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  5. It is so frustrating


It is so frustrating


I am mad, I am learning Esperanto, and I was doing the language task in the language-tree. It asked me to translate "La germana estas malbela lingvo", it is translated to "German is an ugly language", why does people think so, and it does not help that Duolingo uses the sentence. I should probably not be angry about it, but everyone I speak to says german is ugly, but it is if we put all the struggles with the grammar aside a beautiful language. I had to let of some steam.

Danke und entschuldigung.

June 13, 2015


Sorted by top post


The content of the sentences is only meant for illustration of grammar and vocabulary -- I don't think it is meant to reflect the official opinion of Duolingo. Otherwise we could also complain that ducks don't read the newspaper, and bears rarely drink beer.

More generally, though, I think that nearly every German-from-English learner (and every German who ventures into the English-speaking world) has to endure people promulgating stale stereotypes about the "ugly", "harsh" language. But it's their loss, not ours :-).


June 13, 2015


Sorry to disagree with you pont but there's a world of difference in demonstrating grammar and vocabulary by using nonsense sentences about ducks reading newspapers and making subjective comments about other languages, cultures, races and creeds. I agree with Carolyn this type of gratuitously insulting comment has no place in any tree. By the way, I am not a German native speaker but I know I wouldn't like this said about my language, so why should the German speakers feel any differently. Quote, "If you prick me, do I not bleed:" ...... For a site whose avowed aim is to be repectful to all, this seems highly disrespectful.


If you prick me, I do bleed, but if you call my language ugly, I won't care at all. Some men there are love not a gaping pig; some, that are mad if they behold a cat; and some, no doubt, feel the same about certain languages for no very logical reason :).

Still, the Esperanto mods seem like a reasonable bunch and I can't imagine that they meant to give offence. If they are politely informed that one of their sentences is making many people unhappy, I think that they will change it.


Still, the Esperanto mods seem like a reasonable bunch

And, notably, they have some Germans on the team :)


We actually have two Germans on the team and an American living in Germany (hey, that's me! waves from Berlin). As I wrote in a couple other comments in this thread, I've since replaced the sentence.


Ah, yes, I''m sorry that I didn't object to your sentence at the very beginning. But living in Canada I've heard such drivel all my life, so I decided to let it pass. But I'm glad that our Duolingo learners voiced their objections.


No, I'm sure there are many people for whom such a comment would be water off a duck's back (let's hope its newspaper doesn't get soaked) but nonetheless, it is hard to see how you can on the one hand have forum moderators asking people to be respectful of other's feelings yet including this sentence in the tree. I am sure that both you and Wataya are right that no offence was intended and that the Esperanto mods being a reasonable bunch will indeed change it once they realise that the sentence is making somebody feel uncomfortable but that doesn't invalidate the OP's original comment. Fingers crossed for a happy outcome for all :-))


A language reflects an entire group of people... saying the way they speak is ugly doesn't really seem to fit the TOS... which is kinda odd.


That's funny, because as a native English speaker I think English is the worst and ugliest language. I would also agree with anybody who said that it was. As for German, I find it beautiful and wouldn't be offended if somebody said otherwise. Just like I wouldn't be offended that somebody likes cats when I don't. It's only an insult if you let it be.


English is awesome. The syllables are more distinguishable than Spanish or Japanese. The sentence order is more logical than German. It doesn't rely on an alphabet plus a set of symbols. There's a reason why it's one of the most used languages outside of countries where it's spoken as a first language.


Not only is German categorically NOT an ugly language, but when it is sung, it is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. (Think Schubert Lieder!)

Needless to say, this is my not-so-humble-opinion!


Don't blame you for that. Words like "ugly" or "beautiful" are personal opinions, not facts. It would be nicer if Duo. kept such personal opinions out of their exercises to avoid hurt feelings. (And my personal opinion is that it is not ugly at all!)


