Should I study German?

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a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I think to some degree method is probably going to vary somewhat depending on the person? One can intuit a great deal of meaning without ever learning, not just conjugation or a more formal vocabulary, but almost any words. I am ashamed to confess that I cheated through my high school Spanish courses as through all other courses at that point -- so I had enough to be 'foundational' but not more -- and then spent six months in Mexico, and could understand what people said to me quite well (I could understand sermons, conversations, made my way around Mexico City alone on public transportation etc); but it was all so very mysterious because I never learned even the words I apparently understood when others used them, which became obvious when I tried to read something, or to speak to others.

I would vote for rigorous formal instruction under an autocratic teacher personally :). I think it's the only method that would work for me.

-----Added 12/8/2009 at 09:37:56 EST-----

Or perhaps this whole discussion simply begs the larger question: should Presbyterians even take part in language "immersion" programs? Is there a more biblical teaching style that is in line with the sprinkling and/or pouring seen in Scripture.
PS. Perhaps you should have this moved to the 'paedo answers' forum :).


Staff member
Heidi, I wonder if you have an unusual learning style, and perhaps a talent for languages? What you describe sounds like a small child learning a language for the first time. Wow!


Puritanboard Botanist
Again I forgot something before giving advice. As Herr Heck pointed out, German is so easy even the little kids there speak it.


Puritan Board Junior
Deutsch ist eine shoene Sprache. Mit die kann man Theologie besser studieren. Sie auch macht Bier trinken wunderbar!


Puritan Board Professor
Everyone here should take English! That will not help you at all with Latin or German or any other language. But it is very useful as an American.


Puritan Board Graduate
Everyone here should take English! That will not help you at all with Latin or German or any other language. But it is very useful as an American.
Plus, it's a required course for pretty much any degree anywhere. :)

edit: And, depending on whether or not you get into the Latin roots of English words, it can help, actually.


Puritanboard Botanist
Student lament:

Latin is a language
It's dead as it can be
It killed the ancient Romans
And now it's killing me


Puritan Board Professor

Story of Allan MacRae, who studied in Germany for his doctorate--he rented a room from an older widow and would daily converse with her over lunch. He got to the point where he was dreaming in German. That's immersion.

Wouldn't you agree Wayne that really, a pouring or sprinkling of a language is more biblically appropriate? :lol:

Oops! Just noticed Ben's earlier comment...


Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Actually, a smattering of a language or two has, for me, been sufficient thus far.


Puritan Board Doctor
About immersion

I worked in France for eight months, I had taken a basic course in French before that.

I was surrounded by french all day, and I progressed incredibly fast that way. In just a couple of months I was getting by fine. But, I had no clue as to why certain things were said in one way, others in another.

I had no grammar skills, though by induction you can get far.

And I only learned what was necessary for work and for small talk. If I open a french Bible I have no clue as to what it says.

For immersion to work, I think you'd need to spend one day with a farmer, one day with a chef, one day with a car mechanic, one day with a theologian etc.
This is a brilliantly relevant point. When I first went to China, I was immersed up to my neck (and then some) in the language. I was there to help set up a factory, and after a few months the equipment came in by ship. My boss basically said: "The production line is over there, your employees are over here. They don't speak English, you don't speak Chinese. You have six weeks to get it working." Amazing how fast you can learn in a situation like that. However, while I can blow your mind in a Chinese hardware store, I am fairly lost when walking into a bakery supply shop. Fully rounded immersion is great, but few people ever get it.


Puritan Board Sophomore
The current version is pretty expensive, unless you work for them. I think it's a couple hundred dollars. My husband used to work for them, that's how we got ours. You might be able to get an older version, still good, on ebay or some place like that.

Der Pilger

Puritan Board Freshman
So here's my question: would studying German help me in my Latin studies next year?
It's possible that studying any language will improve your knowledge of grammatical concepts. I studied German for a long time, and besides learning the language itself, I picked up on many grammatical concepts that I had only been vaguely familiar with beforehand, such as accusative, genitive, dative, and dependent and independent clauses. Now, when I study Koine Greek, these terms pose no difficulty to me and I can dive right in to actually working on the content itself rather than scratching my head and wondering, "Was accusative the direct object, or was that the genitive?"

Also, for those of you who have some experience with German, would you recommend it as a good language to study?
Given the enormous learning curve of mastering a foreign language, I wouldn't recommend studying any language unless one either has a good, practical reason for doing so or simply thrives on that sort of thing. I also wouldn't recommend it to anyone who lacks patience and perseverance. The whole "Learn _________ in 30 minutes a day" is absolute bunk. Mastering a language takes sheer toil and sweat.

Note that I used the word "master" above. That is different from learning. I can play "Scotland the Brave" on the harmonica, but I have not mastered the instrument.

Is it difficult, and if so, why? Any comments you may have would be most appreciated!
That's difficult to answer. It's like asking, "Is learning math difficult?" Language acquisition can vary from one individual to the next. Some are better able than others to wrap their minds around vocabulary, spelling, and other linguistic challenges. Others might have a weakness in languages but have a strength in math. But generally speaking, I will say this: Yes, German is a difficult language, and for these reasons (some of which might not deter you since you've studied Latin, which probably is just as complex):

Highly inflected: varying word endings for nouns, verbs, articles and adjectives dependent on number, gender (three), case, etc.

Word order is different from English, for example, in dependent clauses. The verbs in the dependent clause in the following sentence:

I don't think that I will go to the store tonight.

when in German would be reversed in order and tacked on to the end of the clause, like this:

I don't think that I to the store tonight go will.

Sorry for the lengthy reply, but I hope it helps.


Puritanboard Botanist
They don't speak English, you don't speak Chinese. You have six weeks to get it working." Amazing how fast you can learn in a situation like that.
I had to promise to learn conversational Zulu in 6 weeks as well. Throwing a guy into the deep end works.


Puritanboard Commissioner
Zulu? Tim you NEVER cease to amaze me!

I'm hardly competent in English!

On Rosetta Stone, the basic edition may be around $200 but the full treatment is more than $500 in some languages.
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