German in practice: communication and knowledge

When we learn a new language, a window to another world opens up in front of us. Studying a foreign language makes us expand frontiers, as we go beyond our own experiences and views, which are limited to our homeland culture, and we become interested in others, and in broadening our perspective.

In some cases our perception becomes so expanded that – like someone who takes a plane, lands in a country, and after a while, goes back to their home country – we go back and forth to get a closer look into our own language and its operation, besides questioning our cultural and familiar habits.

Looking specifically into the Portuguese and German languages, we can observe different patterns that could be interesting to explore. For instance, taking from their sounds, we can easily identify that while Portuguese is more vowely, German is more consonantal. This leads us to believe that the native speakers of each language use different regions of the vocal tract and make different movements and gestures while uttering sentences.

However, when we are kids, our larynx is still – like everything else in our body – developing, and that is why infancy is considered the best moment to learn other languages. At this period, it is possible for a foreign language to give learners a true and intense extension of the regions that have not been developed by speaking in their mother tongue. From our own experiences, we know that the younger we are and the harder we exercise, the higher the chances of keeping our muscles stretched. Hence, as the infant grows and decides to learn a third language that develops the same region of the vocal tract as the foreign language learned in childhood, they will certainly have more resources and less difficulties in the pronunciation of this new language.

Another interesting contrast between German and Portuguese is noticed as we compare the language and culture of their peoples. It’s possible to observe the German hardness and systematicity in the phrases we speak in this language. Meanwhile, it is possible to see the flexibility and diversity of the Brazilian people in the various existing ways of saying the same phrase. In the case of German, verbs always go in the second position or at the end of a sentence. In turn, in Portuguese, there are different places where an adverb and an adverbial clause can go in a sentence. While in the German language we have to think hard to build a sentence before saying it as a speaker, in the Portuguese language the connections can be made as we speak. As far as listening goes, German demands concentration and patience, because we need to wait for the speaker to finish the sentence so we can fully understand it – which also sets us free from premature answers, forcing us to actively listen to the other party, without forming prejudgment. In this sense, the Portuguese language represents a contrast, since there is the risk of being interrupted by a response to a sentence that has not yet been finished. Hastiness is a big problem in this age, and we have become less and less willing to listen earnestly to others, with our ears open avoiding jumping into conclusions.

I could talk about many other contrasts between these two very different languages, but, at the same time, I believe they complement each other more than they differ from one another when it comes to cultural features and to the people. However, I finish this article by saying that exploring a language and a culture expands us as individuals who can then see the world they live in all its diversity. We can take one step further in the most valuable trait we have as humans: OUR ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE.

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