I have just started learning to speak German – I have a number of reasons for wanting to do so:

  1. I went to Frankfurt and Dusseldorf on a work jolly (there was a lot of actual work done too, but I cannot deny that the alcohol was in full flow), and I felt so inspired by everything I experienced while I was there.  Germany (the bits I saw) is a lovely place, and I’d like the opportunity to work there in the future.  Engineers are also sought-after in Germany (they have a more robust manufacturing sector than the UK, as well as having similar service industries -like consultancy, where I work now).  And being bilingual is a very, very, useful thing for employers, especially if one of your languages is English – one of the universal business languages.
  2. I wanted to learn a new language, or to re-learn French.  My language education at school was slightly above the bare minimum, but not immersive enough to lead to fluency.  I also struggled with speaking and listening (um, rather important things when learning a language), although my written French is very good.  I liked the structure and patterns in French sentences; it’s a logical language with an easily understood set of rules.  Only trouble is, I don’t seem to have an ear for French.  I have difficulty understanding others, and there must be something seriously up with my pronunciation, because I am apparently unintelligible to the average French person.  However, German seems like a very easy language for an English speaker to pick up.  I’m able to pronounce the words correctly, it sticks well in my memory, the syntax is closer to English than French is, and it’s also made up using a set of rules (I do like rules).
  3. I have always considered myself a European, and I would like to spend more time on the continent.  However, my hand may be forced soon, because if we are dumb enough to vote Brexit next week, then I’m off to Germany to gain citizenship there.  Culturally, the UK seems about 40 years behind the rest of Europe, and I’d rather keep up with the rest of the world than lag behind it.  We’ve also caught a glimpse of what a detached Britain would be like over the last few months, and it is ugly as sin.
So those are my reasons for learning the language, and of course, it has its own unique beauty, as all languages do. However, I found something rather special when browsing a glossary of words. I’d heard the word “Fledermaus” before, as a friend invited me to a performance of the operetta Die Fledermaus, and so I knew that it meant “bat”. But what I didn’t know is that it is not a direct translation of “flying mouse” or “winged mouse”, there is something prettier behind the name. I found this website, which tells you more about its etymology:

So a Fledermaus is not a “flying mouse”, or a “winged mouse”, but a fluttermouse. This is just lovely. No matter how harsh German speech may sound, it has its moments of poetry. Of course I crave more, and while I’ve not yet discovered all the beauties of die Deutsche Sprache, I have found a couple more words that are just pulchritudinous:

Nacktschnecke: meaning “slug”, translates directly to English as “naked snail“.  This reminds me of a joke:


What did the slug say to the snail?
“Big Issue, please?”


Entschuldigung: this means “sorry”, with no hidden content.  But the word itself sounds quite funny when said out loud.  It’s like I could never apologise to anyone in German with any conviction.


I am very much at the start of my language learning.  I want to be able to speak it as well as a Native.  However, I’m only at A1 Beginner level with Busuu.  But I feel pretty confident about my ability – as well as learning, it feels like I’m really understanding and appreciating the language.  Maybe I’ll do a whole post in German soon….


Bis bald,
Die Wissenschaftlerin

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