Today, people around the world frequently study German as a second, third, or fourth language. This fascinating subject offers a variety of challenges. Consider these twenty-two facts about the German language that might surprise you (see the books to learn German page to learn the language):
Top 22 Things You Didn't Know About The German Language
Some Distinctive German Vowels
Germans use the same five vowels employed by English language speakers: a, e, i, o, and u. However, in addition, the Germans use a, o, and u written with umlauts over the top: ä,ö, and ü. This essentially results in a total of eight German vowels.
A Huge Vocabulary
Germans recognize over 5 million words. While this number appears daunting, it occurs because native speakers frequently link several different words together into a single longer word. For example, "cruise ship" becomes "Kreuzfahrtschiff" in German.
Capitalizing Every Noun
One interesting aspect of formal German involves the capitalization of proper nouns. Writers still adhere to this grammatical rule. It greatly assists German students in distinguishing nouns from other types of words, like prepositions and adjectives.
German Uses Words From Several Different Sources
Most German words derive from an ancient German branch of Indo-European languages. However, German borrowed heavily from Latin and Greek. French and modern English also contributed vocabulary words to modern German.
The Importance of Gender
The German language classifies every noun as masculine, feminine, or neuter. The gender of these words impacts the spelling of adjectives, for example. Most language students simply memorize the gender spellings along with new vocabulary words.
Writing Effectively in German
German, just like English, includes both "strong" and "weak" verbs. Writers who employ strong verbs extensively tend to produce better written prose. This rule of thumb applies in the German language, too.
Dialects Matter in Spoken German
Today, German uses standardized grammar and spelling. However, some differences in pronunciation remain due to regional dialects. For example, the dialects of North Germany and Bavaria differ with respect to the emphasis upon some consonants.
A Widely Spoken Language
Over 90 million people speak German as a first language today. An estimated 132,000,000 speak this language regularly around the world. German speakers currently reside on every populated continent.
German as an Official Language
German today serves as an officially recognized language in six nations: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein. It constitutes the primary language spoken in Germany and Austria.
German as a Recognized Minority Language
A number of other nations recognize German as a language widely spoken by minority communities within the population. These countries include: Brazil, Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Slovakia, Russia, Namibia, Hungary, Italy, and Romania.
A Popular Literary Language
Currently, one out of every ten published books (including e-books) appears in the German language. German speaking nations rank an impressive fifth in the world in terms of the volume of books published annually.
A Useful Language For Science Students
Every year, numerous scientific and technical papers appear for the first time in the German language. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia claims German represents the second most popular language utilized in scientific papers.
A Widely Taught Language
German reportedly remains the third most widely taught language in high schools in the United States. It also serves as a popular language studied in numerous schools across the European Union. Some German universities offer free educational programs.
A 16-Volume German Language Dictionary
The Brothers Grimm reportedly published a 16-volume German dictionary between 1852 and 1860. This Deutsches Wörterbuch represented the most comprehensive compilation of German vocabulary words appearing in print up to that date.
Promoting The Study of The German Language
The government of Germany has taken steps to encourage cultural exchanges and the study of the German language. It reportedly helps fund the Geothe-Institut, a nonprofit organization promoting 159 German cultural centers around the world.
Closely Related to Several Other Languages
Several languages which developed from ancient German include English, Dutch, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian. Native speakers of these languages often recognize some similar words and grammatical rules when they study German.
A Rich Body of German Literature
People studying German discover many literary selections in the German language. Both historic figures, like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and modern authors, such as Herta Müller, have written highly regarded works in German.
Important Repositories of Works in German
Two libraries serving as important repositories for works written in German include the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Frankfurt am Main and the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Leipzig. Both institutions date from 2006. They serve as national libraries.
German Arose Centuries Ago
German as a language pre-dates the formation of the nation of Germany. It was used as the primary language in many principalities during medieval times, long before the formation of the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806.
German Developed Over The Course of Centuries
The German language changed over the course of centuries. Today, many scholars label the language spoken between 750 and 1050 as "Old" German. "Middle" German arose during the medieval period. "Modern" German gained widespread popularity around 1500.
Related to Gothic
German shares a common root with the Gothic language. Tribes of Goths invaded the Roman Empire over a thousand years ago; they spoke Gothic, an Indo-European language distantly related to the German language.
A Religious Work Helped Standardize German
Today, many historians believe Martin Luther's translation of the Holy Bible into German in 1522 ultimately led to the development of widely understood modern German. Readers from a variety of different regions eventually standardized written German.
An Important Recent Change
Several European nations promulgated changes in German spelling comparatively recently. In 1996, representatives from Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland agreed upon several official German spelling changes.