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Is possible to learn German properly? How much time does it require?
Thread poster: Livia Formisani
Livia Formisani  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:29
English to Italian
+ ...
Jun 5, 2008

Hello everybody,

I am Italian, 25 yo graduated in Philosophy of language and I always had a passion for languages.
I speak English and French fluently after studing them at school (both for 9 years) and having lived one year in Brussels (working in a field related to EU institutions).
I always wanted to learn German but I gave up for three times in my high school/college years due to the difficulty of the language.

Life is so strange...Now I've a German boyfriend and well...We cannot speak forever in English or French, so I'll move soon to Germany for an internship (in English) and in the meantime I want to take an intensive German course.
The point is that I am scared....German is so difficult...The rules are a lot and I am afraid that even after half an year of courses my speeches would sound ridicolous to a native speaker....

And above all, the number of German words is scarily high....Things that in Italian I would express with the same word have 10 or more possibile translations in German...Think about "buy"="comprare" o "acquistare" in Italian (means the same)= against "kaufen", "einkaufen", "mitkaufen", "verkaufen"....And how more? I don't have any idea.

I am shaking guys! Do you think I should start anyway or better let it go? We're going to move to a different country after so probably we don't need it, but of course if you know the language of your partner you can really understand his/her thoughs....He will take Italian too...

Does any of you have some experience in matter? Thanks a lot in advance!


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:29
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Do it! Jun 5, 2008

Dear livializ,

German is my mother tongue, so I don't know how it is to learn it as a foreign language, but still: Go ahead, just start! I really doubt that the number of words will be a problem. The effect you state is probably the same in any language (I don't speak Italian, but I entered "einkaufen" into an online dictionary, and it returned: 1. fare la spesa, 2. servirsi, 3. comprare, 4. acquistare, 5. fare acquisti).

Also, you have the great advantage of having a native speaker around you who can always help you.

So my advice is: Do it!

Kind regards,
Erik


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erika rubinstein  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:29
Member (2011)
English to Russian
+ ...
If you want, you should do it! Jun 5, 2008

I came at the age of 19 to Germany, knowing only 2 sentences in German. Now everyone thinks, I am German. In order to learn the language properly, you should live in a country, you should read a lot and have a German boyfriend)
German is bot so difficult as Russian (my native language) for example.


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Livia Formisani  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:29
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks! Jun 5, 2008

I think I am scared mostly by the great quantity of concepts behind words...
Maybe it's because in German there are a lot of shades of meaning that are really difficult to understand for someone who's not in the mentality, like in the "-kaufen" examples above...
Is this "difficulty to find the right word" that is scary...In English and French I can do it, establishing a sort of "empathy" with native people...I am so proud of the ability I have about this in Italian, which is why I write a lot... But I see no way I'll be good at that in German...


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Gemma Collinge  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:29
Member (2007)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Me too! Jun 5, 2008

I've been living in Germany for three months now and still haven't managed to grasp more than the very basics.

I feel your pain! I would really love to learn how to speak German, but everytime I pick up a book I'm so intimidated by the grammar.

I really just need to sit down one weekend, tell myself I can do it and get listening to those tapes. How bad can it be?


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Erik Hansson  Identity Verified
Germany
Member (2002)
Swedish
+ ...
Get started! Jun 5, 2008

Hi livializ,

I think you shouldn't pay too much attention to possible problems that could arise when learning German. Simply get started! Of course it will be tough at the start, but you will make it.

Beside your mother tongue, you also managed to learn both English and French, didn't you? There are some parts of the German grammar that are really medieval and old-fashioned, e.g. many conjunctive forms of verbs which in other languegs were deleted hundred years ago, for example in Swedish, my mother tongue. Also the capital spelling could sometimes be a little tricky.

But, on the other hand, you will (almost) always be able to pronounce any unknown German word the first time you see, no matter if you know the meaning or not, because the pronunciation is more or less standardized. Also, the way German put together their nouns is simply fascinating! If you know the single words you can easily make long, long nouns: Telefonkonferenzteilnehmer, Betriebshaftpflichtversicherung or even Bezirkschornsteinfegermeisterbescheinigung! It's as easy as that!


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Seamus Moran  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:29
Member
German to English
+ ...
Difficult enough but not impossible Jun 5, 2008

I used to teach German before i turned my hand at translating. I taught A-level at one stage and we would have 2 in a class at most. Just shows you how popular it is in the UK. Most kids found the grammar, particularly the adjectival endings, quite hard to grasp.

Having said that, I've taken some classes in Polish and Russian. German is a walk in the park in comparison. At least it's relatively easy to pronounce. Try a Polish class and then you'll see what i mean.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:29
Flemish to English
+ ...
Structured Grammer. Jun 5, 2008

Gemma Collinge wrote:

I've been living in Germany for three months now and still haven't managed to grasp more than the very basics.

I feel your pain! I would really love to learn how to speak German, but everytime I pick up a book I'm so intimidated by the grammar.

I really just need to sit down one weekend, tell myself I can do it and get listening to those tapes. How bad can it be?


If you have mastered Japanese and Chinese, German is not "that" difficult.
Besides, it is a very structured synthetic language (vs.romance language: analytic-descriptive) language and grammar with a lot of exceptions (Ausnahmen).
You can even make an excel-sheet of the grammar, it "Kausus", "Adjektivdeklination", Verben etc...Contrary to Romance languages (thinking of Spanish) its conjugation of Verbs is not that difficult and its grammar. Study the grammar and assimiltate whenever and where-ever you can. The Germans are "höfflich" and like to explain everything (twice).

Also, viel Glück, meine Damen.:)


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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:29
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Ah German... wonderful language but... Jun 5, 2008

I always found it very very difficult... even if I studied it.
However it seems to be a personal problem with declensions since I speak it and understand it but can't write


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Sonja Kroll  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:29
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
No, it's not that bad, Jun 5, 2008

I've managed to learn it, you can do it, too. Ok, it was from pole position in my case, but I find two things to mention:

> The point is that I am scared....German is so difficult...The rules are a lot
Might be, but there is no rule that you cannot learn by doing. read, write, don't try to understand too many mysteries, because eventually you will anyway. Try to find a way to bring some ease into the matter.


> and I am afraid that even after half an year of courses my speeches would sound ridicolous to a native speaker....
I know that feeling perfectly well. I always think people must take me for a lackwit when I talk English or (worse) Spanish. But I know that I don't think that way about German beginners (and I admire people who give a damn and just talk anyway).

So try not to worry too much and to find some fun in the cause! That's what I'd suggest.

Ánimo,
Sonja


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Marianela Melleda  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 10:29
English to Spanish
+ ...
Go for it! Jun 5, 2008

If I were you I would study German, but not as someone suggested by listening tapes or reading grammar, I think that it is better if you start with a course with a teacher and more classmates, that will make things easier.

I know it is difficult, but not impossible, especially for someone who enjoys learning languages. I studied German for 5 years (here in Chile firstly at the university and then at the Goethe Institut) and got a very good level of grammar, but when I realized that I could never be able to work with the language as I do with English I quit. Especially because I had not any German native to practice with nor the possibility to travel to Germany.

I see that you only have advantages: You have a German boyfriend, you will live in Germany and your intention is just to communicate not to work with the language, so I would suggest that you take the opportunity and study.

Good luck,
Marianela


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:29
English to French
+ ...
More or less the same as French Jun 5, 2008

Good news, Livia! If you have learnt French, then you are already well equipped to learn German. They are two very different languages, but if you look closely, you will notice that grammar rules follow more or less the same logic, except for compound words, which I admit are a bit too frequent in German. But hey, compound words can be learnt as well - they are just several words glued together.

If you think you need improvement and would like to learn fast, I think that with the languages you already speak combined with a university-level German course, you should get good results. And don't forget - you have a secret weapon. You have a person in your life who speaks the language you want to learn fluently. You can practice with him, and you can trust him better than strangers to explain to you your weaknesses. But immersing yourself in German culture (newspaper, TV, etc.) will also help you greatly.

I'd say go ahead. It's no use being scared - if you don't learn as fast as you would like to, there will most likely be no consequences. It's not like your life depends on it.


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Michelle Hertrich  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:29
German to English
+ ...
It´s not as hard as it sounds... Jun 5, 2008

I feel with you. I have been living permanently in Germany now since 1997. Before that I had done one semester of German evening classes and that was it. The first three months are difficult and you´ll tend to speak more with your hands than with your mouth. English does not always get you far either as the places where you need to speak (e.g., the bakery) are the places where you are more likely to find the few people who don´t speak any English at all (especially if you´re not living in a big town). After being here for about three months you will have picked up on quite a few words and will probably be able to complete basic sentences if you are going to German classes. After about one year I was able to get by quite well without English and after ten years I´m now translating from German into English. The most important thing is to get out there and try to speak the language. If you can, try to find a job where you have to speak German and just simply don´t have the time to ponder how to form the perfect sentence. And the best thing is, when you´re surrounded by the language long enough, you start to pick up the grammar without realising it!

The Volkshochschulen (Adult Education Centres) offer German classes for all levels and are subsidised by the German government up until the advanced courses (that means - it is cheap). You´ll learn quicker at private language schools but the classes are expensive. You´ve already learnt a couple of languages, so at least the grammatical terms shouldn´t be all that foreign. The biggest pain in the butt are the adjective endings and the different genders for the nouns, once you´ve got it into your head that verbs are often found at the end of a sentence. A lot of words are very similar to English. As to the prefixes, you get used to them, but yes, they are confusing...

Good luck,
Michelle


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 14:29
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Ms Grouchy replies... Jun 5, 2008

You already speak three languages, so what's the big deal about taking on a fourth?! Get on with it!

Having said that and got everyone's backs up, I have to say that I abandoned my German studies without a great deal to show for them, so I'm a fine one to talk! But I would just love to have the opportunity to live in another country for a while, miles ahead the best place to study the language.

One problem I do foresee is conversing with your boyfriend though - I maintain that people tend to stick to the language the relationship first started out in and that it's very tricky to change (well, that's the excuse my husband gives for not learning more than five words of English...). It's also not good for the ego being put at a disadvantage linguistically to your partner.

Good luck!


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Livia Formisani  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:29
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everybody... Jun 5, 2008

...You all are giving me a lot of courage!
Really, I will print this page and stick it on the wall of my room in Germany

Anyway I was really good in Latin at high school so akkusativ genitiv and dativ will be ok I guess. I tried to learn German myself again some month ago but then I realized that I really need a teacher and a class...Also having studied philosophy gives me some advantage and motivation to finally read philosophy books in their mothertongue, which is German!
Anyway after being with him for almost one year and going to visit him now I don't see it so hard as I did one year ago, since I understand something...But still!

I promise I will force him to speak Italian although...Well guys...German is sexy!

I will follow your suggestions...Thank you all so much!!!


Livia

[Edited at 2008-06-05 15:13]


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