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"Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache." Translation 
German saying

A West Germanic language, German is the language of Germany, Austria, Switzerland (along with French, Italian and Romansch), Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg (the last of these also has French and Luxembourgish as official languages, the latter being a close relative of German) as well as parts of Belgium, France and Italy, and is one of the recognized national languages of Namibia. It is specifically the chief representative of the High German branch of the family (the minor one being Yiddish); this is as opposed to Dutch, which is Low Franconian or Low German (depending on whom one asks), and English, which is Anglo-Frisian with a lot of French admixture. On the continent there is (or rather was) a so-called "dialect continuum" where dialects close to each other understand each other but dialects further apart do not all the way from the Netherlands in the Northwest to Switzerland, Austria and South Tyrol in the South. The disappearance of local dialects in much of this area (and their replacement with national standard languages) has led to much of this dialect continuum becoming, well, discontinuous. In the European Union, German is the most spoken mother tongue and the second most used language after English. See also German Literature.

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The language isn't quite so bad. The basic word order is Subject-Verb-Object. It is a common misconception that the verb always goes at the end, though the verb does get punted to the end in a lot of the special constructions. The grammar has differences from English (such as the inclusion of cases and endings, as well its own strict word order), but it's not going to put anyone in an early grave like Japanese, Latin, or Russian. Even a beginner could be reasonably expected to be watching and understanding untranslated conversational and written practical German within one year. While you can't expect to be able to read poetry or hold a specialized conversation about something like politics, you should be able to find your way around the country, get transportation, buy things, get directions, ask for assistance, and maybe make a few friends.

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    Noun 
Unlike most of the other modern Germanic languages, German comparatively still uses more inflection, which also allows a freer syntax. German retains four of the original eight Indo-European cases: nominative, genitive, dative and accusative. Compared to English, this usually results in less Ambiguous Syntax and more narrowly definable meaning.

German has three different grammatical genders: masculine, feminine and neuter, with appropriate forms of (definite&indefinite) articles and pronouns etc. (der, die, das / ein, eine) to go with them. Grammatical gender does usually not have to conform to biological sex. So there are objects which are gendered male or female, and beings which have a grammatical gender not conforming to their biological sex. E.g. "der Tisch" ('the table') is male, while "das Mädchen" ('the girl') is a neuter. Which Mark Twain found very strange if not disturbing. (Which actually has a perfectly logical explanation: etymologically, "Mädchen" is a diminutive of "die Magd" ["maid"], and all diminutives are neuter.)

Indeed, many (Germans included) who try to differentiate the pronouns logically often stumble upon the same ancient question, "Why der cupboard? Does the cupboard have a dick or something?". Different words for the same thing can have different gender ("das Auto" and "der Wagen").

Every Noun in the German Language is capitalised. Since Danish abolished the Practice in 1948, German is the only major Language in the World that still has this Rule. On the other hand, every adjective in German is written in lowercase, even if it's derived from a proper noun.

German, like most other non-English European languages, distinguishes several versions of the 2nd person ("you") according to number and formality (English indeed used to have it itself and still does in the southern US):

  • "Du" (2nd person singular), "ihr" (2nd person plural) - the informal forms. "Du" is directly cognate to (i.e. from the same root as) "thou," which (people seem to forget) was the informal in Early Modern English. It sometimes used to be spelled with a capital letter.
  • "Sie" (2nd person singular and plural) - the polite form, both for addressing one person or a group. Still always spelled with a capital letter which distinguishes it from "sie" meaning "they" (as they both use the same verb conjugations).

In the past, there were even more forms of address:

  • "Ihr" (2nd person singular) - a very polite form directed at one person of higher rank, especially nobles and ruling monarchs. In fiction, this is used liberally to indicate historical settings. It is also popular as the most common form of addressing others in the translations of fantasy settings, as "Sie" typically is associated with a more modern, often businesslike attitude, making it seem out of place in Medieval European Fantasy.
  • "Er" (3rd person singular male) / "Sie" (3rd person singular female) - for talking with people of lower ranks. Typical example: The Imperial Prussian officer asking some guy "Hat Er gedient?" ("Did he serve?" - in the army, that is.) The officer from Woyzeck also does this to the protagonist, and many characters in Der Rosenkavalier use this (though not consistently). Note: This form of speech is extremely condescending and should not be used in modern times. It is equivalent to saying "I'm not even talking to you, I'm talking about you and I happen to know that you can hear me." Confusingly, it can show up in northeastern dialectal German as a (polite and formal) version of the formal "Sie". This is called the Berliner Er.

    Verb 
The rules for the conjugation of verbs change the word according to the person, like in English an S has to be added in the third person singular (he sings):
  • ich (I) singe
  • du (you) singst
  • er/sie/es (he/she/it) singt
  • wir (we) singen
  • ihr (you all) singt
  • sie (they) singen
  • Sie (formal you) singen
However, many verbs do not conform to this general rule.

Unlike English, formal German lacks the progressive forms for verbs. There is no difference in German between "I wait," and "I am waiting." In more colloquial language, you can say "Ich bin am Warten" (lit. "I'm at the waiting"), but making this distinction between progressive and simple tense is never required.

Another feature is that a multiple-word predicate can be scattered, putting the first half early and the second part at the end of the sentence. Many of those who learned German as a foreign language can be recognized when talking German because (for example) they don't put the verb at the end of the sentence when the rule says so (for example, in subordinate clauses). And interpreters sometimes get in trouble when translating into a language that asks for the verb to be deployed way earlier (which is mostly the case), because they have to wait for the sentence to be finished before starting to talk. Similarly, quite a few verbs have what are called separable prefixes, prefixes that are cut off and tacked on at the end of the clause in certain constructions (including the present tense in main clauses), another difficulty for foreign learners.

    Possessive adjectives 
In English, possessive adjectives are based on the gender of the possessor. While this may seem intuitive and obvious, in French it's the opposite! The possessive adjective changes based on the object instead, because words in French have grammatical gender. (And yes, this means without context it is ambiguous whether the possessor is male or female.) In German? Both apply - the possessive adjective is based on the gender of the possessor, but also itself changes depending on the object. Like this:

his son - son fils (à lui) - sein Sohn

her son - son fils (à elle) - ihr Sohn

his daughter - sa fille (à lui) - seine Tochter

her daughter - sa fille (à elle) - ihre Tochter

    Writing & Pronunciation 
German generally uses a lot more punctuation than English. A side effect is, that Germans sometimes use excessive-seeming punctuation, when writing foreign languages.

(Standard) German spelling vs pronunciation is in general more consistent that in English, and is generally of the "what you see is what you get" variety. (People have been lobbying for an English spelling reform for over a century for a reason; on the other hand, German got a recent 'reform' that was unneeded, totally redundant, and didn't really change anything except confuse people and muddle things up.) German vowels all have their own 'clean'/'Latin' value, and letters and letter combinations have a consistent pronunciation instead of the nowadays seemingly random pronunciation of English which is often a matter of learning it by heart beforehand. Note that the pronunciation of consonants and vowels is also dependent on their position in a morpheme. Very few letters always have the same pronunciation. Always consider the morpheme as a whole. (For example: "ch" has two pronunciations, depending on the antecedent consonant or vowel and the morpheme as a whole ("ch" is a voiceless palatal fricative (in standard German!) in the diminutive suffix "chen", if it is an initial sound (unless it is pronounced as "K"), in an ablaut ("-ig") and after e, i,ü,ö and ä, and a voiceless velar fricative after a,o,u); "s" can be voiced and unvoiced; and so on. See consonants below)

German has four special characters, ä, ö, ü (coming from the old practice of writing a tiny e above these letters for those sounds) and ß (a ligature of ss or sz). The last one was subject to a German spelling reform in 1996, appearing less often in words nowadays, but not everyone has adopted the new spelling method. It is only used when not categorised anyway. Despite this, the ß is far from extinct. In fact a capitalized version (ẞ) has been officially introduced in 2017 (none had existed because it was never used at the beginning of a word, but the increasingly frequent practice of writing in ALL CAPS led to a perceived need for a capitalized form of the ligature). Because of the restrictions of some keyboards and character encodings, these special letters are rendered ae, oe, ue and ss or sz if the correct characters aren't available. Note, however, that this is a lossy transformation: "zuende"note  and "zünde" have different pronunciations and meanings, as do "Masse" and "Maße".


