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The most interesting things about the German language

German is more interesting than you probably think. We have put together this short list of the most interesting facts about Germany that you have probably heard about before, but did not know that...
Difficulties in the case of a German to English and English to German translation service

The German language: unusual but very interesting facts

First of all, German is the language of Germans, Austrians, Liechtensteiners and most Swiss, the official language of Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, one of the official languages of Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium. In quite a few states, this language is official. In addition, German is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world after Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Japanese. German is the third most used language on the Internet. German is also one of the official and working (official business) languages of the European Union and other international organizations.

It is worth noting that this language belongs to the Western subgroup of the Germanic languages of the Indo-European family. The script is predominantly based on the Latin alphabet, supplemented by three umlaut graphemes (ä, ö, ü) and the ligature escet (ß). The oldest written records date from the 8th century.

The German language can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic language, which, in turn, is a branch of Proto-Indo-European. The change in some stylistic systems of the language after the second consonant movement led to its separation from its related Germanic languages. In the Middle Ages, the formation of phonetics and morphology, lexical constructions and syntax of Middle High German and, later, of Early New High German takes place. Modern German, whose history begins around the second half of the 17th century, is also called New High German. Martin Luther's translation of the Bible, the work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and Johann Christoph Gottsched, the linguistic works of Johann Christoph Adelung, the Grimm brothers and Konrad played a rather large and important role in its development. friend That is, as we can see, the subsequent literary activity had a very positive impact on the process of formation and development of the German language.

A little history of the German language

The history of the German language dates back to the early Middle Ages, when the languages of the ancient Germans began to contact each other, creating the basis for the formation of a common, inseparable language. The earlier development of the German language is directly related to the development of Proto-Germanic, which stems from a hypothetical Proto-Indo-European language. The process of development of Old High German, which is the first step on the way to Modern German, is associated with the second consonant shift, which took place in the 6th century.

The first formative stage, which lasted from the beginning of the 7th century until 1050, is called the formative period of Old High German. About three centuries after this (until 1350) lasts the Middle High German period. In the period from 1350 to 1650, the development of the New Early High German takes place, from 1650 onwards, the New High German, whose development continues to the present day. The exact date of the periods of development of the German language cannot be determined, so the framework is rather arbitrary and, consequently, not exact. Furthermore, the development process of the German language was ambiguous, which predetermined many differences that exist at the dialect level.

Modern German

The modern literary German language or idiom, in turn, arose on the basis of High German dialects. In contrast, individual German dialects (e.g. Low German or German), which did not participate fully in the High German movement or participated in other phonetic transitions, retain their originality. In countries such as Austria and Switzerland, their own variants of the German language have formed, formed on their own dialectal basis and consisting of specific features of phonetic and grammatical structure.

Some facts about modern German

As noted above, German is spoken not only in German-speaking countries, but also in some neighboring regions, for example, in eastern Belgium or northern Schleswig. In addition, the German language plays an important role in Central and Eastern Europe, in Finland, the Netherlands, Croatia.

At the moment, about 105 million people in Europe call German their native language (they are native speakers) and about 80 million know German as a foreign language. Among the 11 languages of the European Union, the following languages are native (as a percentage of the total population of the EU countries):

  • German - 24%.
  • French - 16%
  • English - 16%
  • Italian - 16%
  • Spanish - 11%
  • Dutch - 6%
  • Portuguese - 3%
  • Swedish - 2%
  • Danish - 1%
  • Finnish - 1%

German language difficulties

When translating from German into English and vice versa, it is necessary to take into account some specific and quite extraordinary features of the German language.

As in any other language, the first difficulty for the translator is to choose the correct meaning of a polysemantic word. Even the basis of a word in German can have a variety of meanings depending on the subject in which it is used. So, the German der Zug is both a train and a procession, and the process of movement itself, and in the technical dictionary: air stream, jet, exhaust seal, tensile force, etc. All these meanings are united by a rather extensive general scheme, which the translator must understand more intuitively than just at the level of memorized meanings in the dictionary. At the same time, the need to find a more specific English correspondence requires the translator to have a mandatory knowledge of the subject, especially when performing a technical translation.

