Conservative wants German language enshrined in constitution

As the debate about immigration and integration rages on in Germany, conservative Bavarian politician Alexander Dobrindt said on Friday that the country must protect the German language in its constitution.

Conservative wants German language enshrined in constitution
A Chinese exchange student learns German from a veteran. Photo: DPA

“The protection of the German language should be anchored in constitutional law,” the general secretary for the CSU told daily Bild. “Respect for our German language is respect for our culture and our country, which we demand from all who live among us.”

Without a common language there can be no effective integration, Dobrindt told the paper, adding that anyone who avoided German was also avoiding properly integrating in the country.

In December 2008 members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, which are the sister party to the Bavarian CSU, suggested a similar move. At their party convention they proposed adding the phrase, “The language of the Federal Republic of Germany is German,” to the constitution.

Saarland state premier Peter Müller said at the time that the party needed to focus on what “the nation stands for,” adding that along with the nation’s flag the German language is paramount.

Party delegates ultimately voted in favour of the motion that if ever passed by parliament could change Article 22 of the constitution, which already states that Berlin is Germany’s capital, and the flag is black, red and gold.

The vote to anchor the language wording in the constitution, however, was seen in some political quarters as unnecessary patriotic chest-thumping by the conservatives.


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10 ways to talk about being drunk in German

Germany is famous for its love of beer and, with Oktoberfest now in full swing, here are some phrases to help you express various levels of inebriation in the German language.

10 ways to talk about being drunk in German

1. Betrunken sein

The most straightforward way to express alcohol-induced intoxication in German, which will leave no one in any doubt as to your state, is to use the word betrunken meaning “drunk”.


Es ist ihm egal – er ist betrunken!

He doesn’t care – he’s drunk!

2. Saufen

Next up is the most common word for “boozing” in German. Saufen can be used both as a verb and a noun to mean “to get drunk” or “drinking”.


Lass uns einfach weiter saufen!

Let’s just keep drinking!

Ich habe kein Problem mit dem Saufen

I don’t have a drinking problem. 

3. Alkoholisiert sein

This is more of a formal way to talk about being drunk, and is equivalent to the English “to be under the influence of alcohol”. You’ll usually hear authorities and newspaper reports using this phrase to talk about alcohol-related incidents.


Der Fahrer war alkoholisiert

The driver was under the influence of alcohol

Es ist aus Sicherheitsgründen untersagt, vor Spielbeginn alkoholisiert anzukommen.

For safety reasons, it is prohibited to arrive intoxicated before the start of the game.

4. Blau sein

This expression, meaning literally “to be blue” has a pretty disgusting origin story.

In the middle ages, the plant woad was used to create a blue colour for dyes.

Three young men run at the Bierathlon in Hannover in 2013. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

As only a small amount of alcohol was needed to speed up the dyeing process, using human urine containing alcohol was supposedly the cheapest way to ferment the dye.

READ ALSO: ‘6 German words I now use in English’

So the dyers drank beer all day and urinated into the vat where the plant was fermenting. Remember that next time you wear your favourite blue t-shirt. 


Er war so blau, dass er seinen Schlüssel nicht in die Tür bekam

He was so drunk that he couldn’t get his key in the door

5. Beschwipst sein

The phrase beschwipst sein is equivalent to the English “to be tipsy” and not yet in the full throws of drunkenness.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Kneipe

The word was first used in Austria in the 19th century and can be traced back to the verb schwippen, meaning to sway, as it describes a drunk person who finds it increasingly difficult to walk in a straight line.


Ich bin nicht betrunken, nur ein bisschen beschwipst

I’m not drunk – just a little tipsy

6. Zu tief ins Glas schauen

This idiom is most likely a jokey rethink of the idiom tief ins Augen schauen meaning “to look someone too deeply in the eyes” as a way of saying “to fall in love with someone”.

This phrase for drunkenness has been in use in the German language since around 1700 and has even made appearances in many literary works, including those of Goethe.  


Du solltest nicht zu tief ins Glas schauen, sonst musst du dir ein Taxi nehmen

You’d better not get too drunk, or you’ll have to take a taxi

Immer mehr Rentner schauen oft zu tief ins Glas

More and more pensioners get drunk often

 7. voll wie ein Eimer sein

This expression, meaning “to be as full as a bucket” is just one of a multitude of German expressions that include the word voll (“full”) to express drunkenness.

Grapes being carried in buckets to the transport vehicle on a vineyard in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Heiko Becker

There are numerous phrases that start with voll wie (“as drunk as”) and end in something heavy, such as Granate (grenade), Schwein (pig), Kanone (canon), and even voll wie ein tausend Russen (“full as a thousand Russians”). Why not try making up your own variation?

8. Einen im Tee haben

This idiom is believed to have originated in northern Germany, where a drop of rum was often added to tea on cold winter days for a warm comforting feeling and to protect against the cold – especially by sailors. After one or two, of course, you would be drunk, or at least a little tipsy.

Black tea is poured during a tea ceremony at the Bünting Tea Museum. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt


Er hatte ganz schön einen im Tee

He’s pretty wasted

9. einen sitzen haben

This phrase is a shortened version of the older einen Affen sitzen haben meaning “to have a monkey sitting” which was used to express a heightened state of inebriation. 

READ ALSO: 7 ways to talk about money like a German

The origin of the phrase is disputed, but most believe it is to do with the fact that fools and jesters would often carry a monkey on their shoulder.


Ich hatte gestern so richtig einen sitzen

I was so drunk yesterday

10. Kater

Although Kater is also the name for a male cat, this is the German term for “hangover” that you will inevitably need to use after consuming too much alcohol.

It’s widely believed that the origin of this word comes from the medical term “Katarrh”, an inflammation of the mucous membrane, which leads to symptoms such as cough, cold, malaise and headache – similar to those of a hangover.

A visitor to Oktoberfest lies heavily drunk on a meadow in 2017. Photo: picture alliance / Tobias Hase/dpa | Tobias Hase


Ich hatte am Sonntag einen schrecklichen Kater

I had such a terrible hangover on Sunday