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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The German Language

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Sprechen sie Deutsch? (Do you speak German?)

Deutsch? no, sorry, I don't speak Dutch

Hello language enthusiasts. Welcome to the Langfocus channel and my name is Paul

Today I'm going to talk about the German language.

German is a very important language that deserves all of our attention.

It is spoken by 95 million native speakers, mainly in central Europe

but it's also spoken by an additional 10 to 15 million second language speakers, especially in Eastern Europe.

It is the majority language and an official language in Germany, of course

but also Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the South Tyrol region of Northern Italy.

It's also an official language in Luxembourg and Belgium but it's not a majority language there.

German is the most widely spoken language in the European Union.

It is also one of the most widely taught languages in the world with between 75 and 100 million people having studied it as a foreign language

In both, the United States and in Europe, it is the third most widely taught foreign language.

Did you know that one tenth of the world's books are published in German ?

German is also the second most widely used scientific language.

I know some doctors and all of them have some reading knowledge of German because so much scientific research is documented in German.

So are you starting to get an idea of why German is important?

German is a member of the West Germanic language family, which also includes Dutch, Afrikaans, Frisian, English and Yiddish

The West Germanic languages are part of the wider Germanic language family

So let's take a look at the origins of the Germanic language family.

Wait, actually no. I did this in my last video. So...

I'm just going to play that part again while I go get a coffee and I'll be right back

All Germanic languages developed from Proto-Germanic which was spoken around 500 BCE

Proto-Germanic possibly originated in Scandinavia

and different varieties of Germanic began to emerge with migration.

Runic inscriptions from the 2nd century CE show us that, by that time, Proto-Germanic had began to separate into distinct Western, Eastern and Northern dialects.

Oh sorry. Are you guys waiting for me?

Well, let's move on.

The West Germanic dialects were probably closely related enough to be mutually intelligible until about the 8th century CE.

But, at that time, something was happening that would split the Germanic language family and give birth to the German language as we know it today.

That was the High Germanic Sound Shift (or the High Germanic Consonant Shift)

Some West Germanic varieties underwent a number of sound changes.

Nine consonants changed to be precise and this created two distinct groups of Germanic dialects:

High German or Hochdeutsh and Low German or Plattdeutsh

And, just out of interest, let me pronounce these words a different way:

High Deutsch and Flat Deutsch. Hmm... maybe there's a connection with English.

High German dialects arose in the southern areas of Germany which are at a higher elevation.

That's why they're called "High German".

The Low German dialects existed in the northern part of Germany at a lower elevation and also in the Netherlands.

These terms do not refer to high and low status but rather to the elevation of the areas they were spoken in.

High German can be further subdivided into 2 segments: upper German and central German

So what were the sound changes that took place? Well, let's take a look.

These consonant changes took place in three stages:

In the first stage, these consonants changed intervocalicly. That means between vowel sounds.

The p sound, the "puh" became a "fuh".

The "t" sound became a "ss" and the "k" sound became a "ch"

Here's an example for the English word for "sleep".

In Low German it's "slapen", but in German, it's "schlafen".

In the second stage, these consonants changed at the beginning of a word and also in some other context like

If they are the second letter in a double consonant or after an L or R

So the sound "puh" became "pfuh" like a "p" and an "f" together.

the "t" sound became a "z"; it sounds like a TS sound, even though it's written with a Z.

And the K sound became a kch like a k sound followed by ch

here's an example for the english word "tame"

In Lower German, it's "tamm", but in High German it's "zahm".

In the third stage, three more consonants changed :

B sound became a P, D sound became a T, and G sound became a K.

Here's an example for the English word for "day":

In lower German it's "dag", but in High German, it's "tag".

All of these sound changes took place in Upper German in the South.

but some of them didn't take place in Central German and some of them didn't take place in standard German.

But we'll get to standard German in a minute.

So some of you might be thinking : "well, how did these sounds just switch?"

Well, they didn't instantly switch, they gradually changed over a period of a few centuries.

probably between the 5th century and 8th century CE

Over the centuries, the dialect continuum of Low German and High German grew more and more distinct

until there were varieties that were quite incomprehensible.

So someone from the south in Bavaria would have trouble communicating with someone from Hamburg in the north.

But, of course, that was before standard German.

The dialects of Low German are often said to be a separate language from High German,

and they're often said to be halfway between High German and Dutch

Now the Low German dialect actually crosses the border into the eastern part of the Netherlands where Low German is also spoken.

But these days the Low German dialects in the north of the country are mostly fading,

and basically only older people speak them. Younger people might understand them but they tend to use standard German instead

But when did standard German come into the picture?