Vowels

All vowels exist in a long and a short version. If a vowel is duplicated, or there's an H behind it (or the special case of IE), it is (very likely) long. If there's more than one consonant behind it (except for the aforementioned H), is it probably a short one.

  • A: The short version sounds similar as the English U in "butler", but more open. The long version sounds as in "bar".
  • E: Short version - as in "ten". Long version - as in "play" (American pronunciation). Like in English, if the E isn't stressed, it becomes nearly invisible, like the E in "the door".
  • I: The short version is pronounced like an English I in "is". The long version sounds more like EE, as in "eel".
  • O: The long version is relatively similar to the English O, as in "holes". Except that you don't pronounce it the English way. The short version is just like the O in American English dog, at least for most speakers.
  • U: Long version: As the English OO in "tool". Short version: Also like OO, but as in "good".

Umlauts

  • Ä: The short one, like the short E above. The long one, more like A in "bare".
  • Ö: Most similar to the U in "burn". Strictly speaking, like the French œil or feu. Except that the short German Ö is shorter and the long one, well, longer.
  • Ü: Doesn't seem to exist in English. Pronounced like the French U in "fumer". The usual directions for English speakers is to pronounce the English long e ("ee" as in "eel") with the lips rounded like pronouncing U (the "oo" in "oops").

Double vowels

  • AU: Pronounced like "Ow!", which coincidentally is the German meaning of "Au!"
  • EI / AI: Pronounced like in "guy". It's Heil, not Hiel. EY and AY are old-fashioned spellings that still occur in many names (see below).
  • EU / ÄU: Pronounced like "Oy". For example in the word "Fräulein" (which many Germans rather pronounced like "Frollein", when it was still widely used). It's Schadenfreude, not -fruede, or "Teufel", not Tuefel.
  • IE: Pronounced like a long German I, see above. It's Krieg, Siegfried, not Kreig, Seigfreid.
  • AE / OE / UE: These are substitutions for Ä, Ö and Ü if the writer isn't able to type umlauts.

Consonants

  • C: Either pronounced like 'K' or 'Z' (the German Z, not the English one). Unless it's in a consonant group like CH, CK or SCH, or from a loan word that kept its native pronunciation.
  • CH: Exists in two flavors:
    • The ach-Laut: after the vowels A, O, U and the combination AU (not when they have the umlaut sign). It's pronounced like Scottish loch or the J in Spanish (think of Mejico). Yes, doesn't exist in English, apparently.
    • The ich-Laut: After all other vowels (and combinations). It's pronounced like the "hy" sound at the beginning of "human". It is often rendered as "sh", as in Kennedy's "Isch bin ein Bärlienehr", but that doesn't seem right.
    • Additionally, in some loanwords it's pronounced like SCH (as in "Chance") or like K (as in "Chor").
  • CHS: Mostly pronounced like (and often colloquially written as) X, except for some dialects which pronounce it like a combination of CH and S.
  • CK: For practical purposes, just like a double K. Before the reform of German orthography, rules said that you had to syllabify words with CK like "Zucker" (sugar) Zuk-ker (now, it's Zu-cker).
  • DSCH: Like the English J in "jungle". Only used in loan words anyway.
  • GN: Usually pronounced like two single letters as in “Wagner” (a name). In loan words (e. g. from French) often pronounced like “nj” (the German J) as in Kampagne (campaign).
  • J: Most often pronounced like the English Y as in "you". Riding the fence between vowels and consonants.
  • NG: Same as in English, in this combination the N is pronounced with the back part of the tongue touching the palatine as in “Ring” (ring).
  • PF: Like "p" and "f" pronounced at the same timenote , though many northern dialects slur it so that it sounds more like "F". Or "P", it depends on the dialect.
  • QU: Rarely pronounced like “KU”, more like “KW” as in “Quark” (curd).
  • R: On the start of a syllable, it is always softly rolled, or pronounced like a French "r." (not ‘gurgled’ as in English). On the end of a syllable, it's barely pronounced; an unstressed -er is pronounced similar to a short A. It might be dropped after certain vowels, most often A.
  • S: At the beginning of words, always pronounced like an English Z. At the end of words, always pronounced like S. In the middle of words, both are possible.
  • SCH: The common consonant grouping "sch" in German is generally identical to the English "sh" (for example, "wash" and its German equivalent, "Waschen".
  • SP: At the beginning of a word or word part pronounced like the English "shp", except for some loanwords and cases where the P is the beginning of another root in a compound word, such as Arbeitsplatz (Arbeit, "work" + Platz, "place). In the middle or at the end of a word always pronounced “sp” as in “Wespe” (wasp).
  • ST: At the beginning of a word or word part pronounced like the English "sht", with exceptions similar to the above. In all other cases pronounced “st” such as in “Ast” (branch), with exceptions in some dialects.
  • SZ / ß: As said, a ligature of ss or sz. The difference? If 'ss', vowels before are short. If 'sz', vowels before are long. Since the orthography reforms, the former is always written as 'ss', eliminating a bit of confusion.
  • TH: simply a (anspirated) 't' sound, so for example 'Apotheker' (pharmacist) ends up sounding rather like "Apo-taker". (In fact, quite a number of such words have completely lost the 'h' in their official spelling over time — the word 'Tür' (door) was still spelled with Th as late as the early 20th century, and the idiomatic phrase 'Rat und Tat' (word and deed) was written 'Rath und That'.) Nowadays, it's used mostly for words borrowed from Greek, for example the word Thron (throne), on which the Kaiser insisted when German orthography was standardized the first time.
  • TSCH: Pronounced like English "ch" as in "church".
  • V: The letter "V" in German is both ambiguous and technically redundant, being pronounced either "F" (German words, e.g. Vogel) or "W" (loanwords, e.g. Vase). A German W, of course.
  • W: The most visible, or rather audible element of German to English speakers is the fact that Germans pronounce the letter "W" as English "V". Applying this pronunciation to English has been cliché for ages, as in that immortal phrase "ve have vays of making you talk". (In German, it's "Wir haben Mittel/Wege, dich/Sie zum Reden zu bringen"). In fact, many German speakers know about this difference and overcompensate when speaking English by pronouncing "V" as "W" ("voice" becomes "woice").
  • X: Always pronounced like a combination of K and S, even at the beginning of words (so, "Xylophon" is pronounced "ksü-lo-fon")
  • Y: Almost only used in foreign words, usually Greek, making it one of the Xtreme Kool Letterz in Germany. Pronounced either like Ü, J or sometimes I (the German versions).
    • The reason why "Bavaria" is spelled Bayern in German is a certain Bavarian king's love for Ancient Greece. It was originally spelled Baiern, and that spelling, together with the adjective Bairisch, is sometimes used in relation to the region of Old Bavaria, as opposed to the Free State of Bavaria as a whole.
  • Z: Pronounced like "ts" as in "cats". Sometimes also used in the combination TZ, which must look terribly redundant to English speakers, but is relevant to pronunciation (the TZ is used after short vowels). Also note that on German keyboards, Z is where the Y is and vice versa.
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    Other 
German uses compound words, which are written without spaces or either hyphenated, for example Bundesnachrichtendienst (Federal Intelligence Service), the German intelligence service. The last word in the compound is the main subject described by the earlier words. You can go to infinite lengths in this regard. The longest word in regular German use is Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften (insurance companies which provide legal protection). The longest German word published is Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft (Association for subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services — a pre-WW2 part of a shipping company, which still exists today, but in shorter form). That's 79 letters and under the spelling reform, with three "f"s in "Schifffahrt", it became 80.
  • If you look closely at the above word, you see a few "s" and "en". This is a common error when foreigners imitate compound words - they (the words, not the foreigners) sometimes must compounded with genitive, plural and whatnot markers or even elision (e.g. "Kirsche" but "Kirschkuchen", cherry pie), even the native speakers don't know the rules. So please take care that your Wacky Nazis don't say "Schweinhund", probably the most common error of this sort - it's "Schweinehund".
  • For a tongue-in-cheek look at this and vagaries of German see "The Awful German Language" by Mark Twain.

