"Вы говорите по-немецки?"
Translation:Do you speak German?
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How would you say "Are you speaking German?"
Possible context: I overhear two people talking, but do not recognise the language that they are speaking.
If I interrupted (politely, I hope!) with "Do you speak German?" that would imply that I did, and WANTED them to speak German, in order to understand them better.
Yeah; absent of the distinction of two present tenses, Russian resorts to its favourite devices – changing word order and/or intonation. Another possibility that came to mind is adding "это": Это вы по-немецки говорите? (kind of "Is it German you’re speaking?") Here the intonational emphasis on "по-немецки" is also important, because if you put it on "вы", that would mean "Is it you who speaks German?"…
Thanks again. I have found the fact that Russian has only a single present tense to be its most confusing feature, in terms of how to convey distinctions of meaning that are clear in English.
It took me a long while to realise the differences in meaning conveyed by altering the sentence order in Latin; I must pay equivalent attention to their effect in Russian, it seems.
Germany is still Германия, as in English (Germany). That country has a wide variety of names (some version of Alemania in the Romance languages, Deutschland in the native German, which becomes Tyskland in other Germanic languages, Germany/Germania in English and other languages from the Latin Germania, etc.). A lot of it has to do with the historic ties and who interacted with whom - remember, Germany wasn't even truly unified into a single nation as we might understand it until the 19th century. Historically there were many different Germanic tribes, and from there, and from certain geographic splits, you get the different names of the country. I only explain that since you said "German and Japan" (so I wasn't sure if you were talking about the country or the language/people).
The word немец (German man), немка (German woman), and adjective немецкий ("german") come from the Old Church Slavonic word for "foreigner" and the root is basically нем- (like in the adjective, немой - dumb [as in mute], though historically also just "incapable of speaking in an understandable language"). In olden times the word was used to describe many Germanic peoples such as Swedes, Norwegians and Danes, and for a time even included Scots, Brits, etc.
Япония is a little more straightforward - it comes from the West's "Japan" (presumably from the German "Japan" which sounds like "Yahpahn"). Where we got it from... well, there are some debates about that... Some say it comes from the native Japanese "Nippon/Nihon", or from Marco Polo's interpretation of certain Chinese words (though he never visited Japan himself), or from the Malaysian word...