The Mechanical German Language

Book cover of the "Awful German Language" by Mark Twain (source:

Book cover of the “Awful German Language” by Mark Twain (source:

In 1880, American famous writer Mark Twain expressed his agonies of learning German in an essay titled The Awful German Language. The essay is a very enjoyable read, especially for German learners, as it satirizes brilliantly the German language and its perplexity. There are many memorable passages to quote. My favorite is this:

Some German words are so long that they have a perspective. Observe these examples:


He adds:

Of course when one of these grand mountain ranges goes stretching across the printed page, it adorns and ennobles that literary landscape,—but at the same time it is a great distress to the new student, for it blocks up his way; he cannot crawl under it, or climb over it, or tunnel through it.

For more quotes by Mark Twain about German, see here.

Having been learning German for more than two years and a half (not very successfully, to my dismay), I think it is high time I wrote my own version of The Awful German Language. However, a blog post is too short to lay out “the several vices of this language,” to use one of Twain’s expressions. I will therefore limit this blog post to one single aspect of learning German; that is, why German may sound very mechanical for those who attempt to learn it.

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