I am learning German and a big hurdle I am facing is word placement. For example, the last half of a sentence is:

[…], aber ich werde es nicht verstehen.
(but I would not understand it.)

I know the verb gets kicked to the end; that can be remembered, no problem. My issue is with the thought process behind it. As an English speaker I keep having issues accepting that the word order in German makes sense to Germans, because I try to get into the mindset of a native because it helps with my learning. But am limited to an English point of view. I asked around to a couple of my native pals and they basically said that it just feels correct, and any other order would feel wrong.

  • Is there a linguistic term to describe this barrier of understanding?
  • Can you explain this further for me?
  • As I continue to learn the language, will I reach a point where I will “feel” that this the right way, like my friends tell me, or will I not be ever able to because of the fact that it is not my mother tongue?
  • The study is called Phrase Word Oder, or simply, Word Order, and it is an essential tool for many languages. English also uses W.O. heavily: for example, a phrase "Word order is a language tool an English speaker is familiar with" also looks unusual for a Slavonic language speaker due to highlighted word (we keep "with" close to the object or pronoun). When just studying a foreign language (unlike running a deep research), it's just a matter of memorizing. – bytebuster Jan 5 '16 at 18:03
  • 3
    In my experience it's much easier to impropriate German syntax than German lexicon. Read the equivalent of a couple of novels and you'll have the most important constructions reinforced hundreds of times; but the contrasts between closely related words (erXen, verXen,beXen, usw) may come up only once or twice. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 5 '16 at 19:36
  • 1
    You just have to spend time using the language in every way you can, preferably with native speakers (but also reading/writing it). It seems to be a universal experience that what seemed at first a strange system will eventually start to feel normal and natural. All human languages have a system underlying their structure and you just have to internalise this system. – Gaston Ümlaut Jan 6 '16 at 1:56
  • @StoneyB. Do you really mean "impropriate"? – fdb Jan 6 '16 at 11:36
  • @fdb It's a coinage that was floating around when I was in grad school 40 years ago, signifying something like "incorporate into one's unconscious perceptual categories". I have no idea where it came from. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 6 '16 at 13:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.