Inspiration is the key!
If you’re familiar with the writings of Virginia Woolf, you might recall an essay titled “On not knowing Greek“, where the author attentively spoke of the Greek language or, to be more precise, about the way the Greek culture was perceived in the 1920s.
The title would hint at the knowledge of the Greek language, thus hiding a far deeper analysis of what is left of the Greek culture. In this article, I will merely talk of the German language for what it is, mostly about ‘Germanism’ as a concept, exploring its current status, my approach to it and all of this that is summed up in the medium that is the German language. Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
The European Union is facing its most crucial time since its foundation and there’s no doubt its core is represented by Germany, its economic growth, and consequently its predominance in the cultural landscape of Europe. Germany has slowly risen from the ashes of World War II to become the leading nation in terms of economic power and growth, so it is no wonder that some sort of continental suprematism prevails on a linguistic basis too. The divided and struggling nation of the post-War era is now the most modern country in the continent, and it looks like it’s now setting the bar for the other countries. This morning, the Economist posted an article titled “German culture in Britain“, highlighting the similarities between Germany and Britain, aswell as talking about their mutual admiration (except past, or perhaps still current, rivalry).
It’s not just culture I want to focus on. Let’s go back to the medium of all this, the language. Having studied tourism, I had grown up knowing German was closely related to the business world and such association could ever hardly be removed from my mind. Maybe, this is one of the reasons why I wanted to study German at University; I wanted to see German under a brand new light. In some way, society led me to think that business and history had already labelled German for me, so it was time to dig for answers and rebel against that! Besides, knowing German would have allowed me to know more about art movements such as German Expressionism (surely, there are many sources in English too, but it’s in Germany that it took place) and moreover, literary works. I had started to read Thomas Mann in my first German Literature course. I enjoyed it, but not knowing the language was a major hurdle with my little knowledge of the language.
I had discovered a whole new world, full of new ‘worten’ and agglutinative features that would allow words to unite as in ‘Kartoffelsalat’ (Potato salad; this is the first example that I could come up with!)
Maybe I gave up too soon. I lost myself in the jungle of the different cases (Dative, Accusative…) which made German so unique in comparison to English or other Latin-derived languages, but also made it less charming and much more difficult for me to digest.
I will give it a try, someday. Why learn German? Here’s my personal advice: do it for yourself, do it because it’s the language of Goethe and Beethoven, do it because it would allow you to confront your culture with that of amazing countries such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland.