Dr Klaus Bung
68 Brantfell Road
© 2010 Klaus Bung
A stroll amidst the languages of Europe
The sceleton in the cupboard: European languages reveal their family secrets
(Das Skelett im Wandschrank: Europäische Sprachen enthüllen ihre Familiengeheimnisse - The skeleton in the cupboard: European languages reveal their family secrets)
Introduction written on 2010-06-23:
rtc-Books will shortly launch the first in a series of language courses which have several unique features. One of these, the only one under consideration here, is what we will call the (for simiplicity's sake) "European approach". "Indo-European" would be more accurate (and then also cover the languages of North India, Iran and Afghanistan). Moreover it could (and will) also be usefully applied to non-Indo-European languages (e.g. African, Arabic, Chinese, Dravidian (South Indian), Japanese, Malayan, etc). The first target languages planned will be: German, English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi-Urdu and Arabic.
In this kind of course, detailed attention is paid to the stories of individual words (but only where helpful). The student is made aware of the literal meaning of the word and of related words in related languages, and of regular relationships between the sounds of one language and the other. This has the following benefits:
- Non-arbitrary memory aids are created for the student, especially if he has already studied one of the languages referred to, or if there are links to his native language.
- The target language appears less alien to the student. His resistance to the foreign language is reduced and he will therefore be more open to learning what is new.
- He will see the target language in the context of a language group, and apart from learning the mechanics of a particular language (e.g. German) he will develop a feeling for the culture of the group as a whole.
- Any student who has learnt one European language with this approach, will find learning a second European language (or, in more general terms¸ another language of the same group) much easier than it would otherwise be.
No man is an island
A language student is being seriously deprived if such information is withheld from him and if he sees the target language only in isolation.
German, for instance, is not a hermetically sealed language. Many German words have made their way into French, and French words have made their way into German (just as they have made their way into English). German has also received words from Latin, some of them so long ago and so basic to our way of life that most Germans will be convinced that they are pure Germanic, e.g. "Keller" (cellar) or "Fenster" (window). Some German words simply go back to the same ancient roots as other Latin, Greek etc etc words. The student will become aware of this fact. This does not require a special learning effort but it is something that is presented to the student in a very translucent diagrammatic way which we have developed for these courses ("exploded words") and which he will absorb in passing, if he wishes, or ignore, if he prefers.
Students from England need to be guided in this direction because they see themselves as outsiders on the mainland of Europe and tend not to be aware how close the citizens of Europe feel to each other because of geographic, linguistic and historical reasons. This approach therefore has great benefits for students who do not live on the mainland of Europe.
It will be an eye-opener for students from, say, India or China when learning English initially (or at a revision stage), to see English as part of a group of languages and in its European context. It will be similarly important for students from Europe when learning, as they should, non-European languages.
In the course itself, there is a section for vocabulary exercises. The relevant information about related words is given, exercise by exercise, in a separate part of the book. Since the target language is German, only German words are annotated.
To give people a flavour of what can be expected in such courses we offer here one chapter from the German course to visitors to the DYLL website. Its purpose is to explain the approach through examples. We hope that you will enjoy it.
Starting language: English
Target language: German
Bird's Eye View:
The European approach to language learning
"We want to learn German. What the heck does that have to do with Europe?" I hear you ask.
German poet Goethe (1749-1832) said: "If you do not know other languages, you know nothing of your own." One could add: "If you do not know other continents, you know nothing of your own."
When, more than 30 years ago, as a very young man, I left Europe for the first time in my life, the only passenger on a German tramp (cargo ship) which went from London to Bridgetown (Barbados, West Indies), the sailors taught me many a choice nugget of wisdom. Among them was the proverb:
"Never smack a child in the street,
he might be your own."
This made a deep impression on me and has profoundly influenced my behaviour during the remaining years of my short and misspent life..
