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FÜR 2024

How Difficult Is German Actually?

Is German harder to learn than other languages?

Maria, a student of mine asked me: "Dilyana, I've heard that German is a hard language to learn. But you've learned already 5 languages. So how much harder is German compared to other languages?" Interesting question. I guess, we all are curious to hear an expert's opinion. We love to be prepared. We love to compare ourselves to general statements or to what an average person does. I don't think that this question has an objective answer, but even if it did. It doesn't really matter if it's hard, harder or the hardest language on earth. The fact is: "If you decided to learn it. Learn it. Punkt!" You don't need the validation that you're better, because you've been learning one of the most difficult languages on earth. Nor should you use it as an excuse of not starting to learn it. It is totally your choice what you are going to do. See what I think about German and the next 4 foreign languages I learned. Here is my honest absolutely subjective expert opinion on the matter.

German is as hard as learning how to surf.

For someone who's never been in the water before / cannot swim, surfing might seem to be the scarest thing ever. Huge waves, cold water, balancing on a tiny board in the middle of the ocean full of sharks. It sounds almost as horrible or unachievable as to someone who has never learned any foreign language.

However, if you're someone who knows how to snowboard or you're a professional skier, climber or dancer, you might know enough about body balance and how to control your own body, so you won't be as shy to give it a try.

It's the same with language learning. If you have a native language related to the one you want to learn, e.g. Dutch, Danish, Swedish or English, it will be easier for you to learn German, just like it is for someone who knows how to snowboard to learn how to surf. They are still completely different activities, but with enough similarities so you are more likely to take the challenge.

The same is true, if you've already learned another foreign language.

Every next foreign language learned appears to be easier.

No matter if French, Spanish, Arabic or Japanese. Once you've learned a foreign language, you've developed certain language learning strategies and skills that you can apply also for learning German. Your brain is trained and it's easer for you to overcome the language barrier when speaking.

Of course there are many other factors that will influence your perception about your German. Like motivation, language predisposition, method of learning, level of confidence to speak, etc.

German compared to other languages

Here is my personal ranking on German compared to English, Italian, Russian and Bulgarian:

The easiest language for all of us is our mother tongue. No explanations needed :-) My personal ranking depends of course on the fact that my first language is Bulgarian. As a native speaker of Bulgarian, the closest from all foreign languages is Russian. Both are Slavic languages, so I didn't have to learn a new alphabet or phonetic system.

However, I think it's very interesting to NOTE: my level of Russian profeciency is the lowest compared to the three other foreign languages I speak.


Conclusion Nr.1: The closer your native language is to the one you learn, the easier it is for you in terms of pronunciation and vocabulary.


The second easiest language is Italian. Italian was my forth foreign language and I found it extremely easy to learn. Roughly 60% of my used vocabulary I derived from other languages I already knew (mostly English). Easy to pronounce. Very logical grammar rules. Logical pronunciation (you read as you write). Today, I'm surprised by the level of fluency I've developed compared to the relatively small effort I put into it.


Conclusion Nr.2: The more languages you learn, the easier it becomes because you transfer general language learning skills and strategies.


My number three is English. It's been always my favourate language to learn, maybe because as a child, I heard many English songs and was surrounded by English movies, so I was curious to understand this "cool" language. Except for its horrible "pronunication rules" (if you can talk about rules with the million exceptions existing), it is a relatively easy language to learn in terms of phrase structure and input opportunities (media and technology). -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Conclusion Nr.3: The more you're excited and motivated to learn a language / The more you surround yourself with this language, the easier it will be for you to learn. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

German has been so far the most difficult language to learn. Ironically enough, it's the language I've achieved highest proficiency (native-like). Although it has many grammar rules, each of them by itself is not difficult. It is a very logical language. I like to compare it to math problems. If you know the rules and practice how to apply them, with time, you become better and faster. So I can tell you one thing for sure. Learning German, no matter how complicated it might seem - totally doable! -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Conclusion Nr.4: No matter how difficult a language is, the more effort you put into it, the better you get. Being proficient in German (or any other foreign language) is totally doable. No excuses. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now, it's your time for action. Remember:

Learning does not happen through thought, but through practice.

So, look at any major learning problems you might have and start working on them NOW. It's the only way to get them solved :-) Need some help with German and someone to guide you through your jorney? I'd be happy to help. Leave me a comment, ask a question or simply contact me. Have fun riding your German wave and don't forget:

No matter, how big a wave might look, the feeling on the top is worth every single try and practice to get there. Enjoy the ride, Dilyana P.S. Knowing someone who's afraid of diving into the German language and culture? Help them find the courage by sharing this article with them.

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Ich bin Dilyana.
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