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short, easy-to-follow TV op-ed pieces at Deutsche Welle in both English and German

A good friend of mine, Lars Halter, co-hosts Deutsche Welle's daily teleseries, Wirtschaft Plus from Berlin. Each W+ installment is a 2-3 minute op-ed about topics featured in lengthier journalism pieces by DW reporters. Before launching Wirtschaft Plus, Lars covered the NYSE in NY, where we became friends.

If you've finished most of the German tree, I'm confident you'll find the series comprehensible and entertaining. And if you want to corroborate your understanding, queue up the English version and compare. As with all DW programming, there are even optional subtitles.

I couldn't locate a central repository at the DW website for W+ broadcasts, but you can find Lars' in-German W+ broadcasts at http://www.dw.com/search/de?searchNavigationId=9077=de=gN=lars+halter and his in-English broadcasts at http://www.dw.com/search/en?searchNavigationId=9097=en=gN=lars+halter. There is usually a delay between publication of the German and English versions of the same op-ed.

Let me know if any of you find this helpful. I'm sure Lars would be pleased.

May 25, 2017



I think I'm at the level where I can pick up bits and phrases, but not yet the gist of the message. I hope to get there - danke! Out of curiousity, I see you're working on French, German, and Russian ... any particular reason you chose those languages?


Keep trying; German is a wonderful language. I've spoken it for approximately 18 years, having once worked for a Swiss company. I also took two years in high school and somehow managed to proficiency out of my language requirement at Northwestern. Something about the language evidently "clicked." I tested out of almost everything on the DL German tree but find it very helpful in reinforcing noun-gender associations. As soon as I began studying French and Russian, I started confusing noun genders in German. So I am relentless about doing several timed exercises each day. It has proven really helpful.

I took one year of Russian in middle school in 1971 or 72 (our instructor was an official UN translator), but the first oil crisis forced our school system to cut certain programs to pay its heating bill, among them Latin, Greek and Russian. It has been many years since middle school but I managed to retain the Cyrillic alphabet and several useful nouns, verb conjugations and phrases. I began studying the language once DL Russian exited its beta phase. Progress has been slow. I try to do 5 or 6 review exercises each day before attempting to learn anything new, but still find the "already-learned" vocabulary, declensions, conjugations and word order very challenging. It has taken me since last July to make it through the third of five checkpoints, but I doubt I could test out of even 20% of the sections. I have no practical use for Russian, and have little interest in traveling there. But I'm finishing something I started 45 years ago; it's the way I am.

To kill time before the "real" launch of Russian, I decided to try a romance language and settled on French because I have friends in Paris and Geneva. Spanish would have been more useful but I have no regrets about DL French. I was in Toronto in March and my smartphone suddenly prompted me to choose between English or French for my news feeds. I selected French and have never switched back. I've evidently learned enough in 10 months to read every article my phone serves up. I have to toggle occasionally between a translation app and the article to decipher new vocabulary, but the course has made reading in French rather easy. The best thing about French is vocabulary. It's practically English. So learning to think in French comes almost naturally.

The hardest thing about French for me is listening comprehension. Many of the vowels and consonants and diphthongs sound identical or are silent. German pronunciation is wonderful because every letter is enunciated and, with a few minor exceptions, pronounced consistently. I am a long way from French fluency, but have begun watching French movies with French closed captioning so I can read along. I have to do a lot of pausing and rewinding, but see a light at the end of the tunnel.

If I ever begin to feel comfortable with Russian, I'll try yet another language. I love the intellectual challenge.


"German pronunciation is wonderful because every letter is enunciated and, with a few minor exceptions, pronounced consistently"

This is one of the things I love most about learning German.

I took a few years of Latin in my highschool days. Latin is very similar in the way that (mostly) EVERYTHING is pronounced, and rules are followed very closely.

Having some experience in Latin really helped with my German pronunciations.


I agree but have a related anecdote. When I began working for a Swiss company, I worked almost daily with a private tutor to become fluent in German. The tutor was from Berlin, had been the head German instructor at Berlitz in NYC, and branched off to run German instruction at several large Swiss and German financial institutions with offices in New York.

After 14 months, I was holding meetings all over Germany and Switzerland but still couldn't understand a word of the "Büroklatsch" (office gossip), because it was all in Swiss dialect. A few years later, I visited a pen pal from Cologne to experience Karneval. The local dialect killed me. She made me memorize half a dozen Karneval songs which I still can't fully translate. Same thing in Bavaria. And Schwäbia. The dialects are almost entirely different languages.

The Swiss I worked with still amaze me. They were required in school to become fluent in at least two of their 4 national languages, say French and German. But if they lived in Zurich, their first language was Schwitzer Deutsch, because that's what everyone speaks at home and in the bars. And then they had to learn English because it's the lingua franca of finance. So nearly every Swiss college grad already speaks four languages. I guess that's why I'm addicted to Duolingo -- it's that chip on my shoulder from working at a place where even the guys in the mail room spoke at least two more languages than me.


... re pronunciation, ditto also for Russian - the vast majority of the time, specific letters are pronounced the same way. I had three years of college-level Russian in the mid 1970's, and still encounter native Russian speakers here in the US on a regular basis. I just started using Duo to brush up my Russian skills (zero keyboarding skills - in those days, I wrote everything long hand), vocabulary, and etc.


That's interesting. I find Russian falls somewhere between German and French. There are many times when I screw up spelling because I can't hear the у in an -уюсь ending or know the appropriate ending is -ой but hear -е instead.

And unlike most letters in German (g and the diphthong ch are exceptions), the pronunciation of vowels and certain consonants, e.g., д and г, can change a lot, depending on their position in a word and whether the syllable is stressed. Hence we learn initially that е sounds like "yay" but it is often just "ee" or "eh". Similarly, we learn initially that у sounds like "ooh" except that it is often "oh". Kind of like English.

A minor pet peeve is the letter ъ. I am three fifths of the way through the DL Russian tree but have encountered only one word that contains it: объяснять. Does the language really need it? Germany rankled a lot of grammarians at the end of the millennium but did everyone a favor when it reformed its rules on spelling. Russia could do the same, at least by phasing out a letter that appears in perhaps 0.01% of all Russian vocabulary.

You are however correct. Most Russian letters and consonants are enunciated, much more so than French. But I think German wins the contest.


Hmmm ... I often wonder about Duo's pronunciation; it just doesn't seem as clear to me as words spoken in person. As an example in German, "wir" and "sie" are clearly different - but in some Duo exercises, I have a hard time telling them apart unless I go into the slow mode and listen carefully. That is part of my reason for branching out to other sources (like DW.com and Der Spiegel for German) - so I can hear voices other that the single one provided on Duo.

Re the Russian hard sign ъ, I don't remember it as being commonly used either. Folks are always talking about simplifying languages (like Mark Twain trying to simplify spelling rules for English), but there's always a bunch of resistance to that. At any rate I've enjoyed your comments - good luck on all you work on!


Pre-revolutionary Russian language had most of the words ending on either ъ or ь, but then it was reformed and ъ is now used only in the middle of the word, usually to divide prefix from the root. But there are many exceptions though, with foreign prefixes mostly.


Thank you, that provides informative historical context. I assume I'll see more of the letter as I progress through the last two checkpoints, but I'm sure the only example through the first three checkpoints is объяснять. As I wrote above, I found it curious that Russians would create a letter used only in a handful of words, but that was a false assumption. It appeared in many words but was removed from nearly all of them after the revolution. But not ь. Interesting.


Thank you for this! Whenever I finish my tree, I'll have to check it out. :)

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