What is it Like to Learn German as an English Speaker?
Spoken by more than 130 million people, German is one of the most essential languages in the world. It is the most widely spoken language in the European Union & the second most commonly used language in science. However, when we see a sentence like:
Ich denke, dass Wissenschaft herausfordernd ist,
It usually scares a lot of English speakers. It looks nothing like English, right?
And while German may feel like a foreign language to many English speakers, it is a lot more similar than you would think.
Learn German Vocabulary
Are English & German similar to how Spanish is similar to Italian?
In short, no. Despite being a part of the language family, and more specifically, the same branch, if you speak English, you do not have immediate ease of understanding German as a Spanish speaker reading Italian. However, this does not mean that the two are not significantly related. English & German are said to have 60% lexical similarity, with nearly a third of all vocabulary stemming from common root words. Take these examples:
This is not to mention the words that directly come from German like:
And words that are related like:
German Related Word Translation
hund hound dog
Schwein swine pig
Learn German Grammar
For the most part, the structure of English and German are pretty similar, but the hard part is in the details.
If you look at an introductory sentence, the grammar is nearly identical with the same word order, use of articles & placement of adjectives. For example:
German: Das buch war interessant
English: The book was interesting
The only exception to this comes in using a second verb within a sentence, usually placed at the very end of the sentence. For example, the use of kaufen to buy, in this sentence:
German: Ich werde das Buch heute kaufen
English: I will buy the book today
However, German still retains some aspects of Grammar lost in old English, gender, and cases. German has the masculine, feminine & neuter genders, which modify adjectives, articles & changes relative to their point. This complex system leads to monstrous charts like this:
In a typical sentence, you will have more moving parts than you would in English, but this does not mean that it is impossible. After moving past the case system & genders, German grammar is quite logical to English speakers and is relatively easy to understand after some practice.
German Pronunciation + Alphabet
Unlike many languages found in Europe, English has quite a lot of similarities with German pronunciation. Both languages have five primary vowel sounds
/ a, e, i, o, u /, which are pronounced relatively the same way. Technically, there are also three more vowel sounds in German, marked with the umlaut (the two little dots over the letters a, o, and u) being ä, ö, and ü. However, these are just different representations of the same vowels we would say in English. Like how you pronounce the a in cat [‘kat] the same as the a in apple [ˈa-pəl] but not the same way as the a in apostrophe [ə-ˈpä-strə-fē].
Additionally, many words in German words are just words found in English with a pronunciation reflecting a history of sound shifts like:
The final aspect of German is the alphabet, which isn’t that different from English. Besides the letters with the dots on their heads, the only new letter is the ß or esstsett, simply a more specific pronunciation of s, like in the word groß [big] relating to the English gross, like gross income.
Language Bird Can Help You with Your German
German is a challenging language, no doubt about it. However, no one is better suited to learn it than a Germanic speaker like yourself. After you master the grammar system, you will be speaking German in no time and communicating with a large portion of the EU and the world. Contact Language Bird today to get started!