What is Foreign Exchange to Me?

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Friday, April 27, 2012

German, English, and the Letter “Y”

“German is more a throat condition than a language.”

First and foremost, the letter “y” is a very confused letter. In English,image it’s pronounced “why,” in German it’s pronounced “upsilon” and in Spanish it’s pronounced “igriega” (ee-gree-ay-guh). Most of the other letters are at least reasonably similar… but not “y.” No, “y” is very confused.

Now, this isn’t only German’s fault, but has anyone who has tried to learn a second language ever noticed, only the verbs you regularly need are irregular? For example:

TO BE (or not to be!):

English (to be) German (sein) Spanish (ser)
I am Ich bin Yo soy
You are Du bist Tu eres
He/She/It is Er/Sie/Es ist El/Ella/Usted es
We are Wir sind Nosotros somos
You are Ihr seid Vosotros sois
They are Sie sind Ellos/Ustedes son

“I never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.”

I remember eight months ago I thought even if the world depended on it, there’s no chance I’m ever going to learn German… and now I speak it fluently. I’ve even lost my “American accent.” My Rotary Youth Exchange imageOfficer came up to me one day all proud and told me it no longer sounds like I’m speaking with a potato in my mouth. Silly Americans, all speaking with potatoes in our mouths. I’m seriously tempted to put a potato in my mouth and start speaking, just to see if I can get my old accent back.

“English and German both belong to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. Because they are so closely related, they share many features.”

IndoWhile that may be true, it doesn’t necessarily make German any easier to learn, and don’t even get me started about spelling. Just last week I was asking one of my friends if he went to his ‘ziminafa’ (basically the equivalent to an U.S. high school ‘homeroom’) to which he laughed and told me it’s spelled ‘seminarfach.’ But to be fair, this is the same friend that spelled ‘headache’ like ‘head dick.’

I think the most annoying aspect of German to me (now that I’ve gotten used to piling verbs on top of each other at the end of sentences) is the dreaded “Sie.” Not only can “Sie” mean, she and them, but it’s also the “formal” form of speaking (think the “Usted” form of Spanish)… but what really bothers me about it is you can be talking to one person or five hundred strangers, but it still translates to “Are they…” It frustrates me so much! I can’t help but think, “Please stop addressing me in the third person plural even if that’s normal in your language!” 

“In early times some sufferer had to sit up with a toothache, and he put in the time inventing the German language.”

I may give German a hard time, but for some strange reason (despite how much I criticize it), I love it.


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Days in Germany