How difficult is Nietzsche in German?A Guide to Reading Nietzsche in the Original

Don't we all learn German just to read Nietzsche in the original? Maybe not. But how easy is it to read Nietzsche in German? At what level can you give it ago? Let's see!

In this article, we'd like to talk a little about good old Nietzsche. We often get questions like "How difficult is Nietzsche in the original German?" or "What German level do I need to have to read Nietzsche?" (together with Kafka, Nietzsche is probably one of the writers our readers ask the most about).

The answers to these questions depend, of course, not only on your German level, but also on your knowledge of German philosophy and Nietzsche's historical context.

It's one thing to understand what Nietzsche was writing literally. But it is a totally different thing to understand Nietzsche's philosophy.

Those are two different things and since we are focused on language learning, we will here only answer the first question: How difficult is Nietzsche, from a language-learner's perspective?

How difficult is Nietzsche in German?

His philosophy aside, to a native German speaker Nietzsche is actually pretty accessible:

Das Leben ist wertworth it, gelebt zu werden, sagt die Kunst, die schönste Verführerinseductress; das Leben ist wert, erkanntto be perceived zu werden, sagt die Wissenschaftscience.

It's often assumed that Nietzsche is difficult to understand, because his language seems antiquated to a modern German speaker. This is not true. This can be said of Immanuel Kant, but Nietzsche as well as Schopenhauer wrote in very accessible & modern German style.

Sure, there is the occasional word that modern German speakers wouldn't use or maybe even recognise. But this isn't where the difficulty with Nietzsche stems from.

Now, let's have a look at some of Nietzsches writings and see what's difficult about them.

What's difficult about Nietzsche for language learners?

I believe that language learners will mostly face the same difficulties that native speakers would have with Nietzsche: It's often not difficult to understand what he's saying in a particular sentence (or aphorism), but it becomes harder to put all the pieces together into a coherent picture.

Nietzsche's works are mostly written as collections of short aphorisms. It's pretty easy to read those and feel like you understand, but then by the end of the chapter you are not sure what it was exactly, that Nietzsche was trying to say.

Easy Nietzsche Quotes (in German)

Let's have a look now at some Nietzsche quotes that beginners can understand.


How difficult is Nietzsche in German?
Nietzsche can be quite challenging for German learners. His philosophical writings delve into complex ideas and use intricate language.
Can I read Nietzsche as a beginner?
Reading Nietzsche as a beginner is quite ambitious! We recommend starting with simpler works first. It's all about building a strong foundation!
What German level do you need to read Nietzsche?
To fully grasp Nietzsche's philosophical brilliance, a solid intermediate to advanced German level would be ideal. His writings are dense, and he loves to play with words.
How long does it take to read Nietzsche's 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra'?
'Thus Spoke Zarathustra' is a profound work that takes time to digest, even for native German speakers. For German learners, it might take several weeks or even months, depending on our reading speed and philosophical appetite.
Is Nietzsche's 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra' easy to read?
No, Nietzsche's Zarathustra is not considered an easy read. The language used in the work can be complex and challenging, requiring a solid grasp of German. Additionally, a deep understanding of philosophical and cultural concepts is necessary to fully comprehend the text. It is recommended to begin with shorter essays by Nietzsche before delving into Zarathustra.
How do I best start reading Nietzsche in the original German?
To embark on your Nietzschean journey in the original German, we suggest starting with some of his shorter essays or aphorisms. Familiarize yourself with his unique style and vocabulary.
What grade level is Nietzsche's 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra'?
If we had to assign a grade level to 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra,' it would be advanced (C1). Nietzsche's complex ideas and poetic language require a solid grasp of German.
What book by Nietzsche should I start with?
As a beginner, we recommend starting with 'Beyond Good and Evil' or 'The Genealogy of Morals'. These works offer a comprehensive introduction to Nietzsche's philosophical ideas. However, remember that that they are by no means easy reads and we do not recommend them for beginners.
Did Nietzsche write in antiquated / old German?
No, Nietzsche didn't write in antiquated or old German (like Kant or Hegel). The German spoken in the 19th century is very similar to the German spoken today. However, his writing style can be quite poetic and philosophical, giving it a unique flair.


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