Funny essay on German: "The Awful German Language" by Mark Twain

Hello everyone,

I came upon what I found to be a gut-bustingly funny essay, of which perhaps many of you are already aware, called "The Awful German Language" written by Mark Twain. In it he describes his thoughts as a native English speaker attempting to learn German. As a learner of German myself, I found his musings highly relatable.

Although the language has changed some since it was written in 1880, it is largely the same.

I found the essay at the following link (for those of you who are understandably cautious about links it is easily searchable on the internet):

Let me know what you guys think of it!

One of my favorite quotes: "I heard a Californian student in Heidelberg say, in one of his calmest moods, that he would rather decline two drinks than one German adjective."

August 14, 2018


Yes, it is funny. My favourite bit:

In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has.


August 14, 2018

Oh wow, oh wow! If you can hang in there all the way down to the bottom of the link (don't skip ahead, just keep reading your way down word by word, else I suspect it will lose its impact), you can read ...

"Also! Die Anblich so viele Grossbrittanischer und Amerikanischer hier zusammengetroffen in Bruderliche concord, ist zwar a welcome and inspiriting spectacle. And what has moved you to it? Can the terse German tongue rise to the expression of this impulse? Is it Freundschaftsbezeigungenstadtverordnetenversammlungenfamilieneigenthümlichkeiten? Nein, o nein!"

This old guy (me meinselbst) war howling out loud (writhing with laughter) as I read that tail-end speech! Also! Danke for the web link - das war sehr gut, toll, ausgezeichnet, und wow! Ich denke ein Bier ist gekommen ... (chuckle).

August 15, 2018

"haben sind gewesen gehabt haben geworden sein"!

I read this essay out loud to my husband last night. Could not get past that phrase a single time without dying laughing.

I love your impression :)

August 15, 2018

I knew I shouldn't have tried to learn German. Another 27 years to go before I can understand it!

August 15, 2018

Good luck with those 27 years!

August 16, 2018

"And that sentence is constructed upon the most approved German model. You observe how far that verb is from the reader's base of operations; well, in a German newspaper they put their verb away over on the next page; and I have heard that sometimes after stringing along the exciting preliminaries and parentheses for a column or two, they get in a hurry and have to go to press without getting to the verb at all."

So true! And reminds me of the days back in Germany when I'd proudly rattle off a 20 word sentence to my German friends only to realize at the end that I did not know the verb.

August 14, 2018

This was really the funniest thing i have read today! What a lucky person i am to be grown up in germany :)

August 16, 2018

this is funniest remark about the german language i have ever read and absolutely true. i do not want to show this to my wife who wants to learn it!!! hahaha as a native german i am very glad that i do not have to learn this wicked "kauderwelsch" thanks a lot for the great educational language inspiration!

August 20, 2018

Das ist das lustigste, was ich von Mark Twain gelesen habe. Du bekommst ein Lingot dafür :D

August 16, 2018

Hahaha!! I love this, thanks! My favourites: "The trunks being now ready, he DE- after kissing his mother and sisters, and once more pressing to his bosom his adored Gretchen, who, dressed in simple white muslin, with a single tuberose in the ample folds of her rich brown hair, had tottered feebly down the stairs, still pale from the terror and excitement of the past evening, but longing to lay her poor aching head yet once again upon the breast of him whom she loved more dearly than life itself, PARTED."

And: "But when he, upon the street, the (in-satin-and-silk-covered-now-very-unconstrained-after-the-newest-fashioned-dressed) government counselor's wife met.

August 17, 2018


August 17, 2018

Hallo! Ich lerne Deustch, also mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut! Sprichst oder lerst du Deutsch?

August 21, 2018

haha. "But when he, upon the street, the (in-satin-and-silk-covered-now-very-unconstrained-after-the-newest-fashioned-dressed) government counselor's wife met," etc., etc. [1]

  1. Wenn er aber auf der Strasse der in Sammt und Seide gehüllten jetzt sehr ungenirt nach der neusten Mode gekleideten Regierungsräthin begegnet.
August 23, 2018
Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.