German vs Spanish: What is the Difference?

There are plenty of good reasons to learn both Spanish and German, or any language for that matter. But although they both share similarities with English,these languages are extremely different.

Spanish is overall easier to learn than German due to its simple orthography and consistent grammar. English speakers will have an advantage in learning German, but it’ll still be harder than Spanish. Spanish is one of the most spoken languages in the world, which makes it very useful.

When you learn a new language, you’re also learning a new way of thinking. Both German and Spanish are just as rich and interesting in that sense. If you’re undecided between the two, here’s the breakdown.


Here are some key points about German and Spanish grammar:

Grammatical Gender

With exceptions, nouns and adjectives in both languages are written with a suffix that identifies their grammatical gender. For Spanish, that’s male and female. For German, it’s female, male, and neutral. Compare that to English, where you only need to worry about grammatical gender when it comes to nouns and pronouns.


Because they’re cousin languages, you’ll find a German equivalent for every English verb tense. However, there are a few tricky differences.

Just as in English, the future tense is composed by a helping verb (will or werden) and the infinitive of the conjugated verb (for example, read or lessen). The difference is that will always stays the same, but werden must be conjugated depending on the person. The result looks like this:

  • I will read the book.
  • Ich werde das Buch lesen.

You’ll also have to keep an eye on person. English verb conjugations don’t change that much with person. I love, you love, he/she/it loves, they read, we read —it’s more or less the same thing.

In German, persons are a bit more differentiated, but it’s still similar. Ich liebe, du liebst, er/sie/es liebt, wir lieben, ihr liebt, sie lieben.

Here Spanish starts to differentiate itself:

  • Yo amo
  • amas
  • Usted ama
  • Él/ella ama
  • Ellos aman
  • Ustedes aman
  • Vosotros amáis
  • Nosotros amamos

Counting the formal variations of the second person, which aren’t used as much in every variant, persons in Spanish can be confusing for English speakers. In fact, many consider conjugation to be the hardest part of Spanish because of how many inflections you have to learn.

But the truth is that, because Spanish is so regular, it’s just a matter of getting the rules right. Once you learn how each tense is conjugated, it’s downhill from there. German conjugation has more things in common with English, but it’s overall more difficult than Spanish conjugation.

Sentence order 

Spanish word order is the same as in English: Subject-Object-Verb. It also offers more flexibility, so you won’t completely mess things up if you move words around. This makes Spanish more intuitive for English speakers. Meanwhile, German has what’s called a V2 word order. 

Words can move around as long as the verb is in the second position. Specific order varies depending on the type of sentence, and it can be confusing regardless of your native language.


English is an analytical language. It relies on word order and helper words to communicate information. German and Spanish work differently: they’re inflected languages. Inflections change words using affixes to communicate information. The difference between the two is that German has much more inflections, making them harder to learn. Overall, German grammar is considerably more complex than Spanish grammar.

Listening and Speaking

German pronunciation seems difficult at first. Having 17 vowel sounds, it’s the European language with the most different vowel sounds. Meanwhile, Spanish has only 5 vowels that never change.

But here’s the thing: at 12 vowel sounds, English doesn’t trail that much behind German.

The truth is that German pronunciation isn’t as hard as it looks. It’s very consistent, so even if you have to learn to pronounce ö, it’ll always be pronounced the same way. Even if you don’t pronounce it perfectly, you’ll still be understood by a German.

Both English and German are Germanic languages, making them share some sounds. Being a Romance language, Spanish sounds quite different, but most Spanish sounds are already present in English (sometimes it’s only an approximation, but it’s still a good starting point).

Spanish has a couple of sounds that English speakers can find hard to replicate: the rr and the ñ consonants. However, like German, Spanish is extremely consistent. Every time you see a letter, it’s pronounced the same way. And with only 5 vowels, it should prove less difficult.

Spelling and Writing

Writing in Spanish is rather straightforward. Its alphabet is almost the same as that of English, plus ñ.

In Spanish, each vowel has only one possible pronunciation. Consonants are also very regular, with only a few exceptions for the letters c, s, and z. This means all words are written as they sound.

German does have a few new symbols: the weird-looking ß and the umlaut (the two dots that modify vowels, like ä, ö, and ü. Luckily, like Spanish, German is very consistent with its spelling.

You might be scared of German’s famously long compound words. Freundschaftsbeziehungen looks intimidating at first, but after you see it as Freundschaft (friendship) and Beziehungen (relationships) combined, then it’s not as hard.

English has many compound words, too, so English speakers will already be familiar with this dynamic.

Spanish, meanwhile, almost doesn’t have any compound words, so you won’t have to worry about that at all.


German and English have an extremely high lexical similarity at 60%. This means that 60% are similar enough that learning them would take little to no effort. For Spanish, it’s only 24%.

However, Spanish and English share a Latin heritage for more than half of their words. You’ll find more than a few similarities, but those will still sound and spell quite differently.

Which One Is More Useful?

Spanish will arguably open more doors to you in comparison to German. Spanish has 543 million speakers, making it the 4th most spoken language in the world. In comparison, German sits at 12th with 135 million speakers.

If you care about culture, Latin American music is extremely popular across the world right now, and more and more hit TV shows are coming from Spanish-speaking countries.

If you like literature, you can’t go wrong either way. German has a long and rich literary tradition that has strongly influenced English-speaking literature. If you like linguistics, German will help you understand the English language in a new light.

However, Spanish is spoken by a much larger population, and Latin American literature is one of the most active in the world right now.

Also, consider where you live. If you live in the US, learning Spanish will let you communicate with its large and growing Latin communities. If you live in Europe, then both should prove equally useful.

If you want to learn a language to become a translator or an interpreter, Spanish is a bad choice. English-Spanish is a very common language pairing, so you’d face a lot of competition.

For professional purposes, Spanish might be more useful. More than half of the German population can speak English, and arguably more than that would be able to at least understand you. Meanwhile, a much larger proportion of Spanish speakers are monolingual.

If you want to speak a language that can get you dates, you’ll be good with any of the two. Germans might have more bragging rights, but being able to talk to Latino and Spanish people should prove just as cool.


Spanish is overall easier than German. It’s true that German has many similarities with English, especially when it comes to vocabulary. Because of their lexical similarity, an English speaker will be able to guess the meaning of most German words.

However, in all other aspects, like grammar, spelling and pronunciation, Spanish is far easier to learn than German. Depending on your situation, Spanish is also more relevant, since it’s one of the most spoken languages in the world.

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