The Awful German Language

I’ve been taking German since September, and it’s finally started to ‘click’ for me. The language does have an incredibly complex grammar. The following quote is from Mark Twain’s essay “The Awful German Language.”

The Germans have another kind of parenthesis, which they make by splitting a verb in two and putting half of it at the beginning of an exciting chapter and the OTHER HALF at the end of it. Can any one conceive of anything more confusing than that? These things are called “separable verbs.” The German grammar is blistered all over with separable verbs; and the wider the two portions of one of them are spread apart, the better the author of the crime is pleased with his performance.

The quote is also reproduced in my German workbook, since we’re now learning about separable and inseparable prefixes.

German grammar really is full of surprises. It’s remarkably different from English grammar, which seems more similar to French and Spanish. Yet English is considered a Germanic language. I, for one, and still confused as to how, but perhaps knowing more about Old and Middle English will help.

Still, if nothing else, studying German is a good intellectual exercise, and a good lesson in how languages, even closely related ones, can vary.

2 thoughts on “The Awful German Language

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