Naturally, these words are frequently contracted and some of the most notorious German things are known by their contractions:

  • Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei — Secret State Police)
  • Stasi (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit — Ministry for State Sec and earlier Staatssicherheitsdienst- State Security Service)
  • Vopos (Volkspolizei- People's Police)
  • And of course, Nazi (Nationalsozialist — National Socialist, duh)

However, these contractions are also used for more mundane things, like Kuli ("ballpoint pen", short for Kugelschreiber).

    Foreign language issues 
Germans are excellent English speakers but less skilled people often make the same mistakes.
  • In some environments, the German word that Germans use for "that" sounds like "what". So "what" is the word what Germans use.
  • Germans absolutely love the word "genau" (absolutely/exactly). Whereas in English one might say "correct", "yeah", or "right", a German would say "genau".
  • Germans also often get confused about simple tenses vs the continuous forms, and past vs present perfect. The former distinction doesn't exist; the latter does (preterite vs present perfect), but it's less clear-cut than in English and the preterite has died out in half the dialects, anyway.
  • German speakers, when faced with a two-word term that is rendered as a compound word in German, will often hyphenate the phrase in English (software-version, root-folder, E-mail etc.) or even smash it together instead of writing it as two separate words. When such words were adopted into German, they kept the hyphens.

Let's not forget all the false cognates and false friends, of which the English and the German languages have so many,note  some of the most important ones being:

  • "bekommen", which is very similar to "to become" but actually means "to get/receive" or "to come by". This is a common mistake both for English speakers with poor German and for German speakers with poor English.
  • "eventuell", which is very similar to "eventual", but actually means "possibly" or "potentially" or "if possible", not "eventually" (the word for that is schließlich)
  • "aktuell", which is close to "actually", but actually means "currently" or "up to date".
  • "Gift": While it had the same origin and in ancient times the same meaning, the word "Gift" came to be used as an euphemism for 'poison' in the Middle Ages, which is nowadays the word's only meaning; the only exception is its survival in the term "Mitgift" ('dowry'). This can result in amusing contexts, e.g. "gift shops".
  • "mist": Both English "mist" and German "Mist" come from the same origin: the steam rising off of a fresh pile of dung. The English meaning latched to the steam bit and was extended to mean all steam-like stuff, regardless of source; the German was attached to the dung bit and was extended to mean all feces, regardless of freshness. This has led to the occasional bit of Bite the Wax Tadpole. And is the reason why "Irish Mist" was renamed "Irish Moos" (=moss) in Germany.
  • "wollen" changes to resemble "will" when conjugated in the present singular, but actually means "to want (to)." The word "werden" means either "will" or "become," although "wollen" is a cognate of the English noun "will."

A considerable number of German words have entered English, for example:

  • Kindergarten (children's garden). In contrast to most other examples, this one has greatly receded in German itself, replaced by either "Krippe" or "Kindertagesstätte" (which is, of course, abbreviated to "Kita" - see above).
  • Zeitgeist (spirit of the times) - there's an interesting cultural difference in how this word is used in English and German these days: in English, it seems to be mainly used by intellectuals who want to sound educated and whose political views are often more or less left-leaning, while in German, it seems to be mainly used by cultural conservatives to describe everything they don't like about modern times, with the implication being that it's all just a passing fad.note 
  • Schadenfreude
  • Wanderlust
  • Doppelgänger
  • Blitz (lightning, or also metaphorically 'speed-' when used in compounds). This is mostly used in discussing by Brits when discussing The Home Front — especially the Nazi attempt to bomb the UK into submission. Those Wacky Nazis used Blitzkrieg (speed war) as a strategy during the Second World War and there are other examples, but the term was not used officially by the Wehrmacht. This term was later borrowed into American Football parlance to describe a ("lightning quick") attack on the Quarterback with massed forces - of course Germans who are into American Football call that maneuver... A "Blitz". What did you think they'd call it?
  • Volkswagen (brand name "people's car")
  • Angst (though in German, this word rather means ordinary "fear"; the closest German word to what "angst" has come to mean in English would probably be "Unbehagen")
  • Ersatz- (Actually meaning "replacement" or "substitute" rather than "fake." While—for instance—calling the President of the Weimar Republic the Ersatzkaiser seems insulting to Americans, it was just an honest assessment in the minds of Germans.) The reason "Ersatz" acquired a negative connotation in English is that it entered the English language through soldiers captured by the Wehrmacht or stationed in post-war Germany and there "Ersatz-[whatever]" would invariably a replacement of questionable quality for something the Germans lacked - for example "Ersatz-gasoline" made from coal or "Ersatz-coffee" made from whatever could be roasted to give a vaguely coffee-like taste.
  • Gedankenexperiment (thought experiment) - though this isn't entirely German, and the fully-German "Gedankenversuch" is sometimes used.
  • Hinterland
  • Poltergeist
  • Rucksack (Literally meaning "backpack". Hilariously, for marketing purposes the English word "bodybag" has sometimes been spotted in advertisements for the product. May also come from the Dutch word for backpack: rugzak. How the word appeared in English is unclear.)
  • Bratwurst
  • Strudel
  • Stein ("stone"; "stoneware mug")
  • Sauerkraut
  • Dachshund ("Badger dog", as it's a hunting dog), commonly called Dackel for short
  • Ehrgeiz
  • Fräuleinwunder
  • Glockenspiel
  • Putsch (This term comes from Swiss German where it can mean something like a [physical] "strike" or "push" - it acquired the political meaning in the notoriously instable Swiss politics of the early 19th century. Of course this is not how people these days think of Swiss politics)
  • Wunderkind
  • Gestalt
  • Weltanschauung
  • Gesundheit!
  • Eigen- (meaning "of one's own", as in eigenvalue, eigenvector and eigenspace.)
  • Kitsch
  • Schnaps, although it should be noted that the German word Schnaps refers to strong alcoholica in general (whisky, gin, etc.) and the group of fruit Brandies specially. Likör, on the other hand, refers to spirits with less than 18% ethanol contents (that's 36 proof in the other system) and a lot of sugar (what Americans call schnapps).
  • Ear Worm is actually a calquenote  of the German Ohrwurm.
  • nix (colloquial variant of nichts, though not used as a verb in German)

These are just some of the ones that have retained their spelling. Of those which didn't, three have to be mentioned: Übermensch (Danke schön, Nietzsche), Götterdämmerung and Leitmotiv (Danke schön, Wagner). A few German words and phrases entered English through Yiddish usage (for example, "oy vey" is the Yiddish equivalent of the German "O weh").

There also a number of phrases associated with Those Wacky Nazis — see that entry. Once upon a time, this was considered the Black Speech.

Some German words that didn't enter English (yet) but should: Backpfeifengesicht, Kummerspeck, Neidbau, and fremdschämen.


Languages influencing German

On the other hand, Gratuitous English has bled into German through its use in the media, with the usual adaption of names and terms, but also with correct and incorrect use of English and pseudo-English used as names and in marketing, etc. Another fact is the spreading of English 'spellings' which, for German, are simply incorrect, or sometimes wouldn't even be correct for English. The German word for a mobile phone is "Handy," which Stephen Fry seems to find utterly hilarious. This is just one of many words passed from English into German with an entirely different meaning to the original - take, for example, 'Partnerlook' (when two people, not necessarily partners in the couple sense, dress the same way), or 'der Smoking' (a dinner jacket). Wonderful mish-mash words such as 'ausflippen' (to flip out) also exist, taken directly from the English but conjugated according to German verb rules. Hence 'downloaden' (to download, surprisingly enough) becoming 'ich downloade, du downloadest, er hat es downgeloadet' and so on. There is also 'downladen' from English down- and 'laden' (to load). It is inflected in a German way — 'Ich lade down' or 'Ich downlade' (I download). Pure German form is 'herunterladen', but it is still a calque. This phenomenon is known as Denglis(c)h. (With thanks to The Other Wiki)

Most jarring among the grammatical influences is the "idiot's apostrophe", which is used all over the place. In German, the apostrophe is only used to signify an omission of letters. Its least offensive misuse is to separate the genitive-S from a noun, which was correct in German over a hundred years ago but is no longer used. However, apostrophes appear in every conceivable and some inconceivable place, resulting in apostrophed plural's and apo'strophe's in the middle of word's. These mistakes are, however, also made by native English speakers (who, having been brought up in a language that - unlike German - uses apostrophes on a regular basis, really ought to know better).

