Gender of German nouns
I wish, not just wish, i suggest to whoever is managing the German section to show the nouns together with it's determiner/ gender. Since the gender of the nouns does not make much sense in the German language, (die Frau but Das Freulein and das Weib) we have to learn the determiner right from the beginning. You can learn few thousands of German words but if you don't know the gender, you don't know how to use them.
it would actually be Fräulein with an ä, since it is derived from Frau. But otherwise I agree. Some indicators are in the suffix, for example all nouns on -ung, -heit, -keit are female, those on -nis neutral and so on. Oh, and all nouns on -lein and -chen are neutral too. Das Weib is a weird one though...
So, the rule is:
-ung => female, example: Die Übung
-heit => female, example: Die Freiheit
-keit => female, example: Die Heiterkeit
-chen => neutral, example: Das Häuschen (pronounced: Häus-chen, there's no sh-shound)
-lein => neutral, example: Das Häuslein
-ling => masculin, example: Der Frühling
-nis => neutral, example: Das Geheimnis
-schaft => female, example: Die Eigenschaft
-er => male, example: Der Bauer
-in => female, example: Die Bäuerin
-tum => neutral, example: Das Eigentum
Well, i can't really take Anis or Urin seriously as examples. Just like Reling, they don't have actual suffixes but rather it's just the whole word, so the rules don't apply.
With Speerschaft you have two words Speer (spear) and Schaft (the long wooden part of a spear or some other weapon-thing) combined into one, so this one doesn't have a suffix either, and since it is "der Schaft" the whole word is masculin.
Leiter is just weird, but the rule with -er (and -in) mostly applies for humans (der Arbeiter/ die Arbeiterin, der Gärner/ die Gärtnerin). I guess, since "der Leiter" (the leader) refers to a person who leads (leiten = to lead), it is male, while die Leiter (the ladder) is just one word as a whole and doesn't have a suffix.
About your first two paragraphs: you're right, of course, but how should a language learner know which words are compound words or have a suffix and which ones have those letters as part of the verb stem? You can't tell the difference between e.g. Wissenschaft and Speerschaft just by looking at them.
Well, if you're learning German, you'll probably figure out sooner or later that Wissenschaft isn't a shaft of knowledge, so it's pretty much got to be the suffix. I'm not saying there aren't any tricky cases, but my point is, you can always figure out why a certain word is an exception and the suffixes are a good guideline.
there are very few rules but lot of weird ones! Der Junge - Die Zunge; different only by one letter. Der Bauer - die Mauer also by one letter. Makes no sense. thats why we have to learn DerDieDases together with the noun. So PLEASE show uns der Artikel!!
I don't think I've ever heard this word "in the wild" more than two or three times, and it's firmly in my passive (rather than active) vocabulary as well.
It comes up more often in discussions of German articles than in actual use, at least in my experience. (And my first reaction to hearing of "das Bauer" was also "Was soll das denn sein? Nie gehört.")