Ever since then, whenever I visit a new town, I never go out without filling my pockets with sweets. I stop at the playgrounds and look deeply into the children's faces, enquire about their names, ask about the well-being of their dear mother (and their dear father?). And I have had quite a few surprises over the years (not only from the police). .
I suggest you do the same. Not only with children, but also with words. In other languages they all look so alien. But look a little closer, and with a little imagination. Suddenly you discover familiar features. Of course you are not personally responsible for them. But a word is easier to learn even if there is only one letter which reminds you of something.
The world in which the foreign languages are spoken, i.e. at least Western Europe (and in its linguistic appendix, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand), becomes rather familiar once you discover these similarities and connections.
You no longer have "Germany here" and "France there", or "Germanic languages here" and "Romance languages there". They are all closely connected, come from the same ancient sources, or have influenced each other in various ages. When you start travelling, in reality (for example by car) or mentally (by learning a foreign language) or virtually (namely in the Internet), then Europe (and the world) actually becomes a very large mansion, a huge mental playing field on which you can run about and exercise your mental muscle. When you cross a border, the intonation sounds a little different, and some unfamiliar faces are approaching you, but also many old acquaintances, except perhaps with a slightly different meaning.
It is almost as if you were travelling from the Outer Hebrides to Land's End, all within the borders of Britain: Gradually the dialects change, there are some things which you cannot understand at all, but nevertheless there is much which can understand, and all of it still is somehow related to English (or Scottish).
That is the experience we want to give you when you learn German or another language with one of Dr Bung's language courses for Europeans ("Passport to Europe", "At Home in Europe"). This takes a little bit of unusual work, more for us than for you, but it will be useful - for you.
We do not want to teach you only "mechanical" knowledge of German. We do not want German to remain for you "that which is absolutely alien", but "that which is entirely related", that which has only been forgotten, that which you have perhaps already seen in a dream, heard in your infant sleep, perhaps covered up by the "rubble" of English.
We want to help you to become a "gentleman" (or sophisticated lady) in the sense of Edmund Burke (English political philosopher, 1729-1797):
"From all those sources arose a system of manners and of education which was nearly similar in all this quarter of the globe; and which softened, blended, and harmonized, the colours of the whole.
There was little difference in the form of the universities for the education of their youth, whether with regard to faculties, to sciences, or to the more liberal and elegant kinds of erudition.
From this resemblance in the modes of intercourse, and in the whole form and fashion of life, no citizen of Europe could be altogether an exile in any part of it.
There was nothing more than a pleasing variety to recreate and instruct the mind, to enrich the imagination, and to meliorate the heart.
When a man travelled or resided for health, pleasure, business, or necessity from his own country, he never felt himself quite abroad."
(from: Edmund Burke: 'Letters on a Regicide Peace' (1796), Letter 1, p 299. In: 'The Works of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke', Vol 2, p 275-383. Holdsworth and Ball, London 1834.)
We want to give you this feeling not only for Germany, but for the whole of Western Europe. It also applies to Eastern Europe, but there it is slightly more difficult to acquire. We therefore postpone that until you decide to learn a Slavonic language with our system (for example Russian, Czech, Polish or Bulgarian).
You can see the connections by looking at names. Why is there a district called "Angeln" in Schleswig-Holstein (North Germany, south of the Danish border) and not in England (= Angel-land)? Why is the county containing Cambridge (England) called "East Anglia"?
Why are the names "Britain" (in "Great Britain") and of Brittany (Bretagne) (North West tip of France) so similar? Why is it that the onion sellers from Brittany (France) who speak Breton and travel by bicycle, hung with garlands of onions, through Wales (or used to travel thus until recently), are understood by the Welsh speaking people in Wales (South West piece of Great Britain) without having to learn or speak Welsh?
What is the connection between Gaul (Latin: Gallia) (the old name for today's France) with Galicia (north west corner of Spain)? What is the connection of both of these names with "Wales"? And who were the Galatians to whom the apostle Paul wrote his famous letter? Were they all cousins of "the wandering Welsh"?
