HerzlHerzl was way, way off when he said that the Jewish state should use German and not Hebrew, Hebrew being, according to Herzl, too challenging. After day 1 of German class (the day after turning in my grades for the French class I co-taught–this is an action-packed summer, linguistically at least) I can say for sure that Herzl did not know what he was talking about. Hebrew does not have fifty different ways of combining an article and a noun. Words in Hebrew might well be written in silly letters, but they are, in most cases, quite short. Granted, for native German speakers (or German-influenced 19th C Central European Jews), German would have been easier than Hebrew, which was kind of Herzl’s situation, but objectively, ordering a train ticket in German has to be tougher than doing the same in Hebrew.

After my class, I met up with Jo for dinner at the Second Avenue Deli. Somewhere between the matzo ball and the kreplach, I’m hoping something of German or German-like language started to sink in.

Cross posted from What Would Phoebe Do?

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  • Phoebe, these days even as a native speaker of German you can be glad to buy a train ticket cause the counters are usually closed. 🙂 The vending machines, however, are multilingual. Stick to subject – verb – object sentences for a start; thanks to inflections, German syntax is highly flexible, but S-V-O is the basic syntax for main clauses – just as in English. Standard German uses no auxiliaries in questions andnegative statements, it is, however, permissable to do so in colloquial use. If you want to continue getting into the German language, I suggest this magazine as some basic reading material: http://www.deutsch-perfekt.de/

  • Phoebe: Have you been drunk-blogging again?


    The glamorous life of a busy grad student. Reminds me of a young Muffti before he became a fancy shmancy professor.

  • Hebrew does not have fifty different ways of combining an article and a noun.

    Yes, but forming past tense in German is (for the most part), simply subject + proper conjugation of “to have” + one past participle, whereas Hebrew is subject (sometimes optional) + (root of verb + subject-specific suffix) x 90835 different verb groups and subgroups. And with German there is the nice bonus of having every word pronounced exactly as it is written, which makes spelling and dictionary-searching trivial (as opposed to koof/caf, ayin/aleph, khet/khaf, sin/samekh ambiguities in Modern Hebrew).

  • When speaking German or conversing with a German person, remember not to give offense, which means omitting any reference to the Euro 2008 final.

  • Wait.

    Muffti is a perfesser? Where? I need to tell my kids to avoid that school.

    Rim Shot.


    My father grew up speaking German and he tried to teach it to us when we were kids. We, of course, didn’t have any use for some weird foreign language. I remember sitting in his lap when I must have been about 4 or 5 or so, trying to listen to a record of poetry recitations in German. He was listening with a beatific, faraway look in his eyes and I was just squirming, wanting to be anywhere but there, being forced to listen to gobbledeygook.

    I think it broke his heart, and looking back, I think we should have learned it.

  • “Denk ich an Deutschland in der Nacht…”

    Je ne comprends pas.

    Proof that Hebrew’s the easier language: in ck’s image, “rakevet” makes perfect sense. That other thing? Is it even about a train?

  • Heh, it’s a line from a satirical poem by Heinrich Heine in which he reflects on Germany, which makes him sleepless. The sentence structure is inverted; standard syntax would be (since it’s a conditional clause), “Wenn ich an Deutschland in der Nacht denke,…” = “When(ever) I think of Germany at night, …”.

    “Zu kompliziert” means “too complicated”; not too tough actually once you know that German spelling is phonetic and that T often became S in the Second Great Vowel Shift, which didn’t get as far up north as Britain. The divide is somewhere north of Düsseldorf.

    To demonstrate: better = besser, weather = Wetter (th = d; the d often turned into the unvoiced t over time), etc.
    Similar shifts are there from P to (P)F: apple = Apfel

    The toughest thing about German are the regional dialects, which are richer in vocabulary and grammatical possibilities than Standard German.
    (English:) I think it is a bit overcast today.
    (Standard German:) Ich glaube, es ist heute etwas bedeckt.
    (Moselle Frankonian; my native dialect. Its current form is influenced by French, Hebrew, and Italian, but overall it’s 400 years older than Yiddish): Esch mäen ett wäer att jett tröv.

