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Cunning linguists

OK, need to learn German but I am absolutely rubbish at grammar!

7 replies

StrawberryJamPlease · 03/05/2017 12:00


I have a family reunion later this year with (long lost) family in Germany who speak no English. Another relative speaks German, so we will be OK, but I really want to be able to speak and understand some by then.

I don't find remembering the words too hard, nor the pronunciation, but the grammar... I tried to learn in my 20's and I have a real block over nominative, akkusativ and dativ. (My ds is 8 and is just learning grammar at school and, it seems, I have as much a block and non-understanding of English grammar Blush, much to my - otherwise fairly highly educated - embarrassment).

My cousin lives half a country away, so can't help, and I cannot afford classes so I am stuck with internet, tv and online.

Can anyone offer any help with how I can get my head around these verbs? Or am I destined to never know? As much as I study it, it just doesn't go in.

Thanks in advance.

OP posts:
EBearhug · 03/05/2017 12:19

Have you tried Duolingo? It focuses on being able to communicate, so while a module might focus on the accusative or something, it doesn't go into the detail, but repeats ways of doing it so you get used to the pattern and learn what feels right - so you just know it's "mit dem Bus" or whatever.

Just for reference - nominative, accusative etc is about nouns (and adjectives), not verbs. But you learnt English without knowing how to describe all the grammatical constructions. You know what sounds right, even if you can't describe it in grammatical metalanguage.

You may be able to drive without understanding how the engine and so on works. Many people use computers and phone apps without understanding how it actually works. So you don't always need to know absolutely everything to become a functional user. So try and stop worrying about the block in your head about it, and find a course which isn't so focused on grammar.

(I say all this as someone who has happily taken part in in-depth discussions about grammatical constructions, but I accept that not everyone is open to conversion to recognising how fascinating it can be.)

StrawberryJamPlease · 03/05/2017 12:32

Thanks EB, that's totally it! I am so hung up on not knowing the grammar - and not being able to help with my son's homework didn't help my confidence! A foreign friend used to ask me how to structure sentences in English and I would tell her and then, when she asked why, I'd just say "I don't know, it just sounds right" Blush.

But I am determined to be able to be able to talk to them (more than just "hello" and "how are you").

I have just started Duolingo and have started having German radio on in the background during the day. I might need some recommendations though as most of the ones I have listened to have had a pretty dire selection of music Grin.

Thanks for the encouragement. I was expecting people to come on and berate me for my lack of grammatical knowledge. Instead you have inspired me to keep trying!

OP posts:
NeverTooOldForAnything · 03/05/2017 12:54

Fwiw, most of the time people will understand you perfectly well if you use accusative instead of dative, or if you get the gender wrong.

If someone were to say to you "I go to the station yesterday" instead of "I went" or "I watch the TV now" instead of "I am watching TV", you would know exactly what they mean Smile

StrawberryJamPlease · 04/05/2017 09:33

Thanks NeverTooOld. I'm hoping my enthusiasm will help me!

OP posts:
ChardonnayKnickertonSmythe · 04/05/2017 09:38

Stick with it.

It all makes sense. All those 'mich' 'mir' will fall in place.

Also, sentences. Verb last.

Walter Presents have some German programmes. Listen and follow the subtitles.

NotCitrus · 04/05/2017 09:56

Verb last only when it's a sentence of two halves (a subordinate clause). In simple sentences it's Subject Verb Object just like English - I play the violin, Ich spiele Geige. He is a policeman. Er ist Polizist.

Nominative/subject means doing.
Accusative/(direct) object means done-to.
Dative/indirect object means done with, for or towards.
Though certain words always require dative words after - so 'me' is mich, with me is mit mir - mit (with) always takes dative. (memorise the list of Dative prepositions as it's really helpful: aus außer bei mit nach seit von zu)

Though trust me, you can get through A-level and months of living in Germany and not worry about adjective endings! BBC Bitesize is good, and Memrise app for building vocabulary - the more words you have, the more you can bodge them together and get understood!

Viel Spaß!

Eolian · 20/05/2017 14:45

I'm a German teacher (of adults as well as kids and explaining grammar is my favourite thing Grin.

I've pretty much never failed to explain grammar to people so that they understand, but of course understanding isn't the same as knowing the stuff well enough to actually use it consistently when speaking. And that only comes from revising and lots of practice!

If there's anything particular you want explaining (like nominative, accusative and dative), I'll more than happily pm you one of my explanation sheets. Smile They often involve a bit of simple explanation of how the English equivalent works.

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