Another new development is that compound words, which in German should be either written without spaces or with hyphens (Armbanduhr, Frage-und-Antwort-Spiel), are now increasingly written as separate words. This sets the whole delicate construction that is a grammatical German sentence spinning on its axis, because the newly created separate parts of what used to be one word now ought to be declined. Generally, things are just simpler if you write everything together in the good-old-traditional-way.

There are some German words and expressions that are only ever used in German translations from English, such as "Euer Ehren" for "Your Honor". note 

German has fewer loan words (especially from Latin and French) than English, since obviously the Norman influence was missing. Might also have to do with the fact that at several times during history, some Germans thought that the German Language was flooded with too many foreign words and invented German replacements. (The Nazis also did this, but it wasn't their idea.) Some of the more stupid ones like "Gesichtserker" for "nose" never made it (if it wasn't a Stealth Parody in the first place), but look at this list for some examples which did:

  • pneumonia - Lungenentzündung
  • duodenum - Zwölffingerdarm
  • author - Schriftsteller (although "Autor" also is used)
  • passion - Leidenschaft ("Passion" is used but only in a religious sense i.e. Passion of Jesus Christ.)
Note, that this is a good thing, because it helps to avoid Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness. The German words are usually Exactly What It Says on the Tin. They even are usually more accurate than the Latin/Greek words. For Example "Pankreas" - if you would speak ancient Grecian then it would translate to "''All the Flesh''", but the German word "Bauchspeicheldrüse" translates to "Saliva gland in the tummy", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

An interesting case is "realisieren", which is a perfectly fine German verb originally corresponding to English's "to realize" strictly in its "to make real" aspect but has in recent years started to also see use in the latter's sense of "to become aware". Since the one is something one actively works to accomplish and the other something that kind of just happens to a person, older native speakers can find the anglicism somewhat counterintuitive and jarring.

Another language with a huge influence on German is of course French, what with it being the second most studied in schools after English, the language of the most important tradin partner and a neighbor. In the 18th and 19th century the nobility was very much of the opinion that Everything Sounds Sexier in French and therefore a lot of Gratuitous French peppered their speech - to the extent that people like Frederick the Great only spoke German to underlings and peasants preferring French for conversation among those of equal rank. However, especially after the Franco-Prussian War French was seen as an undesirable influence and no longer de rigeur and as mentioned above numerous terms were replaced with German calques or new coinings. This happened less in Switzerland (where French is also a national language) and as thus even in Swiss Standard German, the written standard, there are French words where German from Germany uses non-French equivalents. Examples include "perron" (German: Bahnsteig, English: Platform [for trains]), "billet" (German: Fahrschein, or "Ticket", English: Ticket), "velo" (German: Fahrrad, English: bicycle)

    The most important German dialects 
Dialects still play a major role in Germany. Even German politicians often speak their dialects (even if sometimes in a form closer to Standard German).

German dialects can be a problem even to native German speakers. It's especially problematic in more remote and rural areas, where schoolteachers who have moved from other regions can't understand their pupils at all. TV documentaries sometimes have Standard German subtitles or voice-over because the people featured in them speak a dialect that is incomprehensible to the majority of viewers.


  • In Northern Germany, there are both north German accents (spoken in cities and younger people) and Plattdeutsch ("Flat German"note , Low German, spoken mostly by older people and in the rural areas). While most people speak Standard German (or High German) with an accent strongly influenced by Plattdeutsch, Platt is recognized as a language distinct from Standard German, which even many people who grew up in the urban areas of northern Germany cannot understand because not only the pronunciation, but also the vocabulary and grammar differs quite significantly.

    The northern dialects are spoken in the north, in Hamburg, Bremen and other Hanseatic cities, and extending south as far as the northern edge of the Ruhr in places. It is also notable that Plattdeutsch varies strongly with different villages as close as 50 km together often using forms of it that are almost mutually unintelligible and different dialects spouting new words and different meanings to huge extents. Associated with fishermen, sailors and other people dealing with the sea (if they speak at all - the cliché says that they're rather taciturn), or with pimps in Hamburg, of the (in)famous Reeperbahn red-light district.

    As the historic Angles and Saxons who migrated to Britain were from the regions north and south of Hamburg, Plattdeutsch is a close relative of the English language, and shares much more words and a much more similar phonetics with it than modern Standard German; it is even more closely related to Dutch, with which it forms a continuum, in addition to the Frisian language. When people speak a mixture of High and Low German, this is called Missingsch, a word that some say is derived from Messing (brass), an alloy of two metals, copper and zinc, meaning that Missingsch is an alloy of the two forms of German. About a century ago, it was said e.g., about Hamburg, that members of the lower classes and of very old upper-class families spoke Platt among themselves while the middle-class and nouveau riche would try to speak Hochdeutsch. The Plattdüütsch language region also extends into the northeastern Netherlands, where it is locally termed as Dutch Low Saxon. Similarly, the Dutch language region creeps into Germany (in the vicinity of Düsseldorf and Duisburg) where it is termed as Low Frankish. Generally speaking, the modern Netherlands and Germany have well-differentiated national identities, though their shared national border does not coincide at all with their traditional linguistic boundaries. Typical elements of northern German dialects:
    • The sounds "St" and "Sp" at the beginning of words are pronounced like that, and not like "Sht" and "Shp" as in most of Germany. This is however rapidly disappearing in recent decades.
    • In the Hamburg-Lübeck area, it is very common to drop most Ds and Ts and drastically contract words. Something like hinter der Tür (behind the door) turns into hin'ner Tür.
    • Like several accents of English, it is also nonrhotic and does not pronounce most Rs, often replacing them with an additioinal vowel. Turning the above example into hin'nea Tüe.
    • Hamburg accent is recognized by the drawing out all vowels.
    • One of the most noticeable of North German dialects of High German is that they tend to mix up the dative and accusative case, originally because Low German makes no difference between the two (e. g. for "me", High German has "mir" (dative) and "mich" (accusative), while Low German only has "mi").
    • Stereotypical greeting is "Moin!" or "Moin Moin!" — you hear the sailors in Das Boot saying this to each other. While it sounds like it is a corrupted form of "Morgen!" (morning), it is in fact short for "mooien Dag", which means "good" or "nice day".
    • There is a joke playing with the similarities to English: A German girl is visiting her grandparents on the countryside. She's having the first English lessons in school and wants to show off her knowledge, so she mentions during the lunch: "The door is open!" Her grandpa just replies: "Denn maak se man tau, min deern!" (Well, then close it, my girl!) The joke being here that "The door is open" is pronounced practically the same in Plattdüütsch and English, and yes, means the same too.

  • Hanoverian: This is said to be a dialect, but mostly it sounds like standard ("high") German. A Swabian journalist who moved there stated that she was surprised that in Hanover, even proles spoke perfect Standard German, while in her home area, this alone would qualify you to be Mayor. As a matter of fact, Hanoverians used to speak a dialect of Low German, and among lower-class speakers it was for instance not uncommon to pronounce "ei" as a long "ah" and long "ah" as a kind of long "öh".
    • In Three Men On The Bummel, Jerome K. Jerome recounts (in the 1910s) that conventional thinking says 'you must go to Hanover to learn the purest, proper German'. He states that this is true, the only problem being that it will be a form of German that no-one in any other part of Germany seems to understand.
      • This is today largely untrue: Everyone can speak Standard German.note  In Germany itself the joke is mostly "You have to go to Hanover to hear actual Standard German... the problem is: you'd be in Hanover..."
    • Generally speaking, the former Low German speaking regions tend to speak High German with less of an accent than the traditional High German regions since there wasn't as much time to develop a unique accent (the language unification is often dated back to Luther's first bible translation).

