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LESSER KNOWN FACTS ABOUT THE GERMAN LANGUAGE
- September 26, 2021
- Posted by: elanwp
- Category: German Blogs
GERMAN IS SPOKEN NOT ONLY IN GERMANY
German is the most widely spoken language in the European Union – ahead of Spanish, French, and even English. It is the official language in Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein and one of the official languages in Switzerland and Luxembourg. German ranks 11th in the list of the most widely spoken languages in the world.
THE GERMAN LANGUAGE HAS THREE GENDERS
In many Romance languages, nouns are either male or female, making them difficult enough for native English speakers. German goes even one further: a noun can also be neuter. The gender of a word is determined purely by grammar. For example, “Das Mädchen” (the girl) is neuter, even though it refers to a female person.
ALL NOUNS ARE CAPITALIZED
In German, nouns are capitalized. Unlike English, this rule applies not only to proper names; there are no exceptions.
GERMAN HAS A UNIQUE LETTER
German uses the Latin alphabet. It has, however, an additional consonant: the ß, called “Eszett”. The letter never stands at the beginning of the word and, following a long vowel or diphtong, takes the form of a double-s
WORDS THAT EXIST ONLY IN GERMAN
Some terms exist in no other language. For example, “fremdschämen” refers to shame felt on another person’s behalf. And “Fernweh” (having the travel bug, lusting after adventure) is the opposite of “Heimweh (homesickness).
THE LONGEST GERMAN WORD
German is known for endlessly long words. One of the longest is “Grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszuständigkeitsübertragungsverordnung” (regulation on the delegation of authority concerning land conveyance permissions). This neologism comes from officialese. But no reason to panic: such tapeworm words can almost always be broken down into their more intelligible parts. For example, “Staubsauger” (vacuum cleaner) consists of the words “dust” and “sucking”.
TIME IS COUNTED WITH REFERENCE TO THE UPCOMING HOUR
In German if someone tells you that it is halb drei (“half three”), you might assume that it’s 3:30. However, this is wrong because in German you report time by counting the minutes to the next hour, so “half three” means that it’s half an hour until three: in other words, it’s 2:30.
ENGLISH AND GERMAN SHARE 60% OF THEIR VOCABULARY
Due to their close relation, German and English share more than half of their vocabulary! In comparison, English and French share just 27% of their vocabulary.
THE GUTENBERG BIBLE
The Gutenberg Bible was the first-ever printed book by movable type and it was written in German by Johannes Gutenberg in 1454.
SOME GERMAN SPEAKERS HAVE TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING ONE ANOTHER
Standard “textbook” German is what you’d hear spoken in the north-central area of Germany like Hamburg. This is where they speak the language that most closely follows the grammar and pronunciation rules taught in schools and most international German courses. But that’s not the dialect that all German speakers use, and some of them can even have difficulty understanding one another. For many German speakers, the dialect that’s most difficult to understand pronunciation-wise is in Bavaria. It has been said that when Bavarian movies are shown in the north or in other German-speaking countries, they’re often shown with subtitles!