Why is Frankfurt (ford of the Franks) situated at the river Oder (border between Poland and Germany) and not at the Seine (in France)? Why is Frankfurt am Main (Frankfurt on Main) not the capital of France (German: "Frankreich", "empire of the Franks")? Why is the German province of Franken (Franconia) situated in Germany and not in "Frankreich" (German for "France")?
We want to get you used to different perspectives, perspectives which are more helpful to language learner and traveller.
The perspective of the street is usually the one in which your country (e.g. England, America, etc) is in the centre of the universe. That is necessary. This is how we grow up. The "I" stands in the middle. The sun circles the earth.
But such a perspective makes everything else alien. When we learn foreign languages we want to reduce the feeling of difference. So you might for once experiment with a different perspective. The history of Europe is complicated and we cannot give you a comprehensive course in history as part of this language course.
But we will give you in passing a little bit of European history and thereby contribute to your European "general education" and will try to turn you not into a European parrot but rather into an educated European (à la Edmund Burke) (if you aren't already one, which is
How easy is German?
English, except for English people, is not as easy and reasonable as it is said to be, and German is by no means as perverse as reluctant language learners make out (self fulfilling prophecy). On the contrary, German is dead-easy -- if you use our approach, with its three pillars:
- Dynamic Language Learning, which controls initial learning and revision schedules (DYLL mechanics)
- Environmental Language Learning, which controls what you learn and in which sequence and how you practise to *** think *** in German (Interaction)
- European Language Learning, which shapes your attitudes to language learning and gives you countless useful memory aids (the topic of this chapter)
Mark Twain said: "A gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years."
This is an example of the German sense of humour, which Mark Twain acquired during his travels in Germany in 1878. Mark Twain tried to look a gifted person in the mouth, which is not the done thing. Since I do not have the great German sense of humour, I will look at his assertion more closely. Like a wily politician he covers himself by saying a gifted person "ought" to learn English, etc, in x hours. That does not mean that even a gifted person actually does so. English, according to Mark Twain (by implication), is impossible to learn since, without pronunciation, you cannot speak the language, and without spelling you cannot write it.
Mark Twain got the figure of thirty years from the "Thirty Years' War", during which the Swedes learned swearing in German in thirty minutes (in English you can learn swearing in one minute since you need only four letters) the Swedes did not learn any German in spite of being gifted. Swedes (and turnips) are normally very good at learning foreign languages, provided they are carefully cultivated. They failed to learn German in thirty years not because German is a difficult language but because the Swedes treated the Germans (passionate potato eaters) as aliens and fought them instead of befriending them and using our scientifically proven learning methods.
To be quite serious: Mark Twain didn't have a clue about languages, and his jokes are not helpful to language learners since they furnish them with excuses for their failure, which are inevitably due to wrong methods (teaching and learning) rather than the structure of the language. The features of German which Mark Twain, in his ignorance, criticised also occur in Latin, French, Russian, Hindi, and countless other languages. Mark Twain is a paradigmatic example of the sort of person Goethe (see above) had in mind, a person who does not know any foreign language, therefore knows nothing about his own, and therefore makes false statements (however hilarious) about either. German was the first language he had come across which dared to be different from English. It was decidedly *** alien *** to him, and that is the sort of negative experience we are trying to prevent with our series of language courses "At Home in Europe".
In reality, German pronunciation is easy and governed by rules, which we will carefully teach you, and so is German spelling. If you have learnt English as your mother tongue (England, America, Australia, etc) or as a second language (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, etc), then learning German will be a doddle for you -- if you follow our methods to the letter.
English spelling is so complicated because it has preserved features of the languages from which it has grown or which it has imported, for instance French and Latin. This may have been an obstacle for you when you were learning English spelling, but now it is an advantage because it enables you to recognise similarities between English and other European languages which would be obscured if English spelling had been adjusted to English pronunciation (more phonetic spelling).