Inherent difficulties in oral and written German translation include, for example, the need to choose the correct form of the past tense when translating into German. To convey the precedence relation in German, a certain combination of verb forms is necessary, similar to the coordination of tenses in English and unusual for the Russian language, which can sometimes be difficult for a translator. When translating from German, for example, a complex system for conveying the German indirect style using both the subjunctive mood and special constructions with modal verbs can become a problem (cf., e.g.: Er will es nicht getan haben - He claims that he did not do it; Er soll es nicht getan haben - It is said that he did not do it). Other infinitive constructions that have no analogues in the English language can also make the translator's task difficult.

The German language creates absolutely special conditions for oral simultaneous translation. The German word order prescribes the last place in the subordinate clause for the conjugated part of the predicate. This means that its “semantic core”, which is sometimes preceded by a lot of secondary members, will be expressed only at the end of the sentence, which keeps the simultaneous interpreter on tenterhooks: either he has to guess the meaning of the verbal predicate, or he runs the risk of the translation sounding extremely unnatural to a foreign listener.

These and many other features of the German language sometimes create additional difficulties for translators and require them to have not only special knowledge, but also a rather rich experience in translation.

Some curiosities about German

German is the most popular and relevant language in Europe and one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. And although we are all more or less familiar with this language, there are many unusual and interesting facts about it that we never knew before.

  1. German, like English and Dutch, belongs to the West Germanic language group. It has official status not only in Germany, but also in Austria, Switzerland and the state of Liechtenstein.
  2. German is the mother tongue of 105 million people and another 80 million speak it as a foreign language. Approximately 7% of all global Internet users are native German speakers and approximately 12% of queries on the Google search engine are made in German. In other words, German is the tenth most spoken language in the world and the fifth most popular and used language on the Internet.
  3. According to the existing legend, this language once almost became the official language in the United States. In 1775, after the end of the American War of Independence, a meeting of the Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia, where the future language of the state was chosen by vote. And despite the fact that many voters confidently sought to sever all ties with England, the English language won, by a margin of only 1 vote.
  4. It is widely reported on the Web that the first printed book in Europe was published in German, and that was the Bible, published in 1455 by John Gutenberg. In fact, this book was written in Latin. The first book printed in German was the Mentelin Bible, which appeared in 1466, 10 years later. It was printed by Johann Mentelin, who was one of the first book printers.
  5. Each of the German nouns has its own gender. And often it does not match the sense and meaning of the word. So, the word “girl” (“Mädchen”) in German for some reason is of the middle gender. As Mark Twain wrote in his book Walking Europe: “In German, girls have no gender, but turnip does.” Incidentally, it is often the generic affiliation of a word that determines its meaning. So, the word “Tor”, used with the neuter article, has a translation as “door”.
  6. German and English belong to the common group of Germanic languages, which explains their great similarity. Therefore, many German words not only sound like English, but also have a similar spelling and even denote the same concepts (e.g., Maus - mouse, Haus - house). However, there are occasional exceptions. For example, the word “fog”, which means “fog” in English, means “bird droppings” in German. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Irish eau de toilette with the name “Irish Mist” was not entirely popular in Germany, and was soon renamed “Irisch Moos”: Irish moss.
  7. There are German words that are sometimes difficult to translate. For example, “der Ohrwurm”, which means an obsessive melody that you heard somewhere and now you can't get it out of your head all day. However, the original meaning of this word is “earwig” (insect).
  8. The most popular favorite word among Germans is “Schatz”, which means “treasure”. This is what 95% of native speakers call their lovers. Other words of tenderness are “Hasi” (bunny), “Bärchen” (bear cub), “Herzblatt” (piece of heart), “Süßer” (sweet), “Liebling” (favorite), “Liebster” (most loved) , “Romeo” (Romeo) and even “Hengst” (stallion).
  9. There are many funny sayings in the German language. For example, a phrase like “Du hast Schwein!” means “You have a pig!”, uttered in relation to a person who considers himself lucky. But perhaps more interesting is the way of implying to a person that he is minding his own business. In such cases, Germans simply say “Das ist nicht dein Bier!”, which translates as “This is not your beer!”. Clear and quite clear.
  10. The longest officially used German word is Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. It consists of 63 letters, is made up of many shorter words and is the title of the Meat Labeling Delegation Act. In general, there are quite a few such long words in the German language. As the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once suggested, this is to gain some time for reflection during conversation.
  11. The slang word “fraer” came into many languages precisely from the German language. In its acquired meaning, it means a dandy and a potential victim of a crime. With the Germans, everything is much easier with this. Translated from German “der Freier” - the groom.
  12. In German, there is a funny word “Drachenfutter”, which translates as “food for the dragon”. This is what the Germans call the gift that a husband who is at fault before her gives his wife.

