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!

German Audiobooks for Learners
01.06.2022

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 to 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 wert, gelebt zu werden, sagt die Kunst, die schönste Verführerin; das Leben ist wert, erkannt zu werden, sagt die Wissenschaft.

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.

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