German’s complex grammar and structure is balanced out via its very logical compound nouns which can provide moments of hilarity for those who have even a basic understanding of German. All you need to do is to a recognise that the words can be split up as individual nouns to make up these incredibly long but well constructed compound nouns.
I’ll give you an example:
If we look at it carefully, it is made up of 5 nouns:
These 63 characters have now been rejected as a word in the dictionary – however it did once exist! I first learned of this word via an interesting article in The Guardian. The reaction of my German colleague at the time was beautifully German: “well, this way one can be very precise”. Indeed.
A personal hobby of mine is to find these long words or even attempt my own version of lexical creation, for example, via hyphenating English words or sticking nouns together in an attempt to make my own longest word. Denglish is what we like to call that.
Here are some more:
Betäubungsmittelverschreibungsverordnung – the regulation for requiring a prescription for an anaesthetic
Massenkommunikationsdienstleistungsunternehmen – companies providing mass communication services
Sozialversicherungsfachangestelltenauszubildender – trainee assistant social insurance broker
Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft – association of subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services
Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften – insurance companies providing legal protection
Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung – motor vehicle liability insurance
– What is the longest German word you know? Any ridiculously ‘precise’ expressions you have heard in Germany? Let me know in comments🙂
My love for German has grown since moving to Berlin in 2015. Although it can be difficult to pick up the language using just books, it helps to have the basics covered first beforehand, such as conjugation and basic verbs to ensure you can string together sentences without too much pressure. The most important thing is to find someone with patience and who also understands the challenges that learning a language can bring.
To read more about surviving in Berlin when everyone speaks English, see my post here.
This is a brilliant extract from Mark Twain‘s book, “The Awful German Language”:
“…for a few remarks about one of the most curious and notable features of my subject — the length of German words. Some German words are so long that they have a perspective. Observe these examples:
These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions. And they are not rare; one can open a German newspaper at any time and see them Markhing majestically across the page — and if he has any imagination he can see the banners and hear the music, too. They impart a martial thrill to the meekest subject. I take a great interest in these curiosities. Whenever I come across a good one, I stuff it and put it in my museum. In this way I have made quite a valuable collection.
When I get duplicates, I exchange with other collectors, and thus increase the variety of my stock. Here are some specimens which I lately bought at an auction sale of the effects of a bankrupt bric-a-brac hunter: