Long ago six years back when the time just did not tell me which decision to make I forayed into the world of German by chance. I like so many delved into the language of the Vaterland, encountered scores of people who would make a face and asked me “Why would you want to learn German? Why not French or Japanese, which were flourishing at that point of time. Why the language that sounds so cold and mean!”
Move ahead six years. While I don’t claim to be close to fluent, my German is passable in just about any situation, save complex medical or technical ones. I’ve kept up with my German, even though I stay in India because this language and country gave me a new turning to follow, a new road to tread and one belief to be interested in. I am head over heels in love with this language.
Of course, a great deal of the reason why I love German so much is because I view that only month of my life (when I studied abroad in Hamburg) as intrinsically entwined with the language. I can count the negative experiences I’ve had in Germany on one hand. The positive memories I associate with the country and its tongue number far too many to easily count.
It’s impossible not to fall in love with that country. Unmöglich.
The most interesting part that makes me love the language is the logic. It is a language of rules, of staying within the lines. Learn a grammar rule, and you’re pretty much set. And while its structure might not be simple (Seriously, why do we need five different words for ‘the’?), there’s a beauty in all that neat, orderly tidiness. Someone once told me that I approach language from an ‘OCD’ perspective, that I like my words to follow all the rules and that I dislike any sense of disorder. If that’s the case, then it’s no surprise German’s the language I’ve grown to love.
In German, though, I’ve found those untranslatable words even better. With so many of them, there’s this inherent, subtle sense of sadness that I absolutely love, though perhaps that says more about me as a person than German as a language. Naturally, Schadenfreude, or the pleasure you take from seeing others’ misfortune, comes to mind first. There’s Torschlusspanik, which literally translates to “gate-closing panic,” and means the dread that, as you get older, the opportunities you’re afforded decrease. Forget a quarter- or mid-life crisis. Give me a few years and I’m going to suffer from a full-fledged Torschlusspanik attack.
Then there’s Fernweh, one of my personal favorites. If you’re lazy, you could just translate it as “wanderlust,” but it’s really so much more than that. Instead, it’s a painful, yearning homesickness for places you’ve never even been before. Also at the same time it’s fun playing with some words where a “Rock” would mean a skirt and a “Gift” would mean poison and naturally for a layman who has never known these words or spoken them in their life ultimately all would sound really funny.
And there’s Gemütlichkeit, the feeling of being perfectly, cozily, comfortably at home…and Drachenfutter, the gift a husband needs to buy when he’s pissed off his wife…and Fremdschämen, the act of feeling shame or embarrassment for another person…the list goes on and on.
So, yes, I love German for its untranslatable words, but every foreign language has those. Maybe it’s the sounds I love most of all. Call me crazy, but I could sit and listen to a native German speaker all day long. Others will say that Italian or Spanish or French is more pleasing, but I have grown to find German, with its back-of-the-throat “ch” and prolonged umlauted verbs, truly beautiful, truly marvellous and at the same time wunderbar!!
One of the (few) things that I dislike about German are that the language makes your life a tongue twister at times with all those turning and twists, the games of running your tongue here and there and making it dance in your mouth. With so many long and prolonged words wherein even a full grown up will feel he has to make both ends meet to memorize the spellings, but it could come with practice, once you delve into that awesomeness, it is very very difficult to turn back, but ultimately it only grows. It’s the Geborgenheitsgefuehl that this language creates which makes me give all the attention Deutsch deserves! ❤ ❤
©Rucha S Khot