Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Möchten Sie Deutsch Lernen ?

Learning German (or Deutsch, as it is actually called) was a pursuit I seriously started with way back in 2002, when I landed with few suitcases in Germany for the first time. It started off quite well with me picking up the necessary phrases for moving around without feeling foreign. The interest subsequently subdued with my technical work covering most of my time awake. The experience was, nevertheless, worth recounting.

Learning a language is a fun I was hardly accustomed with. I started with Bengali as my mother tongue, labored through English when I did not know because I was too busy memorizing steps of inorganic chemistry processes with that and finally accepted Hindi as a part of my growing up with Mithun, Amitabh, Dharmendra and Bollywood in general. So, learning Deutsch was an entirely new experience mixed with fun (spass), difficulty (schwierigkeit) and of course a feel of the Deutsch culture (Kultur).

It was no less inspiring after knowing that the roots of this language is believed to be shared with Indian languages. The theory of Indo-European languages have significant influence on Aryan Invasion Theory and a good crop of current Indian politicians (link here). It had big impact on the thinkers of previous century and the question of racial supremacy.

I (Ich) am mixing (mische) the sentences(die sätze) with (mit) my (meinem) little (kleinem) Deutsch knowledge (Kenntnisse) to make (, sodass) the text an interesting experience to read (es eine Interessant Leserlebnis für sie macht).

So, how did that go at first ? One of the first phrases we were taught was as following.

"Was ist Ihre Name ?" - this is understandable, isn't it ?
"Meine Name ist Bond, James Bond" - as Mr. Bond will say in a dubbed movie. There is also another subtle information here. Deutsch people expect surname when they ask for "Name" and the pronunciation is like "Naam-e".

And then, "Woher kommen Sie ?" - Where are you from, Sir ? "Sie" is an expression of respect unlike, unanimous You of English dude. For friends, the question would be
"Woher kommst du ?" - note the change of verb form with "du" very much like my mother tongue Bengali.

Our Deutsch Lehrer (teacher) was Gerhard. He was a very energetic and humorous person, a quality I deem extremely important (sehr Wichtig) to take senior students across language (Sprache) barrier.

After the initial cacophony, we entered the world of regeln (rules). So much as you can expect (erwarten) from a disciplined race like Germans, a rule is a rule. It allows for exceptions (Aushnahme) but, those are also well described.
Leider (unfortunately), the rules were soon outnumbering my free (frei) Brain (Gehirne) cells. There were rules for articles, rules for preposition, rules for articles with preposition and many more. Take, the articles for example. Every Deutsch word belongs to a gender (Der - man, Die - woman, Das - neutral) and that must be remembered. There are few tricks, though. For example (Zum beispiel), hard liquors fall into the category of man. Der Wein. Stone is manly. Der Stein. Flowers - you guessed that - is feminine. Die Rose. And there are some rules of word-suffixes that makes these categories. Most (Meisten) words ending with -ig, -or, -ius, -mus, -el, -er, -ich are masculine. Deutsch learners actually should (sollten) not learn the words but, the words with articles. Finally, we learned, all plurals are feminine. Die Bücher, Die Regeln, Die Sätze. That was easy (Einfach).

Ohh and what I forgot so far. Pronunciations. No discussion about a foreign language can be complete without its phonetic appeal. Born with a flexible tongue, I have seen Indian people acclimatizing to foreign tongues far more comfortably than the struggle a German person usually has with my Naam-e (Chattopadhyay). Even then, I stumbled on the pronunciation of ü, ä, ö, r, z and a mix of these alphabets. German r is different, pronounced with a mix of r, g and h. Same with z, with a heavy accent of t followed by s. ü, ä and ö were simpler comparatively. One of the common-most  Deutsch word for saying goodbye is tschüss, which I could hardly manage to say if I keep a note on the exact alphabet. I learned rather by hearing and said something like "choose" ever. To improve our capability, Gerhard suggested us some tongue twisters like - "zwei teller zwiebelsuppe" meaning 2 plates of onion soup (a delicacy in Germany). We, the students, were having a lot of fun with those tongue twisters. I remember occasionally walking along the streets, murmuring along the lines of Gerhard. Just for fun !

Roughly around this time, I decided to take a much needed vacation (urlaub). On return, I floundered with the verbs, their forms with I (ich), You (du, Sie), He/She (er, sie) and decided to put it to rest for few years. Yes, verbs, like articles, come with rules. There are also some verbs, which make their own rules and split themselves in a sentence. For example, anrufe means to call. But, when in actual usage as a verb, anrufe contains rather individualistic parts and it becomes Ich rufe dich an. Anyway, that was enough ruling, then, for me.

And now, I am in the second phase of it, running without any major hiccups as the first one with the excellent training of Herr Püttmann. I am trying to master the language again. Ich versuche nochmal um Deutsch zu Lernen. Und es ist noch mehr spass als meinem erste Versuchung weil, ich jetzt mehr sätze schreibe. Ich habe eine Gefühl dass, ich meiner gedanke auf Deutsch formulieren kann. I tried the above piece in Babelfish and found the following image. It shows that babelfish is not that bad aber (but), Ich kann besser machen !

Some parting nuggets.

- Auf Deutsch, Atmen bedeutet (means) to breathe. Imagine Atman.
- German alphabet contains ä, ü, ö, which is visible on German keyboards.
- Significant German word contributions to English are Kindergarten, Über-modern.


  1. Hummm interesting (Konrad Elst) on Aryan Invasion Theory. Moreover, your thoughts about Deutsch is encouraging for the beginners.

    Schreibst gut..

  2. whow! deutsch sounds really tough!! :) :) ....really nice piece...