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What makes German so difficult?

I've already done a little bit of German, both on and off Duolingo, and I keep hearing people say it's so hard, harder than the romance languages, etc...

So far, I disagree. I've had a much easier time getting into German than any of the romance languages. When you're learning a romance language you have to retrain your brain entirely (as an English speaker) to understand sentences that basically feel backwards. German feels extremely logical to me, like 90% of the sentences are word for word translations to English, and the gender stuff seems easier than the romance languages too.

The only hard part so far is the vocab. Now some of the vocab is extremely easy. For example: "Sandwich". Three guesses as to what that means in German. A lot of other words are like that....spider (Spinne), milk (Milch), egg (Ei), etc... Then you have the crazy stuff like "Entschuldigen", "Frühstück", "Mittagessen", etc...the words that are just a crazy long clusterf- THOSE are hard to remember, and there's a lot of them. I can see the vocab being a nightmare later on.

But other than that, German doesn't seem too bad. I'm surprised that everyone and their mothers thinks that German is harder than the romance languges for an English speaker. Every concept so far has been simpler than Italian (my "second languge"). Maybe German is easier to start out but gets MUCH harder later on? I don't know.

So can someone explain to me what exactly makes German so difficult? Because right now I'm not seeing it. For me, learning Italian was like arriving on a foreign planet. Right now German is like saying hi to your next door neighbor. Everything feels so familiar, just...slightly different.

November 2, 2017



Vocab is actually pretty easy even the long words (says the German native...), because we love compound words. "Mittagessen" for example is a compound out of "Mittag" - "midday" and "Essen" - "meal". So literally "midday meal". And "Abendessen" is "evening meal".

What's difficult is the grammar. The cases can get confusing if you never came into contact with them before, even some German speakers seem to avoid the Genitiv like a plague. We can say something with simple sentences, but we love our very long and complicated ones with relative clauses and then you can't translate it word for word into English. Not even close. It makes literature interesting though and I love the way it can flow. Though Kleist kind of overdid it and liked to make a sentence go on for half a page...

You should check out "The Awful German Language" by Mark Twain. It's a very funny essay about his confusions with German as he compares it with English. (German can be learned though, I know quite a few people who managed it, both on- and offline).


and even Frühstück: Früh is early or morning, and stück is piece or slice. So once you know the words that make it it's not hard


Most speakers of English find German harder due to its 4 grammatical cases, 3 genders, and adjectival declension (which also falls under cases). The Romance languages are easier since there are only 2 genders present within the language, and there are no grammatical cases (except for Romanian). That's why German is a Category 2 language, while the Romance languages are Category 1 languages, according to the FSI. Honestly, I see what you're talking about, but that's probably because I'm a Spanish native and I already understand most Romance language sentence structures.


Then again, I don't think the FSI knows much. It ranked Georgian as a Category 4, which is basically the "generic" language category. With ejectives, a mysterious (yet awesome) alphabet, split ergativity, and polypersonal verb agreement, it's an absolute marvel how Georgian is not a Category 6 language (above Chinese, Korean, etc).


Latin has noun declensions too. :)


Declension, I suppose. Maybe also weak and strong adjectives. German vocabulary is easy for English speakers, but grammar is more complicated than If you think German is easy, Dutch is... super easy. In my opinion everybody interested in Germanic languages should begin with Dutch.


German vocab seems extremely easy compared to Chinese.

The grammar in German is very tricky though (especially the cases and conjugations of obscure verbs)


Hi George,

really? Can you explain that to me? I mean the comparison with chinese.

best regards Angel


Hello Nick,

good question and as a native german speaker not easy for me to reply.

German, French and English have very much in common (especially word). In Wikipedia you can read about it also I have to admit the german article explains much more than the english (in my opinion). And Germans love Anglicisms that makes it easier for you. But if I ask you if you like a 'belegtes Brötchen/eine belegte Semmel' it isn't so easy to learn like Sandwich, right?

Is German hard to learn? I think, it is not easy. The grammar is very complex and the combination of cases and declinations doesn't make it easier. So in English you have to know what plate means and you can say 'please give me the plate' in German you have to know the gender and the word and than you have to learn how to use the cases to ask 'Bitte gib mir den Teller'.

Not that hard but it's adding up. And if you learn more and more complex grammar it can be confusing. (In fact it is also for us Germans, most of us are far away from to be perfect in grammar!)

I'm not objective. It's my language. But I have to admit the fact that I use it doesn't mean that I always can explain why I express some sentences like I do and not otherwise and in special cases I have to look up or to ask for a correct grammar or spelling.

So German, I think, is not easy but it is learnable. And many native english speaker with a excellent german knowledge here in the forum are the proof.

best regards Angel


It is easy for some people and hard for the other it really just depends on the person and your motivation. German is a beautiful language. I live in Germany so it is the first language I ever learned. The actual country is ten times prettier than the language though. I live in Germany so I honestly wouldn't know if it was hard on some people like I think English is really hard I look up most of the words I post on here. The only reason i do German on here is because it is easier. Like it gives you English to translate into German. You see what I mean easier to learn English. So it really depends on the person,the language,and the person's motivation or reason they are learning it. Some people just do it for fun. Some people may HAVE to do it. So for some reason it is harder on people that are forced to do it than it is on people that just want to do it for fun. Who see what I mean? If this didn't make sense you can comment me back.


I have the motivation. But I need someone to chat with. Do you mind? On WhatsApp.. Bitte?

[deactivated user]

    I speak two Germanic languages and I find German to be very easy.


    Hang on, are you saying Frühstück, the German word for breakfast, is crazy long because it has nine letters?


    No, just that it doesn't resemble the word "breakfast" at all. It's not easy to remember. I suppose that was a bad example though, because German has so many crazy long words.

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