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Grüß Gott, Moin, Hallo! The complete guide to regional dialects around Germany

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Grüß Gott, Moin, Hallo! The complete guide to regional dialects around Germany
German regional dialects: DPA
15:20 CEST+02:00
Learning German is made trickier by significant regional differences. We break down the linguistic features of Deutschland's dialects and where you'll hear them.

Learning German is hard, and it is a task made even harder by the variety and complexity of local dialects. Each region has a plethora of unique linguistic features. We've put together an overview of some of the most interesting idiosyncrasies of some of Germany's most significant dialects, to help you sound more like a local.  

Plattdeutsch

Plattdeutsch, which can also be called Niederdeutsch, is spoken in northern Germany, as well north-eastern parts of the Netherlands. The term ‘Nieder', or low, pertains to its geographic location in the northern European lowlands. In contrast, the term ‘Platt' means clear and easy to understand.

Plattdeutsch is arguably the dialect which is most similar to English. ‘Machen' is said like ‘maken', and‘sitzen' like ‘sitten'.

Unlike the other German dialects, which are more similar to the English notion of accents, Plattdeutsch is considered its own language, and is protected by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

SEE ALSO: 12 words and phrases to help you survive in Hamburg

Sächsisch

Sächsisch suffers from the unfortunate condition of often being considered Germany's ugliest dialect. Wessis often mock the Sächsisch dialect, and if you want to impress your new western German friends, imitating a Sächsisch accent is a good way to make them laugh. It is perhaps ironic that Martin Luther's bible, which is considered the foundation of modern Hochdeutsch, stems from his Sächsisch dialect.

Saxons tend not to open their mouths very wide. As a result, ‘a' is sounded more like ‘o', ‘o' more like ‘u' and ‘e' more like ‘ä'. ‘Arbeit', for example, is pronounced as ‘Orbeit'.

Similarly, weak consonants typically take the place of harder consonants. This means that ‘k' is often said as ‘g', ‘p' as ‘b' and ‘t' as ‘d'. If you break something, it is ‘gabudd', rather than ‘kaputt'.

Another significant feature of the Saxon dialect is the pronunciation of ‘ch' as ‘sch'. It can be difficult to know whether someone saying ‘disch' means ‘Tisch' or ‘dich'.

Berlinerisch

Berlinerisch is not so much a dialect as the variation of German as spoken in the eastern parts of Berlin city and surrounding Brandenburg.

Thanks to Berlin's rich history, the German spoken here is largely influenced by immigration. Based largely on Hochdeutsch, Plattdeutsch and Sächsisch, the German spoken in Berlin is also influenced by Slavic, Dutch, Yiddish and French. The French influence derives from the Huguenot refugees who came to the city during the 17th century. It can be seen in the presence of words such as ‘Bredullje' – a difficult situation - and ‘Fisimatenten' – nonsense.

SEE ALSO: The German words we use everyday - that are actually French

One of the most notable features of Berlinerisch is the pronunciation of the hard ‘g' as a softer ‘y' sound. ‘Gut' is expressed as ‘yut', and ‘egal' as ‘eyal'.

Another interesting feature of Berlinerisch is that speakers often don't distinguish between the accusative and dative; ‘dich' and ‘dir', and ‘mich' and ‘mir'.

Bairisch

The idea of Bavaria conjures up a host of stereotypes and clichés about Germany. From Oktoberfest to Schlösser, from Dirndls to mountains, Bavaria seems to encapsulate everything traditional about Germany. It is then perhaps ironic that its dialect is one of the trickiest for other German speakers to understand. Although Hochdeutsch is becoming increasingly prevalent, it can still be considered Schriftdeutsch (written German) in Bavaria as it is mostly used in formal and written conditions.

It is also important to distinguish between Bairisch, which refers to the dialect, and bayerisch, which is the adjective describing anything from Bavaria. For that matter, Bairisch is spoken not only in Bavaria, but also parts of Austria and South Tyrol.

Bairisch almost totally omits the imperfect tense and Bairisch speakers use the perfect tense to express the past. Instead of saying ‘ich dachte' or ‘sie fuhr', Bairisch speakers say ‘ich hob denkt' and ‘sie is gfahrn'.

Some nouns also change gender in Bairisch. For instance, a basic meal of ‘die Kartoffel, die Butter und der Ketchup' is ‘der Kartoffel, der Butter und das Ketchup' for Bairisch diners.

Schwäbisch

Akin to neighbouring Bavaria, numerous nouns change gender in Schwäbisch. In most cases, this happens when nouns which are female in Hochdeutsch become masculine in Schwäbisch. The Feminine gender is actually a relatively new linguistic development; in Schwäbisch, the older form of the noun has just been preserved. For example, ‘die Schockolade' and ‘die Backe' are expressed ‘der Schockolade' and ‘der Backe'.

As with all dialects, Schwäbisch has a cornucopia of unique words and phrases. Beloved among Swabians is the term ‘Muggeseggele'. This word is used to refer to a very small quantity or unit. The word literally refers to the male organs of a housefly, and in 2009, readers of the Stuttgarter Nachrichten voted it, with a great majority, as the most beautiful Schwäbisch word.

Pfälzisch

Pfälzisch should be considered a broad term for the various dialects spoken in parts of western Germany, around the Rhineland-Palatinate. Some of its smaller dialects include Westpfälzisch, Vorderpfälzisch and Kurpfälzisch.

Pennsylvanian Dutch is a dialect of German derived from German spoken in the Palatinate area. The dialect was spoken by German immigrants to the U.S. states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and other Midwestern U.S. during a wave of immigration in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

An interesting feature of modern Pfälzisch is its general omission of the future tense. ‘Werden' is rarely used, and the future tense is expressed through the present tense, context, and time-phrases.  

Hessisch

Similar to Pfälzisch, Hessisch should perhaps be considered less of a dialect in its own right, and a collection of accents within and around the state of Hessen.

Hessians tend to soften harsh sounds, so that ‘wichtig' becomes ‘wischtisch' and ‘Äpfel' becomes ‘Ebbel'.

Hessians also like to abbreviate words. Words ending in ‘en' drop the final ‘n'. ‘Singen' is pronounced as ‘singe', ‘schwimmen' like ‘schwimme' and words ending in ‘e' often drop this final vowel, which transforms words like ‘Wiese' into ‘Wies'. This feature also allows Hessians to shorten the stem of words. ‘Nehmen', for example, is said as ‘nemme'

Various words combine these linguistic features to result in a softer, looser variation of the Hochdeutsch original. ‘Ein bisschen', for instance, is said as ‘E bissi', while ‘haben' is said as ‘hawwe'.

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