German: Language of the European Economic Powerhouse
A country dotted with castles amid forests, Germany is picturesque and saturated with history. While Germany is known for its precision, organization and orderly diligence, German literature and music are also filled with deeply romantic yearnings. Beethoven’s triumphant “Ode to Joy” from his 9th Symphony, written after he became deaf, communicates a dawning and resilient happiness, a romantic rising above all odds. Now the anthem of the European Union, it is emblematic of the disciplined yet emotionally rich and always striving spirit of the German people and now – all of the EU.
A leading language in science, literature, and philosophy
The economic powerhouse of the EU, a source of stability as well as productivity, Germany is poised to remain a leader. As the 21st century unfolds, German is in use wherever international business or scientific research is conducted. The second most used language in science and the third language most used on websites, German is spoken by 88 million people as their first language, and around 10 million as a second language. A person who knows German will never be at a loss for reading materials. Philosophers like Nietzsche and Hegel and writers like Kafka and Holderlin are only the start of a deeper journey. Today, Germany is ranked fifth in the annual publication of new books with one-tenth of all books published worldwide being published in German. German business etiquette is direct and sometimes blunt, but punctuality as well as a no-nonsense approach where professionalism is valued and hierarchies are respected, has helped to establish the German economy as a powerful force worldwide.
Martin Luther was pivotal to modern German
Martin Luther was an early progenitor of the German language as we know it today. He translated the Bible into German, helping to standardize the language and spread its influence. Luther’s translation was based primarily on the bureaucratic language of the time which retained the grammatical system of Middle High German. From these early efforts, German eventually became standardized as a written language though the dialects actually spoken in various regions varied. Eventually, in the beginning of the 20th century, an Orthographical Conference further established the standardization of German in its written form. Today, successive Orthological Conferences have refined that process and a standard German is used in broadcast media, literature, and in government.
Three standards of German
German is a pluricentric language. Pluricentric languages have distinct versions in different regions. These are not considered dialects but actually are different varieties of standard German. They are Swiss Standard German, German Standard German, and Austrian Standard German. While regional differences are defining, these varying standards should not be confused with regional dialects. Regional standards of German may be influenced by local dialects, but they are distinct as a whole and form their own unique standard of the language. Vocabulary and some grammar, pronunciation, and orthography differ between the standard German languages. English is also pluricentric and like Germany has differences between regional standards. American English is distinct from British English with certain vocabulary and spelling conventions for example — although the two are similar enough to be understood by speakers of each.
Compound words and flexible word order
German has many distinctive features. Most memorable to English speakers are the long compound words in German that are written without spaces or hyphens. Some of these compound words can be extraordinarily long, sometimes stacking ten words together to form one long compound. Word order in German also differs from English in that it is more flexible and has no bearing on whether the noun is a subject or object. This flexibility allows German speakers to emphasize certain words or to use “language tools” like poetic meter or certain figures of speech more freely.
English is a Germanic language
Certainly, the study of German opens up a world for English speakers. English is actually part of the Germanic family of languages although it went off into a unique direction of its own at an earlier juncture point in history. The German language carries a historical trajectory that can help English speakers understand our own language’s history and development over time. With so many in the EU speaking German and Germany being such a dynamic and important trading and cultural partner of the United States, certainly studying German is well worth the effort.
Chang-Castillo and Associates can also open up the doors to understanding German, whether it is written or spoken. Let us know when you need a document translated or an event interpreted, contact us for a free consultation today. Thank you and vielen Dank!