Tag Archives: german language

German Language Courses Reveal the Mystery behind Long German Words

“Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän.” No, I did not fall asleep on my keyboard, nor did a pet walk across my laptop. Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän is actually the longest actively-used word in the German language, and at forty-two characters, it is a giant. When jokes are made about the German language, the punch line usually revolves around the multiple syllables and length and of some German words.

Legendary writer Mark Twain once stated that, “Some German words are so long that they have perspective.” German Language Courses Benefits by PimsleurYet despite all the jokes and conceptions about its lengthy wordiness, German is the most commonly-spoken language throughout Europe and one of the top ten most-spoken-languages throughout the world. There are many reasons why German is so popular today, and for those who are thinking about learning a foreign language, taking German language courses will undoubtedly provide rewards.

Reasons to Take German Language Courses

There are many reasons why people learn a second language. Some do it for financial gain, as the ability to speak another language can earn a higher salary or even help get a promotion. Others want to challenge themselves personally and broaden their horizons with an interesting hobby. Regardless of the reason, German language courses provide insight into this unique language.

In addition to having the fourth strongest economy in the world, Germany is also the third export country. With the European economy relying on the strength of Germany, taking German language courses is extremely beneficial to all those looking for a second-language ability to further their career. Even with a busy schedule, you will find Pimsleur’s method both convenient and enjoyable. The 30-minute per day approach allows for flexibility in scheduling, which is especially convenient for today’s busy professional.

Learning German Simply for Fun

Hobbyists looking to challenge themselves can benefit from German language courses as well. Compound words exist in many languages. German, however, forms words by merging the parts and adding prefixes and suffixes. The construction of German lends itself well to compounding parts to make single words that stretch across a page. This concept is fascinating to language enthusiasts, making German a challenge to learn. German language courses will help beginners reach advanced stages so that they too can try and understand German words such as “Unabhaengigkeitserklaerungen.” The word means “independence declarations,” and was a source of Mr. Twain’s frustrations with the language, as he wrote in A Tramp Abroad.

Whether the word is Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän, the longest active German word, which by the way translates to “Danube steamship company captain,” or if it’s the old and now defunct champion “rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz,” which means “beef labeling supervision duties delegation law,” the German language is mysterious and unique. Whether you are trying to take your career to new heights or looking for a personal activity, taking a German language course will be an intriguing endeavor.

“No way! I read a study, and the only foreign language they say to learn is Mandarin.”

This statement was overheard on the subway the other night as a group of four high-school seniors  was discussing what language class they were going to sign up for in their first college semester.   They assured us (their volume and tone loud enough that the whole car couldn’t help but participate) that if they got into a liberal arts college, it was bound to have a decent language program.

The tallest of the group was saying that his goal in life was to become the U.S. Ambassador to France, and for that French was the obvious choice. Learn Mandarin

The loudest of the group informed us all that he’d read a study that concluded hands down that students should learn Mandarin in order to get ahead once they graduated college.   And, interestingly, that if you planned to go into business in the EU that German would remain in the forefront of languages it was important to know.

                A couple of days later I was watching BBC News before work, and there was a segment based on the 10th Annual HSBC/British Council Mandarin Chinese Speaking Competition which had just been held.  They spoke about the tiny number of British students who learn Mandarin vs. those who still take French, and the fact that the Mandarin scholars were fighting off multiple job offers, while the Francophiles were facing a bleak job market.   british council

                In a blog on the state of Mandarin education in the UK, John Worne, The British Council’s head of Strategy, said:

“The Mandarin Chinese language is becoming more and more important for the UK because, quite simply, China is becoming more and more important on the world’s stage. In 2011, China overtook Japan to become the world’s second biggest economy, and many confidently predict that they’ll wrest the top spot from the USA by 2050.            

Some knowledge of Chinese language is the ice breaker which gets you talking culture –              and business – in China.  And our research shows a bit of language and culture goes a long way when you’re looking to trade.”

What I find encouraging and fascinating is that while the whole world is increasingly learning how to speak English – and the Chinese are leading that charge (see great TED video), it is still crucial for Americans (and the British) to put some blood, sweat, and tears into learning new languages to show the sincerity of our commitment  to understanding other cultures and working with other countries on their terms as well as on ours.

The familiar Nelson Mandela quote says it better than I can:

 If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.   If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. –Nelson Mandela

Let’s face it; things might be looking up in the U.S. if a group of high school seniors going out on the town on a Friday night knew that what languages they spoke when they got out of college would have a huge impact on the career choices available to them.

 

Language in Literature: “You could have blown froth from the top of his accent it was so Bavarian.”

This is how mystery writer Phillip Kerr introduces a nefarious new character near the end of his trilogy Berlin Noir set before, during, and after World War II in Berlin and Vienna. froth

For me the next best thing to travel is reading books set in other countries, particularly books like Kerr’s where the way the language is spoken is as important as the architectural style or the food.

Earlier, the book’s hero Herr Gunter is caught trespassing, and since he’s been grabbed from behind, he relies on clues in the guard’s German to assess the situation:   “He sounded big and not too bright.  And it was a strangely accented German he spoke:  like Prussian, but different; more like the Old Prussian I had heard my grandfather speak; almost like the German I had heard spoken in Poland.”  It turns out the guard is Latvian.

A mystery caller’s regional German accent is a clue to solving the mystery in part I of Berlin Noir.  In this sprawling, hard-boiled mystery thriller, Kerr describes six different regional German accents – from Berlin, Frankfurt, Bavaria, the Rhineland, Vienna, Latvia, and Munich.  These linguistic variations fit in perfectly in a book that is more about evocation of time, place, and people than the actual whodunit.

The Donna Leon, Inspector Brunetti mysteries are set in Venice,  and after two dozen of them you begin to feel like you could navigate the labyrinthine streets without a map.  You also want to know booklet on veneziawnmore about Veneziano, the local dialect which Brunetti uses to his advantage when interviewing witnesses of a certain age:

“Her voice flowed in the Venetian cadence:   in other circumstances, Brunetti would have slipped into Veneziano, but she was speaking in Italian, and so he did his part to retain the formality of the exchange.”

What’s great about the Brunetti novels, beyond good advice on when to address a suspect or witness in the ancient Venetian dialect, is that you develop a sense of how native speakers balance the official language with the often more private dialect of their native locale.

Brunetti’s endearing sidekick, Vianello, describes a fanatical group they are investigating,:  “ ‘They’ve got to be a bunch of basibanchi  if you ask me.’  With that word, Veneziano at its most pure, scoffing at people who knelt in church bowed so low as to kiss the pew in front of them, Vianello gave yet more proof of their dialect’s genius and his own good sense.”

A consciousness of language as more than just a flat means of communication, but as a living breathing character in these books is why I love these authors, and why they are able to evoke such a strong sense of place.