Archive for the ‘German Language’ Category

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German(s) Outside Of Germany

Monday, March 26th, 2012

I kind of got sidetracked when I originally went to write this. It was supposed to be about cities all over the planet that had a large population of Germans.

But then, that just didn’t seem like enough. As if 17% of the United States’ population being of German decent wasn’t enough, right?

What I found was that over a million people in Australia speak German, and the language is widely spoken in Namibia and parts of South Africa (but that’s about it on the African continent).

I also learned that 20 million people in South America (16 million in Brazil) alone speak German, which is only eclipsed by the 25 million German speakers in North America.

Did you know the first German settlers to the United States (except it wasn’t the U.S. back then) came in the 1680s, who settled in what became known as Germantown, Pennsylvania? The Germans might be gone, but the name still remains as a neighborhood of Philadelphia.

New York wasn’t to be outdone. They had a neighborhood in Manhattan known as Little Germany (Kleindeutschland). By the 1850’s they had the third largest German population, including Germany itself.

Other cities in the U.S. can also boast a large German population: Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh to name a few. Perhaps this is why all sorts of German-American Clubs have sprung up all over, and German-American parades take place on October 6th for German Heritage Day. New York, however, holds their German-American Parade on the 3rd Saturday of September.

What caused this mass emigration of the German population? Sadly, it was war and famine, mostly. (Learn more at the German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven.)

One of the good things to come from all the Germans that left Germany is they spread their culture around the globe, introducing Kindergarten and the Christmas Tree to millions of children and homes in the process.

Think about that the next time you put that star on your tree or send a little one off for their first day of school. ;-)

We Speak Everything PLUS Standard German :-)

Monday, November 21st, 2011

If you’ve wandered around Baden-Württemberg you might have seen signs that read: Wir können alles. Außer Hochdeutsch.

Say what?

Translated, that means: We can do anything, expect speak Standard German.

What, they don’t speak German in Germany? Is this a joke? Maybe you thought you lost your marbles.

It’s more complicated than just speaking German in Germany—we speak High German, West Low German, East Low German, East Frisian, Low Saxon, Upper Sorbian, Lower Sorbian, Lower Silesian, Swabian, Baden, etc etc…

Whew, that’s a whole lotta language going on.

Just so you’re aware, not all the languages spoken in Germany are derived from German. Nope, over in Lower Lusatia, for example, you’ll hear (or read, since signs are bilingual) Lower Sorbian, which is based on a Slavic language.

Upper Sorbian is spoken by around 40,000 people in Upper Lusatia, which is an area found within Saxony (and cities like Bautzen).

And in Lower Saxony, almost a quarter of million people speak East Frisian (also called East Frisian-Low Saxon), which kind of sounds like Dutch. Hmm, these are the tea drinking folks of the country (unlike most of the coffee devouring rest of the country)—so why not speak something else, right? ;-)

West Low German is the biggie, spoken by around 4 million people. You’ll hear this dialect in Hamburg, parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Saxony-Anhalt, North Rhine-Westphalia, and even Denmark.

Doesn’t it seem like we’re all over the map? Yeah, it should—because just about everywhere in Germany, someone’s speaking another language, it seems.

I have to admit, it was the Lower and Upper Silesian that had me confused. Upper Silesian doesn’t have German roots (it has Polish beginnings), while Lower Silesian (spoken by around 23,000 people) does.

Maybe Germany’s motto should be that we can speak everything, PLUS Standard German. ;-)

German Words You Already Know

Monday, August 16th, 2010

I hear so many people tell me they would love to travel to Germany, but they are worried about being able to communicate. Not everyone is interested in language camps and schools in Germany, or even improving their German with German TV online.

So rather than pointing out that you can easily learn German, I thought I would use this post to point out the German words you already know.

These words are pure German, but English speakers use them all the time. They are what linguists call “loan words” or “borrowings,” which basically just means words you English speakers have adopted as your own.

Check out the list below . . . you’ve been speaking German all along and not even knowing it! :-)

  • Hamburger, anyone? You think this is a universal word from the American, but it’s really German. And so are delicatessen, strudel, frankfurter, bratwurst, sauerkraut, schnapps, vermouth and lager. Along with aspirin, which you may need if you have all of that together!
  • Many pets have German names, including your hamster, Dachshund, Schnauzer and Doberman. And your children attend Kindergarten which is German, of course.
  • Angst is a straight crossover word, along with gestalt.
  • Fest is a party in both languages, and the glitz at the party is also German.
  • Autobahn are those movie type of superhighways in Germany with no speed limit (given there is none).
  • More fun words include kaput (German: kaputt), hinterland, halt, pretzel (German: Bretzel), glitch, carabiner, nickel, poltergeist, rucksack, and wanderlust.

Along with straight crossovers, some words have shifted in meaning, but they are still German in origin. How many of these do you use?

  • Blitz is German for a lightning, but you English speakers now talk about an “advertising blitz” and also use the word to describe attack plays in American football.
  • Flak was originally an acronym for a type of machine gun in Germany, but English speakers now use the word to describe heavy criticism.

There are many other German loan words on record, including dozens that are more technical. Keep your ears peeled and your mind open to see how much more German you really use, thinking you are speaking pure English! ;-)


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