File this under you research bookmarks. I can’t emphasize enough the merits of doing great dialogue and nailing the time and characters in your novel through it. The subtlest of things can accomplish that. For OP-DEC, I used German. For Blue I referenced relevant events. Etymology dictionaries are available on line. Do we mess up? Sure. But, I’m going to post as many resources on this blog as I can to help all who care to read these posts with their research. That’s what I went to school to learn to do and I’m going to share that with my readers.
Welcome to the fifth/fünf of So you want to learn German – So dass Sie wollen Deutsch lernen…
When I first saw this video I was a little leery to watch. I didn’t want to see people being made fun of for not being able to ‘properly pronounce’ some word. With all the bullying going around, I didn’t want to be one more set of eyes condoning bad behavior. Boy was I glad I clicked. These kids are having a load of fun and they’re highlighting a common issue with learning to speak a language that is not native to you. As someone who is learning their language, I can empathize… Entschuldigung for instance and some others. This will help you on your journey, because it lets you know that you should have fun with your mistakes, not take them so seriously, you’re not alone in screwing it up. And, trust me! Germans, French, Americans, whoever, they appreciate your attempt to learn their language and will be willing to help in almost all cases (there is always a Grinch somewhere, amiright?).
So enjoy this little video of some great people sharing the fun they had learning to pronounce a word we in English take quite for granted.
Welcome to another installment of So you want to learn German – So können Sie Deutsch lernen wollen! According to this amazing app, which Victor Anibal Rodriguez pointed me toward, I am trucking right along in my lessons. I haven’t gotten a headset yet, so that I can start the Rosetta Stone software lessons, but I will review my progress with that resource when I am fully equipped.
17 days! (That was about two weeks ago)
In the meantime, I’ve switched my i-Phone assistant (Siri) over to German. This helps me figure out if my pronunciation is correct and a native speaker would understand me clearly (damn you, #12 – Zwölfe). Quite a useful trick. However, this has led to quite a bit of hijinks. Hijinks are what keeps us all going, isn’t that true? It’s true. The amount of fun you’re having on a project directly affects your likelihood of sticking with it. Learning a language can be daunting! Make it fun, by having fun with the culture that gave us the language and the products available to learn it. Duolingo is free! If you’re fortunate enough to have a computer or smart phone, you can learn a new language. How cool is that? Don’t forget to hit up YouTube for videos pertaining to your choice of language. There are many native speakers who love sharing their language and culture. And, do you have any idea how marketable another language is in the workforce? So, get exicted and have fun learning a new language. You can even document it, like I am doing here on my blog. (This also makes me accountable to all of you, so I will continue my lessons and not shag-off on the idea).
17 Days in – Where am I? Still learning basics. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The articles are troublesome, and you have to learn them per word, because the rules about them have so many exceptions that this is literally easier (I refer you back to installment one of this series and Dominic’s advise in the Get Germanized! Video Lesson 1).
Although I am still only learning the basics – I have learned the alphabet, numbers and several basic phrases. Think about that in terms of how quickly a child learns to count, learn all the letters of the alphabet (the German one has five more letters than the standard English alphabet), and basic conversation. I’m texting daily, with little help from translator software and carrying on conversations that go for several rounds. I’d say Duolingo and my strategy are working!
Besides, now I can say bunnehs! in German: Die Hasen!
In this third article, Victor Anibal Rodriguez talks Die Deutsche Bestimmten Artikel (The German Definite Articles). ___________________________
One of my biggest challenges learning German has been dealing with the German definite articles. There are those who swear that because English is a Germanic language that English speakers should have no trouble learning German. To those people I say, “Hogwash! You have no clue what you’re talking about!”
In order to understand why definite articles are so difficult why don’t we first take a look at the German noun? For those of us who slept through English grammar classes in school, a noun is a person, place, or thing, like: a dog, a house, or a car. If we find ourselves petting a dog and I ask you what is the gender of “dog”, you’d probably check under the dog’s tail. After I give you a funny look, I will clarify myself and tell you that I meant the gender of the “word” “dog”. After you give me a confused look and scratch your head for a good minute, you’re going to wonder what on earth I am talking about.
I wouldn’t really blame you since there is really no such thing in English. But for other languages this is a real thing. My native tongue for example, Spanish, has two gender classifications: masculine and feminine. German on the other hand has four: masculine, feminine, neuter, and PLURAL? I’ll touch on plurals in a bit. I was lucky that I had already some understanding of noun gender as a Spanish speaker. So I feel like I have a bit of a leg up than native English speakers. However, I was not ready for the reality of German gender nouns.
The gender of a Spanish word can be deciphered rather easily by knowing a few rules. If I have never heard the word “perro” before in my life, I would still know that it is a masculine noun because of the ending of the word. German has no such rules. Well, that’s not true, they do have some rules, but there are so many exceptions to the rules, there might as well not be any. So if I hear the word “Stift” for the first time, I would have no clue if it’s a masculine, feminine, or neuter noun. I’d have to look that shit up. So why is gender so important, because depending on the gender of the noun you use a different definite article and that’s where the real fun begins!
We are so spoiled in English, we only have just the one definite article, “the”. You have no idea how lucky you are as a native English speaker. German has three (and each has four different cases—more on that in a minute) and their usage depends on the gender of the noun. The German definite articles are as follows: der (masculine), die (feminine & plural), and das (neuter). “Der”, “die”, and “das” all mean “the”. Remember that I said Plural was a gender. Well, sort of. No matter what gender a noun is, once it becomes plural it follows different rules specific to Plurals.
