I started learning English when I was twelve years old and I am still learning.
I started learning German when I entered university and I continued learning for at least six years. Although I majored in Economics first, and then Sociology, I spent a lot of time learning German. I enjoyed studying German grammar and reading German literature–including novels–, but I failed to spend enough time for German soon, especially after I got a post. German became Greek to me. I tried to restart learning German several times, but it failed every time.
I turned sixty-five years old, and I am wondering if I should restart again.
. . .
“Ich begann, Englisch zu lernen, als ich zwölf Jahre alt war, und ich lerne immer noch. Ich fing an, Deutsch zu lernen, als ich in der Universität und ich weiter lernen für mindestens sechs Jahre. Obwohl ich studierte Wirtschaftswissenschaften zuerst, und dann Soziologie, verbrachte ich viel Zeit, Deutsch zu lernen. Ich habe das Studium der deutschen Grammatik und Lesen der deutschen Literatur - darunter Romane -, aber ich konnte nicht genug Zeit für die deutschen bald zu verbringen, vor allem, nachdem ich einen Beitrag. Deutsch wurde griechisch für mich. Ich habe versucht, neu zu starten, Deutsch zu lernen mehrmals, aber jedes Mal gescheitert.”
Most of Google translate is understandable but there are often funny mistakes in these automatic translations. Sometimes wrong words are chosen, because a word can have several meanings.
In this case a lot of the grammar is wrong. Same for word order and punctuation. I can recommend Google translate only to give a gist what is written in a foreign language. But never take it for granted that you get the real meaning. And definitely you will not get the subtleties.
Do you see a link between your age and ability to study German? Let me assure you from across the ages and from - sometimes bitter - experience that ability depends more on attitude than on actual age. It is only quite recently that I have begun to enjoy learning again and am making remarkable progress in 4-5 languages (although I still haven’t attempted Japanese and Arabic properly). Okay, it takes a bit longer for vocab to stick at times, but that’s natural. I’ve never been someone who could memorise things well.
“German was Greek to me” : this wonderful expression does unfortunately not translate well. “Die deutsche Sprache und Literatur wurden ‘ein böhmisches Dorf / böhmische Dörfer’ für mich.”
In order to let you practise your German here is a link to the origins of our expression.
I agree with Vera. It’s a useful tool if you use it right. I use it to get the gist of a text or to make sure I haven’t totally screwed up writing something, and it’s generally pretty good if you just want the translation of a single word, but if it’s German and English, there are lots of good dictionaries out there anyway.
Sometimes it’s incomprehensibly stupid, though. Once a long time ago I typed “Englisch ist seltsam” and it spit back “Polish is weird” or something like that…
It also translated the game title “Chaos auf Deponia” to “Mass Effect” once…
Something similar happened to me. I started learning German when I was in high school, and then 3 more years at University, but then I dropped it completely, well, until now, and 40 years have gone.
I think things you learned in the past will be easier to relearn, that’s what is happening with me; new vocabulary is not so easy to remember, but, like Sanne, I’ve never been good at memorising things.
But I am enjoying it, and that’s the most important!
And I think you will enjoy it too!
@Yutaka: “I turned sixty-five years old, and I am wondering if I should restart again. . . .”
Sixty-five was the age I was when I restarted learning German. Then I paused, during which time I improved my French and Spanish. Now I am back to studying German. Although I studied German in college, I never much liked it. But now, fifty years later, I find that I enjoy German very much, just as much as Spanish and French.
Coincidentally, I am reading your countryman’s 1Q84 in Spanish and French, alternating chapters, and I have read and listened to some of it in German.
So, yes, Yutaka, restart German. You’ll like yourself for it.
Finally, and just for the record, I like both cats and dogs. And horses.
My little and primitive hypothesis about Google Translate:
Google Translate can translate German sentences more easily and correctly into English sentences than it can translate English sentences into German sentences. In other words, the system is more useful for German-to-English translations than English-to-German translations, even though it does not apply any “grammatical” analyses to the input sentences.
“Meine kleine und primitive Hypothese über Google Translate:
Google Translate kann deutsche Sätze einfacher und korrekt in Englisch Sätze zu übersetzen, als es englische Sätze ins Deutsche Sätze zu übersetzen. Mit anderen Worten, das System ist nützlich für Deutsch-zu-Übersetzungen als Englisch-zu-Deutsch-Übersetzungen, auch wenn es nicht gilt jede “grammatischen” Analysen zu den Eingangs Sätze.”
It translated “I ate dinner at 6 pm” into the Chinese equivalent of “I ate people at 6 pm”. I only discovered this when I entered it into another site and got lots of horrified replies from Chinese speakers.
I guess you are right, Yutaka. As the English grammar is less complex the result from a translation into English should be better than in the other direction. But it can still happen that the wrong meaning of a word is chosen if there is more than one translation for a word available.
As Vera said, the English to German direction is easier, but only if you use basic and short sentences. Thomas Mann wouldn’t have stood a chance! By the way, I liked @debbie’s comment on your exchange post. Your hypothesis certainly isn’t primitive, more of an initial attempt, I’d say. (And the previous post also attracted an interesting comment, by @julie?)