Friday, November 21, 2014

Why I Love German, Germans, and Germany

After recently visiting the Netherlands and becoming rather fond of the country, its people, and its language as part of an ongoing railway trek around Europe, I made my way to Germany. 

My first destination in Germany was Hamburg, which I got to with relative ease despite an absence of national rail services that day due to a strike. As a Brit this amused me greatly since we're always complaining about the lacklustre rail service in our country.

I've only been fortunate enough to visit Germany once before during a previous Europe-wide expedition over half a decade ago when I visited Berlin for two nights. Despite being turned away from a club without any given reason, I enjoyed my time there. Armed with nothing but a phrasebook, I did my utmost to remember the year of German I took when I was 14 years old.

German is not one of my spoken languages and the amount I learnt in school accounts for little more than simple greetings, numbers, and how to ask for directions. Despite this, using the same outdated phrasebook and the internet, I managed to find the missing vocabulary I needed in most situations.

Much like in the Netherlands, I was lucky enough to enjoy some local hospitality. After making my way to M√ľnster via Bremen, I sampled some fantastic German baked goods and beers, of course. From there it was a long but pleasant train journey to Munich, where I was told to prepare for a very different (in a good way) variety of German.

While making the mistake of overindulging in one of Munich's most popular pursuits, drinking, I was treated very kindly by everyone I met, who were more than willing to humour me as I attempted to speak their language, patiently listening as I horrendously butchered it.

I'll admit that I don't learn languages very well from reading verb tables, and as a result find myself eavesdropping on anyone and everyone in public spaces. Thanks to this seemingly rude practice, I'd like to debunk the myth that German is an aggressive and harsh-sounding language. While admittedly not as melodic as Italian, perhaps, I found the phonemes to be rather soothing.

I was also fascinated by the prevalence of compound nouns in German. While I had also noticed this in Dutch, in German it seemed so much more mind-boggling, perhaps due to the diacritic marks used, and therefore more interesting.

Now I'm not sure whether to learn Dutch or German upon my return home. Have you learnt or do you speak either of these languages? If so, make your case for which one I should focus on in the comments below.