  • Berlinerisch (Berlin German): The most notable German(y) big city slang, which over time has absorbed quite a bit of vocabulary from French (starting with the large numbers of Huguenots settling in Berlin since the late 17th century) and Yiddish, as well as some Slavic languages. As its home is a North German city, the dialect is somewhat coloured by a Low German substratum, and thus typical elements like "ick(e)" for "ich" ("I") are originally Plattdeutsch, while others are specific Berlin variants of same, such as "det" for the neutrum of the definite article ("dat" in Low German, "das" in High German). Berliners are stereotypically big-mouthed, brash and cocky. The stereotypical Prussian army accent was to a large extent coloured by Berlinerisch, partly because the Prussian Guards were stationed in and around Berlin, which was also home to the main military academies. Typical features include:
    • The letter 'G' is often substituted by 'J' (consonantic "Y" in English), as in "jut, jut" (well,well) or "Orje" (a diminutive form of "Georg").
    • The diphthong "au" can become a long "o", as in "ooch" for High German "auch,"note  and "Oogen" (pronounced with a velar fricative sound like the (Modern) Greek gamma) for "Augen"note .
    • A short "I" will often be given a darker pronunciation close to a short "Ü", as in "nüscht" for "nichts"note  and "Kürche" for "Kirche"note .
    • Like other North Germans, Berliners have a tendency to mix up the dative and accusative case.

  • Saxonnote : According to a 2008 poll (here: http://www.ifd-allensbach.de/news/prd_0804.html), by far the most unpopular German dialect. Was spoken by many prominent politicians of East Germany (like Walter Ulbricht, head of the SED Central Committee from 1950 to 1971), and their border guards, which didn't help its popularity. The Saxon dialect merges the sounds /p/, /t/, and /k/ into /b/, /d/, and /g/, respective (in technical linguistics terms, all stops are voiced) (and has several vowel changes too, but that's too complicated to explain). Thuringian (the area west of Saxony) is a bit like it. Most notable for the invention or adoption of new vocab (as "Plinsen" (pancakes), a loanword from Slavic languages, specifically Sorbic) and new meanings to vocabs (mentioned "Pfannkuchen" in Saxon are Plinsen. In other regions pancakes are called pancakes, "Pfannkuchen" - in Saxon, however "Pfannkuchen" is what in other regions in Germany is a "Krapfen" - a fried doughy pastry filled with jelly ... what an American would call a "jelly donut".note  Hilarity Ensues when a Saxonian orders Pfannkuchen in a Bavarian bakery). Also known as typical Saxon is "Nu" - the universially used word for approval, yes, maybe, scepticism ("Nu, nu...") etc. - there are cases known where entire conversations were held only by using "Nu".)
    • The bad image of Saxon was in no little part due to the fact that Saxon and Thuringian were the only dialect unambiguously associated with the GDR (the dialects of the coastal regions are very similar to those of Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg etc., while the Berlin dialect was shared by East and West Berliners). Specifically, communist party leaders Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honecker spoke with a very noticeable Saxon accent (which in the latter case was an acquired one - Honecker originally came from the Saarland) and more generally, Berlin Wall guards did as well - the general belief was that Berliners weren't trusted to do the job i.e. shoot their own people.
    • Has been described, for the benefit of British tropers, as someone speaking German with a thick Brummy accent.
    • However, it is true that an old subdialect of Saxon (Sächsische Kanzleisprache, Saxon Chancellery German) was what Martin Luther used for his German translation of The Bible, because being a Middle German dialect it could be understood by more or less everybody (provided they could read, of course) and because he was at the time under the protection of the Duke of Saxony; the language of Luther's Bible became the kernel of modern Standard German. Saxons are understandably fond of pointing this out.
    • This joke is somewhat translatable: Two Saxon policemen see a car with the nationality sticker "GB".
      Policeman 1: What country is zat? Gingdom of Boland?
      Policeman 2: You are so dumb! Zat's one of us! Zis means 'Griminal Bolice'!

  • Franconian: Spoken in the area between Thuringia, (Old) Bavaria and Hessen. Replaces P and T sounds by B and D respectively.
    • The locals call it the hard B and the soft B respectively.
    • Also, if you want to emphazise any part of your sentence, just add 'fei' in front of the part you what to give extra weight. And no, 'fei' cannot be translated. Not even into Standard German.
    • Diphtongs 'AU' or 'EI' are substituted by single vowels (usually 'A'). This is the most important difference to bavaria, there single vowels are substituted with diphtongs. For example the word "Arbeit" (work,job) becomes "Ärbad" in Franconian, while it would be "Oarbeit" in Bavarian. Using diphtongs in Franconia makes you look suspicious, because Francons hate Bavarians.
    • "Ja" ("Yes") becomes "Hoh"/"Joh" and "Nein" ("No") becomes "Nah". This may lead to confusions because "Nah" may be confused with "Ja".

  • Bavarian: Most popular German dialect, according to the earlier mentioned poll. (For the Oktoberfest, maybe?) Associated with the gemütlich Bavarian guys who like beer, rich food, wear lederhosen and listen to Bavarian (Polka-like) music. Typically has quite a singsong intonation and in inclination similar to Welsh to put a slight pause in between the first and second syllables of a word.
    • While regular Bavarian accents can be understood by most Germans, Lower Bavarian (Niederbairisch) from the eastern end of the state is often unintelligible even to other Bavarians.
    • Single vowels are often substituted by diphtongs, so words often get more syllables and 'EI' is often substituted by 'OA'. For example "Eichhörnschenschwanz" bzw. "Eichkätzchenschweif" (tail of a squirrel) becomes "Oachkoatzelschwoaf". In general Bavarian has lots of 'OA'.

  • Austrian: Can be used to describe three main dialect groups spoken in Austria, "Donaubairisch" (in Salzburg, Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Vienna, parts of Styria and Burgenland and northern Tyrol), "Südbairisch" (spoken in the rest of Tyrol, Eastern Tyrol, the rest of Styria) and "Allemanisch" (Vorarlberg). Donaubairisch and Südbairisch are closely allied to Bavarian, and are sometimes grouped with the actual Bavarian dialects in Bavaria as "Austro-Bavarian," but there are some differences. (An example and useful tip: The sentence "My name is" ("Ich heiße") becomes "I hoaß" in Bavarian, but "I haaß" in the Austrian capital Vienna, which has its own subdialect.) The Allemanisch is closer to the Allemanisch of Baden-Württemberg and Swiss German and more distantly related to Swabian (but still closer to either of those than the Bavarian dialects spoken in the rest of Austria).
    • If you study classical voice, you will learn to pronounce Austrian German, as the major writers of German songs lived and wrote in Vienna—-from Haydn and Mozart through Richard Strauss—and therefore Austrian is the dialect used for singing.
    • As an example: "I hoaß" (i.e. as in Bavaria) is the way it's said in Salzburg, northern Styria, northern Tyrol, parts of Upper and Lower Austria and Burgenland (when not yet superseded by the Viennese "â"), but not in Vienna and areas influenced by the Viennese dialect, where people say "I hâß".
    • The city of Vienna itself has a few different dialects:
      • The general Viennese dialect is rather closer to "understandable" German than the Alpine districts, having less vowel shifts and hardly any consonant shifts (also, being the capital, Viennese have more reason to be understandable internationally), but still has a lot of dialectal loanwords borrowing from any of the languages in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Yiddish.
      • The most distinct Viennese dialect is the Meidlinger Dialect, which is the common, working class dialect, and famous for the "Meidlinger L", a sound even most non-Viennese Austrians can't replicate.
      • The other major Viennese dialect, now almost extinct, is "Schönbrunner Deutsch", spoken by the nobility, which sounds completely different. It is named after the Schönbrunn Palace, the former seat of the Habsburg monarchs, for it was their dialect of German as well.
    • There is also Tyrolean, which is a term used for the whole of Tyrol, but actually mostly applies to Innsbruck (the capital) and surrounding areas, where consonants almost underwent another consonant shift: several consonants hardened (f.e. "k" to almost "kch") and vowels darkened ("a" -> "o" instead of "â" (standard Oberbairisch)). Also, the Germanic "s" (pronounced as "sch") was retained in some areas, resulting in pronunciations of "bist" as "bischt".
      ""Bisch a Tiroler, bisch a Mensch."note  "Bisch koaner, bisch a oaschloch."note 
    • Actually, each of the nine Bundesländer has its own notably different dialect (usually with several variants), with dialect borders closely following political borders.
      • The most easily recognizable dialect may be Carinthian, because it has very distinctive pronounciation yet is easy to understand, so it's recognised by many people. The most widely spoken dialect in Austria is Donaubairisch. Tyrolians, on the other hand, usually have to switch to a more standardized version of German to be understood by other Austrians.
    • Things get absolutely crazy with dialects in Vorarlberg, Austria's western-most Bundesland. The dialects are part of the allemanic group and thus very different from other Austrian dialects. There are at least four major groups (and many more subgroups) of dialects with some very distinct words and prounciation. Noticeably the Vorarlbergerisch dialects are more closely related to Swiss German, which is one of the reasons Vorarlbergers are often referred to (more or less) jokingly as Swiss by other Austrians. The other wiki has more.
      • For example, listen to this - I chose the line basically because I could understand it
        Vorarlbergerisch: Vo Mello bis ge Schoppornou bean i gloufa – d'Füaß hend mr weh tau
        Hochdeutsch: Von Mellau bis nach Schoppernau bin ich gegangen – die Füße haben mir weh getan
        English: I walked from Mellau to Schoppernau, my feet hurtnote 
      • Remember that we are talking about a state with only 370,000 inhabitants here.
    • Finally, "Austro-Bavarian" Südbairisch German is also spoken in the Italian province of South Tyrol.

