Germans are rigorous, so does their language!

I just completed the German course of A1 at the Goethe-Institute.

Before properly learning this language, I sensed that the Germans did everything efficiently and carefully. In one of my previous blog mentioned, they care about punctuality (https://wuhahn.com/2019/07/27/the-man-walking-on-the-clock/). By learning German makes me realize the preciseness of Germans. Their language, grammar and tense have no space for “ambiguity” when compared with Chinese or English.

During the COVID-19 epidemic period, I’ve done many extra German exercises at my home in Shanghai. I read a sentence when reviewing the three genders (masculine, neutral and feminine) and Dativ:

Es gibt viele Probleme mit dem Nachbarn/der Nachbarin/den Nachbarn.

(There are many problems with the male neighbors / female neighbors / neighbors.)

I understand the meaning of this sentence, but I turned my head and discussed with my German partner immediately, “We simply call the neighbor in Chinese neighbor. If we know that neighbor, we will call him/her Mr. or Miss Wu. Why do Germans put a particular emphasis on the neighbor’s gender when the name is not even mentioned in daily life?”

Foiled notes on my table

You can obviously see in the sentence that the gender will influence the article and the spelling at the end of a word. As a result, beginners have to rehearse in their mind before saying simple things.

My partner said, “Germans are very precise in speaking. Moreover, believe it or not, Germans know who are their neighbors.”

Ha-ha! When the language is like this, not to mention the people’s character.

Therefore, Germans are easily irritated with “any” non-specific statements. I believe that those who works with Germans and those who live together with Germans, have profound understandings.) 

Let’s imagine a situation. If a guy learning German wants to hit on a German girl, he has to consider the gender of Email or WhatsApp before asking for the contact way. Is it ein Email or eine Email? Is it ein WhatsApp or eine WhatsApp?

The right answer is that both Email and WhatsAPP are feminine, so the guy should use eine Email and eine WhatsApp. (Can anyone tell me is the gender here related to modern inventions?) Thirty years ago, boyfriends and girlfriends had to communicate with each other through letters. Letters is  Brief in German and it is masculine.

Courtesy to t-online.de

You might think that the articles can be read casually, and that it does not make any difference whether there is e or no e.

This is wrong. It is a common trap belongs to French. Ein and Eine have different pronunciations. In German, except some specific rules, every letter shall be pronounced, regardless of the vocabulary’s length!

Therefore, the guy shall not only memorize the gender of the word, but also pronounce his words clearly. He shall never gobble up the thing.

Oh! Oh! It is really hard for a guy whose mother tongue is not German to chase after a German girl.

My mother tongue is Mandarin, which can create a beautiful artistic conception. However, it is a less rigorous language. One sentence can present absolutely different meanings when the sentence is segmented in different ways. Besides, all these can meet the grammar and can be accepted. Compared with Chinese, the German sentence structure must follow a fixed format, otherwise it will become a “asyntactic sentence”.

Furthermore, German has six Tense, and the four grammatical cases firmly lock the article, noun and verb. Hence, German is both accurate and proper in writing or communication. When ten people see or hear one sentence, they will get only one meaning. As to Chinese, haha, is entirely different. Needless to say, I still have a long way to go in the aspect of learning German.

Typing till here, I can’t help but wonder who invented Google Translate?

From my Google search result, this great man is “Russian”-born-American computer engineer Sergey Brin. He founded Google with Larry Page.

Courtesy to Google

As you know, Russian language also divided the world into three genders, same like German. Therefore, Mr. Brin must acknowledge that there is a huge difference and learning challenges between languages with and without genders.

Therefore he probably contributes a lot of effort on Google algorithm. For example, today, I am happy to apprehend that Bikini, such a feminine outfit is actually a masculine word by the article “der”.

Lastly, please kindly comment below if you know any way to learn German efficiently. I am all ears! Thank you!

德國人嚴謹,語言也是!

我剛從歌德學院A1結業。在還沒學習德語之前,覺得德國人凡事都要求得很仔細,比如像是之前寫過的,他們對時間的要求都非常精確。在正式去學校學習德語之後,我對德國人的嚴謹,絕對有更深一層的體會,因為他們的語言、語法、時態跟中文或英文比起來,實在沒有一絲“籠統”的餘地。

在武漢疫情期間,我在上海家中自己做很多額外的德語練習。我前天在複習德語的三個性別(陽性、中性、陰性)以及Dativ時讀到的一個句子:

Es gibt viele Probleme mit dem Nachbarn/der Nachbarin/den Nachbarn. 

(跟男性鄰居/女性鄰居/鄰居們有很多問題。)

我理解這句話的意思,但是我馬上轉頭跟Mr. Hahn討論:“中文裡的鄰居就是鄰居,如果我們認得那個鄰居,我們可能會以吳女士或韓先生來稱呼。在日常沒有提到名子的時候,德國人為何還偏要特別強調他或她的性別?”

你們從句子裡可以明顯看到,性別影響冠詞以及單詞結尾的拼寫,這使得初學者想開口說簡單的事情之前,都得先在腦子里預演。

Mr. Hahn說:“德國人講話就是這麼精確。而且信不信由你,德國人都認識他們的鄰居。”

哈哈哈哈哈。語言是如此,也難怪民族性。

這個平凡的短句已經一劍戳進德國人精確的骨子裡。因此在日常生活中,德國人對於“任何”不具體的言論或非德國人的說話方式,很容易惱怒。相信跟德國人共事的,或是跟德國人生活在一起的,應該深有體會。

試想一個情境,如果一個正在學德語的男孩要跟德國女孩搭訕,在跟對方開口要聯絡方式之前,他還得想先好Email 的性別,究竟是ein Email還是eine Email。是ein WhatsApp還是eine WhatsApp? 

正確答案是,Email 和WhatsAPP 都是陰性,所以是eine Email和eine WhatsApp。(這裡的性別跟現代發明有關嗎?) 我們如果回到三十年前,男女朋友溝通只能通過魚雁往返,信(Brief)則是陽性。

你可能會想,冠詞就隨便念過去就好,有e沒e應該都差不多。

不行喔,這是法語才有的不發音陷阱。Ein 和Eine發音是不同的。在德語中,除了發音規則中規定的不發音的情形外,每個字母都要發音,不管那個單詞有多長!

所以,男孩除了要熟背單詞陰陽性之外,開口說話還得咬字清楚,不能囫圇吞棗。

哎,對於德語不是母語的男孩而言,追德國女孩真累。

我的母語是中文,它創造的意境是美麗的,但是它是不嚴謹的語文。一個句子用不同的斷句方式,會出現完全不同的解釋,而且這些都合於文法,可以被接受的。相較於中文,德文句型結構必須遵守固定格式,否則就是“不合法的句子”。德語還有中文沒有的六個時間格式,其四個文法格也牢牢鎖死名詞和動詞變化。所以德文在書寫或溝通上,是準確到位,十個人看到或聽到同一個句子,只會有一種解釋,中文就不是了。當然,我的學習德文之路還非常漫長。

寫到此,我實在忍不住Google了一下哪位天才發明了Google Translate, 這個偉人是“俄裔美籍”的電腦工程師Sergey Brin。他當年跟Larry Page 共同創辦了谷歌。

如各位所知,俄語跟德語一樣,也把世界分成三個性別,相信出生於俄國的Mr. Brin應該深黯,有性無性的語言,學習起來實在天差地遠。

所以舉例來說,今天我很高興地在Google Translate 對於Bikini的翻譯,這麼女性化的東西在德語中竟然是陽性的,它的冠詞是der! 

最後,如果您知道如何更有效地學習德語,歡迎在下面給我留言!感激!

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