8 Facts about the German Language to Get You Motivated

With its long compound nouns and gendered articles, German can be an overwhelming language to learn, regardless of the level you’re at. Here are some fun facts that will get you motivated to learn the German language, or keep you going if you’ve hit a plateau.

Fun fact #1: The German language has some of the world’s longest words

The structure of the German language is such that separate words, like nouns and adjectives, can be fused together to form longer words – which means that German has some pretty long words! Technically there’s no “longest word,” because in theory you can come up with a compound word that goes on indefinitely.

The longest German word is:

Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, which refers to beef labeling regulations and delegation of supervision law. It’s definitely not a word we’d use every day!

Fun Fact #2: German words are unique

In any given language, there are words that can’t be translated directly into another language, and sometimes require longer explanations. German is no exception. Here are some examples of unique German words:

The verb verschlimmbessern means “to make things worse while trying to make them better” or to “improve something for the worse.”

The noun (die) Erklärungsnot comes into play when you’re forced to talk your way out of a tricky situation. The literal translation of this word would be “emergency explanation.”

And then there’s Eszett – that is, the letter “ß,” which is unique to the German language. Though it may look like a fancy “B,” the Eszett is actually used in place of a double s and is thus pronounced as ss. For example, the word heiß, which means “hot,” is pronuounced “heiss.”

(By the way, the little dots that crown some vowels in German are known as Umlaute, or “umlauts” in English. Umlauts modify the sounds of these vowels. In German, umlauts are used with a, o, and u to form ä, ö, and ü, respectively.)

Fun Fact #3: German has tons of native speakers

There are roughly 101 million native German speakers in the world. German is spoken in Europe – Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy (in the northern province of South Tyrol), Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Denmark, among others – but also in other parts of the world, including countries as far away as Namibia, Kazakhstan, and Brazil. Although it’s not the primary language in all of these countries, you can always count on finding communities of native German speakers there.

Even if you don’t live in a country with a high number of native German speakers, German can be a fun language to learn if you want to have secret conversations with your friends, since it’s not that commonly spoken in North America or Australia, for example.

Fun Fact #4: English and German are both West Germanic languages

The three most prevalent West Germanic languages are English, Dutch, and German. These languages thus share many similar words and grammatical structures (yes, really!), which makes things much easier for language learners. Just watch out for “false friends” – that is, words that are similar but have completely different meanings. A few examples are the German noun (das) Gift, which means “poison” in English, the German adverb fast, which means “nearly” or “almost,” and the German noun (das) Bad, which means “bath!”

Fun Fact #5: German has some great proverbs

German has many proverbs that will make you laugh. Here are a couple of examples:

Jetzt geht’s um die Wurst,” translated literally, means “Now it goes around the sausage.” Germans use it to mean “It’s now or never.”

Du gehst mir tierisch auf den Keks” translates to “You are walking on my cookie in a beastly way.” It’s used to let someone know that they’re annoying you or getting on your nerves.

Fun Fact #6: German is great for giving instructions

German is a very direct language. There are words for almost everything – in contrast to English, where we often use multiple words to describe an object or concept. This reduces miscommunication, and also makes German an ideal language for giving instructions. That’s why there are so many engineering and medical texts in German.

Fun Fact #7: All German nouns are capitalized

Yes, all of them! Names, proper nouns, common nouns, etc. That’s one of the qualities that gives German texts their distinct appearance.

Fun Fact #8: There are 3 genders in the German language

Masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns are indicated by the articles der, die, and das, respectively. English only has one gender, while Spanish and French each have two.

Yabla German gives you the opportunity to learn all about what makes German an exciting language. We offer a wide variety of videos – including narrative and documentary film clips, music videos, and more – featuring native speakers and accompanied by games, vocabulary lists, and comprehension questions, so that you can master spelling, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and listening skills.

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