cases are an important and inherent part of the German language, yet many beginners abandon learning German due to this peculiarity. However, those learners who know how cases work from their native languages are easier able to master German. A bright example of this statement is Eastern Europeans in particular.

Add more, more, and more words

If you have not paid attention to German before or have not encountered it being written anywhere, you may might be shocked once you will get to see it. Germans are really obsessed with adding words to each other and think that it’s the best way to form sentences. For instance, Wirtschaftswachstum means economic growth (it is literally translated as “economy growth”).

It seems to be really a nightmare for many people who start learning German. How would one remember a word “lorry”, if in German it is written as “Lastkraftwagen”, so even such an actually simple word in English is shortened with an abbreviation Lkw in German. On the other hand, there is a word – actually, there was a word – that consists of 63 letters: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. Actually, it was a law about monitoring beef labeling and it was implemented in 1999, yet in 2013 it was lifted and so ceased to exist.

German dialects

Even though the dialects are present in every language, German dialects appear to be one of the most varying. Considering that not only Germans, but also Austrians and a large share of Swiss people speak in German, this gives a plenty of room for the dialect development.

Languages in Germany

Differences in the German language

Nowadays, German people usually communicate with others in what we know as “Hochdeutsch.” However, in most regions people speak in their dialects – no matter whether it is an Austrian region, Bavaria, or Swabia. It is the first language they get to hear and speak in, before they will learn Hochdeutsch at school. And the more you move to the South of the country, the more you understand how little you know about German dialects.

One of the brightest examples that shows how German dialects differ from the Hochdeutsch is the following: one famous poems begins with words “Jakob, dieser Flegel / packt das Ferkel am Kragen…” in Hochdeutsch. At the same time, it sounds like this in Bavarian: “Da Jackl, der Lackl, backts Fackl am Krogn…”

What’s in result?

And in result we have that, despite obvious difficulties, German is an exciting language that has many more peculiarities than the ones listed above. And so you can venture to learn it and master this wonderful language after all.


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