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What we can learn from the directness of the German language

In today’s world, indirect communication and euphemisms are often the norm. It can be refreshing to experience a culture that values directness and honesty. The German language is a prime example of this, with its literal and straightforward words and phrases.

Here are some of the most literal words in the German language:

  • Durchfall (diarrhea)
  • Tintenfisch (squid)
  • Staubsauger (vacuum cleaner)
  • Zahnfleisch (gums)
  • Donnerbalken (thunder beam = toilet)
  • Kummerspeck (grief bacon = weight gain from emotional eating)
  • Sitzfleisch (sit meat = buttocks)
  • Fingerspitzengefühl (fingertip feeling = tact)
  • Verschlimmbesserung (worsening improvement = an improvement that makes things worse)
  • Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz (beef cattle labelling monitoring task transfer law = the longest German word, with 63 letters)

These words are all very literal. They accurately describe the thing or concept that they refer to. For example, the word “Durchfall” literally means “through fall”. Which is an accurate description of diarrhoea!

The German language is known for its precision and clarity. These literal words are a good example of this. They can be helpful for learners of the language. They can provide a clear and concise understanding of the meaning of the word.

This directness is not only evident in the German language, but also in German culture. Germans tend to be very upfront and honest in their communication. Both in their personal and professional lives. They appreciate it when others are direct with them. They may view indirectness as being dishonest or evasive.

There are many benefits to being direct in our communication. For one, it can help to avoid misunderstandings and conflict. When we are clear and concise in what we say, there is less room for interpretation. This can be especially important in cross-cultural communication. Different cultures may have different norms and expectations.

Directness can also help to build trust and rapport. When we are honest and transparent with others, they are more likely to trust us and feel comfortable around us. This can lead to stronger relationships and more effective collaboration.

Of course, there is a difference between being direct and being rude. It is important to be mindful of the context and the other person’s feelings when communicating directly. We should always strive to be respectful and considerate, even when we are being honest.

Here are some tips for being more direct in your communication:

  • Be clear and concise in what you say. Avoid using euphemisms or beating around the bush.
  • Be honest and transparent about your thoughts and feelings.
  • Use the imperative to get things done. For example, instead of saying “Would you mind doing this for me?” say “Please do this for me.”
  • Be respectful and mindful of others’ feelings.