It’s not clear who said this phrase originally – was it Oscar Wilde or Richard Porson? – but it’s a popular thing to have printed on cotton tote bags and coffee mugs. If you tell someone you’re learning German, 90% of the time they will say, ‘Wow that’s hard’. Is it really, though? And is it worth your time?
Common assumptions about learning German
There are a lot of statements that scare people away from learning German let’s look at a few of them and clear them up.
1. “German is hard!” Well sort of…
In the same way learning the saxophone is hard, or baking a multi-layered cake is hard. It’s about practicing, over and over, and learning from your mistakes, rather than doing an insurmountable task. It can seem hard, because there are some elements to the German language that are very unfamiliar to English speakers – like Dative, Accusative, Genitive, and Nominative cases, and all those adjective endings.
2. “But I won’t learn anything I can use!”
You may think that language-learning apps invented ridiculous sentences, but a quick read of Mark Twain’s ‘The Awful German Language’ will clear that up. Language learning seems to always involve silly sentences. Twain writes:
‘For instance, my book inquires after a certain bird – (it is always inquiring after things which are of no sort of consequence to anybody): “Where is the bird?” Now the answer to this question, – according to the book, – is that the bird is waiting in the blacksmith shop on account of the rain. Of course no bird would do that, but then you must stick to the book.’
It’s a big reason to learn German from an actual live teacher – you can skip the sentences about holy potatoes or birds in blacksmith shops.
3. “It will take forever to learn German before I can use it!”
German speakers can be slower than, say, Italian or Spanish speakers, so you don’t need your C2 before you can get in there and contribute to a conversation. There are lots of resources out there, like Deutsche Welle’s Slow German News, that keep the language simple and well-articulated for beginners. Nearly every time I’ve spoken German, at every stage of my language-learning journey, native speakers have been patient and downright thrilled I am trying. It’s a rare time I come across someone rude and impatient, no matter how twisted up I get in my cases and adjective endings.
Why learning German is a great idea really
It’s not just about making a trip to Oktoberfest easier (and there is so much more to see than the famous beer festival and Berlin), but opening up a whole area of the world. The DACH region is shorthand for the German-speaking European countries of Germany (Deutschland), Austria, and Switzerland (whose country code is CH). Your CV will look much better to any company in Europe by being able to speak German, and with so many big companies headquartered in this region, it’s a smart move.
But choose the most efficient way to learn German
I’m not going to lie, learning German takes effort and commitment. But to make sure you’re using your language-learning time most effectively, skip those language apps and old-school pieces of software. Believe me, I’ve tried all sorts of things: the green owl app, evening classes at university, casual tandem conversation sessions. Regular sessions with a live teacher online is what has got me the farthest in my German journey. Lingoda has small class sizes of up to only five people, and live, native speaker teachers, with flexible class schedules no matter where you want to take your German class, all over the world. If you have a good internet connection and a computer, you’re good to go.
So make the leap and book your first Lingoda class today. I promise, life isn’t too short to learn German.
Erin McGann is a Canadian freelance writer focusing on travel, living abroad, parenting, history, and culture. After nearly a decade living in the UK, Erin settled in Heidelberg, Germany with her husband and son. Dragging her family to every castle and open-air museum is a favourite activity, along with sewing, archery, and historical reenactment. You can check out her travel blog, and follow her obsession with half-timbered houses on her Instagram account.