German is one of the most commonly used language in Europe. For many years, German has held an unshakable position in Taiwan's foreign language education system. The economic environment and relatively low tuition fees has also attracted students to study, work, and even settle in Germany.
Although we have close relations with the German language, are we really that familiar with German speaking countries? Here I have 5 cold hard facts about the German language and German speaking countries. No matter if you're a beginner, or simply curious about German speaking countries, you are welcome to take a look and test your understanding!
Five Facts You Might Not Know About German
1) Inverted Numbers
All German learners have probably encountered this interesting phenomena: When counting in German, numbers above 20 are all inverted! Contrary to saying the first digit (10s) and then the second like we're used to, German says the first digit first, then the second. Ex: In German, "97" would be read as sieben-und-neunzig (7 and 90).
You may not have realized this, but English used to be the exact same and you may already be familiar with this counting system depending on how much literature you've read.
Even though structures like "one and twenty" and "twenty-one" competed side by side for centuries, "twenty-one" did not become officially correct until the 19th century and the use of the inverted "one and twenty" became obsolete by around 1830. This is why when you're reading books written by authors like Jane Austen, you're more likely to see this German-style numbering in English.
2) There's a Country in Africa Using German as its Official Language?
You may already know, German is spoken in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. You might even know that Liechtenstein and South Tyrol (Bolzano/Bozen) in Northern Italy speak German as well. But did you know that The Republic of Namibia in Africa has German listed as one of their official languages? Although English is the national language in Namibia, the German colonization from 1884 to 1915 deeply influenced the local culture. As of today, only 7% of the Namibian population is European, yet German remains one of the country's official languages.
3) Bavaria Style Greeting
The first word every German learner first learns is "hallo." This is the common perception of how Germans greet each other, and in general, that is the case. However, in the state of Bavaria in southern Germany, the common greeting is not "hallo," but "servus", accented on the second syllable. "Servus" came from the Latin root word meaning "servant." It also has the meaning of "at your service," and can be used as both a hello and a goodbye. Other than Bavaria, the greeting may also be heard in Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. As you can probably tell, it is commonly used in Eastern European languages.
Contrasting with northern Germany, you're also likely to hear "moin", thought to be a regional pronunciation of "morgen!".
How Much Do You Know About Bavaria?
The state of Bavaria, located in Southern German was originally an independent kingdom, but it joined the German Empire in 1871. Today, the state is well known for its unique culture (Oktoberfest, majority Catholic, schweinshaxe/roasted ham hock, etc.), strong economy (automobile, electric engineering industry, pharmaceutical factories, etc.), and its colorful history. Highly developed and preserved historic sites attract a lot of tourists and immigrants. The unique language culture in the state is also a test on Hochdeutsch learners' adaptability.
The castle pictured above is called Neuschwanstein ("new swan stone") and is located in southern Bavaria in the foothills of the Alps very close to Austria. The castle was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1868 and was completed in 1892 a few years after he mysteriously died.
Do You Know Germans Say "Ciao" As Well?
If you are familiar with Italian culture, you know that they greet each other with the word "ciao!", whether saying hello or goodbye. But did you know that even residents of German speaking areas say "ciao" as well? "ciao" originated from the Venetian language "Sčiao." This word has the same meaning as "servus" mentioned above, and is commonly used in the German districts of Switzerland and a few areas in Germany.
The use of "ciao" in Germany is slightly different from that in Italy where it is mostly used as goodbye, otherwise you're more likely to hear the native German "tschüß", originally a back-formation of the French "adieu" via Dutch "adjuus".
5) Desk Knocking
Whenever a professor finishes a lecture, or when a fellow student or scholar finishes a presentation, different from the internationally known hand-clapping applause we are familiar with, students in German classrooms will applaud the speaker by knocking their desks with their knuckles. This etiquette only exists in academic settings; however, the origin is unknown. Some say it was used to replace the stomping used in early days, others say hand-clapping seems too close to entertainment, whereas knocking the desk is more solemn. Although this practice isn't directly related to language, it is a cultural practice unique to Germany.
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