https://www.duolingo.com/-Locky-

Of learning German grammar...

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Hello community,

I've tried to learn German from my second language which is English and also from my first language which is Spanish. However, no matter how hard I try, I always find myself demotivated and frustrated. I feel this is because of trying to study/memorize its grammar.

I thought I would never be able to speak German until I found an article which gave me (in my honest opinion) the incentive to give it a second chance. Below is an excerpt of the article and I was wondering if you could give me your thoughts about it:

" ...Just ask all German native speakers you know or meet or get to know during your life to explain to you the differences between the German cases. Ask them to explain when you should use nominative, dative, genitive and accusative. I bet 90% of all German native speakers (who are not German teachers) cannot explain the differences.

Edit:

Why not? Because they don’t know them. Of course, they learned all about them in school, but some didn’t understand it back then and almost everybody doesn’t need it in real life. So they forget about it (except teachers maybe)."

I find that what the article says about focusing on German grammar is true, specially when this happens to me exactly with Spanish. I wouldn't be able to teach Spanish grammar even if my life depended on it.

I'm planning to complete the German tree but without focusing on learning the grammar; just an overall overview. My plan is to learn phrases and sentences (just as if I were a child).

What do you guys think?

Hope to hear from you, Walter M.

Edit:

Thank you Michael.di5, Stepintime, Hannibal-Barkas, Chaered, Satishvc, Gothicsquirrel, JhonEdisonOrtiz, Nuno275251, Mofalt, Edsanosian and Raisinnoir for your replies.

I appreciate all you taking the time to help me broaden my perspective and try to figure out the best approach in order to learn German.

Mofalt, thanks for that link!

January 19, 2018

16 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Der-Michael

Just ask all German native speakers you know or meet or get to know during your life to explain to you the differences between the German cases. Ask them to explain when you should use nominative, dative, genitive and accusative. I bet 90% of all German native speakers (who are not German teachers) cannot explain the differences.

I disagree with this entirely. I don't know a single German native speaker over the age of 10 who doesn't understand the difference between the grammatical cases. They could very easily explain to you when to use which case, as it's quite straightforward and logical to a German speaker. The learner, however, would have to understand the different parts that make up a sentence (subject, direct object, indirect object, etc.).

almost everybody doesn’t need it in real life. So they forget about it (except teachers maybe).

This is statement is also absolutely ridiculous. If you mess up the case, the sentence can take a completely different meaning, or just make no sense at all. You will never hear a German say "Ich sehe der Hund", or "Ich liebe du". To a native speaker, this is too simple of a concept to mess up, it simply will not happen.

Sure, as someone learning German as a foreign language, don't worry about always getting the case right, just focus on being understood. As learners, we're bound to make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. It will take a while to get used to this concept when your native language doesn't use cases, but with time and practice, you'll start to understand it better and it will eventually become natural to you. But in my honest opinion, the article you quoted is laughable at best.

I hope you keep going with learning German and I wish you the best of luck with it!

January 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/stepintime
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I agree. Try ignoring cases in Latin, where you can shift around words wherever you want to put them. It'll be fun!

If Germans "can't explain" cases, then either the person they're explaining it to doesn't grasp the concept of cases in the first place ("It's all the same word in English! There's no difference!"), or it's because as a native speaker you're fluent in that language and never (well, very rarely) have to think about which case to use when.

And since it's not necessary to busy yourself with grammar terms and the workings of grammar in everyday life (plus considering that not everybody gets taught a lot about them in school, and not everyone was ever good at that subject), why would an average person be able to spontaneously launch into a speech on the finer details of dative usage?

When I read some questions here on Duolingo, like "Why is it '...' here and not '...'? Why the dative? Why can't I say '...'?", my spontaneous answer would often enough be: "Because that's just the way it is. This is the grammar you use, and that other grammar is wrong." Languages aren't mathematical constructions. If there's a dative where you expected an accusative, you can't protest it, and it doesn't have to be logical, and thus it sometimes can't be explained.

