Weihnachtskeksdosendeckelbeschriftungsfarbe — the color of the labeling on the lid of the xmas cookie box. Grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszuständigkeitsübertragungsverordnung — land transport permit jurisdictional transfer ordinance. Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft — association for subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services. And the list goes on and on — the beauty of the German language.
When considering what foreign language to take, very rarely do people think of German. This is largely due to its use — German is a language spoken primarily in only five European countries, none of which have a large influence on the global scale. Furthermore, in the era of European colonization, German took minimal part in the ventures, and so the language never spread like English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. But despite the neglect of the language, I would like to argue that learning German can be a truly intriguing and rewarding experience.
Unlike the preconception that German is incredibly difficult to spell and pronounce, learning German is an easier process than most people expect. Though seemingly indecipherable at first glance, there are a surprising amount of words that resemble those in the English language in both spelling and meaning. Lily Strange, a sophomore currently in German 3 Honors states, “A lot of people assume German to be a difficult language, but there’s a surprising amount of similarities between it and English, which makes it easier than you might think to learn.”
Both German and English are actually derived from the same root language, Proto-Germanic, and like most European languages, have a base in Latin. Once past the different gender articles and cases, and the ridiculously long words, there are quite a few similarities in the vocabulary and sentence structure. For example, “I have” is “Ich habe” in German, while “Was ist das” is “What is that.” Common phrases like these can be easily guessed by anyone, even without prior knowledge of German. However, the unexpected simplicity of the language is not its only attraction. Leon Kornfeld, also a sophomore in German 3 Honors, states, “My favorite part of learning German is learning about the culture. It’s very interesting to see how other people live in other parts of the world. It’s also really cool to learn about the history of the German cities.”
My favorite aspect of German is also the culture. In class, we engage in the different lifestyles of the people, their crafts, specialties, and the history of each German state. Though parts of it is lecturing and note taking, a lot of it also involves hands-on experiences, like the German food potluck we held on finals day, the festivals and museums we were able to visit, and the advent calendar that we keep track of every December, in celebration of Christmas. During class, we also frequently watch movies, write stories, and complete the Bundesliga Total, a soccer trivia competition. Because the class focuses more on the culture than linguistics, it’s a lot more fun than a typical language.
Because of brands like Haribo, BMW, or Adidias, most people have already been exposed to some aspect of German culture. But before taking up the language, I, too, was as clueless about German as many others. Learning German has helped me recognize the diverse ways of life among different people, realize the similarities and differences between myself and others, and experience the culture of a different country that I normally would not. German is so versatile and unique, and more people should learn it because it offers so much beyond just the simple language.
Joyce Kim, Grade 10
La Canada High School