Recently, my mom’s priest, Father Peter, asked me what I do for a living. I said that I’m pursuing a degree in German and a graduate degree in teaching it. He asked me why and I told him what I’ve always felt about it: it’s the most efficiently expressive language I know.
In fairness, I don’t know a lot of languages. But I did study Spanish for five years in school, and I’ve been to a handful of Spanish speaking countries. And I took a few semesters of Italian. And I dabbled in French before going to Paris. I really love languages and German stands out to me above the rest for having the richest vocabulary and the strictest grammar.
Maybe strict grammar sounds less like a perk than a pain, but to me it’s awesome. Having a set of rules to follow makes deciphering their seemingly endless sentences possible and, dare I say, simple! Well, I’ll say simpler. It’s for these reasons that I want to teach German to the higher levels of learning. I’ve got a ways to go in this pursuit, but I’m working on living there for a while. More on this when the details are herausgefunden. (It’s going to happen, I’m just finalizing the duration and living arrangements.)
The example I gave Father Peter is “einmotten.” When I look it up on dict.cc it says that there is no translation. The best it gives is “to mothball,” which makes zero sense to us. But what it means is to put your clothes up, in a container with mothballs to preserve them. I learned this word from a German hip-hop song (below) that my infinitely wise (street and academically) friend, Marion, helped me translate.
I could come up with a million examples of how the German language encompasses a world of feeling in a single word, but in English we need several. Take “Gemütlichkeit.” In English that roughly translates to “an atmosphere of comfort, peace, acceptance, friendliness and coziness.” Also, Schadenfreude. It’s a word that means to be spitefully or maliciously happy about another person’s misfortune.
Father Peter then told me that German is the language of religion. He’s from Slovakia but has lived in the US for about 20 years, I think he said. So he speaks five languages, German being one of them. He said that when religious scholars write, German is the commonly accepted language for that reason, it expresses complex ideas thoroughly and efficiently.
I hadn’t known that. Es war eine Offenbarung. Here’s a list of interesting German words that I’ll be adding to my Wortschatz. https://www.fluentu.com/blog/german/german-words-in-english/
And for added fun, 🙂 here is the German hip-hop song that puts me in an immediate good mood. I will be adding it (and others by Peter Fox, Falco, Nena, et al) to my running list. It only makes sense to run to German music as I train for my half marathon in Hamburg later this summer. Viel Spaß beim Zuhören!