i have never identified with a person more than i identify with mark twain

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Some exerpts from his essay, ''The Awful German Language'':

''Some German words are so long that they have a perspective. Observe
these examples: Freundschaftsbezeigungen, Dilettantenaufdringlichkeiten, Stadtverordnetenversammlungen. These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions. Or: Generalstaatsverordnetenversammlungen, Alterthumswissenschaften, Kinderbewahrungsanstalten, Unabhaengigkeitserklaerungen, Wiedererstellungbestrebungen, Waffenstillstandsunterhandlungen. Of course when one of these grand mountain ranges goes stretching across the printed page, it adorns and ennobles that literary landscape but at the same time it is a great distress to the new student, for it blocks up his way; ... "


''My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years. It seems manifest, then, that the latter tongue ought to be trimmed down and repaired. If it is to remain as it is, it ought to be gently and reverently set aside among the dead languages, for only the dead have time to learn it.''
''It is easier for a cannibal to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through the eye of a rich man's needle that it is for any other foreigner to read the terrible German script.''

I think this quote, below, is my favorite because it comments on the difference in a word's gender and a sentence's case. That is to say, there are several different ways to say ''the dog'' depending on what you are trying to say. So, you don't learn one word for ''the dog'', you have to learn, like, 10. And yes, this applies to all nouns.
''A dog is "der Hund"; a woman is "die Frau"; a horse is "das Pferd"; now you put that dog in the genitive case, and is he the same dog he was before? No, sir; he is "des Hundes"; put him in the dative case and what is he? Why, he is "dem Hund." Now you snatch him into the accusative case and how is it with him? Why, he is "den Hunden." But suppose he happens to be twins and you have to pluralize him- what then? Why, they'll swat that twin dog around through the 4 cases until he'll think he's an entire international dog-show all in is own person. I don't like dogs, but I wouldn't treat a dog like that- I wouldn't even treat a borrowed dog that way. Well, it's just the same with a cat. They start her in at the nominative singular in good health and fair to look upon, and they sweat her through all the 4 cases and the 16 the's and when she limps out through the accusative plural you wouldn't recognize her for the same being. Yes, sir, once the German language gets hold of a cat, it's goodbye cat. That's about the amount of it.''

''In early times some sufferer had to sit up with a toothache, and he put in the time inventing the German language.''
''Never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.''

Actually, this one (below) might be my favorite...it's so true.

''How charmed I am when I overhear a German word which I understand!''

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I started learning this dreadful language in the fall of 2007. Yes, I can speak it, and yes I can understand it and yes, I can even read/write it. Do I communicate with others? Yes. Do they understand me? Yup. Do I speak perfect German? Um.....that is not possible, sorry. I don't know if there will ever be a day I speak perfect German. It drives me crazy. Literally, I feel like living in this place is a mental boot camp. It makes me think the Spanish language is a gift from the heavens. It makes me resent anyone who was lucky enough to be taught this language as a baby. It makes me irate everytime a student says to me, ''English is soooo easy, I love it!''. However, it's also the most gratifying feeling in the world whenever I have a conversation in German with someone and it ends without me making 5 mistakes per minute. It is addictive, this language. I have a love-hate relationship with it. Some days it's all love....most days, it's all hate. Some days I say to myself, ''Oh my gosh, I just realized I don't know German.'' Other days, I say to myself, ''Oh my gosh, I know German!''. I know more German now than I ever have. But I am also exposed to more German now than I ever have been. Salzburg? Living with Americans (and international students who spoke English to everyone). Vienna? Working with Americans (and Austrians) but speaking English the majority of the day. Here, that is not the case...which I love....and hate.

2 comments:

Jan said...

I understand now what you've been talking about. Hearing Mark Twain's opinion is so funny.

Kayla said...

Ahhhh!!! Imagine what it is like for those of us that do not have your amazing skills at learning languages and started two years later!! I still can barely say a sentence! My "German dad" said I have one month until he speaks to me in German instead of English, yiiiikes! Help me!