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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

The new German slang that has older folks scratching their heads

It's not a real German word. It's not grammatically correct. Basically, it's your German teacher's worst nightmare.

The new German slang that has older folks scratching their heads
File photo: DPA.

As soon as the media start to write about any hot new youth “trend”, that’s probably a sign that it’s already over – or will be upon publication.

But nevertheless, we’re here to explain the phrase “vong… her.” You may have seen this popping up online, on the streets and even in mainstream advertising by now, and perhaps wondered what the heck it means.

An example: Das Wetter ist schön vong Sonne her.

Translation: The weather is nice from the sun.

It’s actually a bit hard to translate because the phrase in fact is not grammatically or logically correct – and that's the point. The word “vong” is a misspelling of “von” and is used to connect information that is often redundant or unnecessary in a sentence.

So another example: Was ist ‘vong’ für ein Wort vong Bedeutung her?

Rough translation: What is ‘vong’ for a word of meaning?

One more example: Ich bin satt vong Hunger her.

Translation: I am sated of hunger.

SEE ALSO: Ten German slang words you'll never learn in class

The phrase can be traced back to an online joke in part inspired by 35-year-old Austrian rapper Money Boy's way of writing, replacing the word ein or eine (one or a) with just the digit 1. As early as 2015, some on social media started using “von… her,” according to Merkur Online.

But then 33-year-old Sebastian Zawrel – alias Willy Nachdenklich – launched a Facebook page called “Thoughtful sayings with pictures”, involving images with captions rife with grammar and spelling errors, mocking the way Money Boy and others wrote. He reports that he made the page while sick in bed one day, and finding cheesy, sentimental internet phrases, often full of mistakes.

What started as a joke has now morphed into much more, leading major German news outlets to write articles explaining the phrase's meaning.

The bank Sparkasse used the “vong” phrase in an advert last year, Vodafone is now also using it in a campaign, Frankfurt police have used it on social media, and even German dictionary Duden has picked up on the trend.

Translation: The moment when your data capacity from last month is still there.

Translation: You must always watch out for correct spelling. Because grammar.

Linguists like Konstanze Marx from the Institute for the German Language are fascinated by the phenomenon.

“It is great when non-professionals practice language criticism,” Marx said.

“The regular mistakes online are recognized and then mocked.

“Playing around with language is something that is creative and only works because the actual rules are established,” she added.

The professor noted that there was no risk that the incorrect grammar and spelling would come to be the norm.

“Anyone who is familiar with proper writing will notice that this is exaggerated and intentional.”

But dictionary publishing company Langenscheidt saw things a bit differently, noting that the phrasing was becoming more common in spoken German, not just online.

“For both teens as well as adults, there is a possibility that knowingly provoking the incorrect use of the German language could certainly make it a long-lasting trend,” said Verena Vogt who handles word selection at Langenscheidt.

Zawrel himself feels honoured by all the attention.

“Maybe in two years ‘vong’ will actually be in Duden,” he said.

SEE ALSO: The Berlin slang you need to survive in the German jungle

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LEARNING GERMAN

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

Once you've learned the basics of German, listening to podcasts is one of the best ways of increasing vocabulary and speeding up comprehension. Here are some of the best podcasts out there for German learners.

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

STARTING OUT

Coffee Break German

Coffee Break German aims to take you through the basics of German in a casual lesson-like format. It is extremely easy to listen to. Each 20-minute episode acts as a mini-lesson, where German native Thomas teaches Mark Pendleton, the founder and CEO of Coffee Break Languages, the basics.

All phrases are broken down into individual words. After new phrases are introduced the listeners are encouraged to repeat them back to practise pronunciation.

The advantage of listening to this podcast is that the learner, Mark, begins at the same level as you. He is also a former high school French and Spanish teacher. He often asks for clarification of certain phrases, and it can feel as if he is asking the very questions you want answered.

You can also stream the podcast directly from the provider’s website, where they sell a supplementary package from the Coffee Break German Academy, which offers additional audio content, video flashcards and comprehensive lesson notes

German Pod 101

German Pod 101 aims to teach you all about the German language, from the basics in conversations and comprehension to the intricacies of German culture. German Pod 101 offers various levels for your German learning and starts with Absolute Beginner.

The hosts are made up of one German native and one American expat living in Germany, in order to provide you with true authentic language, but also explanations about the comparisons and contrasts with English. This podcast will, hopefully, get you speaking German from day one.

Their website offers more information and the option to create an account to access more learning materials.

Learn German by Podcast

This is a great podcast if you don’t have any previous knowledge of German. The hosts guide you through a series of scenarios in each episode and introduce you to new vocabulary based on the role-plays. Within just a few episodes, you will learn how to talk about your family, order something in a restaurant and discuss evening plans. Each phrase is uttered clearly and repeated several times, along with translations.

READ ALSO:

Learn German by Podcast provides the podcasts for free but any accompanying lesson guides must be purchased from their website. These guides include episode transcripts and some grammar tips. 

DEVELOPING YOUR GERMAN

Easy German

This podcast takes the form of a casual conversation between hosts Manuel and Cari, who chat in a fairly free-form manner about aspects of their daily lives. Sometimes they invite guests onto the podcast, and they often talk about issues particularly interesting to expats, such as: “How do Germans see themselves?”. Targeted at young adults, the podcasters bring out a new episode very three or four days.

News in Slow German

This is a fantastic podcast to improve your German listening skills. What’s more, it helps you stay informed about the news in several different levels of fluency.

The speakers are extremely clear and aim to make the podcast enjoyable to listen to. For the first part of each episode the hosts talk about a current big news story, then the second part usually features a socially relevant topic. 

A new episode comes out once a week and subscriptions are available which unlock new learning tools.

SBS German

This podcast is somewhat interesting as it is run by an Australian broadcaster for the German-speaking community down under. Perhaps because ethnic Germans in Australia have become somewhat rusty in their mother tongue, the language is relatively simple but still has a completely natural feel.

There is a lot of news here, with regular pieces on German current affairs but also quite a bit of content looking at what ties Germany and Australia together. This lies somewhere between intermediate and advanced.

A woman puts on headphones in Gadebusch, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Photo: dpa | Jens Büttner

PERFECTING YOUR GERMAN

Auf Deutsche gesagt

This is another great podcast for people who have a high level of German. The host, Robin Meinert, talks in a completely natural way but still manages to keep it clear and comprehensible.

This podcast also explores a whole range of topics that are interesting to internationals in Germany, such as a recent episode on whether the band Rammstein are xenophobic. In other words, the podcast doesn’t just help you learn the language, it also gives you really good insights into what Germans think about a wide range of topics.

Sozusagen

Bayern 2 present their podcast Sozusagen! for all those who are interested in the German language. This isn’t specifically directed at language learners and is likely to be just as interesting to Germans and foreigners because it talks about changes in the language like the debate over gender-sensitive nouns. Each episode explores a different linguistic question, from a discussion on German dialects to an analysis of political linguistics in Germany.

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