Personally, I find German to be prettier than French (a language which is traditionally seen as a 'beautiful language')

But of course, that is merely my opinion :)


I tend to agree. I studied French in college for 4 years and got a BA in it. Oddly, the more I studied it, the less I found it so ''beautiful.'' A lot of very throaty sounds. Conversely, when I started studying German, I started appreciating how beautiful it can be. It's just very different from both Latin-based languages and English, so I think most people are either shocked a little when they first hear it or have been prejudiced by the portrayal of German speakers in film who are yelling out at prisoners, etc. Few languages sound pretty when the speaker is incensed and loud.


Agree. I started with French in high school and college (minor) before starting German, and though I would have originally said the reverse, now I prefer the sound of German. And I do think a lot of the stereotype is based on what you mentioned (the fact that many Americans' only real exposure to the language is from movies with yelling Nazis).


I disagree. A language can sound great when angry also. Try being taken seriously while angry in French, or Swedish.


Truth be told, you'll most likely hear that "German is ugly" from actual Germans. ;)

Yes, German is a language that sounds "harsh", esp. compared to something like French or Italian. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. German is also a very exact language with a lot of directness (Germans tend not to beat around the bush when they want to get a message across) and can be filled with great pathos.

For the most beautiful and powerful use of German, a lot of people tend to look for the famouse German classics (Schiller, Goethe), but fortunately a lot of artists re-discovered their own native language (esp. in some metal genres).


I don´t know about German being ugly or pretty but I love its precision! And since one purpose of language is to transmit meaning and German does this so well I think its a great language (thats why I'm trying to learn it). Furthermore, how can the language of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Goethe, and Einstein be ugly?


Have you seen the grammar?


Personal preference to sounds I guess. I don't like the sound of German. Whenever I hear it I feel like cringing. Nothing against German people or their language. I just hate how it sounds.


Dissing any language on a language learning site is just gross and absurd even if it's only for training purposes.


I think a lot of people who think German is not beautiful feel that way because of the negative way the language has often been presented in films. Hardly any language sounds good when someone is yelling and being loud. On the contrary, since I've started studying German I've grown to like its crispness and flow. I've studied French for years and still have difficulty comprehending fast-spoken conversations, because there is so much elision and slurring over words. German, on the other hand, seems to me to be spoken very distinctly and precisely. As has been pointed out below, some of the best literature and vocal music has come from German and I agree that it is a very beautiful tongue.


Deutsche Sprache, Schöne Sprache! ;-)



^ Sound harsh? No, it does not.

So much depends upon the speaker's accent; depending on the speaker, German can sound gentle and quite beautiful. Because German has so many breath and throat sounds, the consonants can easily dissolve away, allowing the language to sound actually very "soft", and there are many native speakers who pronounce it this way. This is the way that I try to pronounce German, and it is one of the neat things about learning a new language: you can choose your new way of sounding in that language. It's very cool! Think if you are a new English speaker, you can choose if you want to try to sound more like Tom Cruise or more like Tom Hanks; since your new pronunciation of the language is a conscious effort anyway, it doesn't cost you extra to learn to pronounce it the way you think is awesome.

But the objectionable Esperanto sentence points to a deeper issue => Duolingo seems to assume that the nature of the sentences we are learning doesn't matter. This is probably one of the greatest weaknesses of Duolingo as a learning tool! In fact, the content of the sentences one studies has a large impact on how easy or difficult it is to remember the phrases and words in the sentences. When learning a new word, the content of the sentence that contains the word often makes all the difference between "Oh, got it!" and "Ehhhhhh?"

As I go through my German tree it is not at all uncommon for me to have new words INTRODUCED to me in the context of idiomatic expressions that do not use the word's normal meaning. Of course this makes it difficult to get a grasp on the word.


I have known a few people who do not like German because they think it sounds harsh. I guess that is just the subjective nature of how things sound to different people (and the associations they have with those sounds) because I love how German sounds. (Every time I hear it I think about my travels in Hamburg and Berlin and all of the nice people I met there.)


