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Popular culture would lead us to believe that Germans speak harshly, with long words that are difficult to pronounce. That would make it very hard for an English speaker to learn. But is there any truth to the stereotype, or could an English speaker master the German language?

How hard is it to learn German?

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There are over 180 million German speakers in the world, and almost half of them are not native speakers. 

That means that over 80 million people have learned it, so surely it can’t be too difficult after all?

We’re going to debunk the myths surrounding the elements that make German seem hard to learn.

The first thing that determines if the language is hard is the chosen learning method. There are some languages that can be easier to learn on your own than others. For example, you can learn quite a lot of Spanish without any help. But with such languages as German, it’s better to get help from a tutor. German teachers on LiveXP will prepare the learning plan based on your current level and your desired goals. With professional tutors, you will achieve fluency in no time!

Is German a hard language to learn?

Long words

One of the things that scare people about German is the incredibly long words. In fact, compound words that would be hyphenated in English are just put together in German to make one longer word. For example, we would say “German-speaking,” and they would say “deutschsprachig.” Similarly, we would say “compound adjective,” and they would say “Verbundadjektiv.”

While this might seem difficult to understand, once you’ve learned the words, your brain will do the rest for you! As with most things, it becomes natural over time as your brain recognizes parts of the words and automatically splits the long word into two (or three or four) without even thinking about it.

Pronunciation

I’m pretty sure you’ve seen spoof videos of people putting on a German accent. It’s a pretty unique accent, that’s for sure, but is it always so harsh? Actually, it’s not. It isn’t as exaggerated as the movies would like you to think. Pronunciation of German words is actually far easier than you think because you can simply read the word and how it’s spelled. Letters don’t make different sounds depending on where they are in the word, so once you’ve learned how to pronounce the alphabet in German, the rest is easy.

Is German hard to learn for English speakers?

Difficult vocabulary

Maybe you’ve seen viral clips on social media of the same word spoken in different languages; take the word “ambulance” for example: In French, it’s “ambulance,” in Spanish, it’s “ambulancia” and in Italian, it’s “ambulanza,” while in German it’s “Krankenwagen.”

Another example is “science.” In French, it’s identical to English; in Spanish and Italian, it’s very similar, “ciencia” and “scienza,” respectively, while in German, it’s “Naturwissenschaften.”

English uses a lot of words that come from Latin, so of course, they are very similar to the Romance languages. However, there are also a lot of English words with Germanic origins which are very similar in German, such as friend and Freund, house and Haus, apple and Apfel, or milk and Milch.

On top of that, we have borrowed words from German, so you will already know the meanings of some words, such as abseil, rucksack, angst, and kindergarten.

Word order

One of the most daunting things about learning a foreign language is the complex grammar rules.

Most German sentences follow the same sentence structure as in English: subject + verb + object/adjective/adverb.

For example:

Wie spät ist es?
What time is it?
Sie hat fünf Geschwister.
She has five siblings.

When it comes to more complex sentences, the word order can change, and this often deters people from pursuing German. For example, when two clauses are linked by the word “because,” the verb in the second part of the sentence, called the subordinate clause, must be sent to the end.

For example, notice the verbs in bold:

Ich mag Pfannkuchen. Pfannkuchen sind lecker.
I like pancakes. Pancakes are delicious.

These two separate clauses follow the standard word order.

Ich mag Pfannkuchen, weil sie lecker sind.
I like pancakes because they are delicious.

Upon adding the conjunction “weil” (because), the verb is sent to the end of the sentence. Although this is different from what we’re familiar with, it’s really not all that difficult and should not put you off learning German.

Capital letters

When you see written German, you will notice capital letters popping up right in the middle of sentences. It looks bizarre to English speakers, as we only use capitalization at the start of sentences and for proper nouns such as countries and people’s names. Nevertheless, there is actually a very logical and easy-to-follow rule: all nouns are capitalized.

Look at the nouns in red in the following examples:

Mein Stift ist rot und mein Bleistift ist grau.
My pen is red and my pencil is grey.
Es ist Saft im Becher des Kindes.
There is juice in the child’s cup.

How easy is it to learn German?

In summary, most of the preconceived ideas about what makes German such a hard language to learn are actually false. It’s no harder to master German than it is to master many other languages, so why not give it a try?

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