So why are these article uses so important? Couldn’t you just use “das” and call it a day? Sure, if you don’t want anyone to understand what the hell you’re saying. I mentioned cases before. As if three different articles isn’t confusing enough, you have to know all of the different cases that are associated with each article. So what are cases?
Look, I’m no linguist. I’m not even a scholar of any kind. I’m just a computer programmer with a passion for writing. So I’m really not all that smart. Grammar school was a long time ago and I’ve only been studying this language for about a month. I am just learning as I go. However, I feel like I should at least attempt to explain what a case is the best I can.
As I understand it, a grammatical case determines the function performed by nouns or pronouns in a phrase or a sentence. If you have no idea what that means, don’t worry, neither do I.
German has four cases: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. Nominative is the noun that is doing something. Accusative is the noun that is having something done to it. Don’t ask me about the other two cause I don’t freaking know.
So what does this mean? Say I take the following sentence:
Der Junge isst den Apfel. – The boy is eating the apple.
(Both Junge and Apfel are masculine nouns. Der is masculine definite article for Nominative cases, den is the masculine definite article in Accusative cases.)
Say I switch some words around,
Den Apfel isst der Kind. – The apple is being eaten by the boy.
Notice that the meaning of the sentence remains the same. Word order is not important in German in this instance thanks to the cases used. So, if you don’t know your cases, you’d think that second sentence said, “The apple is eating the boy.” And you’d be wrong and probably be sent to a mental institution. If I wanted to say, “The apple is eating the boy” in German, I would say, “Der Apfel isst den Junge.” It’s subtle, but did you catch the difference? So whether I like it or not, cases are kind of important in learning the language.
Now, there are in many cases, some similarities between the two languages. A lot of the words are very similar and that makes it easy to learn a lot of vocabulary rather quickly. So far I’ve learned between 200-300 words. Not too shabby for only a month’s worth of study. If only it wasn’t for those stupid genders. Since there are no real rules to remember, one must remember the article along with the word and that presents a real challenge for me.
After many failed attempts at trying to remember the stupid article with the word—you know because remembering the word wasn’t challenging enough. I finally found a way to make things easier for me to remember them by using a mental palace.
A mental palace is an imaginary place created in your brain based on a real place that you are familiar with. It’s a technique that has been used for thousands of years to remember all kinds of shit. The idea is that the brain sucks at remembering words, but it is particularly amazing at remembering places and locations. Look it up, it’s a real thing.
In my “noun palace” I have three rooms one for each gender. Every time I come across a new noun, I first find its gender and I begin the process of committing it to memory. That process goes something like this: I visit my mental palace and I walk through the rooms in my mind until I find the room where the noun belongs. Then I create a ridiculous mental picture inside that room. The more ridiculous the image is the easier it will be for my brain to remember it.
For example, today’s word of the day is die Kommode (the dresser). I visit my Noun memory palace which opens into the masculine room, there I see the previous items I have placed there like der Apfel (the apple), der Tisch (the table), der Hut (the hat). I walk across to the next room, the feminine room where all of my feminine nouns live. The room is guarded by Amy Adams… Ahem! That’s all I will say about that.
So to commit this item to memory. I examine the word and see if it sounds like anything else I’m familiar with. Unfortunately, for this word it is not one of those cognate words (words that have a common word origin and therefor look or sound similar). So, I have to get creative. Kommode sounds like komodo dragon to me. So I’ll make a dresser out of a Komodo dragon. Give it some drawer spaces and a large mirror. The more detail you can give the better and easier it will be to remember. Once it’s created Amy Adams chases the dresser to find something to wear. She opens up the drawers and dresses in front of the large mirror. She always looks pretty!
From now on when I see a dresser, I’m gonna think of a komodo dragon and my brain will fill in the rest. The interaction with Amy will help me remember that it’s a feminine word and I’ll be able to use the correct article when it comes up in conversation.
Definite articles are just the start. The next challenge will be memorizing the indefinite articles: a, and an. Not to mention possessive pronouns and all of that shit! Why am I doing this again? Wish me luck!
Two months in! Actually, I’m on my second month of learning German/Deustche. So you want to learn German?
I love this language. The way that it sounds, the uniqueness from and similarities to English. I’ve wanted to learn forever, as my last installment said. Naturally, writing a World War II epic, and continuing with the sequel (damn you Carsten Reiniger!) has really put the fire under me again.
How bad is it, you’re probably wondering – thinking back to grammar or secondary school where you struggled with ‘fluent’ Spanish or French teacher that you suspected had no idea what they were doing (you were probably right)? It’s not bad at all. In fact, there are so many resources available out there to help a language learner that it’s absolutely ridiculous that you don’t go for it. Is it easy? Of course not! Did you learn to speak in a couple days? No, it took months, maybe years, of listening and reasoning and struggling before you even gurgled out Mamma. So, the task is going to be a long one, but it IS rewarding!
Lately, I’ve been dreaming in German. Coolest thing ever. The other morning, I woke up and realized, ein-eine-einen (a, an) – kein, keine, keinen (no, none).
I have no apples. – Ich habe keine Äpfel.
And, just like that a light was clicking on. My brain made the connection on it’s own, I’m not even up to ‘kein’ yet in my lessons – but I have seen it before in my wanderings through the odd phrase or two. That’s when you realize, you’ve got this — even if you’re at an elementary level.