If you feel that our notes on word relationships do not appeal to you or do not help you, you may simply omit them. But do at least glance at them regularly, just in case they contain something useful to you (or may help you when, later on, you start learning another European language). We do not force you to use the European approach to language learning, but we do not want to deprive you of the chance of benefiting from it. Everyone can seek salvation in his own fashion, as King Frederick the Great of Prussia once said.
If you have learnt other European languages in the past, each of these can be helpful to you when learning German. Our European approach will create bridges for you, now and in future.
A stroll among the languages of Europe
English "apple" is "Apfel" in standard German (High German). In the Low German dialect of North Germany (geographically closest to England), it is called "Appel". Sounds familiar? This example shows you one of the regular correspondences between the oldest German and English words, which we will point out to you systematically during this course.
The French for "apple" is "pomme" (from Late Latin "poma"). When the potato arrived in France, the French needed a name for it. They created one, using the Dutch word "aardappel" (earth apple) as a model. In South Germany (and Austria and Switzerland) this is also used as "Erd-apfel". "Earth" = French "terre" (Latin: terra, thence English "teritory"). Thus Dutch "aardappel" became French "pomme de terre"
(apple of the earth).
British "Chips" (US English: "French fries") are "pommes frites" (speak "pomfrit") in French. The expression "Pommes frites" is used all over Germany. Every German knows that these are not fried apples (as the name would suggest) but fried potato chips. The inhabitants of Cologne (in West Germany and very close to France and Belgium) brutally turn this into "die Pommes" (two syllables!: Pom-mes) or "die Fritten".
"Pomade" was originally produced with the help of jellied apple juice, a fact well known to pomologists (apple scientists, experts in pomology),
Tomatoes belong to the same botanical family as the potatoes. The words are almost identical in English and German:
English: tomat o
German: Tomat e
This is an Amero-Indian word (from South America) and was accepted unchanged in Germany.
The Austrians have more imagination. They regard the tomato as a kind of apple (like the French do with the potato), and call it "Paradies-apfel" (paradise apple) or more briefly "Paradeiser" (paradiser). Now you know why Eve in Paradise was tempted by the forbidden apple. Such beautiful apples exist only in Paradise. Nowadays they no longer lead automatically to knowledge of foreign languages (and other forms of knowledge), and that is the reason why it is no longer forbidden to eat them. You can read the story of the paradise apple in the Bible (Genesis, ch 2-3). Today God would ban our "Be at home in Europe" language courses because their objective is to undo the Babylonian confusion of languages (Genesis, ch 11).
The Italians have a similar perception of the tomato. The tomato is so beautiful that it can only be likened to a golden apple: "pomodoro" (literally: "pomo d'oro" = "apple of gold, golden apple") . Nevertheless, scholars are still arguing about whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. What do you think?
Another apple which is not an apple is the German "Apfel-sine" (orange). In Spain this fruit is called "naranja" (equivalent to "narangi" in Urdu-speaking India and Pakistan). The word comes from the Persians (who brought it to the Indian territories, which for a while were part of their empire, the Moghul Empire). It came from Persia to Spain via the Arabs, who ruled Spain for 800 years and profoundly influenced its culture and language.
When the word came from Spain to France, the people wrongly thought that it meant "gold apple" (like Italian "pomodoro"), a reasonable assumption since the colour of oranges is much closer to gold than the colour of tomatoes. The "n" of "narang" fused with the French article "une", pronounced /yn/. Now I reconstruct freely to make the process comprehensible: "une narang" turned into "une arang". Then the French remembered that "or" (Latin "aurum") means "gold". They therefore thought the meaningless "ARang" should really be "ORang", i.e. gold-ang, i.e. "gold apple". This inventive attempt to make incomprehensible words comprehensible is called "folk etymology". A famous English example of such folk etymology is the, wrong, perception that "asparagus" really means "sparrow grass".