January 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/chaered
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I think you are misunderstanding the original poster's point -- he's not saying that cases do not matter, he's saying that many native speakers cannot explain their use as a set of grammar rules. This is entirely correct; any 8-year old kid will be fluent in his/her native language, but will have a hard time explaining why things work the way they do. Asking people who have not had much (or have forgotten) exposure to formal grammar training why sentences are the way they are will get you answers like "...because it sounds right..." or "...that's just how you say it..." rather than "because this is the genitive of a weakly declined adjective in a subordinate clause". This is especially true for native speakers, because you do not need to know grammar in the abstract to be able to use your native language. It is like how you can ride a bike without studying physics.

January 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Hannibal-Barkas
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I think the article has it's point. You do not need to know how a car works as long as you can drive it. So, a basic understanding is important (to keep it rolling), but the inner workings are for the specialists.

If you are interested in a topic, it comes natural to go deeper, but as long as it's only about using? Never mind, just use it and talk "wie der Schnabel gewachsen ist"

January 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/slamRN
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Did I just detect a honest to goodness idiom?

January 23, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Brian_Fritz

This says it all and says it very well. If lucky enough to be in the company of a native German, I would be so busy talking so as to have no time for grammar which belongs in the thick books

January 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/satishvc
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There are different ways of learning, and people learn languages for different reasons. It sounds to me like you prefer to learn by doing and that you want to be able to converse in German.

If that's true, once you learn a few words, start attempting to use those words when you speak. Find German speakers and talk to them as best as you can (even with a mix of English/Spanish and German), mistakes and all. Let them correct you, just like they would kids. You will probably accelerate your conversational skills that way.

Watch TV shows, listen to radio, Youtube videos, audiobooks and podcasts etc. You'll know how sentences go, even if you're unsure of the grammar then.

Have fun learning!

January 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/gothicsquirrel
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I've tried to learn German three times in the past (the first time at school) and the grammar stopped me each time. I think this was because the recognised way of teaching was to teach the grammar rules as a subject and the vocabulary as a separate subject. It also didn't help that no-one (teacher or books) explained the terms nominative, accusative, dative - they just used them and assumed I would know what was meant.

This is why I like Duo's German course, because although the grammar is taught you don't have to understand and be able to quote the rules verbatim in order to progress through the course.

This time round I've taken a completely different approach to learning, which is more akin to how a child learns to speak - immersing myself in the language as far as possible and learning to speak, and the grammar then becomes more of an intuitive process rather than applying lists of laboriously learned rules. As a result I've got much further than ever before.

As I'm reading books I'm trying to pay attention to the sentence construction and pick up the grammar that way - by seeing it in use rather than learning the rules as an abstract concept. This way seems to work better for me.

I'm far from fluent, or even confident, but I'm enjoying the learning process, and I am making progress. That feeling when I read a whole sentence in a book and understand it is amazing.

January 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Nuno275251

I bet 90% of all German native speakers (who are not German teachers) cannot explain the differences.

I would like to bet with this guy.

I don't hold Germans in such low regard.

almost everybody doesn’t need it in real life.

Yes, who need cases in their real life? They can just mumble stuff randomly expecting to be understood.

If by that he means they don't need to explain it on a daily basis, then his English is poor.

January 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/-Locky-
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Thank you Michael.di5, Stepintime, Hannibal-Barkas, Chaered, Satishvc, Gothicsquirrel, JhonEdisonOrtiz, Nuno275251, Mofalt, Edsanosian and Raisinnoir for your replies.

I appreciate all you taking the time to help me broaden my perspective and try to figure out the best approach in order to learn German.

Mofalt, thanks for that link!

January 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/JhonEdisonOrtiz
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Hey Locky, hope you're doing really well! I'm also a Spanish native speaker from Colombia, and yes; I certainly get your point, to me it was really difficult getting through Russian cases, (there are 6 cases in Russian), I've been learning German for about four months everyday, and my advice is for you to take it easy; you're gonna see it, studying again and again everyday's gonna help you to get used to the grammatical stuff, (specially talking about cases, this kind of separable verbs and verbs position in a sentence, which tend to be placed at the end of the sentence), And well, every person learns differently, in my case, getting through grammar it's highly important to be able to understand how words and sentences behave in an specific context. <br />
You can actually go over some Youtube grammar videos, there are bunches of'em which are gonna surely help you to understand the grammar. Don't give up on it! And try keep it up, trust me!

