Is it “der Stuhl” or “das Stuhl”? As any beginner German student knows, noun articles are very frustrating to learn and sometimes just do not make sense! Below are some reasons why we have difficulty learning them and a tip to overcoming these challenging nouns as they appear.
Step one – What is an article?
Here is an example of an English sentence without articles, “Yesterday I went to shop and bought dog. I gave dog apple”. As you can see, articles like “the”, “a” and “an”, are extremely important in our own English language.
Step two – importance of articles
Why bother learning them? As seen in step one, a sentence just does not sound correct without articles. This is the same for the German language, if you do not know the correct noun article, the German person will understand you but it will sound wrong. If you want to speak German well, it is imperative to correctly learn the articles.
Step three – Gender cannot always be relied on
der is known as masculine
die is know as feminine
das is known as neutral
One of the most common German mistakes made by English speakers is to assume that everything feminine should be labeled as “die” and so on.
Unfortunately, this is not the case, an example of this is ‘die Flasche’ (the bottle). As you can see, “a bottle” has been given the feminine “die” article. Here are another few examples, “das Bett” (the bed) is neutral, “der Stuhl” (the chair). Why is a bed neutral, a chair masculine and a bottle feminine? As you can see, there is not always a reliable pattern to understanding noun articles.
Step four – A picture tells 1000 words!
Now that we know that there is no actual rule to follow for nouns, we are left to learning strategies to memorize these nouns. Using mnemonic Links are an extremely good strategy that will vastly improve your memorization.
Here is the technique: For every article we use a symbol. For the article “der” we’ll use something male, for instance a man. If we need to learn the word “the chair” – “der Stuhl”, we could imagine the following “a man sitting on a stool”, or something more memorable “a man breaking a chair with a stool”. As just mentioned, these phrases or pictures have a tendency to stay in your mind.
Conclusion – paint a picture in your mind
In step four we used a mnemonic method to remember the words “The chair”, can you remember it? “A man breaking a chair with a stool”, “der Stuhl.” Paint a picture in your mind when you need to learn a German noun, make it as silly as possible and you will never forget it.