German can be an intimidating language to learn, if only for the mere length of the words. But, the great part is, once you have a core set of nouns and verbs in your arsenal, German becomes a very manageable and logical language. For example, airplane in German is a basic combo of the words for “flight” and “machine” and dentist is simply “tooth doctor.” It seems that Germans prefer to just cobble words together to describe the thing that they are naming…which makes it easy for the rest of us.
Knowing this makes me a lot more confident of a learner. Even when I encounter a long word or a sentence, I can often find at least a few parts that I recognize. Once I have those in mind, I review and insert, and I can sometimes figure out the basic idea.
My most recent experience with this technique came when I was trying to purchase a ticket for the train. I knew that I wanted to go one-way, but there were two tickets that looked like the right ones, so I took both words and broke them down:
Einzelfahrschein: I know that Ein means one…and Fahr means travel.
Kurzstrecke: I know that Kurz means short, but I have no idea what Strecke is?
From this I deduced that the Einzelfahrschein was what I wanted, since the trip I needed to make was actually about 20 minutes, and definitely wasn’t “short.” So, even though I wasn’t sure what the word was, I was able to figure out enough pieces of the puzzle to make my decision. My advice to anyone trying this technique is to be patient when you encounter a new word. Have fun with it, and try to recognize any of the pieces that you do know. I promise, once you start making your deductions and have a few successes under your belt, your confidence will grow and learning German will start being fun!