Der, Die, Das

So, I mentioned in an earlier post that German has three genders, and that it was going to be tricky. News flash: it still is! Thankfully, unlike with French, I’m guiding my own learning in German. So I’ve decided, unlike when I was taught French, that I will build gender into every word I learn. For this, the words der, die, and das have been very helpful. They all mean “the”, but der is masculine, die is feminine, and das is neutral. So, for example, when I learn the word Fisch (Fish), I actually learn der Fisch (the Fish). That way I don’t forget that Fisch is male later on.

In German, “Junge” (boy) is masculine, while “Mädchen” (girl) is neutral. Photo credit:

The difficult thing about all this (just when I thought it wasn’t going to get more complicated) is that the gender of a word doesn’t necessarily correspond with the gender of the person to which it refers. So, for example, Mädchen (girl) is das Mädchen. It takes the neutral “the”. Even more odd: Junge (boy) is der Junge. So “boy” has a gender, while “girl” doesn’t. How cool is that?! Linguistically, does that mean that girls acquire gender later in life while boys are born with it?

Nobody I’ve told about this in real life has been quite as excited/curious as I am, so I’m throwing my excitement into the void that is the internet instead. Maybe I should have been a linguistics student after all…


Film – Metropolis

metropolisposterSo, a few nights ago I started this whole endeavour off with an appropriately clueless blunder. I thought I would get myself started off easy learning German by watching a German movie. I did a quick google search, and when Metropolis came up I jumped on it. It had been on my to-watch list for a while, and if I could get it in while learning a bit of German, well. Even better.

It took me about half an hour to realize that Metropolis is a silent movie. Smooth one, Saskia.

Now I’m clearly no film connoisseur. But the experience was interesting for other reasons. I had never seen a silent movie before, and I got to enjoy for myself some of that exquisitely theatrical acting. Lots of anguished clutching-of-the-chest.

I also never knew that, made in 1926, Metropolis was the most expensive film yet made in Europe, and the first feature-length science fiction film. The plot was not particularly extraordinary – In a futuristic city, Freder, son of Joh Fredersen, the city’s master, meets the beautiful working-class Maria. He rebels against his father’s treatment of the workers, and when the workers rise up against his father, he and Maria make the peace. (There’s more to it than that – like the evil robot/clone – but if you want more you’ll just have to watch it) The most striking thing about it, to me, was the ending. When I hear a story about a revolution, I expect something to change. In Les Miserables the revolutionaries are defeated and the city mourns; in The Hunger Games the social order is ultimately overthrown. In Metropolis, it seems that things just…go back to normal? Maybe it’s a difference of the times, but to me that’s a puzzling conclusion. What is the director trying to say?

However I may feel about the plot, it’s been described as a “bravura display of film craftsmanship”, and I must say the sets were impressive. It kind of puts me in mind of a 1920’s Avatar. Undeniably dazzling, but ultimately a little bit underwhelming in message and story.

There are those who would disagree. Apparently, the film was admired by Hitler, who even said he would like Lang (the director) to make propaganda films for him. Joseph Goebbels even offered him a job as the Head of the German Cinema Institute. Lang never accepted. In fact, he left Germany for Paris soon after. I have to wonder what was so appealing to them about the film. Maybe it was the message of unity, the implication that issues in society can be resolved without directly challenging those in power.

Either way, this was an…interesting way to kick of a year of learning German. Let’s hope my future attempts have a little bit more German in them!

Until next time,


Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 12.00.17 AM…Oh, yeah. I also was half-convinced at several points that the movie I was watching was about to turn into a gay romance. Which actually would have been really cool. 1920s, black and white, sci-fi, silent, gay, romance film about the ills of industrial society, anyone? I would watch that.

Some day, people. Some day. Just wait until I’m a famous German filmmaker.


Progress Report Week One – Brot und Wasser


Wow! First post! That’s exciting. And, I admit it, I’m cheating a little bit. It hasn’t really been a week. In fact, it’s been just under 48 hours since I first picked up my notebook, pencil, and flashcards and started learning German. But, it’s also a Sunday, so it’s time for the weekly update. This week: German movie fail and my first 25 words.

The German movie fail you can read about in a later post, but, without further ado, I give you: Saskia’s first 25 words in German!

  1. der = the (masculine)
  2. die = the (feminine)
  3. das = the (neuter)
  4. ein = a/an (masculine/neuter)
  5. eine = a/an (feminine)
  6. ich = I
  7. du = you
  8. er = he
  9. sie = she
  10. es = it
  11. wir = we
  12. ihr = y’all (aka. you, plural informal)
  13. sie = you (formal)
  14. sie = they
  15. sein = to be
  16. mann = man (masculine)
  17. junge = boy
  18. frau = woman (feminine)
  19. mädchen = girl
  20. kind = child
  21. mutter = mother
  22. trinkt = to drink
  23. wasser = water
  24. brot = bread
  25. hungrig = hungry

So, yeah. I’m pretty limited for what I can say right now – Ich bir eine frau? Now how is that helpful? – but, hey, it’s a start! I’m a little daunted by the whole triple-gender thing. The gendered nouns in French are my kryptonite, and that was when I only had to contend with masculine-feminine. The anthropology student in me is curious about the implications of a tri-gendered language for gender roles in German society. Are people who identify as neither male nor female, or as both, or as something else entirely, a little bit less stigmatized than in Canada? Meanwhile, the part of me that remembers I have to learn this all in 10 months is terrified. At least I won’t go hungry – I can always find a way to ask for some of that good ol’ brot and wasser.

…Okay honestly I’m a little excited. It took me nearly all summer to get my first 25 words when I was learning Turkish. I must be motivated by my impending sense of German University courses of doom.

Yes. That’s definitely it – motivation. Not that fact that “sie” repeats three times. Or that “the” also appears in three different variations…