I hate it when anyone says any language is "ugly." People do the same thing to Vietnamese (A language I find beautiful and look forward to learning in part with Duolingo) and it annoys me so much. Also its ironic that they put that sentence in a language that contains several German cognates (eg. Dankon) That said, Duolingo makes us translate plenty of things that aren't true. For example: I am a male, but the first sentence I had to string together in Irish was "Is Cailìn mé," or I am a girl. Not to mention that sometimes a few sentences are fairly nonsensical. So, if its any consolation, I believe that neither the people at Duolingo nor the course contributors truly dislike the sound of Deutsch. Plus, now you know how to argue that it isn't an ugly language in Esperanto.


It's not ugly at all. Don't let it upset you, though.


Don't listen to them, Deutsch ist schoen. Ich liebe es :)

  • 1538

I totally agree with Carolyn! Such sentences should not be in any of the trees.


I love German. Anyone who thinks it's ugly probably doesn't speak or understand it very well. Google Zahrah Leander. She was a famous German singer back in the 1930s. A Dutch friend gave me an album of her songs. Not only is she great to listen to, but you can understand every word she sings. She was also a beautiful woman , and thanks to Google you can see her perform. Meiner Meinung ist deutsch eine schone Sprache.


Du hast recht! German is a lovely language. You might also Google Hildegard Knef, singing Cole Porter in German. I think her translations are better than Cole's, wenn du mich fragst.
BTW, Zarah Leander was Swedish. But can she roll an R!


Back then many Swedes spoke German much more fluently than English! :) In fact, back then it was THE foreign language to learn for Swedes!

Today it still remains an important language to learn in Sweden because of the nearness to Germany, but maybe not quite as important as English (it has really become the global language)


Thanks for the info about Hildergard Knef singing Cole Porter in German. Yes, I know die Leander was Swedish, but I think she made a name for herself in Germany. You might want to Google Marlene Dietrich. There is an album of her singing songs in her native German. And did you ever hear Ethel Merman singing "Alexander's Ragtime Band" in German?


I wrote this sentence and I take full responsibility for it. However, for the record, the actual sentence in question is Oni diras, ke la germana estas malbela lingvo. [One says that German is an ugly language.] I was trying to teach the pronoun "one" (like the German "man" or the French "on") and was trying to be extra careful not to be offensive. I see though that I have not succeeded in that, so I've removed the sentence and replaced it with the simple La germana ne estas malbela lingvo. [German is not an ugly language.]

My deepest apologies to all who I've offended. :(

Also, for the record, I think German is a beautiful language and greetings from my home in Berlin. :)


Hi amuzulo, as one of the people making the case for the removal of the sentence may I thank you for your response and apologise if I may have said anything which may have been equally offensive to you (I don't think I did but as we are discussing misunderstood sentences I want to be sure).

I can see how your attempt to produce a neutral "one says " sentence has backfired on you and sympathise with your position. Doubtless, you too bleed if pricked, so you have my respect for acting not only to remove the sentence but also for explaining how it came to exist in the first place and making an obviously genuine apology. You have my very best wishes :-)


Why didn't you just change it to "Oni diras, ke la germana estas bela lingvo"?


Because "one" typically does not say that, unfortunately. :(


I don't think the sentence needed deleting as it included "Oni diras".
If you're struggling to find sentences that won't offend anyone, please feel free to use me.

  • One says that Hohenems' voice is harsh and ugly.
  • One says that Hohenems' hair is ridiculous.
  • One says that Hohenems isn't smart enough to learn German/Esperanto grammar.

Let your imagination go wild. You have carte blanche. If one can't laugh at oneself...one should see a proctologist about a removal.


My adult ESL students told me that English sounded like people hissing while eating hot foods. It would be funny if you added a sentence about that :-D


I'm at peace with this comment. I've noticed you are from Berlin, and it's nothing personal, it's just a bit frustrating. You'll get a lingot from me. Danke/Dankon/Thanks. :)


Thanks for the explanation.