The development of "orange" can be imagined like this:
une nar ang (une narang)
une ar ang
une OR ang
une or ange
Prince William of Orange and the Principality of Orange have nothing to do with the fruit, even though oranges appear in its coat of arms.
Coat of arms of the Principality of Orange:
In Germany one has stuck to the method of calling anything that is round "-apfel", even very domestic varieties.
In the Witches Sabbath (Walpurgis-Nacht) of Goethe's Faust, Part I, Doctor Faustus (obviously a pomologist) has the following conversation while dancing with a beautiful young witch:
Einst hatt' ich einen schönen Traum:
Da sah ich einen Apfelbaum,
Zwei schöne Äpfel glänzten dran,
Sie reizten mich, ich stieg hinan.
Der Äpfelchen begehrt ihr sehr,
Und schon vom Paradiese her.
Von Freuden fühl' ich mich bewegt,
Daß auch mein Garten solche trägt.
(Goethe: Faust I, Walpurgisnacht)
Once I had a beautiful dream:
I saw an apple tree,
Two beautiful apples shone from it,
They excited me and I climbed up.
The beautiful witch
You men are very keen on those little apples,
from right back to the days of paradise.
I feel moved with joy
that my garden also bears such fruit.
As you can see, it is definitely worthwhile learning German. The original is much more spicy than my clumsy translation.
In German the exotic orange (never mind whether it came from Persia or from China) was called "Apfel-sine", i.e. apple from China, China-Apple ("sine" = "chine" = "Chinese"; Sinology = China Studies).
Exotic (rather than erotic) "apples" have come to us not only from China but also from Persia, through the Roman Empire. In Latin this fruit was called "mela persica" (= apple-Persian = Persian Apple), later shortened to "persica" -- like British people say "my mobile" when they mean "my mobile phone".
In the course of time the "p" became German "pf", i.e. "pfersica". (You have witnessed the same relationship in the pair "apple" = "Apfel".) Now we omit the Latin ending and get "pfersic"; we change "e" to "i" and "c" to "ch", and we get German "Pfirsich" = English "peach".
Something like this:
Latin p e r s i c a
- p i r s i c
German pf i r s i ch
In German, a Persian carpet is simply called "ein Perser" (literally: "a Persian"). Therefore, once you are in Germany, if you want to buy "a Persian", you have three options:
- you go to the Persian Embassy (Human Resources Department),
- or to a carpet dealer,
- or to a greengrocer.
Buy a few China Apples (Apfelsinen) as stocking fillers.
In France and England the peach is also called "Persian apple" even though it is difficult to recognise at first glance. We will write it down for you letter by letter so that you can trace the development. Then this word will no longer be difficult for you, whether you want to learn it in German or in any of the other related languages, and you will be able to recognise in German "Pfirsich" her cousin Polly Peachum.
The following is a typical display of word relationships ("exploded words") used in rtc's new language courses
§The following words are related: §Pfirsich, §peach
Peaches have a velvety skin, are covered with whitish down, like cotton (German: Baum-wolle = tree wool, also called "Kattun"). This word comes from Arabic "al qoton" and reached Europe via Sicily. In modern Spanish cotton cloth is called "algodón". The classical Latin word for "apple" is "mela". Therefore the Spaniards call the peach "melocotón" = cotton apple = velvet apple. Related to Latin "mela" or Spanish "melón" (literally "big apple") are English "melon" and German "Melone". An English bowler hat is also called "Melone" in German. So many words are so easy to learn when you understand their background. In this course we help you to develop
Not only plans and fruit are named after the exotic lands from which
they come or allegedly come. This also happens to animals. Why is the turkey
called "dindon" in French even though it does not wear bells round its neck?
In Latin it was called "gallina Indica" (Indian hen).
That was translated as "poulle d'Inde" (= poulle de Inde = hen from India), the "poulle" was omitted and "d'inde" remained. People forgot the reason for the apostrophe and simply wrote "dinde". Since the turkey is so large, this became "dindon" (India bird), like "melon" as opposed to "mela" is a large "mela”, a large "apple".
