Yes, that might be true.
Do Germans have the kind of long and unfrutiful arguments about German that we have about English?
Do otherwise educated Germans frequently say they wish the could write correctly?
Not that often. I also think the phrase "writing correctly" would be understood by a German as writing grammatically correct sentences without spelling errors. It would say nothing about writing well structured articles in building the logic flow of arguments in the correct sequence from paragraph to paragraph. Nor does it say much about the breadth and wealth of the vocabulary. In general, written and spoken German isn't that much different than is written and spoken American English is.
Had you asked if Germans would frequently ask they wished they could "write well", may be some would do so. But all in all writing is less competetive in Germany anyway.
What surprises me in the U.S., is the high value that is attached to writing well in academia. The written English language is floating highly above the spoken one, so that for foreigners it sounds sometimes very disconnected in comparison to what they hear spoken. But the vocabulary is just sooo much more diverse and precise in the written language. I learn a lot of vocabulary in well written posts online (if the subject interests me enough to have incentives to go and look words up).
When ESL students say English is too difficult, they're right.
I am not sure you can generalize that. The degree to which it is difficult to learn of foreign language is mostly dependent on your mother language and on the degree you master the grammar in your own tongue.
It is very easy for a Dutch or Danish person to learn English, relatively easy for a German, moderately easy for a French, quite hard for Japanese. I don't know about Spanish native speakers. But if your skills in your mother tongue are not much developed by formal education, neither will you be able to achieve much in your second language.
In addition the grammar mistakes a foreigner makes in English is uniquely related to his native language. I can easily recognize a Russian immigrant in Germany writing and English email from a German .de domain name to an American mailing list, just by the kind of grammar mistakes he makes. I am sure that is the same for my own basket of mistakes related to my native language.
For that reason, for example, I am pretty much against early childhood bilingual education (in grade 1 to 6). Most of the time both languages are dumbed down to below average standards.
And I have seen too many kid's academic development harshly slowed down by inappropriate bi-or multilingual education in early years.
This is how little confidence they have in their ability to recognise correct grammar in their own native language. Do Germans have this same problem?
Not in general, but it depends how much you speak "Hochdeutsch" and not your local "dialect". Swiss folks have a horrible time to learn to write "Hochdeutsch" in elementary school, because they actually speak "Switzerdeutsch". I would have a horrible time to read and comprehend phonetically written out "Switzerdeutsch". Luckily it is almost never done aside from local prose and lyrics for songs.
The same, but to a lesser degree, might be true for local German folks, who just love to speak their local dialect, like Bavarians, Saxonians and people from "Schwaben". But most folks really speak "Hochdeutsch" and just a little "dialect" if they had some beers. So, no problem, just some fun from time to time.
It is as if we taught beginning Algebra in every single math class from grade school to the univeristy and never advanced to even Trigonometry. Its this also the case in Germany?
I don't think so, but U.S. colleges put students through much more and harder short term writing assignments than German Universities. So, it seems much is asked from you, but little is taught.
He is my primary source of information on the difference between the problems native speakers of German and of English have. Is this not the correct picture?
I have heard often from Americans, that they became more conscious about their own grammar when they tried to learn German. I have to admit that I found the grammar lessons at American middle and high schools, my son was supposedly to work through (hopeless - he hated it and didn't understood a word) , was VERY foggy to me as well. If I really needed to know something, I tried to go back to my old English schoolbooks from Germany. But then I got him in trouble with his English teachers, because our German English text books are based on British English. And of course, I am lazy too, I liked Math more and my son liked nothing at all. :-)
The term "Grammar Nazi" really is much too strong;...but I think we are stuck with it.
Isn't that a personal choice with what one decides to be stuck with ?
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