January 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Raisinnoir
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I totally agree with you. I usually encourage students of the German language to learn vocabulary, word order and lastly grammar. This is, after all, how you were taught your mother tongue. I took German in high school and college; I've also lived with a German family in Berlin. Having native German speakers correct me was invaluable. Walter, ich wuensche dir alles Gute!

January 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/mofalt
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Ich kann Dich darin nur unterstützen; der Ansatz ist goldrichtig! Ich habe keine meiner Sprachen über das Pauken von Grammatikregeln gelernt, auch die Fremdsprachen nicht, und muss, wenn ich nach diesen Regeln gefragt werde, sie mir immer mit einigem Aufwand erschließen. Darüber hinaus kann ich mich des Eindrucks nicht erwehren, dass die meisten derjenigen, welche sich einfach nur Regeln ins Gedächtnis hämmern, im Gebrauch der Sprache, vor allem in Lautung und Prosodie, sehr stark beschränkt sind -- stärker beschränkt als diejenigen, die Phrasen lernen und natürlich das Vokabular dazu. Und die dann einzelne Elemente in den gelernten Phrasen einfach durch das im Kontext jeweils passende Vokabular ersetzen.

I would always go for such an approach. Do not learn grammar by rules, but by use. Otherwise you will be severely hampered in your L2 acquisition and never approach L1 status. This is exactly the right way! The only question is how to put your learner's language to good use (most material is for fully fledged natives only or based on grammar rule learning). You might wish to give the frequently updated lessons at dw.com a try. They have an always up-to-date "slow German news" section ("langsam gesprochene Nachrichten"), for instance.

http://www.dw.com/en/learn-german/s-2469

January 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/edsanosian-II
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Whatever works for you, fine

January 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/NatanDW

Hello

I learned basic Czech in 47 weeks of school and two additional 3 month courses (that's all I did during that time). I could understand it well, but I never felt comfortable speaking it because I always worried about the rules. I hardly recall any of that now because I didn't use it to speak to people.

I learned German over 6 years of living in Germany and talking to people. My German is VERY uneven, as I am finding out with Duolingo, but I am also amazed at how much is there. I know a lot more words than I thought I did, and I can spend weeks in Germany getting along at a basic conversational level. I cannot however understand complex texts or write more than simple sentences because I don't know the grammar.

I learned Spanish (enough) in a year of using Rosetta stone and some other programs, and from watching DVDs in Spanish, etc. I needed to learn enough to take a test in Spanish to complete a degree. I did that. I find Spanish very hard to get my mind around, even though it should be easy I would think. I try to speak Spanish in San Antonio where I live, but I just don't seem to be able to get the hang of it.

I was told by my favorite Czech teacher that vocabulary was the most important thing of all, and to learn the genders with the words if possible because that would help later (a hard thing for an English speaker to grasp the importance of). He then recommended going out and talking, and said that armed with a strong vocabulary I would pick up the grammar in time. I found his advice to be pretty good, and I've tried to go that way. Unfortunately, I do not like not being literate in German, which is the language I like most--perhaps because of my L1 roots? I did not learn the genders of the words I know when I was learning them, so the pronouns and articles are making me crazy. Grrrrr.

So what's my point? Learn the vocabulary and the gender. Speak to people as much as you can, but also learn the grammar as you can. Of course you can do it like a child, but who wants to spend 10 years becoming moderately fluent? I'm too old to wait...:-)

Cheers, Natan

January 21, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Der...Schwan

Several people seem to have misunderstood your point. This isn't about completely disregarding grammar; it's about not specifically studying it, in the hope that one will still acquire grammatical patterns by osmosis. After all, infants acquire their languages without studying grammar rules. Why can't we?

I think it's a very intriguing approach, and one I've thought about myself but haven't had the courage to try. For it to have a chance of working, I suspect, one would have to be completely immersed in the language and culture, as infants are. For many of us that simply isn't feasible.

January 23, 2018
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