Problems for learners in GermanyEnglish, being a West Germanic language, is similar to German in many ways. For example some vocabulary is quite similar (some is even identical), as is some grammar, such as the subject-verb-object rule. There are however many differences which confuse German learners. Many of these differences can only be memorised, such as 'false friends'. False friends are words that appear similar (or the same) in both German and english
but carry different meanings in each language. This is a unique problem among Germanic languages. A few examples of 'false friends' are 'bald', which means lack of hair in english
, but means 'soon' in German. The word 'fast' which means 'quickly' in english
, but means 'almost' in German, and the word 'gift', which in english
means 'present', but in German means 'poison'. These need to be properly explained to learners of english
, as it can result in some major misunderstandings otherwise. There is a quote from www.german.about.com that says, "The good news: German and english
are closely related and have many words in common. And the bad news? German and english
are closely related and have many words in common."
Another major difference between english
and German, is that english
lacks in language cases, and German contains four (nominative, accusative, dative and genitive). As a general statement, this would suggest that english
grammar is easier than German grammar, but this is far from the truth. Language cases act as a sort of 'guide' when it comes to forming sentences, and though they are challenging for an english
speaker when learning German, having no cases at all is a completely alien concept to the German mind. This leads to confusion about grammar and sentence structure, as english
follows word order rules, and not rules which are governed by cases.
There is a major problem among students when they come to realise that english
is not a phonetic language. This is not just an issue for German learners, it is an issue for every student who has ever picked up an english
dictionary. As there are often no rules regarding the pronunciation of english
, words and their respective pronunciations can only be memorised. There are however unique problems for German learners, for example, the diphthongs 'ie', and 'ei' can be pronounced interchangeably in english
. In German, 'ie' and 'ei' may only ever be pronounced one way. As they are interchangeable in english
, it presents difficulties for German learners, as they are accustomed to pronouncing these diphthongs in one way.
prepositions can also cause problems among German learners, and among the other Germanic languages. As english
and German share many prepositions that sound very similar, such as 'in/in', 'by/bei', 'on/an', 'out of/aus' and 'to/zu', it can be very confusing for German speakers to use these prepositions in the correct places, as these prepositions do not have equal usage in both languages. This is another situation where there are sketchy rules surrounding prepositions, and most usages have to be memorised.
Many people believe that between english
and German, few problems would be encountered when trying to learn either of the languages, due to their being in the same language family. However Germans and native english
speakers who have learnt German will say otherwise. There are many differences between German and english
, which are foreign and very challenging for German learners to overcome. As this research article is a summary of the difficulties experienced, only the most relevant issues are mentioned.