Is German hard to learn? An honest guide

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While German might not make the list of the easiest languages to learn, it isn’t one of the top ten most difficult ones either.

If you’re looking for a quick answer to whether learning German really is as hard as you’ve heard – the answer is yes and no.

We’ve considered some of the main reasons why people find German challenging and a few facts that might change your mind.

Read on to learn why learning German might not be as difficult as you think.

German is impossible to master.

Learning a new language can be challenging.

Especially when we try to learn them in a fast-paced world, maybe before or after work, or even in-between other tasks.

I get it:

German with its endless words and unfamiliarly harsh pronunciation doesn’t exactly sound like holidays at the beach.

But, if you already speak English, maybe this does:

Firstly, about 40% of German words are at least familiar to English words with the same meaning.

That’s nearly half of all the words you could ever learn!

Secondly, English and German stem from the same language family, so approximately 80% of common English phrases are of German origin as well.

For example:

I have  vs. Ich habe; or What is that? vs. Was ist das?

German words are too long to remember.

Wrong.

Well, maybe don’t start with “Aufmerksamkeitsdefizit-Hyperaktivitätsstörung” (ADHD), the longest word in the German dictionary.

The trick to mastering longer words is looking at the words they’re made up of.

In English, we often use a space or a hyphen between the two parts that make up a word.

In German, we usually spell all parts together.

For instance:

bus driver vs. Busfahrer

This also means that combining two German words together to make one up often works.

Go on, try it!

German pronunciation is harsh.

Guess what:

German pronunciation being difficult is also more on the fake-news side of things.

In fact, German is one of the few languages where pronunciation makes sense.

Each letter or letter combination usually always sounds the same, no matter where in a word it stands.

Unlike English, where letters constantly change their sounds: just think of vase, case and brass.

So once you’ve got the patterns down, sounding out a word in German is easier than you might think!

German grammar is too complex.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it:

German grammar is complex, can get frustrating at times, and will probably take a while to master.

Most learners struggle with grammatical cases (to be fair, they can be a pain even for native speakers).

But once you’ve understood how useful they are, you’ll see why it’s worth the work.

Cases help us be very precise and definitive when it comes to who does or receives the action in a sentence, for example.

Ultimately, this makes our communication clearer and more efficient.

On the bright side, understanding English grammar can be extremely beneficial to understanding German grammar.

And remember:

Lots of English and German phrases have the same stem, so the word order will feel familiar.

So don’t worry if you don’t always get the cases perfectly right every time.

People will still understand you, and that’s the main goal in the beginning, isn’t it?

So, is German really that difficult to learn?

With plenty of straightforward rules, German is not actually as hard to learn as most people think.

And since English and German stem from the same language family, you might actually be surprised at the things you pick up without even trying!

And on top of it all, it’s definitely a useful one too.

With about 130 million speakers, German is the 11th most spoken language in the world.

So what are you waiting for?

Check out our tips to improve your German, or start learning for free with Busuu today.

Anna is one of busuu’s German Language Experts. She is from Potsdam in Germany where she studied German Linguistics and Sociology. She loves writing short stories and anything related to art and design. Her favourite food is cheese!

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