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A complicated language

August 27, 2007

Re "German even the Germans don't like," Opinion, Aug. 22

There is nothing to be gained from denying that the German language is unnecessarily complicated, particularly for millions of native speakers who lost track of the almost infinite amount of incomprehensible rules. On the other side of the coin, there is an influential section of the population who regard superfluous grammar and ridiculously long words as aesthetically appealing.

Rule books and guidelines have always been an indispensable part of the German psyche. The unfortunate side effect is a staggering bureaucracy and an ubiquitous animosity against open-mindedness and unconventional phenomena.

Not to anyone's surprise, my mother tongue is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Michael Toepfer

Dingelstaedt, Germany

Andrew D. Blechman's musings on the German language left me cold. I spent years at university learning it and only finally mastered the language after living in Germany for several years. It would seem to me that Blechman should think about the English language before asserting the unique difficulty of German. The English language is "ambiguous and unsystematic" -- in fact more so than German -- and is also "unnecessarily complicated." It is full of words with odd, unphonetic spellings. American schoolchildren also have to learn grammar and will be docked when they make mistakes.

Learning a foreign language is complicated but rewarding. Maybe someday Blechman will write a column about how wonderful those evocative German compound nouns are -- how they, along with those literal verbs, create pictures in the mind that help a foreigner see mundane words and thoughts in new ways.

David Beffert


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