Do you know that feeling? You’ve been learning German for a while. Your vocab is pretty good and when you do any listening exercises you understand (almost) everything.
Then you go to Germany and very excitedly you try and eavesdrop on conversations ……… and then … you cannot … understand … a word, because the people you hear speak a dialect!
If this sounds familiar you will be pleased to know that it happens to an extend to me, too. If I hear people speaking in dialect, I might understand some of it but not necessarily all.
So I thought it would be a nice idea for you and me to have a look at some of Germany’s dialects. Let’s see how far we get …..
We start with a little bit of general information. According to Wikipedia, there are three main dialect areas: Niederdeutsch, Mitteldeutsch and Oberdeutsch, low, middle and upper German. In these areas there are countless dialects, I read in one forum where somebody posted that just in their village people spoke different dialects. I won’t be able to cover all dialects, but we can cover a few main ones, one post a month. We can work our way from the top (Niederdeutsch) to the bottom (Oberdeutsch).
So, let’s start at the top with Hamburgerisch.
As the name suggest, that’s the dialect you might hear in Hamburg. Luckily, most people speak Hochdeutsch (high German, or “proper” German as I like to call it), but sometimes you might still hear various types of Plattdeutsch (low German). For example you could hear people say:
- dat instead of das (that)
- wat instead of was (what)
- lütt Deern = kleines Mädchen (little girl)
- and they might find my blog post dröge = trocken/ langweilig (dry/ boring)
Want to hear some? Watch this video to find out how people in Hamburg might swear!
The East Frisian dialect is spoken in East Frisia along the North Sea coast. The following video is a lesson for Germans about flirting in Plattdeutsch, and no, I don’t understand it either ☺
If you come across an East Frisian word and want to know what it means, you can type into the Ostfriesisches Wörterbuch or you can click on ‘Wörterbuch durchblättern’ where you find 98 pages of East Frisian words with their German translation.
I’ll leave you with two East Frisian farmers who are haggling over six dairy cows: