Friday, 15 June 2007

Learning German

'Harris and I had been hard at work on our German during several weeks at that time, and although we had made good progress, it had been accomplished under great difficulty and annoyance, for three of our teachers had died in the mean time. A person who has not studied German can form no idea of what a perplexing language it is.'
Mark Twain. The Awful German Language, Appendix D from the book 'A Tramp Abroad', 1880.

I have been struggling with my German - grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. It hasn't improved much since the entry 'Sorry my German is not so good'. I feel that every time I enter a shop, I am reliving the awkwardness of my French GCSE oral exam. Each transaction is reduced to a role-playing scenario. Along the lines of, 'Hello mister baker man. I'd like a kilo of oranges please.' If you would say such a thing to a baker. I have to work out in my head ways to say what I need before I reach the counter. So, I was pleased to find that a literary genius no less than Mark Twain* found German very difficult during a tour he made of Europe...

  • 'I never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.' Notebooks, 1870s
  • 'I don't believe there is anything in the whole earth that you can't learn in Berlin except the German language.' Notebooks, 1870s
  • 'In the German it is true that by some oversight of the inventor of the language, a Woman is a female; but a Wife is not - which is unfortunate. A Wife, here, has no sex; she is neuter.' The Awful German Language

*Born 'Samuel Langhorne Clemens', American writer, 1835-1910
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1 comment:

Anna said...

I felt exactly the same when I was over in Cologne last week. I was gutted that the only phrase I remembered from German oral GCSE ("Where is the sausage stall please?") was of no use whatsoever.