There are many reasons why German is considered a difficult language by many English speakers who are trying to learn it. Trying to formulate a German sentence can feel a bit like trying to solve a mathematical equation. But as they say, “Practice makes perfect!”.
For a beginner, one of the most difficult things to wrap his or her head around is that nouns have assigned genders that, in most cases, have nothing to do with their biological gender. “Die Banane” (the banana) is feminine, however, “der Apfel” (the apple) is masculine. “das Mädchen” (the girl) is neutral. German nouns are always capitalized, no matter where they are in a sentence. And to make matters more complicated, they are always in one of four cases: Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative. To know which one does what to a noun is a skill that many students of the German language will develop over time, but it takes lots and lots of practice. Not only does the learner need to figure out the gender of nouns, but also how the cases change the spelling of articles and sometimes even the noun itself. Oh yes, articles! They change quite a bit, making gender identification even harder. Well… at least verbs and conjugation are easier. Wrong! Each pronoun has a different verb ending, which changes depending on the tense and subjunctive mood. Sometimes verbs are in the beginning of a sentence, sometimes the slip to the end, and sometimes they even split up; a part of them is at the beginning, and another part of them is at the end. Oh, the good old German separable verb! And sometimes, the meaning of a verb changes depending on what syllable of it you emphasize.
All languages have their own complexities that can confuse learners in the beginning. Words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently, or words that are spelled differently but sound the same… There are different uses of language: Business, conversational, creative and pragmatic, all slightly different depending on what part of the country we find ourselves. German is no different. What may be common to say in the North, might raise eyebrows in the south. Dialect, humor and idioms add yet another layer to the language learning experience and being able to understand these different nuances is a sign that one has truly mastered a language.
See if you can crack these 5 German puns. If you can, congratulations! If not, keep practicing! You will get there!
1. Umfahren ist besser als umfahren.
2. Wie nennt man den Flur eins Iglus? Eine Eisdiehle.
3. Was sagt der grosse Stift zum kleinen Stift? Wachsmalstift.
4. Was ist ein Keks unter einem Baum? Ein schattiges Plätzchen.
5. Welches Getränk trinken Firmenchefs? Leitungswasser.
Check back to see how you did! Good luck!