  • I dated a girl from Northern Franken..that’s not German, that’s the tongue of satan!

    I lived in Schwabia for years and even Schwäbisch comes off more refined than a handful of Bayerische Dialekte 🙂

    Sorry Froylein..now, let’s find some common groud: Germany needs to cultivate a new keeper, or 2010 is going to be a painful ride.

  • Ah, Franken’s got a dialect of its own; I’m located between Cologne and Frankfurt. Bavarian dialects are pretty rough; “Bajuwarisch”, their basis, is a pretty rough Celtic language that is not related to Germanic nor the other Celtic languages. Bajuwarish per se has died out, but its influence is still strong on Bavarian dialects.

    The dialects of northern Swabia, Palatinate and the Rhineland give you a pretty good idea of what Yiddish used to be like before adding the Slavic influence.

    Our goalie’s just fine. There’s never been a Euro 2008 final. 😐

  • Start with getting rid of the guy Torres beat for his golaso. The Germans need to get younger and more athletic. And if only they’d given up as easily during the two world wars.

  • By some fitness testing standards, the German team scored highest of all teams participating, but they couldn’t reliven the beautiful, artistic football they played during the 2006 worldcup. (The overall atmosphere during the 2006 worldcup was way better, too, particularly because from the start German media supported also the smaller contestants and the idea of international understanding and fairplay was going strong. You could get all kinds of flags and fan merchandise of different countries all over the place, and people would get e.g. Trinidad & Tobago fan shirts and wear them to the matches or large-scale football parties. Austrian and Swiss fans mostly focused on their teams, and the idea of rivalry and competition was apparent.)

    Spain was a great team from the start, but I think Germany was a tad too self-confident after beating Portugal. That, and there was a decidedly negative psychological dimension with 80% of Austrians polled declaring they wanted Germany to lose in the final – Austrian attendants behaved accordingly in the stadion. Also, Poland revoked Podolski’s Polish citizenship (he held both) for scoring a goal in the match vs Poland, and that was just plain nasty.

    The referees of most matches (not only ones with the German team in them) were pretty questionable, letting players get away with intentional physical attacks that might be lethal, e.g. hits in jugular area.

    So, keep teasing me all you want; the German team came in second, which is way better than not qualifying at all (like e.g. England, Scotland, Ireland,…). And the German ladies still are world champions. Oh, and our team has got the most handsome coach of all.

  • The lack of urgency in Germany’s play in the second half would’ve bugged me if I were a Germany fan. They played as if they were down three goals, not one. Sure, Spain was a deserving winner and the most impressive side throughout the tournament. But go down fighting.

    And to top if all off, crappy ’08 uniforms by Adidas.

  • Oh well, during the matches versus Croatia and Spain, the German team seemed somewhat hungover / tranquilized to me. The match versus Portugal was great.

    I was sorry for the Netherlands, though, they’d initially delivered such beautiful football that it was painful to seem them go.

    The outfits don’t matter so much as long as the players take their shirts off after the matches. A study released in 2006 said that watching football matches serves as a sexual stimulus to women.

    Anyhow, if you guys keep teasing me about the Euro 2008 final, I’ll do all my future posts in German. Yes sirs, I wouldn’t be shying away from that even if I were to get reprimanded by ck.

  • Two words froylein: Google Translate.
    Of course, in translation you will sound retarded and often nonsensical but… oh, wait a minute…


    You walked right into that one froyo.

  • Just for the record: Poland did NOT revoke Podolski`s citizenship. We couldn`t do that even if we wanted to – Polish constitution does not allow it.

  • Tsk, pretty much any EU state can do it and several have done it. There are more people without any official nationality than people might imagine.