German is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world

German is recognized as one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. It is not surprising that translation agencies are often asked to translate a diploma, article, paper or other documentation into this interesting yet difficult language. So how difficult is it?

First of all, in the choice of terms. German is so “complicated” that even the root of a word can have different lexical meanings depending on the field in which it is used. However, the general scheme brings all values together. The linguist understands it quite intuitively, especially when dealing with technical documents.

Secondly, the difficulty lies in the fact that he must choose the correct form of the past tense. Therefore, simultaneous translation into German or vice versa is available only to professional linguists.

Thirdly, many dialects, each of which has its own unique characteristics, also bring many problems. Today, there are 8 regional versions of the language. As a result, not only a foreigner, but also a resident of a remote region of the country can be misunderstood.

Fourthly, German grammar and sentence construction can also be called easy to understand and comprehend.

At the same time, German is surprisingly flexible and malleable, so neologisms take root easily in its soil.

However, people who first saw the local newspapers were terribly surprised. Some terms take up two newspaper columns and others amount to entire sentences and paragraphs. Now you can understand why legal translation into German is so difficult. It is also quite obvious why words appeared here that combine several concepts at the same time. There are no analogues of such a phenomenon in the world.

Of course, the translator must take into account the cultural characteristics, traditions and culture of the people. One of them is the great seriousness and responsibility with which Germans treat their own life. The main credo here sounds like: “Order is above all!”. At the same time, the national humor is significantly different from the humor of other peoples, which should be taken into account. His style can be called avant-garde.

But what was most interesting was that the satirical texts lose a lot when translated from their native German into any other language.

Non-professional translators sometimes...

Non-professional translators sometimes confuse the articles, so that the meaning of the phrase may be understood incorrectly and incorrectly. The articles above are homonyms to other forms. Say die indicates the feminine in the singular, but in the plural it refers to words of any gender. Der - an indicator of masculine gender in the nominative case, feminine - in genitive and dative, plural - genitive.

Complex and even more difficult

German translation sometimes stalls due to unusually long words in which many roots and affixes overlap. For example, die Einbildungskraft - “the power of imagination”; das Haupterfordernis - “the main requirement”; das Überschallflugzeug - “supersonic airplane”.

It is important to consider the context here. The word Baustein can mean “natural stones”, “building materials” or “contribution”.

Unpredictable verbs

In German, verbs often require a different case. Say we say “he complained about an angry fellow traveler,” Germans in this case will put the noun in the accusative case (as a direct object). Ernennen requires the preposition zu, and the translation “called” is instrumental.

When translating into German, it is important to approach each verb carefully and individually: what seems familiar to a foreign person may be fundamentally wrong in German.


The difficulty may come from the pronouns is, which in a German sentence is most often found where it does not express much meaning. It is required by grammatical rules. When translating, you must use a descriptive construction, rearranging the sentence.

It is to have meanings such as “it”, “it”, to be a “false” subject or object, part of a phraseological phraseology; to act in passive structures.

There are unusual nuances in the use of other pronouns. For example, the word man indicates a stranger (“someone”, “somebody”), a generalized person (all at the same time, but without highlighting a specific person / person).

False words

The German ja is sometimes used in a sense that is unfamiliar to students of the language. This word can mean “certainly”, “of course”, “even”, “if only”, etc.

The words doch, auch, je, denn, jedoch also cannot be translated simply according to the dictionary, since the meanings of these words change depending on the extent of the context. It is important to read a paragraph (or even the following ones) before deciding on the expression of the meaning of such a small but undeniably important word.

Therefore, when translating from German, it is very important to be imbued with the spirit and semantic load of the textual material; only then will the translator be able to correctly convey the general and particular meaning.

The English-German translators of our agency are ready to cooperate. Quality and comfort guaranteed.

He, she or it in German

The difficulty is the gender mismatch of German words. The only reliable gender marker is the article (der, die or das). Logically, it will not work to find out the gender of the word: you must look at the article, learn, consult the dictionary. When translating into German, you should not particularly rely on your intuition: you will have to look repeatedly in reference books and various textbooks. For example, in German the words “book”, “song”, “year” are of the middle gender.

Translation is a process (almost like a dialectic) that creates transnational social links and spaces, revalues ​​local cultures and brings third cultures to the foreground, it is a process to avoid contradictions, misunderstandings and sometimes even conflicts of a varied nature.