German - interesting facts
German is the native language of 105 million people (more than 1.5% of the world's population), which places it 11th in the world regarding the number of native speakers.
Deutsch is an official language primarily in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as in Belgium, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein. German is also an official language in the provinces of Trentino and South Tyrol (northern Italy), and is a regional language in Alsace (eastern France). Interestingly, this language also serves as the official language of the Swiss Guard in the Vatican. In the past, it was the official language of Namibia.
German belongs to the group of Germanic languages, derived from the Old High German language, and the oldest German text is the Latin Old High German dictionary (Abrogans), in which the biblical terms are explained. The translation of the Bible made in the 16th century by Martin Luther, based on the spoken language used by the inhabitants of Upper Saxony and Thuringia at that time, played a major role in the formation of the standard German variety (Hochdeutsch).
A large dialectal diversity characterizes modern German, and its varieties are important to regional identity. German dialects differ significantly in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. They are also partially incomprehensible even to native Germans (e.g. the Bavarian dialect). The variants of German spoken by the inhabitants of Switzerland and Austria also have many peculiarities.
The rules of German spelling have been amended several times, and now the institution responsible for regulating them is the Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung (Council for German Spelling) based in Mannheim. The Goethe-Institut, among others, deals with popularising the German language.
German belongs to the official languages of the EU and several international organizations, such as the OSCE, FIFA, the European Space Agency and Reporters Without Borders.
A characteristic feature of the German language is long noun complexes (by combining nouns, new words are created). The absolute record in this respect is the 79-letter noun Donau¬dampfschiffahrts-elektrizitäten¬hauptbetriebswerk¬bauunterbeamten¬gesellschaft.
In Bavaria and Austria, the most common official form of greeting is the Grüß Gott formula (literally God's Happiness), not Guten Morgen or Guten Tag.
A very interesting variation of the German language, threatened with extinction, is the Pennsylvania language. The Amish use it in several states of the USA. In this variant, the features of the German language from the 18th century are preserved.
In German, all nouns are capitalized.
Number of German speakers
German is a language of great importance in the world. It is spoken by about 130 million people, 95 million of whom are native speakers. German is the official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Belgium, as well as in the regions of Italy and Denmark. For Poles who live near the German border, knowledge of German can be very useful, especially in work and intercultural communication.
Relationship with other languages
Unsurprisingly, German belongs to the family of Germanic languages. These languages are descended from pre-Indo-European, meaning they have common roots. German is closely related to English and Dutch, making it easier for Poles to learn, especially if they already know English.
Difficulty in grammar
The German language is famous for its difficult grammar, which can cause some problems for Poles. German has four cases, three grammatical types (masculine, feminine, and neuter), and complex declension rules. However, it is worth remembering that the Polish language also has complicated grammar, which may make it easier for Poles to understand some German rules.
An interesting feature of German is creating long, complex words by combining a few words. This creates complex constructions such as "Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän" or "Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz". Although it seems difficult for many, this method of creating words is very expressive and allows for a quick understanding of the meaning.
Lexical Similarities and “False Friends”
Despite the differences between Polish and German, many words come from the same source and have similar sounds and meanings. For example: Apfel (apple), Bruder (brother), Garten (garden) or Freund (friend). Thanks to these similarities, learning German may be a little easier for Poles. However, there are also so-called false friends, that is, words that sound similar, but have different meanings, for example, the German "Rat" means advice, not a rat, or "sympathisch", which means sympathetic, not sympathetic. For this reason, it is worth paying attention to these differences when learning to avoid misunderstandings.
It is worth remembering that the German language has many dialects that differ from one region to another. Some of them, such as Bavarian, Saxon or Silesian, have their own phonetics, grammar and vocabulary. For Poles, this can be both a curiosity and a challenge, especially if they plan to travel around Germany or have contact with people speaking different dialects. Therefore, it is worth gaining knowledge about regional language varieties in order to understand the interlocutors better.
German and the Language of Science and Culture
The German language has a rich history related to science and culture. In the 19th century, Germany was one of Europe's main scientific and cultural centres. Therefore, many fundamental scientific, philosophical and artistic concepts derive from German. For Poles interested in science or culture, learning German may be the key to understanding many important texts and ideas that have influenced the development of science or art in the world.
German idioms and proverbs
German, like Polish, abounds in interesting idioms and proverbs. For Poles, they can be a source of both fascination and difficulty. It is therefore worth getting to know a few of them to better understand German culture and way of thinking. Examples of German idioms are: "Tomaten auf den Augen haben" (literally to have tomatoes in front of one's eyes, that is, not to notice something obvious) or "Da liegt der Hund begraben" (literally there lies a dog buried, that is, there lies the essence of the matter). Learning German idioms and proverbs can make it easier for Poles to communicate with German-speaking interlocutors and understand their mentality.
German in Business
Germany is one of Poland's most important trading partners, and German is often required as a second foreign language in Polish companies, especially those operating internationally. Therefore, for Poles who plan to develop their professional careers, knowledge of German may constitute a significant competitive advantage. In addition, learning German can help Poles establish business contacts, participate in fairs or negotiate with German partners.
The of German on English
English and German share common roots, being part of the larger Germanic family of languages. This common ancestry is evident in the vast number of cognates (words with a common etymological origin) in the two languages. Basic words like 'mother' (Mutter in German), 'father' (Vater), 'brother' (Bruder), and 'house' (Haus) showcase this shared heritage.
Beyond this, the impact of German on English increased during the 19th and 20th centuries due to scientific, philosophical, and technological advancements in the German-speaking world. Words related to psychology, such as 'angst' and 'zeitgeist', have been borrowed directly from German. Many academic terms, such as 'seminar' and 'doppelgänger', also have German roots.
Regarding food and drink, terms like 'lager', 'pretzel', 'sauerkraut', and 'bratwurst' are familiar to English speakers, particularly in regions with significant German immigrant populations. These contributions from German have enriched the English vocabulary and continue to reflect the ongoing cultural and scientific exchange between the two languages.
Your Essential German
|thank you||danke (daŋkə)|
|I'm sorry||entschuldigung (ɛntʃʊldiɡʊŋ)|
|good morning||guten Morgen (ɡu:tən ˈmɔrɡən)|
|good evening||guten Abend (ɡu:tən ˈa:bənt)|
|goodbye||gute Nacht (ɡu:tə naχt)|
|good night||auf Wiedersehen (aʊf ˈvi:dɐˌze:ən)|
|how are you?||Wie geht's? (vi: ɡe:ts)|
|well||Danke, gut. (daŋkə, ɡu:t)|
|My name is...||Ich heiße... (ɪç haɪsə...)|
|I don't understand||Ich verstehe nicht (ɪç fɛɐʃte:ə nɪçt)|
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