Phonoaesthetics is an entirely subjective topic. I think German is a lovely language. :)


Lol. If someone thinks German sounds harsh I wouldn't want to hear what they think about my native Afrikaans.

I listen to German radio a lot and love the way German sounds when spoken with such perfect attention as the presenters pay to pronunciation.


They could have chosen something more neutral or even positive like "They say German is an ugly language, but it is beautiful." or "is German a beautiful language or an ugly language."


I just wanted to teach this, but realized that we had no yet taught sed [but] at this very early lesson in the course. However, I've since deleted Oni diras, ke la germana estas malbela lingvo. [One says that German is an ugly language.] and replaced it simply with La germana ne estas malbela lingvo. [German is not an ugly language.] Thanks for your suggestion!


Danke/Dankon. :)


Denn an sich ist nichts weder gut noch schlimm, das Denken macht es erst dazu.


I agree, and I believe that any language spoken by a beautiful woman is beautiful


German is a very harsh language. However, I find the language much more beautiful than the likes of French or Italian. People have their preferences. With regard to Duolingo, like Pont said, Duolingo aims more to illustrate grammar and vocab than it does portray an actual philosophical view. Nevertheless, if people find it an unattractive language, so be it, embrace the negativity and learn German for why you think it's a great language :)


I sometimes wonder why many people say that German is harsh, but I've never heard that said about other germanic languages like Dutch or Norwegian. So what is it that makes German harsh in particular?


You've never heard anyone say that Dutch is harsh? Wow. As much as I love Dutch, I found very few people willing to say it's beautiful. For the record, I love the sound of Dutch and German. :)


I lived in Amsterdam and I love the Netherlands, but I really think the Dutch language is not at all attractive. I'm really amazed that so many here at Duo want to study it. Flemish which is spoken in southern Holland is far better sounding to me at least.; it's not so guttural and is more pleasant to the ear. But to each his own.


Or English for that matter! :)


I'm brazilian, and think that German is a very beautiful language, and I was learning a little bit also. forget about it :3


Words can describe and enhance feelings, don't let it get to you. Never then less thank you for sharing your opinion on the matter, have a good one!


I am of German decent and have been to Germany multiple times and absolutely love the culture. A few months ago I decided to learn the language and am really enjoying it. But it is a vary harsh language and does not seem to flow as smoothly as many others do. It's not as rough as Russian or Arabic in my opinion but I can understand why people may say it's ugly. But honestly, of all the faults and shortcomings of all societies in the world, who cares what people think of your language. I'm American, (former Marine at that). Everyone hates us. Who cares? That's their problem.


OMG is that true ugh thats just sad i'm learning german


Can't believe this -.-

sighs in German


iam mad, iam sevens year old. nice to meet you


German is such a beautiful language. It is unfortunate some will never see so


German has an inherent logic too it which is absolutely beautiful. My Spanish teacher says it is very hard to learn for her but I think that is because romantic languages (Spanish / Italian) take so many shortcuts. I think that makes them more difficult in some respects to learn if you are used to a more complex language (e.g. English).

I also think learning German is akin to Latin in being one of the best ways to appreciate the fundamental grammatical building blocks of any European language. Particularly for English people it is so easy for things to be second nature without having a full appreciation of how the language is the way it is.


On the contrary, one of the two reasons I'm attempting to learn German (the other being ancestry) is because it's an awesome-sounding language.


its just a sentence to teach you vocab and grammar dont be so serious.it could be any other language like french or hindi or arabic the instructor probably used the first language that came in their mind and i really doubt that he wanted to enforce his ideas on others or anything.


The sound of German is awesome, but the grammar and sentence order were chosen by a crackhead.


Read Jane Austin. I can't think of an example right now but quite a few features of her English are still part of modern German.


English is like chocolate. German is like chocolate with nuts. Some folks like one, others like both, others none. It's all good.

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.