The Guardian had this piece “Why We Should Learn German” from novelist John le Carré. Once again, I am stirred to renew my study of German and gain a renewed competence in the language.
You can have a lot of fun with the German language, as we all know. You can tease it, play with it, send it up. You can invent huge words of your own – but real words all the same, just for the hell of it. Google gave me Donaudamp-fschiffsfahrtsgessellschaftskapitän.
You’ve probably heard the Mark Twain gag: “Some German words are so long they have a perspective.” You can make up crazy adjectives like “my-recently-by-my-parents-thrown-out-of- the-window PlayStation”. And when you’re tired of floundering with nouns and participles strung together in a compound, you can turn for relief to the pristine poems of a Hölderlin, or a Goethe, or a Heine, and remind yourself that the German language can attain heights of simplicity and beauty that make it, for many of us, a language of the gods.
To quote Charlemagne: “To have another language is to possess a second soul.” He might have added that to teach another language is to implant a second soul.