Standard German - which, by the way, is also called Hochdeutsch in German - so don't be confused between High German and standard German -

originated as a written literary language that developed over a few hundred years.

as writers tried to write in a way that would be understood by the largest number of people possible from different dialect areas.

But perhaps the most important factor in the development of standard German was the translation of the Bible into German by Martin Luther in the year 1522.

He based his translation on the Saxon dialect of central German, while including some vocabulary from other dialects as well.

Virtually all speakers of German dialects owned a copy of the new Bible and studied it effectively, popularizing this form of written German.

Originally there was no single way to pronounce this written form of German but...

eventually the dialect of Hanover became the standard for pronunciation of standard German.

Standard German includes some of the sounds of the High German Consonant Shift

but not all of them because it was influenced by the dialect of Hanover.

So standard German began as a written language but as it became the language of education,

it became more widespread as the formal spoken language and it also influence the local dialects.

Today pretty much everyone can speak standard German even if they speak a local dialect casually

and many local dialects have become largely replaced by standard German, especially the Low German dialects in the north of the country.

But there are still some dialects that are quite distinct and still thriving like the Bavarian dialect in the southeast.

German is considered a pluricentric language. That means that there are multiple standard varieties of the language

There is one standard language in Germany, one in Austria and one in Switzerland.

All of these standard varieties are pretty much the same, except for some different vocabulary.

But, of course, those are the standard language. Switzerland and Austria and also South Tirol which is related to Austria have their own dialects as well

The Austrian dialects are related to the Bavarian dialects in South East Germany.

And the Swiss dialects are related to the alemannic dialects in southwest Germany.

Maybe, you saw my video about the languages of Switzerland. It's this one right here.

And, in that video, I talked about how the Swiss German dialects are kind of incomprehensible to speakers of standard German,

unless they also speak an Alemannic dialect from the border area.

But, of course, that's talking about the Swiss German dialects.

German-speaking Swiss can speak standard German, even if they tend to use it less than people in Germany.

Of course, they might pronounce standard German with the different accent, but that's no big deal.

In Austria and South Tirol, the situation is similar.

There are dialects that might be hard to understand for people from some other German-speaking countries but, of course, standard German is the bridge.

These countries are all part of the German "Sprachraum" which means the geographic area over which that language is spoken.

And within that "Sprachraum", standard German is the "dachsprache"

That means the umbrella language under which all of those dialects can come together.

Those 2 German terms I just used "Sprachraum" and "Dachprache" are common linguistic terms.

And I think that shows just how much influence the German language has over academic areas of research, like linguistics.

So, what is the german language like?

Well, it's closely related to English which is obvious when we look at the most basic sentences.

Here's an example.

"I buy books often" = "Ich kaufe häufig Bücher"

Here, the word order is SVO, like an English except that the adverb comes before the object instead of after it.

Here's another example with an important twist.

"I will buy the book today" = "Ich werde das Buch heute kaufen"

In this case, we see one of the most confusing things for learners of German,

which is the placement of the second verb at the end of the sentence.

So if there's a helping verb like "will" or "werde", it is in the normal SVO position but the main verb goes at the end.

Another example:

[EN] "The book was interesting" = [DE] "Das Buch war interessant"

And one more example :

[EN "I like people who work hard" [DE] "Ich mag Menschen, die hart arbeiten"

Another thing that learners of German find challenging is the case system in German.

In German, pronouns and nouns change form depending on their function in the sentence.

but, along with them, the articles and adjectives also change.

Here's an example of German grammatical cases, using the noun meaning TABLE (Rem: not "book")

You can see that the change takes place not only in the noun but also in the definite article as well.

The work for "table" is a masculine noun in German.

But there are actually 3 genders in German. There are masculine nouns, feminine nouns and neuter nouns.

And for each of them, the case forms are different and all of these different forms also apply to adjectives, which drives learners crazy.

So, while German is closely related to English, "the devil is in the details".

Even though most of the other Germanic languages are classified as category 1 languages by the FSI, German is classified as category 2.

It's closely related to English and they have a lot in common in terms of the general syntax and vocabulary,

but, when it comes to the fine details of grammar, there are some challenges for learners.

But, as alwaysn if you are interested in German-speaking cultures and countries,

or if you would like to benefit from the widespread use of German, then don't hesitate to start learning.

All challenges become adventures when you become fascinated.

The question of the day, German speakers:

Do you think there's anything unique or special or interesting about your local variety of German?

And how do other varieties of German sound to you?

Let us know in the comments down below. And everyone else, jump in and let's discuss.

Thank you for watching and have a nice day.

The Description of The German Language