Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Hey, I don't either. Well, I used to speak German when I actually lived in Wuppertal, although I'm sure that my Deutschlehrer Herr Vogelsang from the Gymnasium Sedanstrasse would beg to differ. And I would probably get "im Klassenbuch eingetragen". Never mind...

Now if you're like most Americans, then your entire German vocabulary consists of words from World War II movies, with terms like "Sieg Heil", "Heil Hitler" and "Schweinehund". Now, I must point out that the first two terms have been rarely used outside Hollywood and certain areas of South America in the last 50 years. (However, the last phrase is in fact very practical, as evidenced by the first English words every German schoolboy learns: "pig dog".)

Although this page will occasionally have German commentary, almost of all text is available in English. Sometimes the text may read as if the writer has had too many Wicküler Pils, but that is usually because it's been translated literally from the German original.

The German language is deliberately designed to make it difficult for foreigners to comprehend. They have cleverly combined the worse features of Latin with Teutonic thoroughness of attention to detail.

The main points are as follows:

1) Every word has a case, which is assigned by a random number generator apparently running on a Sun Ultrasparc20 compatible. (Or it could be running Xfree86 under Slackware Linux, but even though the $#@*ing video card is "supported", you still only get 320x200 crap resolution.) However, the main thing is that it should be impossible for non-Germans to actually figure out what's going on.

2) Long words are better than short words, so combine words to make a longer single word.

3) Put lots of commas in a sentence, which should be at least a paragraph in length.

4) Die Ausnahme bestätigt die Regel. This term is used by the native speaker when he can't explain the grammatical rule to a bewildered foreigner. Comes in very handy, evidently.

Of course, this is not to say that English is in any way a logical language. But since you already speak it, no use belaboring the point!

The main thing is: Vay Ess Fow! Vay Ess Fow! There. Now you speak enough German....

For a detailed analysis of German, please refer to "The Awful German Language", an essay by Mark Twain from "Innocents Abroad".

If you are planning on travelling beyond Germany and visiting Austria, the Viennese-American Phrasebook could come in handy.