Is German Difficult as Compared to Other Foreign Languages?


Learning a foreign language offers a lot of advantages in terms of career and personal growth. One can look beyond the opportunities available locally and can make a career in a foreign country as well. Some of the most popular foreign languages are French, German, and Spanish.

German language is taught in schools nowadays and has gained immense popularity among students intending to pursue their bachelor’s degree. Now, every language has a difficulty level that may differ from person to person depending on their level of interest and determination to learn it. It is much easier for an English speaker to learn the Romance languages or other Germanic languages such as Afrikaans, Danish, or Dutch than to learn German.

However, according to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US government which ranks languages in terms of difficulty, German is a tier II language. Considering that there are five tiers in total, with tier V including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean, tier II is not that daunting. This indicates that German is not hard to learn after all!

When it comes to German, it is usually said that it is difficult to learn, especially German grammar and German pronunciation. Social media has no dearth of memes and jokes going around blasting German as a super difficult language. If anything, it does a lot to further strengthen the prejudices.

Now the German words and German spellings may sound and appear intimidating but you should also consider the fact that German is the twelfth most spoken language in the world and has approximately 135 million speakers. And what is surprising is the fact that out of this number, a mere 75 million are natives. This makes it look like German is certainly not that hard to learn. Moreover, it is only when you learn that you get to find out.

Thus, complex grammar and long words may not be that difficult to learn and master. These may sound difficult and make a beginner apprehensive, but with time and effort, these can surely be mastered. Mentioned below are some of the factors that will help you understand that learning German is not that difficult. There are certain myths that need to be busted.


1. It is Super Challenging to Pronounce German

No, it is not. There are numerous videos available on the internet that exaggerate this. Whereas, the truth is that the German language is actually simple to pronounce as compared to many other languages. In fact, in terms of phonetics, German is one of the few languages wherein the pronunciation makes sense. Mostly each letter sounds the same irrespective of its place in a word. Compare this to English where pronunciation does not follow any rule and can give a difficult time to beginners! Therefore, it is not a herculean task to pronounce German as compared to English tongue-twisters.


2. German Words are Super Long

Well, this is not always the case. One of the reasons people find German difficult is because of the long words the language vocabulary has. But there is more than what meets the eye. The fact is that most of the words are compound words. What it means is that in German grammar, different words are put together to create a new word. Now, how is that different from English? Well, the difference is that the English language makes use of spaces and hyphens to make it appear simpler. But German doesn’t, and thus, everything is spelt together.


Consider the following examples to have a better understanding.

It means “Worker Accident Insurance Act”.

It means “Narcotics Prescription Ordinance.

It means “Danube steamship company captain.”

So, you get the drift! With tricks and practice, these long words will no longer appear challenging.

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3. Multiple Genders and Complexity of Formal and Informal Language

The German language has three genders, namely- feminine, masculine, and neuter. But this is not the case only with German. Many other languages have the same. Just because English doesn’t have three genders, doesn’t necessarily make it a language easier to learn.

Let us talk about the difference between formal and informal German. For the pronoun ‘you’, German uses two forms –

  • Sie, which is formal and used to address colleagues or strangers.
  • Du, which is informal and sue to address friends and family.

But then so is also the case with, say, Spanish. It uses tu (informal) and usted (formal) for ‘you’.


4. German Grammar is Difficult to Comprehend

Now, it may be a bit complex, but it is certainly not incomprehensible. Now another aspect one needs to be aware of about German is that it is a very logical language. It is all about getting a grip on the rules and you will not find it intimidating anymore. Moreover, there is a shared vocabulary between English and German, and thus English and German phrases follow the same order.

For instance, Was ist das? – What is that?
Sounds quite familiar, right?

Therefore, it is evident that the German language is not impossible to learn. One can very much master it by following the right techniques and practice methods. According to FSI, an English speaker needs 750 class hours or 30 weeks of practice to become fluent in German. This may not hold true for every individual, but determination and interest make it simpler.

The objective should be to enjoy the learning process and converse in German as much as possible. One learns a lot from mistakes and this helps in gaining a solid understanding of concepts. Also, one should try and use innovative methods of learning – interactive videos, apps, books, listening to German music, watching German movies, and most importantly, speaking with the natives.

This will boost your confidence like nothing else and you will get to learn a lot of colloquial terms, phrases, idioms, and other usages. Follow a set routine, and dedicate allotted hours to practice and learn the concepts. This will ensure that you master the language and speak it fluently like a native.

Viel Glück!!


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Can I learn German online?

One can learn basic German greetings, numbers, etc., online. However, to learn the language, one needs to take up a formal course.

How much time does it take to learn German?

The course duration varies from institute to institute. Ideally, to be done at the basic level. Thus, a minimum of three months is needed.

Is German difficult to learn?

German may not be the easiest of the languages to learn, but it is not difficult to learn once you get an understanding of the basic rules and logic.

How can one improve their German pronunciation?

To work on pronunciation, doing audio exercises is a must; listening to German music and watching German movies will also help a lot.

How is German ranked as a language in terms of difficulty?

According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US government which ranks languages in terms of difficulty. German is a tier II language. Hence, It indicates that German is not hard to learn after all!

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