The English had a different perspective. For them the turkey came from Turkey, and they named the bird accordingly.
Maize ("corn", German: "der Mais") originated in Mexico. But Turkey, once a neighbour of Austria (Ottoman Empire / Austro-Hungarian Empire), introduced Austria to maize. Therefore in Austria (a German-speaking country), but not in Germany, maize is known by the Turkish word "Kukuruz" or it is simply called "der Türken". The Czechs also call maize "Kukuruc". In Italy maize is called "granoturco" (Turkish grain).
Other language groups
The East European (mainly Slavonic) languages (Russian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian) have been somewhat neglected during our stroll through Europe. But they too are part of Europe, and even more obviously so since the enlargement of the European Union, which gives all of us the right to work and travel in each other's countries without let or hindrance - yet another reason why our European approach to language learning is so important. rtc-Books is, or will be, developing courses for these languages too, based on the same model and the same philosophy of language learning as this German language course.
The German course regularly considers relationships to the following languages: Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Welsh, English, German -- and very occasionally an obvious example from another language is brought in. This restriction was necessary because it is impossible to cover all Indo-European languages.
Welsh has been included because it is one of the languages of the British isles. The other languages have been chosen for inclusion because users of the German course are more likely to have learned one of these before or to be learning one of them in future. They are part of the Western European universe of languages. Sanskrit was brought in, where *** obvious *** examples exist because it is the oldest surviving relative of these languages. By teaching German in this way we are introducing the learner into a universe larger than German, and one that we hope will be useful to him.
We plan to develop "European" courses where the word histories shift in emphasis to different language groups, e.g.
- Scandinavian and Dutch,
- Slavonic (Russian, Polish, Czech, Bulgarian) and
- North Indian (Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali), more distantly related to European languages but hugely important in the world by number of speakers.
In each case we will do our best to prise open the mysteries of these language groups by reference to the starting language or mother tongue, and to open up to the learner not only the target language but also the language group to which the target language belongs. That is the rationale of the German prototype we are creating now and also the motivation for the courses planned for the future.
The Slavonic languages are closely related to each other (and our courses will exploit that fact), but they are also related, even though less closely, to the West European languages, and these relationships are often "carefully" hidden. That makes these languages more difficult to learn for a Western European than to move from one Western European language to another. These difficulties make our European approach (uncovering hidden language similarities) particularly important and useful for reducing these difficulties.
In the relationship tables, the term "metathesis" occurs occasionally. This is the switching of adjacent letters. You find it in English, for instance, when you compare "film" with "flimsy". You find it when Jamaicans say "I aks im" (I asked him) or "We went to see a flim" (film). When comparing German with English, we find it in German "brennen" compared to English "burn".
Here are a few examples from the golden city of Prague, once the centre of Europe.
Czech ch la d = the cold
ch al d letter switch: la > al
k al d
German k al t
English c ol d
Chech m le k o = milk
m el k o letter switch: le > el
English m il k
German M il ch
The famous book of Chinese Taoism is called 'Tao te king' (path-of book = book of the path). So Chinese "king" means "book". This word has found its way via Bulgarian into Czech and Russian. There it has survived metathesis and a few other small changes, something like this:
Czech ch l é b = bread
Old High German h l ei b = loaf, loaf of bread
German L ai b = loaf of bread
English l oa f
The proper name of Roman general Julius Caesar, conqueror of Gaul (Latin: Gallia, later called France, "Frankreich" in German), conqueror of Britannia, later called Britain, provided the generic term for German and Russian emperors.