  • Swabian: Spoken in the southwest in a region centered on Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg. Speakers like to apply the ending "-le" to quite many words, which make these words a diminutive. It has its own distinct grammar, as well as a very different pronunciation from Standard German, which makes understanding and speaking it even more complicated for out-of-regioners.
    • Spätzle, the little noodle/dumpling crossovers familiar to some American tropers, are Swabian in origin.
    • Elvis Presley's "Wooden Heart" includes a couple of stanzas in Swabian, based on "Muss i Denn", a German folk song written in the Swabian dialect by Friedrich Silcher in 1827, and adapted into "Wooden Heart" by Fred Wise, Ben Weisman, Kay Twomey, and Bert Kaempfert, and featured by Elvis in "G.I. Blues".

  • Alemannisch: Another southwestern dialect, spoken in Baden (which prides itself on not being Swabian) and French Elsass/Alsace (Alsatian, as in the type of dog known as a German Shepherd in the United States for reasons relating to World War I). Since both Swabian and Alemannisch are spoken in the state of Baden-Württemberg (known for innovative science and industry), the state had a bit of fun with an ad campaign that ran, "Wir können alles. Außer Hochdeutsch." ("We can do anything. Except speak Standard German.") Alemannisch is related to...

  • Swiss German (Schweizerdeutsch in Standard German, Schwyzerdütsch in Alemannic German): Similar to Swabian, but even more incomprehensible for other German-speakers. Has many loan words from French and Italian (which are the other official languages spoken in Switzerland).
    • The Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne has language-selection buttons on its videos offering English, French, German and Swiss-German. The Swiss essentially regard it as a separate language, and it has been suggested that if Dutch is a separate language, then Swiss should be too.
      • Perhaps, since "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy", the Dutch qualify but the Swiss don't, since the Swiss Navy is somewhat minimal.
      • The Swiss German "dialect" itself has more than half-a-dozen dialects, with those even having "sub"-dialects, variing from one region to another. It can be argued that, despite not officially recoginzed as such, Swiss German pratically is a separate language.
      • Wikipedia uses the terms Swiss Standard German and Swiss German to distinguish the two. "Swiss Standard German" is Standard German (Hochdeutsch), the written language common to all German speakers, with Swiss intonation and vocabulary, while "Swiss German" is any of the several dialects spoken in Switzerland, which are as a group distinct from other variations of German. There is a common joke about Germans mistaking "Swiss Standard German" for actual Swiss German because the Swiss accent alone is already very different from Standard German.
      • The stereotypical Swiss German word is "Chuchichäschtli" (the "ch" pronounced as in Scottish "loch"), which would be "Küchenschrank" (literally: "Küchenkästchen") in Standard German, and means "kitchen cupboard".

  • Hessian: Spoken e. g. in the area around Frankfurt. Became somewhat famous when parts of it entered "Kanaksprak" (the slang used by youths from immigrant families).
    • "Alle Hejje sin' Verbrejje, denn se klaue Ajjenbejje."
    • Was also spoken by no one less than Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as is visible in the lines "Ach neige / du Schmerzensreiche..." from Faust. In standard German, this would make a Painful Rhyme, but in Hessian, it's smooth. And the character saying it (Gretchen) would definitely speak dialect.
    • If you fly Lufthansa, you'll probably stop in Frankfurt. While they do their best to cover it up, there's a definite Hessian tinge to the German spoken among the people manning FRA security, so if you've been there, that's what it's like (if you can tell).

  • Palatinate: Pfälzisch, the dialect of former chancellor Helmut Kohl, who became the target of so many jokes.
    • Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch: Or Pennsylvania German, spoken by the so-called "Pennsylvania Dutch" (who are actually German) and Amish communities of the United States. Since they moved to the US in the 18th and 19th centuries, there has been some divergence, but a Palatinate speaker can still carry a conversation with an Amish person or other speaker of Pennsylvania German if he/she sticks to dialect.

  • Rhenish: Similar to Pfälzisch. Spoken in the Rhineland. Related to Letzeburgisch, the German dialect spoken in Luxembourg, is also spoken by the Germanophone community of Belgium and forms a continuum with the dialect of Dutch spoken in the neighboring province of Limburg (you know, where the cheese that literally smells like feet comes from).
    • Kölsch: A specific variant of Rhenish, spoken in the city of Cologne. Associated with the Cologne Carnival festivities. May be more famous than other Rhenish variants because some of Germany's most important TV stations are located in Cologne. Not to be confused with the beer from that area which is also called Kölsch...although the similarity of names has led to a German joke about how Kölsch is the only dialect you can drink.)

  • Westphalian/"Ruhrpott" speech: Has quite some influences. Although it is associated with Germany's biggest urban agglomeration, the dialect is actually not all that different between the "Pütt" and rural areas like the Sauerland and Münsterland.
    • Ruhr German is basically Standard High German with "t" in place of "s" at the end of words, and the use of a lot of contractions. Older generations mix up the accusative and dative cases, but younger ones don't. A more liberal use of prepositions sometimes remains, as "zu" and "nach" being used interchangeably. Ruhr Germans are said to be overly colloquial and frank with strangers, although that is somewhat exaggerated for comedic effect, and distinction. A distinction between Ruhr German and Westphalian German is that the "er" in "Donnerstag" (Thursday) is pronounced like a Standard German "er" at the end of syllables (close to "a") in the former, and closer to a British non-rhotic "er" in the latter.

  • There is also another American dialect known as Texas German, or "Texasdeutsch". The Mainzer Adelsverein at Biebrich am Rhein, (known as the Mainzer Adelsverein for short), was a colonial attempt for German settlers to set up a new German colony in the Republic of Texas in 1842 by 21 German noblemen at Biebrich on the Rhine. In 1853, by which time Texas had joined the United States in 1849, the Adelsverein ceased its colonization attempts due to massive debt. Communities founded by German Texans include Bulverde, New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Boerne, Walburg, Comfort, Muenster, Schulenberg, and Weimar; some of these communities are located near Interstate 10 near San Antonio. Texas German was recognized by the State of Texas until World War I, when Texas education regulations mandated an English-only policy in response to the anti-German hysteria of WWI, and many Texas German speakers switched to English, with few passing on the language skills to their descendants. Only a few elderly German Texans speak it today as a native language; however, Dr. Hans Boas at the University of Texas is recording and studying the dialect, with efforts being made to preserve and study it to preserve it for future generations.

