Happy National German Language Day!

September 9, 2018

Hurra! September 8 is National German Language Day. In 2001, the German Language Association created this day to encourage more people to learn German. To celebrate its 17th anniversary, we have a few fun facts about the language for you!

 

German has words that don’t exist in English

German has some words that are so hyper-specific, it can take a whole sentence to describe its meaning in English! Here are a couple of our favorites:

  • Sauregurkenzeit: Literally translates to “pickle time” and refers to the 3-6 week holiday season when nothing productive gets done because everyone is on vacation

  • Erbsenzähler: A person who counts their peas -- basically describes anyone who likes to obsess over the smallest of details

  • Innerer Schweinehund: Literally translates to “inner pig dog” -- the unproductive monster that lives inside many of us who prevents us from eating healthy, getting up on time, or going to the gym

 

The longest word in German consisted of 63 letters

Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz (try saying that three times fast -- or even once, if you can!) was introduced in 1999 and means “law delegating beef label monitoring.” Unfortunately, due to changes in EU regulations, the word was scrapped in 2013. But long words aren’t uncommon in the German language; currently, the longest word in the dictionary is Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung and means “automobile liability insurance.”

 

German doesn’t just exist in Germany

German is one of the most spoken languages in Europe and is the official language of not only Germany but of Austria and Liechtenstein as well. It is also one of the official languages of Luxembourg and Switzerland!

 

German and English are sister languages

German and English are so similar, they share 60% of their vocabulary! This makes sense as the two language descended from the Proto-Germanic root and only diverged into different languages sometime in the last 500 years. But don’t let the similarities fool you; there are some words in English that mean something totally different in German. Gift, for example, means “present” in English. In German, however, it means “poison” -- yikes!

 

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