tiia wrote: ... You say it's rhetorical, but I'd like to point out one thing: When adressing women they use Fräulein and gnädige Frau, when talking about someones wife it might be Ihre Frau Gemahlin. They do mention to use Ihre Frau if you're very familiar, but in my opinion this is (nearly) always the only correct way.
Ihre Frau Gemahlin sounds odd. But it is still polite, but extremly stilted. But of course since it says Ihre, no one would directly adress me like that.
If someone would call me gnädige Frau, however, I would think "WTF", or assume the person is joking. If meant seriously it sounds a bit like the person is begging. It may be ok to use in some role-play setting.
Even worse is using the word Fräulein. It is the direct translation of "Miss" and it was probably used the same way back then. It's most likely the term of those three that was out-dated last. Nowadays I can think of three ways using this:
1. As an insult.
2. A person who still didn't get that the word is out-dated. But even eldery people should have realised now that this is an insult. (And sometimes they do this on purpose.)
3. Booking flight tickets and choosing between Herr/Frau/Fräulein (Mr./Mrs./Ms.). The boarding pass will be in English, so I choose this to get the correct term of adress in English.
I won't comment on the methology. Everyone has their own preferences and I'm not here to judge them.
Thank you for your observations. I would counter them by saying that most serious students of the German language will become aware of the minor vocabulary changes that you have cited above. Their presence in the FSI German Basic course has been mentioned by others during the endless debates as to the useful of these materials. I reiterate that (1) it accounts for an infinitesimally small portion of the vocabulary deployed in this course and (2) an intelligent adult has the capacity to discern what is useful in these materials and what should be discarded.
As to the forms of address in German, I am quite aware of the cultural changes; similar ones have been wrought in other societies, including in the Francophone World in which I reside. In my experience people will, or will not, adopt these changes according to their own tastes. Nevertheless, I find that your presentation of the "accepted use" of "Fräulein" to be a classic example of the tyranny of those who wish to appear to be "politically correct" in all matters linguistic, cultural, societal ... and the list is truly without end. If a young German woman were to react at my addressing her "Fräulein" with a "hissy fit", I would conclude that she is the product of a cruel and oppressive cultural regime of which she is not herself fully aware. In any event, as someone who has completed the FSI German Basic course, I can assure that the use of this form of address appears rather infrequently in the dialogues and that there are no drills on its use. I assume that an intelligent, sensitive adult can adapt quickly to the current "accepted use" of this form of address and I refuse to condemn an entire instructional programme for its inclusion. You are free to choose otherwise.