Dead dialects:

As a result of World War II, several million Germans were kicked out from the area east of Oder-Neiße-line, the new German-Polish border, as well as from many other areas of Eastern and Eastern Central Europe. Thus, these dialects were from then on just spoken by older refugees and nowadays almost completely disappeared.

  • Pomeranian: Basically the regional dialects of High and Low German and as such not that different from other North German dialects. Obviously some are still spoken in the part of Pomerania west of the Oder that remains German.
  • Silesian: As a funny detail, the phrase "Er ist von uns gegangen" ("he went from us") just means "he left" in Silesian, instead of being an euphemism for "he died", as most other Germans would understand it.
    • Quite a few Germans stayed in Silesia after the war and are now a recognized linguistic minority under EU law. There was a distinct difference between the northern part (Lower Silesia) and the southern (Upper Silesia). The latter had a large Polish community which basically got crapped on by both sides, becoming the subject of distrust and ridicule among Germans ("Antek and Frantek" jokes used to be popular at least until the 1940s) and regarded as too "Germanified" by Poles.
    • Not to be mistaken with modern Silesian language spoken by Polish Silesian minority, that uses Polish grammar, a lot of indigenous vocabulary (not strictly Polish, but definitely of Slavic origin) and many (sometimes bastardized) German loanwords.

  • East Prussian: Had both High and Low German dialects. The dialect of the former German-speaking community of the Baltic states sounded rather similar, as did that of German-Speakers of West Prussia (the pre-1939 Polish Corridor). Influences came from various Slavic languages such as Polish, Kassubian and Masurian (the latter two are regarded as Polish dialects by patriotic Poles). Some slightly archaic forms, collectively known as Plautdietsch (a phonically altered form of "Plattdeutsch"), are still spoken among Mennonite communities in the Americas. Not to be confused with Old Prussian, below.

  • Sudeten or Bohemian German: The dialect spoken by the German-speaking community of what is now The Czech Republic. Somewhat similar to Austrian and Silesian, with some influences from Czech. Although some might classify Franz Kafka's native dialect as Sudeten, things are somewhat less clear: he lived in Prague and was Jewish, and both Prague and the German-speaking Czech Jews had their own, mutually-interacting dialects.

  • Other dialects from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and elsewhere include those of the "Siebenbürgen Saxons" (the German community of Transylvania) and the "Banat Swabians" (Nobel Prize laureate Herta Müller is from this part of Romania). (Note: In South Eastern Europe "Swabian" is often used as a pejorative name for all kinds of Germans.)

West Germanic, but not German languages:

  • Frisian (Friisk): This language is usually grouped together with English in the Anglo-Frisian group. German Frisians live in North Frisia on the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein including the islands off said coast, on Heligoland, in East Frisia (the coastal region adjoining the Dutch border including the islands on that part of the North Sea Coast), Dutch Frisians live mainly in the Province of Frisia, west of East Frisia. Most German Frisians speak High and/or Low German, but there are still enough speakers of Frisian in North Frisia and on Heligoland to warrant recognition and protection under German and European law.
  • Dutch: In the border area, especially on the Lower Rhine. See above in the section on North German. During the middle ages and the Eighty Years War quite a number of people migrated from the Low Countries to Northern Germany, and for instance two old established families in Hamburg, the Sillems and the Amsincks, still pronounce their names with a sharp "s" because they originated in the Netherlands.
  • Yiddish is a collection of Jewish-specific High German dialects that—despite the lack of an army and a navy—came to be considered a language; the Hebrew loanwords and being written in the Hebrew alphabet probably had something to do with it. To be quite fair, the dialects of Yiddish that survived are the eastern ones, which contained a large portion of Slavic vocabulary, as well (western Yiddish died out as German Jews assimilated to mainstream German culture—or died out in a more literal sense).
    • For all the jokes about "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy" on this page—the actual quote was originally in Yiddish, about Yiddish. The fact that Yiddish is almost universally considered a separate language from High German despite the absence of these makes one really think about linguistics.
    • Yiddish (and through it Hebrew) words entered the language of the general population, largely through Jews and gentiles living together, partly via the detour of Rotwelsch, the cant spoken by criminals and vagrants, which also had a big influence on the secret shibboleths etc. of journeymen craftsmen.
  • English: Englishmen, Scots and Irishmen came to Northern Germany and the Baltic states since Elizabethan times, settling in fairly large numbers e. g. in Hamburg and East Prussia. However they tended to learn to speak German after a while.

Non-West Germanic languages:

  • Danish, a North Germanic language, is spoken by the Danish minority in the South Schleswig region of Schleswig-Holstein (the northernmost part of the state—North Schleswig is part of Denmark, as South Schleswig had been until 1864).
  • The Upper Sorbian and Lower Sorbian languages spoken in eastern Saxony and south-eastern Brandenburg are West Slavic. In the early middle ages Polabian (which means "living on the Elbe") Slavs settled as far west as Bremen and as far south as Franconia (as can be seen by names of rivers such as Pegnitz and Regnitz). They are a remnant of the Wendish group of West Slavic languages. formerly more widely spoken in what is now eastern Germany. Wendish languages started to disappear en masse with the Ostsiedlung in the 12th century, when ethnic Germans from further west started settling en masse further east and in the process assimilated much of the old Slavic population.note . The only surviving Wendish languages are Upper and Lower Sorbian, and also Kashubian in Poland (fun fact: Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland 2007-present, is a Kashubian); the Wendish languages are usually seen as distinct from Polish and Czech-Slovak groups of West Slavic).
  • Up until World War II, Prussia also had Polish-speaking regions, e. g. in Upper Silesia, and a tiny Czech-speaking minority. During the industrial revolution many Poles migrated to the Ruhr valley, where they were soon absorbed linguistically into the general German-speaking population.
  • Some non-Germanic languages and dialects died out during the flight of non-ethnic Germans (along with ethnic German neighbors) after World War II who had already adopted a German national identity. The Wendish Slavic language Slovincian in Pomerania completely died out, as the post-war Polish authorities considered the Slovincians unwanted Germans and expelled them to Germany. Many Protestant Lechitic Slavs (such as the Masurians) and the Prussian Lithuanians were also deported to Germany, and their language was eventually lost. The entire population of what became Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast (and almost the entire population of what became Lithuania's Klaipėda region) was also expelled to Germany — they were mostly Germans and indigenous Prussian Lithuanians, but also speakers of the Baltic language New Curonian (similar to Latvian) who lived on the Curonian Spit. The descendants of all groups are now fully assimilated into modern society in Germany, mostly speaking Standard German.
  • The Old Prussian language was the most prominent of the obscure West Baltic languages, spoken in the northeast Poland/Kaliningrad/Klaipeda area before the Ostsiedlung; it was related to Lithuanian and Latvian, and died out by the 17th century as the locals became Germanized. The Prussian dialects of German included a number of Old Prussian loanwords.
  • Romani, a Indo-European language originating from India, was and to some extent still is spoken by the Sinti and Roma living in Germany, many of whom died in Nazi death camps during World War II. A few Romani words entered the German language via the Rotwelsch cant mentioned above in the section on Yiddish.
  • A number of other languages came to Germany with larger groups of immigrants, for instance French; the biggest wave occurred after Louis XIV expelled the Huguenots from France, a smaller one during the French Revolution, but eventually they were linguistically absorbed into the German-speaking population. This is how you get German families with names like de Mazière; as mentioned, it's also responsible for the French influence on the Berlin dialect. After World War II the "Economic Miracle" in West Germany led to the immigration of millions of "guest workers" from Italy, Spain, Portugal, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, most of whom eventually settled down in Germany, but quite a number of whom keep speaking their native languages and pass them on to their children. The end of the Cold War also led to an influx of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and also not a few Russian Jews, which is one of the reasons there are now e. g. some Russian-language newspapers in Germany. All those immigrant languages contribute to a phenomenon that some linguists call "Kiezdeutsch"note  and there are now some loanwords from immigrant languages used even by Germans without immigrant descent, including "yallah" (Arabic for "let's go") or "habibi" (Arabic for "friend").

