If you’ve ever tried to learn German, you know that it has some peculiar features. Some of these don’t bother me that much, like piled-up consonant clusters, umlauts, and irregular verbs, but others make me want to tear my hairs out. Here are five of the things that I could definitely do without, auf Deutsch.
The dative case: As you may know, German nouns, articles, pronouns and adjectives morph into various forms according to how they fall into grammatical structures called “cases.” With the accusative case, there is a sensible reason for the changes (direct object), and minimal changes involved. The genitive case (for possessives) is also not that complicated, and can be avoided if necessary. I could live with these without undue stress.
But the dative! Messy and complicated it is, with more changes than any other case, sometimes taking over prepositions that otherwise belong to the accusative, and attaching itself to random verbs for no apparent reason. If there were one thing I could toss out from the German language (along with the sixteen ways of saying “the”), this would be it.
Prepositions: Besides their involvement in the case problem, prepositions in German have slightly different meanings or are used in slightly different ways than their English soundalikes, and that is very confusing. Plus, their habit of attaching themselves to the front end of verbs but then detaching and leaping to the end of the sentence is very irritating. (In English we have many similar “phrasal verbs,” which are challenging for learners, but at least the preposition doesn’t jump around so wildly.)
Capitalizing nouns: This obviates a useful method of distinguishing between proper and common nouns. Plus, it introduces so many extra keystrokes when typing. And it makes everything look like it’s being written in a high eighteenth century Style, with Emphasis on Words of Importance. I have a hard time taking this convention seriously.
The letter ß: If this letter represented a different sound than double s, or was ALWAYS used to replace that combo, it would make more sense to me. But no, it’s just another set of rules to learn and another keystroke to add on a non-German keyboard. I’m pleased the Swiss are sensible enough to not bother with this letter, at least.
Anglicisms: You might think these would be welcome as they mean fewer words to learn, but they so often seem so ugly and awkward, like vulgar American interlopers in a German-speaking environment. It also becomes tempting to create more in this vein by just adding “-en” and “-lich” to English words, a thing my husband enjoys doing to tease me, thus leaving me unsure of which are legitimate neologisms and which are nonsensical inventions.
What features of language — your own, or one you’re learning — would you gladly do without? Or do you take everything in stride?