The Art of Language Learning

“These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions.” Mark Twain on the German language

It is often mentioned to me that German is an ugly language. That it has a harsh sound with harsh “icks” and “sch” syllables. It is not as beautiful as Spanish, but it is no uglier than English. In fact, English is a Germanic language. This fact is something that I find many English speakers do not know.
A little history lesson: Germanic Tribes invaded the now UK and set up shop. Those German tribes stuck around and from them we developed Old English, then Middle English, and eventually, after many changes, modern English.
English has its fair share of ugly consonants. Beyond the sound however, English is one of the most difficult languages to learn. The only consistent fact of English Grammar class is that every lesson the teacher will introduce an exception. Think “i before e, except after c…”.
It is difficult to learn a new language. We are afraid to challenge ourselves and potentially fail. “German is too hard to learn”, a phrase commonly repeated to me when I teach students. Everything is “too hard to learn” because we are lazy. German is no more difficult to learn than any other subject in school; but learning a language does not have an immediate payoff because very few of us will ever use the language to its full potential.
Perhaps the most confusing factor in learning German is gender and cases. Why does it matter if a Computer (der Computer) is masculine? Why is a Lamp (die Lampe) feminine? Why can’t they both be neutral things, since that’s really what they are – things. It can be daunting and it can be discouraging to the language learner, but immersion is key. Any artist who truly wants to excel at his business immerses himself. He doesn’t ask why paint can’t be erased when he makes a mistake, instead, he learns how to adapt his work until it becomes perfect. He learns his art inside and out so that he can excel to the point of success. Language is merely an art. There is no one way to success and fluency. There is never going to be comfort – but the learner must accept and adapt. To create his second soul. , he must immerse

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