    Tropes 
  • Often used in context of Those Wacky Nazis, or as Gratuitous German. The latter is often used for Nazi-styled or evil characters, and often in Japanese Anime, where it can also appear with neutral or good characters.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: As a rule of thumb: the opposite. German is commonly stereotyped as harsh and/or scary. Probably influenced the fact that the 'German' non-Germans are most likely to hear are Second World War soundbites of Adolf Hitler hamming it up, movie characters trying to sound evil or creepy, or metal bands trying to cash in on the image by doing all of the above. On the other hand, there is a certain tradition among intellectuals that Everything Sounds Smarter In German: because of the massive influence of German philosophy in the 19th and early 20th centuries (particularly Friedrich Nietzsche, and his myriad disciples, such as Wacky Nazi Martin Heidegger) using German words like Weltanschauung is a fairly common practice in academia. Also physicists use more than a handful of German words, due to the large number of notable German and German-speaking scientists, like Albert Einstein or Werner Heisenberg, and the contributions they made to physics. This association is much less common today than the "menacing" stereotype, though it can still be observed. note .
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz work the opposite in German. "Zirkus" is the modern spelling. However, many if not most circuses go with the old-timey spelling and call themselves "Circus [something]". Generally, ditching Z's and K's for C's, I's for Y's and sprinkling silent H's after consonants ("Rathhaus" instead of "Rathaus") makes something look old-fashioned, or Kool (in a Gothick way).
  • Cypher Language: as for all pairs of related languages. You have to take into account sound changes, like the second Germanic consonant shift, and sometimes you get the correct word. For example, you take the English path. In German, the initial "p" became "pf", "th" became "d" and really "Pfad" means "path". Or the other way round: In German there is uns, but in English "n" before "s" disappeared and there is us.

    Usage in fiction 
  • Asterix, some Disney comics and User Friendly got some translations into German dialects.
    • Concerning Asterix: Some of them brought some interesting local color, like the Ruhrpott version ("Beim Jupp und Pitter!"), others were nothing but the standard German version translated into dialect, and some were a bit weird (The Gauls are Hessians? And the participating teams of the Olympic Games named like the nicknames of Hessian football teams?).
    • For some reason, the fighting words and puns translated really well in the Viennese version...
  • There are some dubs of non-German movies where, in an attempt at Cultural Translation, non-Germans speak (more or less) perfect German dialects.
    • One of the most egregious example may be the dub of Airplane!, where the Jive Turkey guys talk Bavarian dialect.
      I mog de mit vui Diridari und vui Hoiz vor da Hütt'n.
    • Babe, got its own Austrian version, which was a way bigger hit in Austrian movie theaters than the standard German version. Each animal race (including humans) got its own local dialect.
  • Theodor Fontane often included bits of dialogue in Brandenburg Plattdeutsch. In Der Stechlin lower-class villages speak that way, but also the eponymous nobleman in his poem Herr von Ribbeck auf Ribbeck im Havelland.
  • Buddenbrooks, which is set in Lübeck, uses several of them, mostly Platt.
  • Charité at War plays in Berlin, but only three characters speak with a distinctly Berlin accent. Another is Austrian, and protagonist Anni speaks High German most of the time, but slips into her original Bavarian dialect when she's talking to her mother on the phone.
  • Ein Herz und eine Seele
  • Hausmeister Krause (Mostly Kölsch.)
  • In Inglourious Basterds, Archie Hicox's cover is almost blown when a Nazi officer realizes that he can't place his accent (It's because he's actually an undercover Brit).
  • Käpt'n Blaubär (Mostly Platt.)
    • For that matter, Father Neptune characters in general often have Platt accents in German works and dubs.
  • The Lives of Others (Mostly Saxon.)
  • In One, Two, Three the Volkspolizisten interrogating Otto Piffl speak standard Hochdeutsch; in the German dub they speak with a Saxon accent.
  • Rudi
  • Schindelschwinger
  • Werner (Mostly Platt.)
  • The German translation of My Fair Lady replaces Eliza's Cockney accent with Berlinerisch. As the only other option would have been her inexplicably having a heavy English accent in German.
  • Most of Bully Herbig's comedy troupe's output, including Die Bullyparade, Der Schuh des Manitu and Traumschiff Surprise feature three core type of dialects: Bully often performs in his native Oberbairisch, occasionally with a Camp Gay intonation. Christian Tramitz, who is half-Bavarian, half-Austrian, will usually go either for Bavarian or a camp Viennese (so very posh Austrian) dialect. Rick Kavanian (who is an Armenian raised in Bavaria) on the other hand, often summons a camp Saxon dialect (and appropriately East German archetypes).
  • Der Wixxer (Has two stereotypical East Germans with Saxon accents. Who are not played by Saxons. Yes, it's as wacky as it sounds.)
  • In the German dub, Wasabi from Big Hero 6 speaks Berlinerisch for some reason.
  • Bertolt Brecht, who famously wanted to make his plays emotionally distant from his audience, encouraged his actors to translate his scripts into their native dialects and initially learn them in that form, so that they would be adequately detached when they eventually performed in Bühnenhochdeutsch (standard German, literally "stage German").
  • [[Pumuckl]]: Since the episodes play in Munich and some other regions in Upper Bavaria, a mild Bavarian dialect is spoken by Meister Eder and most other people. Therefore, Meister Eder does not like when Pumuckl says "Tschüss". Some other dialects can be heard too: Austrian German (spoken by Franz Muxender as Mr. Lechner, Maria Singer as Mrs. Ramsauer, by Hugo Lindinger as butler Jakob, by Hans Brenner as mechanic, by Josef Schwarz as firefighter, by Eva Astor as the cat's owner and Kurt Weinzierl as old man on the Lake Starnberg's shore)
  • Shrek 2 has two German dubs: german (Hochdeutsch) and austrian german. Amusingly, it is literally the same, the only difference being the voice actress of the Fairy Godmother being an austrian musical singer instead of a german Schlagernote  singer.
  • The German dub of Count Duckula has Goosewing speaking Saxon dialect. And in the episode when a Scottish guy appeared, they made him speak Bavarian dialect. "Ein Fuchzgerl!"
  • The Austrian band STS made "Hier kummt die Sunn", a dialect version of George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun". The band sings all of their songs in Middle Styrian dialect.
  • American Dad!: Klaus the Goldfish with the mind of an East German ski jumper orignally speaks English with a generic German accent - the German dub of the series gives him a very appropriate Saxon accent.
  • On a related note, BAP made a version of several Bob Dylan's songs in their dialect of Cologne, i.e. Kölsch. They had told him about it, and allegedly he liked it, but as some people pointed out, Bob Dylan doesn't understand Kölsch.
  • The movies Indien and Komm süsser Tod both are good examples of Viennese dialect, which is spoken throughout.
  • For Das Boot, director Wolfgang Petersen wanted faces and dialects which would accurately reflect the diversity of the Third Reich circa 1941. Nearly every officer and crewman on U-96 speaks with a separate dialect. For instance, Pilgrim speaks with a Hamburg dialect (frequently saying "Moin Moin!"), his friend Frenssen speaks with a Ruhr dialect, and Chief Mechanic Johann speaks with an Austro-Bavarian accent.
  • The villagers in Das Finstere Tal speak with in Tyrolean dialect, appropriate for their Alpen village.
  • Karl May had many Comic Relief characters speak with a Saxon dialect. As he came from Saxony, he did a better job of this than when he attempted to have characters speak Bavarian dialect.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has Augustus Gloop as a fat German kid. While most English variants (the old and new movie as well as the musicals) usually simply give him a stereotypical "German" dialect, the German dub gives him what Germans usually refer as very German sounding when the main language is German already - Bavarian.
  • The eponymous count from the Dracula (2020) mini-series kills a hapless sailor in Episode 2, allegedly for his "charming Bavarian accent". While he does learn to speak flawless German from draining the poor sod, it's actually High German without the slightest hint of anything resembling Bavarian, and the sailor himself never sounded Bavarian in the first place.
  • The Hanseatic League conducted most of its business in Middle Low German (Mittelniederdeutsch - the "middle" confusingly refers to time while the "Low" refers to place). Virtually all modern works set in that era replace it with mildly accented Modern Standard German ("Missingsch")

Alternative Title(s): German Dialects

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