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The Awful German Language

Mark Twain

Book Overview: 

If you’ve ever studied German (and maybe even if you haven’t), you’re likely to find this short essay to be hilarious. Published as Appendix D from Twain’s 1880 book A Tramp Abroad, this comedic gem outlines the pitfalls one will encounter when trying to wrap one’s mind around the torturous German cases, adjective endings, noun genders, and verb placement.

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Community Reviews

One of the funniest essays ever written.

Πτώσεις, εγκλίσεις, χωριζόμενα ρήματα, καταλήξεις επιθέτων, λέξεις σιδηρόδρομοι, σύνταξη κι όλα τα χαριτωμένα χαρακτηριστικά που πονοκεφαλιάζουν αυτούς που έχουν μελετήσει ή μαθαίνουν ακόμα γερμανικά, συνοψίζονται με γενναίες δόσεις καυστικού χιούμορ από το Mark Twain. Φαντάζομαι τα πολλαπλά εγκε...more

Q:
To continue with the German genders: a tree is male, its buds are female, its leaves are neuter; horses are sexless, dogs are male, cats are female, —Tom-cats included, of course; a person’s mouth, neck, bosom, elbows, fingers, nails, feet, and body are of the male sex, and his head is male or...more

Hilarious.

A culture as rich, intelligent, and fascinating as Germany will of course have a language just as complex and sharing the roots of many Indo-Aryan languages such as the ever-confusing, all-conjugative Sanskrit.

Reading this short essay, I found myself nodding in agreement all throughout....more

Now I know why my German is so bad! Thanks to Mark Twain I now see it is not my fault! Seriously - a long lost gem of humor that I was glad to find.

Großartig, wie Mark Twain die Macken der deutschen Sprache zerlegt, auch für Muttersprachler in den meisten Fällen gut nachvollziehbar.

I love my mother tounge. This essay dwells on all those little absurdities that make it so loveable. If you learn German, read it, you will find a soulmate in your difficulties. If you are German, read it, it makes you feel grateful that you don't have to learn it... ;-)

Depending on your knowledge of German or your interest in learning it you may find this piece hilarious, repelling, or attractive and compelling. Either way it's a good read and I was ROFL while, (well, after) I read it.

Online Versions (PDF)

English: The Awful German Language

German: Die fürchterli...more

I really don't know which language I should write this in. The edition I've read was bilingual and I took the chance to savor some German with a useful facing-page translation. In addition, it should be easier writing about German grammar in German... To settle things once and for all, you'll fin...more

Though the book is really funny and entertaining it is hard not to contradict. Twain’s complaint against the inventor of the German language shows that he never had to learn his own language like I did.

Klar ist das Buch komisch und unterhaltsam,, aber ich kann doch nicht widerstehen, ihm zu wide...more

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