Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Awful German Language (Reloaded)

One of my first nightmares when I came to Germany was trying to understand what was going on. Besides of some happy coincidences between German and English, the Goethe's language proves to be difficult even for the most motivated students. Mark Twain, probably one of the most popular American writers of his time, felt apparently a little bit disappointed with the complexity of the German language, and wrote a very sarcastic analysis about his experience. I found the following paragraph particularly interesting and wanted to share it with you:

"An average sentence, in a German newspaper, is a sublime and impressive curiosity; it occupies a quarter of a column and contains all the ten parts of speech, although not in regular order, but mixed; it is built mainly of compound words constructed by the writer on the spot, and not to be found in any dictionary (six or seven words are usually compacted into one, without any hyphens) ; it includes fourteen or fifteen different subjects, each inclosed in a parenthesis of its own, with here and there extra parentheses which reinclose three or four of the minor parentheses (....) and then, when you are about to reach the end of the sentence, comes the verb, and you find out for the first time what the man has been talking about."

However, once you get used to it, German can be a very rewarding experience. First of all, no other European language is as precise and unmistakable as German. And even if some words definitely don't exist in the dictionary, you are always welcome to make your own creations, by putting a verb or noun next to another. A good example of this weird concept is Fußballweltmeisterschaftsqualifikationsspiel, a term constituted by at least five different words, being these:

Fußball: Soccer
Welt: World
Meisterschaft: Championship
Qualifikation: Qualifying
Spiel: Game

The result is just beautiful. Isn't this a cool language? :)

1 comment:

robrueda said...

March, what about: "Electrocardiograma" which is also a three-words-in-one. Most words in most languages are made out of other words, except for words like: "cuchufli" or "coroto", that my mom used a lot but i don't know were they came from.