German is a close relative of English
What many people don’t know is that actually German is the language most similar to English – more than any other language. This is due to the fact that English and German both belong to the same family of languages: The Germanic Languages. In Europe 3 language families dominate: Germanic, Romanic and Slavic.
Here are some of these family members:
- Germanic Languages: English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish
- Romanic Languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian
- Slavic Languages: Polish, Czech, Russian
You see the close relationship to English in words as well as in grammar. In German there are countless words that are pronounced exactly like in English – just spelled differently: mouse is “Maus” in German. House is “Haus”. When you pronounce these words there is no difference at all.
A fascinating fact is that in Northern Germany – which is closest to England – the dialect versions of many words become very similar to English.
This may be one of the reasons why there are many sites written in English doing a fantastic job teaching German. They can use examples from English that people can easily recognize and then use them to easily understand the respective German phrases. One example is eLanguageSchool. There you can learn German while profiting from your knowledge of the English language – no matter if you are a beginner or already know some German.
German Has 3 Genders
3 Genders? Male, female and what?
Yes, what does not occur in nature can happen in German, all things that you see have a specific gender. If you know Spanish or any other language you might be familiar with the concept of genders.
Everything is either male or female. While this may be annoying to someone who is learning the language, it is more or less something natural that there exists male and female. However, in German there is a third gender called “neuter” – meaning something neutral – neither male nor female. So there are three articles:
- der – male
- die – female
- das – neuter
However, this is just an abstract concept. The gender does in no way reflect the nature of the noun. And whenever you try to guess the gender of a noun using logic or common sense you are very likely to get it wrong. Just take the example of moon and sun.
While in Spanish (and most other romanic languages) the sun is male and the moon is female – in German it’s the exact opposite: It is “der Mond” (the moon) and “die Sonne” (the sun).
Another example: What do you think is the gender of “the boy” in German? Right, it’s male – “der Junge”. So now you think that “the girl” would be female, right? I am sorry to disappoint you, but girl in German is neuter (“das Mädchen”).
A funny example is knife, fork and spoon. There you have them all:
- knife – neuter (“das Messer“)
- fork – female (“die Gabel“)
- spoon – male (“der Löffel“)
German is Spoken in More Than 10 Countries
While German is of course spoken by around 80 million people living in Germany, there are many more countries where German is spoken by either a majority of a minority.
Austria with it 10 million inhabitants speaks German. Switzerland has German as one of four official languages (along with French, Italian and Romansh). In Northern Italy – in the part famous for its skiing areas German is spoken – beside Italian being the official language.
In the east-most part of Belgium people speak German – while the major part of the country is French-speaking.
There are more examples or more “exotic” locations where you would never expect a German community. Some examples of them are Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
The First Printed Book in the World Was in German
Johannes Gutenberg invented book printing and printed the first book in the world – a 42-page bible – in 1455. Martin Luther had translated the Bible from Latin into German to make it available to common people – which could not read Latin – that language of the Church.