Welcome Back to School (for you)

Today during English I got to do self work because everyone else was studying for a test. At first I just worked on German, but then my English teacher talked to me. Somehow an interesting concept came up, which I will try to explain. He was trying to show me ways I can easily identify English words, because English is Germanic.

First he drew a map of Europe’s Germanic speaking countries. It includes England, Norway, Sweden (not Finland, Finnish is really weird and not related at all to German), Denmark, Iceland, Belgium (with Flemish), Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Here’s a map I made:


Screenshot 2016-09-06 at 17.32.47.png


Everything above the blue line represents low speaking Germanic countries, like England and Denmark. Everything south of it represents high speaking Germanic countries, like part of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. The low languages, like Danish and Dutch, are much more similar to English than the high languages, like German. German is still similar to English, but not nearly as much as Dutch, Danish, Flemish, Swedish, and Norwegian. The German above the line is so similar to Dutch (it’s actually called low German, everyone below the line speaks High German, what I’ve been talking about a ton), that Dutch can easily hold conversations with Northern Germans. The line is called the “consonant shift,” because of the rules I’m about to explain.


Here you can easily see the consonant line (green vs brown)
The way it works is that all the low languages share characteristics with English. For example, we say “water” and the Dutch say “water.” However, in German, water is “wasser.” The ‘t’s usually change to “ss” in German. So my teacher explained little patterns I can try to look for to make German easier. So if I didn’t know what “wasser” meant, I now know that ‘ss’ is a ‘t’ in English, hence water.

There’s tons of examples in German. He basically read a book to me and showed me that he could disect every word and find the roots in English (this guy is a polyglot and speaks Dutch and German so it’s super easy, but I’m really interested in linguistics so I was super excited).

So for people learning Dutch and other low languages, they’re lucky because this “consonant shift” never happened for them (don’t get me wrong the low languages are extremely hard, they just have this one-up). In Dutch, “what” is “wat.” But in High German, the consonant shift happened, so Germans say “was.”

More examples:

to let in English = lassen in German

hot in English = heiss in German

hot in English = heet in Dutch (see the ‘t’ stays for Dutch because it’s a low language, in German the ‘t’ is dropped for ‘ss’).

T’s can also become “tz” in German.

For example:

heat in English = hitze in German (the t changes to tz)

wit in English (as in clever) = witz in German

Another interesting thing I learned was that all v’s in English are said as b’s in German.

For example:

seven in English = sieben in German

grave in English = grab in German

And the last thing for today’s language class, doesn’t take too much effort to understand. I’ve saved the best for last. I’m not sure if you already knew, but English speakers can learn French really easily because of how many words we have from it. The French occupied England for around 300 years, so we have over 10,000 words in English that are either straight French, or derive from it. In England, all the wealthy people spoke French, and the poorer spoke English. Of course they slightly combined, which explains our huge French/Latin vocabulary.

The poorer people in England also simplified English. In English we only say “the” for everything. The history lesson. The language. But in German, the list goes on forever. We have der, die, das, dem, des, den, and it goes on. That’s why English is simpler, because the poorer made it so.

Anyways that’s it for today, I hope your head doesn’t hurt like mine did yesterday. I just thought you would be interested because you speak English (I would hope). Also to Grandma Sandy, I can now understand some Yiddish…we should speak when I get back! Ciaooooo


If you’re still interested watch this: https://youtu.be/K3IImGiiY1Q



8 thoughts on “Welcome Back to School (for you)

  1. Noah,
    Sounds good, I look forward to that – “du bist zayer klig”. Ich hub lib dine ‘blog’.
    I’m having trouble spelling Yiddish words using the English alphabet.


  2. Yes, Jews from Lithuania say ‘klug’; this is what is considered ‘literary Yiddish’. The Yiddish spoken by Russians, Ukrainians and I think most Poles say’ Klig’ – and you certainly are! How do you say ‘blog’ in German? I said I like your blog. Email in Yiddish is ‘blitz post’ – they had to create a new word.


  3. I am so happy to have not one but TWO language nerd children! Clearly I’ve done something right as a parent. This is very interesting stuff to your (language nerd) mother!


  4. Noah…as a linguist, you are way ahead of your years! I predict an exciting future for you…on the international scene!!! It’s so fun to see your passion for this very exciting cultural exchange!


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