It looks like you are using an old version of Internet Explorer. Sorry, we only support IE 10 and above. To use the site you will need to use a more up to date browser. We strongly recommend you upgrade to:

Thank you for sharing this. Very intersting.

(A speech by him in German)

In another thread I saw:

Jingle: "Are you familiar with Mark Twain's short story "The Awful German Language"? "

Now I understand German learners better!


He's right about the fun of coining super-long words! I myself once invented the word:

Lebensmittellieferungfahrzeugsbenzinverbrauch- reduzierungstrategie!

Had to put in the break because the forum software can't take it in one! :-D

I have not read this essay since I first started learning German, but it is great to read again. He nails it here.

"Every time I think I have got one of these four confusing "cases" where I am master of it, a seemingly insignificant preposition intrudes itself into my sentence, clothed with an awful and unsuspected power, and crumbles the ground from under me. 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. Very well, I begin to cipher out the German for that answer. I begin at the wrong end, necessarily, for that is the German idea. I say to myself, "Regen (rain) is masculine -- or maybe it is feminine -- or possibly neuter -- it is too much trouble to look now. Therefore, it is either der (the) Regen, or die (the) Regen, or das (the) Regen, according to which gender it may turn out to be when I look. In the interest of science, I will cipher it out on the hypothesis that it is masculine. Very well -- then the rain is der Regen, if it is simply in the quiescent state of being mentioned, without enlargement or discussion -- Nominative case; but if this rain is lying around, in a kind of a general way on the ground, it is then definitely located, it is doing something -- that is, resting (which is one of the German grammar's ideas of doing something), and this throws the rain into the Dative case, and makes it dem Regen. However, this rain is not resting, but is doing something actively, -- it is falling -- to interfere with the bird, likely -- and this indicates movement, which has the effect of sliding it into the Accusative case and changing dem Regen into den Regen." Having completed the grammatical horoscope of this matter, I answer up confidently and state in German that the bird is staying in the blacksmith shop "wegen (on account of) den Regen." Then the teacher lets me softly down with the remark that whenever the word "wegen" drops into a sentence, it always throws that subject into the Genitive case, regardless of consequences -- and that therefore this bird stayed in the blacksmith shop "wegen des Regens."

N. B. -- I was informed, later, by a higher authority, that there was an "exception" which permits one to say "wegen den Regen" in certain peculiar and complex circumstances, but that this exception is not extended to anything but rain."

I thought I understood this issue about prepositions and cases - it all seemed so clear - and then I tell a native speaker "ich warte auf einem Zug", and they look at me confused and ask me what the hell I am doing on top of a train and if I could not find a safer place to wait!

@Colin: "...they look at me confused..."

Either that or they'd think you were from Berlin.

(Berliners always use the dative, apparently...)

I do have the rugged good looks of a Berliner

...and by that, I mean I look like a Doughnut!

Well, JFK did have a hole in the middle of him after Lee Harvey Oswald had finished with him. So in that sense he was a bit of a dunking doughnut, I guess...

Oh man, that's cold.

"Either that or they'd think you were from Berlin."

My instinct tells me that "Ich warte auf einen Zug" is correct.^^

"(Berliners always use the dative, apparently...)"

Where the heck do people get these infos from? "Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod"?

And if I said "ich spreche über einem Buch", would you ask me what I am speaking about, and why I am standing on a book?

Ich warte auf einen Zug = I wait for a train
Ich warte auf einem Zug = I wait on a train

"Ich spreche über einem Buch" I have not enough fantasy to imagine how you would do this.

Ah of course. I would have be floating above the book!

Probably if I stood on a Duden and said 'ich spreche über einem Buch', the book genuinly would make me float using the powers of correct German grammar.

Personally I would probably say: "i wort uff a Zug"! (But that's because I was exposed for a long time to naughty Bavarians!)

I got the idea from one of my early teachers (who was born in Berlin! :-o)

I would say "Ik wa´t´ uff´n Zug" or maybe even ""wa´t´ uff´n Zuch"

@Easy_Rider: Thank you for the link!

And if you added -planung to your word creation, you could then go wild and add -komitee etc...

David Cornwell alias John le Carré speaks excellent German. I'm amazed about his German pronunciation. Thank you Jay for sharing the link to "Goethe-Medaille 2011: Festrede von David Cornwell alias John le Carré" (Link in the third post)

Here the comment on YouTube to this video:
"David Cornwell alias John le Carré hält die Festrede anlässlich seiner Auszeichnung mit der Goethe-Medaille am 28. August 2011 im Weimarer Stadtschloss. Mit der Auszeichnung ehrt das Goethe-Institut ausländische Persönlichkeiten, die sich in besonderer Weise um die deutsche Sprache und die internationalen Beziehungen verdient gemacht haben."

If you hear this speech you understand immediately why he was honored.

ad Jay: (...) ...... (....)

Wow, simply unbelievable. His German is absolutely fabulous. Unfassbar.....sein Stil, seine Aussprache, seine Intonation.....und natürlich auch der Inhalt seiner Rede. Ein durch und durch bemerkenswerter Mann. Ich kann es nicht fassen, dass seine Muttersprache nicht Deutsch ist....Einfach wunderbar, wie er Deutsch spricht!

Ja, ich war auch hin und weg von seinem Deutsch. Einfach nur großartig und er scheint ein toller, interessanter Mensch zu sein, der etwas zu sagen hat. Dann seine Liebe zur deutschen Sprache ... was soll man da noch sagen. Ich bin sprachlos. Noch mal ein großen Dankeschön an Jay, denn ich wusste bisher nichts davon.

Das erinnert mich daran, dass ich hier noch Hörbücher von seinen Büchern auf dem Rechner habe, die es mal in einer Aktion beim Guardien umsonst gab: Den Tipp dazu hatte ich übrigens auch hier aus dem Forum. War "Rank" nicht auch ein Synonym von Dir, Jay?

@Vera: "...War "Rank" nicht auch ein Synonym von Dir, Jay?..."

Ich habe mehrere Namen benutzt (but, yeah, "Rank" was one of them.)

To comment login or sign up for a free account