German Yous

In most respects I strongly prefer English to German but as I have been learning German I am happy to report that it does have a few charms.

One of German’s charms are the new opportunities for personal expression that the multiple forms of ‘you’ allow.  Some of the dissimilarity is misleading but despite that having ‘sie’ and ‘du’ – both of which translate as ‘you’, creates new options.  In simple and general terms the formal you and the plural you are both ‘sie’.  In simple terms, the informal familiar you is ‘du’.

On a personal level this has allowed me to review various levels of meaning and also nuances.  In some cases ‘du’ really means ‘friends and family’ but in other cases it means ‘you who are younger than I am’ .  In a radically different appearance ‘du’ is used more like ‘comrade’ was used as part of socialist and communist workers revolutions.  Often enough people who think they are helping improve life urge others to just use ‘du’ in speaking but mainly they mean ‘if we are on the same hierarchical level at work’ or ‘so that I don’t get confused about how to conjugate my verbs every time we have a conversation at work’.

Most Germans born before 1960 and many born before 1970 tend to call anyone older ‘sie’ and anyone younger ‘sie’ and really – general politeness in Germany dictates that everyone is ‘sie’ until there is a decision – a social choice, of allowing others to call one ‘du’ instead.  In practice it is a lot like whether or not one calls someone else Sir or Madam or Mr. or Ms. Such-n-Such, or by their first name.

I have already noticed that I don’t agree with everyone else about how to use each, but m personal expression disagreement covers only 10 – 20% of social cases.  It is not from suffering from a lack of grammatical knowledge at this point.

In truth I think I had an entirely different idea for today’s blog post and it had nothing to do with Germany or my transcultural experience, but it flitted away with a change in the song I was listening to or something.  I have no idea whether or not it will come again.

 

Woman supporting the German football team - stock photo

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