New Year’s Resolution – learn German!

My new years resolution this year…. is to brush up my German.

I learnt French at School, and to be honest, I can remember very little. The quality of teaching was merde, as they say, but then again you can’t blame the teachers as they were more occupied with crowd control and anti-social behavious than la belle francais.

I knew hardly a word of German before I first went there in 200o. Since then I’ve been to Berlin, Nuremberg, Munich (twice), Duisburg, Dusseldorf (three times), Cologne (twice), Hamlin (as in the pied piper), Paderborn, and the Rhine Valley down near Koblenz. Its true what they say, that you learn a language much better from going there and practicing it and hearing it. I’ve picked up German a lot easier than I ever did French.

As a modern military historian I reckon having a good grasp of German must be an advantage, and it can’t exactly look bad on the CV. I know the basics – hello, goodbye, how to order a beer, where is the Football Stadium, can I have a currywurst and chips please, the Panzers are coming etc, but you could hardly say I can speak German. Therefore I’ve signed up to the BBC’s new German Steps course, to learn German in twelve weeks. They send you an email every week, and you work through the modules.

I’ll let you know how I’m getting on!



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16 responses to “New Year’s Resolution – learn German!

  1. x

    Didn’t you get the “you must learn another language to be a good historian” talk at uni’?

    The thought of learning Latin so I could plough through manorial court records was one of the reasons why I leaned towards “modern history.” (Hate that term.) If I had stayed the course though the direction my interests were taking me would have meant learning Russian………. eek!

    • James Daly

      We had that talk at uni, but it was more about identifying those of us who went to decent schools… ‘for instance, how many of you here can read Latin?’… *couple of public-schooled hands go up*…*lecturer makes a note for future reference*

      • x

        A smattering of Latin never harms a historian.

        Keele has quite a strong Medieval group, none of whom would have batted an eye if you had submitted work in Latin.

  2. John Erickson

    “The Panzers are coming”? Gee, there’s a phrase I can see using EVERY day. “I must hurry to the shops, the Panzers are coming”. “I can’t go to lunch, the Panzers are coming”. Why do I have a Fawlty Towers-esque view of you whispering to your girlfriend, “It’s okay, I did mention the war once, but I think I got away with it”? So what’s the last lesson in the series, how to goose-step? Oh well, go ahead, have fun, I couldn’t afford that new Volkswagen estate anyway…. πŸ˜€

    • James Daly

      haha, good one John. I did have a moment in Dusseldorf where I realised that more than half the German I know comes from war films… Abwehr, die Panzer ist kommt, schwerpunkts ist sud, fallschirmjager, etc

      • x

        Surely in Germany the main problem with language is your English not being up to scratch. πŸ™‚

        • John Erickson

          If you ever want to have fun with that, go out to, which has a whole slew of translators. Write something in “slang” English (or the bastardised sub-unit, American), use one translator to translate into German (or whatever), then use another one to translate back to English. You get sentences that sound like the Owner’s Manual from my 1990 Subaru. “For to be inserting the fuel on the vehicle, make open of the door filler and into the nozzle insert.” (All typos and mis-spellings intentional!) Gee, ya think the guy who wrote that maybe needed a BIT more education in English?!? πŸ˜€

        • John Erickson

          Oh, by the way, X, for German, your response to James should be, “Surely in Germany, the main problem would of your English not up to scratch being.”
          Always, ALWAYS shove that verb as far out of the sentence as possible! πŸ˜‰
          (And to our German readers – I’m KIDDING! Trust me, I’m from Chicago, we haven’t spoken English there for over 80 years!)

  3. Edna Cahill

    Ja. ich auch; ich habe gedacht. wenn mann mich einen Brief auf Deutsch schreibt, kann ich es lesen, oder, habe ich alles vergessen? ! ! !

  4. James Daly

    OK Edna lets see how I do (and I only recoursed to the German dictionary for a few words!):

    Yes, me too I think. If somebody writes me a letter in German, can I read it, or have I forgotten everything?

  5. John Erickson

    James- Not sure how much of a petrol head you are (gearhead to us bloody Yanks!), but I just thought of a way to help you with your German. I got tired of not finding the info on various German cars from the American and British websites, so I started hitting the German sites. Granted most of the language is car related, but if you read over, say, Volkswagen’s British site, then pull up http://WWW.Volkswagen.DE, you can quickly figure out the terms for “Specifications”, “Technical Data”, and a number of other terms. And you get to see some neat options not available to us Auslanders. (I’ve done this for years, don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier. Duh!)

  6. Hi James, a good number of German words ‘Panzer’ doesn’t have a plural in German. And very few plurals in German use the letter ‘s’….good luck !

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