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Is Goethe difficult?


Lithium
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I would like to study this poet, but I don't speak German so well. Do you think I can still understand what it says if I use a vocabulary? I've read some of his work in English and I can say he was indeed a genius.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi, I think if you really want to understand any poet or artist of any kind, you will find a way. Language alone is not necessarily the biggest difficulty. In my experience, if I am interested in a particular text in another language, it helps me if I even understand only a few lines. Then I string them together with the rest and pictures emerge. There is a different type of understanding, especially in poetry. Vocabulary helps to fill the gaps. But in my opinion there is so much more to it.

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  • 1 month later...

Learning German too and our instructor recommended von Goethe's work to us but left a warning: Goethe used a unique kind of German, he was a master at wordplay and beginners attempting to translate his work from German to another language would have a hard time. Although he used Hochdeutsch, people spoke differently in the past, so think of Hochdeutsch plus an archaic vocabulary and you get Goethe.

I think we might have more luck with a copy of Aesop's Fables in Deutsch!  :grin: Good luck with learning German!

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  • 2 months later...

I'am a classical singer and I have often learned (and sung) Goethe. I would consider you getting the "pronunciation guide to German Lieder" by Hal Leonard. It has about 60 poems from lots of German poets, as well as excellent pronunciation cd's, the IPA and word for word translations under each word. As a singer I find it most useful but also for learning german.

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  • 1 year later...

Try reading it in English first and then go passage by passage via German and English. There are some translations online that have it side by side, but you will notice that things are translated in a way that will make sense to English readers and context is given.

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  • 6 months later...

Goethe is considered to be the German Shakespeare so he is difficult in the original German, but like Shakespeare the effort to discern the meaning of his words is really worth it. There's something about Young Werther that sounds sublime and beautiful in the original German that just sounds whiny when you read him in an English translation. 

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