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Question about the importance of fluency

Hey, this is question that has been on my mind since I started learning German. As anyone who is learning German, I am utterly befuddled by the correct uses of all these suffixes for adjectives in all the different cases (-en, -e, -es, -em, etc.). It seems to me that it is not out of the question for even a native speaker to occasionally forget the ending for a feminine adjective in the genitive case and weak inflection. Not that I will try any less hard to learn them, but is it appropriate in casual conversation to slip up a suffix and move on without need for correction? Thanks for any answers.

April 10, 2018



Native speaker here. I never think about case or gender when speaking, the correct endings just come naturally. It is the other way around: because I know what ending to use, I can then define what case and gender the words have (only necessary in school or when communicating with non-natives)

Sometimes I intend to continue a sentence with one word but notice half-way that another word would be a better choice.. If this other word has a different gender than the original I might need to re-say the article / adjective with the new ending.

If a non-native mixes up the endings, I notice it. But I don't care, really. Usually, pronunciation, false friends in vocabulary, and word order mistakes are much more noticeable and might hinder understanding far more.

I would not focus on getting the endings right too much in learning. Sure, for true mastership they are necessary, but a lot of exposure to (correct) German will do the trick over time.


Important point. I think also for a non-native learner it's virtually impossible to remember all the combinations of endings, cases, genders and co. You have to get used to their sounds, by speaking and listening, that's the trick ;-). (or better listen and repeat)


Remembering them was totally impossible, at least for me, until the "ahah!" moment when I understood how they worked (basically, that the adjective gets the significant ending when the article doesn't: if only one of half a dozen teachers had told me that…): then not a problem at all.
Using them naturally, though… Let's say I'm halfway there (I see you, dative plural and genitive plural, and you, weak masculine nouns), and have a few years of practice on my hands ;)


That's a nice description! Roughly this way they look also in my head, but I never found good words to explain them :-)....


You give such quality explainations, though, I assumed you were German. Are you not?


I am, but that doesn't always mean that I can give a good explanation. I'm not a teacher ;-).


I see. Very true that: I guess I'm of the fortunate ones who know how to say things. I've had friends in school wondering what the teacher had been about, and when I answered, going back at me like "Oh! That was that!" No bragging, it's just my forte in life, I guess, everyone has theirs, and I'm all too aware of my flaws ;)

Beside, I was taught that the best sign you mastered something, is if you can teach it, preferably to a child. It has proven right many times to me.

And please don't dismiss yourself, I always love your comments.


Ganz kurze Antwort: Nein ;-). It might happen, but it's more a sign of someone changing his mind while speaking, e.g. replacing a female word by something else that is male, or switching from a construction with a dative to another one that requires accusative. Most listeners don't really notice the switch, because the sentence began and ended in something reasonable and predictable, but there's a mismatch in the middle. I see this often when I'm correcting texts, including my own.


Like in any language, I think you should be honest to yourself and be aware of the mistakes you make. There are no excuses, if you really want to master a language, you have to get the grammar right, including the cases.

Having that said, however, I also think that it's important to be fair to yourself. Learning a language doesn't happen overnight, so it's okay to make mistakes. Step out of your comfort zone and make as much mistakes until you eventually get a grip on the grammar.

So acknowledge your mistakes, but don't be afraid to make them!


Agreed. I live abroad and worked as an English teacher for most of my time here, and I rarely speak with other native-level English speakers. I always notice people's mistakes, but what I notice more is their ability to communicate. I often find myself thinking that someone is exceptionally fluent even when they lack basic grammatical skills that other people I encounter have. If they communicate confidently enough, I consciously register their grammatical slips but then I immediately forget them and think the speaker is much more fluent than they are.

Unfortunately I'm pretty shy, so I'm afraid that I come off as much less knowledgeable than I am... But that's part of learning a language. I'm a perfectionist, so it's emotionally hard for me to make mistakes, but I really value the insight it gives me. I grew up in the US around a lot of people with Hispanic ancestry (including family members) and now I look back on them and think so highly of them for struggling through a foreign language. Making mistakes is so mortifying, but always a learning experience that increases my empathy for others. And it's so satisfying to get better!--I've finally mastered some of the grammatical skills that were so difficult for me at first, and it is a great feeling. I still have much to work on, but I feel unreasonably thrilled every time I fully master a grammatical issue.


since we as native speakers have learned and spoken this language from when we where small we have developed a feeling for the language and for how to use it. we don't think about cases and such. in fact most of us would not even know what case it is the moment we are using them. we just do it instinctively right and where is no way we would not notice mistakes. and that is exactly what learning languages is about (in my opinion): developing a feeling for the language to point where you can use it instinctively. especially in german or other languages with a complex grammer: without a feeling for the language there is no way to become fluent.


It would happen if the word isn't that familiar. However, overtime as you learn and master the language you get a feel on whether or not the word is masculine, femenine, or neuter. The same goes for the cases. At first you will need to think on whether or not a word is acusative, dative or nominativ. But as you get more familiar with the language you will do it with more ease.

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