Is German Hard to Learn?
From the perspective of a native English speaker, the German language is actually not the hardest language to learn, regardless of your prior disposition.
Steve Kaufmann has said that “German is not as difficult for an English speaker as Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and so forth, because it’s a related language.” You will also find syllables and words that are also found in the English language, which, of course, help you memorize vocabulary. Opposed to languages like Hungarian or Slovak, you will find various similarities that will help you on your way to fluency.
Learning a new language can be a daunting task. With all the new words, pronunciation, and grammar, you really have to be courageous in your learning and especially diligent. The main thing to remember while you‘re learning a language, especially German, is to never give up, even though you might meet obstacles along the way (most likely in grammar).
We all learn differently and at various speeds. What is easier for someone might be the most difficult task in the world for another. We are all programmed differently, so give yourself a break when it comes to learning something new.
Don‘t compare with other languages you’ve learned in the past, as well. I, myself, have learned Spanish and Portuguese. Learning German was nothing like either of them.
However, learning German might not be the impossible mountain to climb that you think it is. Although there is unusual grammar to learn and difficult to pronounce words to memorize, learning German is a process that IS possible.
Is German Hard to Learn… Really?
Is German hard to learn? Maybe — but you won’t know until you try. Although grammatically, it is a difficult language to learn, it isn’t one of the hardest languages in the world to learn. When you are coming from an English-speaking background, it can even be seen as relatively “do-able”, with words very similar to the English language.
In German, there are three different gender forms: feminine, masculine, and neutral. Memorizing the rules that come along with these forms and which nouns are which gender can be a confusing mess, along with memorizing what to do with the plural form of nouns.
German cases, past tense, and conjugation of verbs can also be a very deep trench to trek. The thing about German is that there are various rules that you need to learn and keep in mind when you’re trying to perfect your grammar and match the conjugation of verbs to the subject or sentence.
If you thought spelling was difficult, with words like 80-letter Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft, pronouncing some new sounds or syllables of long German words can be a winding process. Being able to read out these words take some patience. Even though German uses the same alphabet as English, certain letters are pronounced differently as they would be in English.
Pronunciation takes practice but talking is actually a lot easier than reading and writing. Therefore, if you are looking to learn German to communicate with co-workers or to travel, pronunciation is definitely something that you want to focus on. Before you begin your language-learning journey, make sure you identify your motives and what’s most important to you.
The structure is very predictable
Since German is a very structured language, with hardly any surprises or loose rules, creating a sentence is an easy process — once you are familiar with the rules. Sentences tend to follow patterns and are therefore very predictable, making them much easier to create. When you know how to construct a sentence, it is easier to execute it.
When comparing it to English, there is a lot less freedom to write. Some may say the sentence structure in German is like an equation where you just plug the words into the formula.
Just as well as spelling
There are various rules for spelling as well as grammar. The spelling of German words are not only predictable because of the standard rules but also make sense.
The spelling of a word is the guideline when it comes to pronunciation. The great thing about spelling in German is that it doesn‘t change from word to word. For example, in English, we do have spelling rules but they have plenty of exceptions.
When it comes to finding success in learning German, it means to learn the rules when it comes to pronunciation and never deviating from them. They will be your bread and butter in the learning process and will help you immensely with spelling, as well as speaking.
It is easier to speak than read or write
As we mentioned before, the majority of the errors found in the German language are normally found in grammar. When you’re speaking, you can get away with incorrect grammar — although a German with whom you’re speaking with will normally try and help and correct you, if you speak fast enough, you’ll be understood. When that is your main goal, you’ll be pleased to know that it is very achievable.
There are various German words that are the same as English
This really makes it simple. Heading into your first German lesson, you will be pleasantly surprised to find out that “Hello” is “Hallo”, “hand” is “Hand” and “finger” is “Finger”. There is a long list of words that are exactly the same as English, even spelling.
Knowing how to first dive into German can be confusing. Whether you‘re learning at home on your own or in a class, taking that first step and not being afraid to make mistakes can help you get started.
In regards to the question: Is German Hard to Learn? Yes, it can be. But just like with any other language and anything in life, sometimes you have to push through a few difficult obstacles to be able to get to your main goal: fluency!
If you want more German learning tips, check out this video by LingQ cofounder and German speaker Steve Kaufmann’s:
Adriana Rodrigues has lived in the German-speaking part of Switzerland for two and a half years, studying German, working, and playing professional soccer. In addition to German, she knows Spanish, Portuguese, and English.