Is German Truly a Difficult Language to Learn?

The German language is a difficult one! At least, that is what you will hear. But, is it really harder to learn German compared to other languages? If you compare it to English, YES, German can be really hard to learn. But believe me, there are much difficult languages than German.

So, let’s break down the language and see what makes it difficult.

Uppercase and Lowercase

The confusion starts with the uppercase and lowercase rule. Compared to other languages, in which only very few elements demand capitalization, German makes life difficult with its mix of uppercase and lowercase words.

Three grammatical genders

There is no doubt that a native English speaker would struggle with the fact that three different grammatical genders exist in German. On top of that, it is hard to guess the gender of the word in German just by looking at it. What you need to do is just memorize the genders of different words. There is no other way around.

The only hint you may get about the gender in German is the ending of the word. For example, words ending with –ling or –ich are mostly male. Of course, there are exceptions.

Four grammatical cases

Another difficulty of the German are the four grammatical cases. There are speakers who are not unfamiliar with cases because they don’t have them in their native tongue, and this makes German difficult for them. For example, anyone who knows a bit of Latin or has a Slavic language as their mother tongue will find it hard to learn the four German cases.

Five plural types

Unfortunately, in German you can not just – as in English – hang an s to the end of the word to create the plural form. There are five different plural types. The plural form of German nouns can end with s (Auto-Autos), e (Tisch-Tische), (e)n (Lampe-Lampen) and er (Bild-Bilder) or stay the same as the singular (Fenster is both plural and singular).

 

Summary: Two spellings, three genders, four cases, five plural types, … German is definitely more difficult than many other languages. More options to learn, not always easy rules, and tons of exceptions.

But, unlike English and French, German pronunciation is pretty easy. You say what you read 90% of the time. So no dumb consonants or vowels, where you have to learn how they are articulated in different words.

Of course, the German language holds even more trumps in its hands:

Logic

German is often complicated, but in many cases surprisingly logical. For example, all keywords are capitalized. There are no exceptions in this area. The German prefixes in connection with certain words, which alter the meaning of the same word making it more precise, also contain an astounding logic. If you remember the function of the prefixes, it is very often easy to guess the word.

Word compositions Without Limits

German is known for its composites, which can make life much easier for the speaker or the writer (or much difficult if you are just starting to learn German). In the German, words may in principle be put together almost arbitrarily. Do you want to say something but cannot find the right word? No problem – just make a new one.

 

As with many things in life, evaluating the difficulty level of good old German is a matter of perspective. Just be happy that you don’t have to write in Finnish – you would have to deal with 15 cases! So, German can be EASY, but depending on the circumstances, it can be real HELL.

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