11.22.2004

German is scary

Guillaume du Gardier had a link to an article about public relations in his blog, and posted an excerpt, “For those who are not scared by an article in German."

I thought, "I'm not scared. It's not as scary as memorizing a bunch of Japanese kanji." At first, it was glorious; the sentence structure was simple - subject, verb, object, like elementary school:

"Blogger berichten über Parteitage. Blogger kontrollieren Journalisten. Sportler durften nicht bloggen – zumindest während der Olympischen Spiele. Manager bloggen. Es heißt, Blogger können ihre Firma in Gefahr bringen. Es heißt aber auch, Blogging sei „die“ Chance für PR. Was also bedeutet Blogging für die Public Relations? Eine Revolution? Ein kleines zusätzliches Tool? Einige meinen, Blogging sei das Ende von Public Relations. Andere sehen darin den Anfang."

It even had a structure and tone like English. I was psyched. So I decided to go to the original article, and was intimidated by the following sentence:

"Gerade wenn journalistische Medien ihrem Informationsauftrag nur mangelhaft nachkommen (können), werden Weblogs zu komplementären Angeboten – allerdings ohne sich notwendigerweise an journalistische Standards zu halten – schon die große Bandbreite der Blogger legt dies nahe."

It's too long and complicated. It requires too much dissecting. This isn't fair. So to further demonstrate how German can infect itself, check out this random sentence from Der Spiegel:

"Damit widersprach Müller der Aussage Daschners, dass es nur die Möglichkeit gegeben habe, durch 'Androhung unmittelbaren Zwangs auf den Tatverdächtigen einzuwirken', damit dieser den Aufenthaltsort des elfjährigen Bankierssohns Jakob von Metzler preisgebe."

German reminds me of that Star Trek Voyager episode where an alien had a weapon that changed time. This is how it worked: he would shoot the weapon at a planet, then time would change, but then the universe would get wrinkled in the wrong way.

German is like that: you think you know a case, a vocabulary word, and you're happy. But then a case like dative or accusative comes along (or others), and you start to worry. It gets especially scary when you have to figure out who's doing what to whom, or another what, and if it's moving then you better reconstruct it, and you better split your verbs correctly, or not at all. And don't forget about word order. Or the way they jam words together to create words that have like 50 letters.

Okay, the comparison with a forgotten Star Trek episode is obscure. But the point is this: sometimes German is kind, and sometimes it's scary.

And look at what German has done: it's even made this post really long.

2 comments:

Jordan F. MacVay said...

You're right, that is scary! Anything with so many cases frightens the hell out of me.

lingua said...

A friend was telling me about Greek. I think it might rival German. And I've heard Finnish is cruel, with tons of cases.