Friday, December 20, 2013

Quote of the Day

"When we wish to speak of our "good friend or friends," in our enlightened tongue, we stick to the one form and have no trouble or hard feeling about it; but with the German tongue it is different. When a German gets his hands on an adjective, he declines it, and keeps on declining it until the common sense is all declined out of it. It is as bad as Latin. He says, for instance:

·        SINGULAR

·        Nominative — Mein guter Freund, my good friend.
·        Genitive — Meines guten Freundes, of my good friend.
·        Dative — Meinem guten Freund, to my good friend.
·        Accusative — Meinen guten Freund, my good friend.

·        PLURAL

·        N. — Meine guten Freunde, my good friends.
·        G. — Meiner guten Freunde, of my good friends.
·        D. — Meinen guten Freunden, to my good friends.
·        A. — Meine guten Freunde, my good friends.

Now let the candidate for the asylum try to memorize those variations, and see how soon he will be elected. One might better go without friends in Germany than take all this trouble about them. I have shown what a bother it is to decline a good (male) friend; well this is only a third of the work, for there is a variety of new distortions of the adjective to be learned when the object is feminine, and still another when the object is neuter. Now there are more adjectives in this language than there are black cats in Switzerland, and they must all be as elaborately declined as the examples above suggested. Difficult? — troublesome? — these words cannot describe it. I heard a Californian student in Heidelberg say, in one of his calmest moods, that he would rather decline two drinks than one German adjective."  ~ Mark Twain


Anonymous said...

I've been studying German, on my own with the aid of a 1974 textbook, for about 2 years now. It helps, A LOT, that I previously studied French and speak Spanish rather well . . . what I find really confusing is that the articles aren't one-to-a-situation. "Der" can be masculine, feminine, or neuter, singular or plural, depending on the case . . . and it can also mean "the one which." I'd never have gotten this far if my only language basis had been high-school English!
Sandy in OR

Bunnykins said...

To Anon: Back in the dark ages when I was in high school, we all took French (this is Canada, so it was mandatory) and Latin (also mandatory for my class) plus German (alternate choice was Russian.) Declining one language's verbs was interesting. Sitting in exams not being able to remember the word in the right language was head bangingly frustrating. Having someone speak the language was invaluable as getting the rhythm helped me a great deal, including our Latin teacher who sometimes translated as he read Caesar's poetry and reports from whatever war he was fighting at the time. Of course, all I've ever used them for is reading product labels on imported jam and the like or figuring out Latin based English words, as not having someone to talk to killed any ability I had. I wish you better luck.