Rome C ae s a r Proper name
German K ai s e r any Emperor
Russian C z a r Russian Emperor
German Z a r = the Czar
Similarly Charlemagne's proper name (Latin: Carolus Magnus, German: Karl der Große) furnished the generic term for the Czech kings. The relations are something like this:
German K ar l
k ra l letter switch: ar > ra
Czech k ra l = king
Place names for things
God's blessing travels from north to south: while the Czechs have given the Austrians a taste for maize, the Prussians (the Brandenburgers) have introduced the Czechs to the potato. Therefore "potato" (German: Kartoffel) is called "brambory" in Czech. So potatoes are really called "Brandenburgers" even though nobody knows that any more. (Brandenburg was one of the provinces in Prussia, and there is a town called Brandenburg some distance west of Berlin.)
Similarly Frankfurt sausages are called "Frankfurters" even though they do not come from Frankfurt and condoms are sometimes called "Pariser" (Parisians) in German even though they do not come from Paris, and even less from the ancient French cathedral town of Condome (situated between Bordeaux and Lourdes). The English call preservatives "French letters", and neither Brussels nor Paris have so far bothered to protest or threatened to issue injunctions. The French in turn use (apart from the respectable expression "le préservatif") the terms "capote anglaise" (English cap) or "capote imperméable" (waterproof coat = raincoat).
To leave a room without being noticed, for example to avoid embarrassment, is in German "sich dünne machen" (to make oneself thin) and in French "filer à l'anglaise" (to march out in the English manner), whereas the English describe exactly the same action as "to take French leave'.
The French word "anglaiser" (to "English" someone) means in colloquial French "to cheat someone", but in French slang it means, literally, to bugger someone (sodomise someone) or more generally "to rape". You will now no longer be surprised when I remind you that the English have the verb "to welsh" meaning "to cheat" or when I tell you that English "bugger" comes from French "bougre", which means "heretic" and "sodomist" and is a general term of abuse, but whose literal meaning (origin) is "bulgar" (Bulgarian). There is a long story behind these meanings, too long to be related here.
Well, this is enough for today! If you have by now not become a European, then I am not Chinese -- or vice versa.
One of the features which make this course different from other German courses is therefore that, for each word, we look at its origins and relationships with other European words and that we tell you about them, provided they are reasonably interesting and reasonably easy to understand. What we tell you as part of the course and what we don't tell you is therefore a matter of judgement. We do not want to make things too complicated but only give you as much information as you need to recognise the existence of a relationship and to benefit when learning and remembering a word.
When we present the relationships between words in our standard tabulation (exploded words), we do not proceed with scientific strictness. The relationships do exist: that is scientific. But we do not tell you exactly which word was derived from which word, which change happened first and which happened later. We do not always distinguish between late Latin and classical Latin. Usually we simply say "Latin". We only want to give you a presentation which is plausible enough to help you when learning. However, our hints on word relationships are never completely invented. The core of the matter is always true.
Our style of teaching
Goethe, in his novel "Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre" (William Master's Years of Apprenticeship), Book 6, has one of his characters (a "schöne Seele", a beautiful soul) make the following remark:
|"Französisch lernte ich mit vieler Begierde. Mein Sprachlehrer war ein wackerer Mann. Er war nicht ein leichtsinniger Empiriker, nicht ein trockner Grammatiker; er hatte Wissenschaften, er hatte die Welt gesehen. Zugleich mit dem Sprachunterrichte sättigte er meine Wißbegierde auf mancherlei Weise. Ich liebte ihn so sehr, daß ich seine Ankunft immer mit Herzklopfen erwartete." (Goethe: Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Book 6: Bekenntnisse einer schönen Seele)
"I learnt French with great eagerness. My language teacher was a solid man. He was neither a flighty empiricist nor a dried-up grammarian. He knew science, he had seen the world. Alongside his language teaching he satisfied my curiosity in many ways. I loved him so much that my heart always beat faster when I was waiting for his arrival."
Not only French, but *** any *** language can be taught in this way, e.g. German.
We have heard of test students who were so keen to finish one exercise (as prescribed by DYLL procedures) that they could hardly wait for the permission to turn to the notes on the next exercise. We were happy to hear that. This is exactly what we want to achieve with our unusual approach to language teaching.