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10 ways of speaking German you’ll only ever pick up on the street

Learning German and want to hear how people really speak? Our list breaks down a few colloquial words and phrases that will make you sound like a local.

10 ways of speaking German you'll only ever pick up on the street
Group of friends talking outside. Photo: depositphotos/william87

You can bet your bottom dollar that your teachers didn’t tell you these colloquial words and phrases when they taught you how to speak Hochdeutsch (Standard or High German) perfectly.

1. “Krass”, “Hammer”, “Wahnsinnig” and “Geil”

Do you have strong feelings about anything and everything? “Krass” can be used whenever you have an extreme emotional reaction towards something.

If you love it, it’s krass. If you hate it, it’s krass. If it makes you roll around on the floor laughing, it’s krass. If it makes your hair stand on end with fear, yes you’ve guessed it, it’s also krass.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Krass

The phrase “Das ist der Hammer!” in fact has nothing to do with hammers, but actually implies that something is completely extraordinary.

“Wahnsinnig” has quite a similar meaning. Feeling the adrenaline pump through your body as you plunge down a crazy rollercoaster? “Das ist ja wahnsinnig!” will convey that you think it’s insanely fun or even exhilarating.

Do you think something’s cool, awesome, great or amazing? Don’t stick with your textbook classics of “toll”, “spannend” or “ausgezeichnet” – why not try the less standard “geil” instead?

The adjective “geil” gained superstar status in Germany when “Supergeil”, a promotional music video by supermarket giant Edeka, went viral.

But just a word of warning: be careful as to when you use this word, as in some contexts it can mean “horny” instead.

2. “Quasi”, “sozusagen”, “naja” and “halt”

If you want to avoid umming and ahhing when lost for words, these fillers are your go-to. “Quasi” and “sozusagen” are the equivalent of “so to speak”, and “naja” (“well…”) can be used if you’re a bit hesitant about a statement.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Naja

Have you heard British and American teens throwing the word “like” into sentences as if a phrase is utterly incomplete without it? It’s exactly the same here in Germany, where “halt” is sprinkled into phrases like there’s no tomorrow.

So next time you chat to your German friend, try throwing in a few fillers – you might end up with a bizarre sentence like “Naja…es war denn…halt…quasi schrecklich, sozusagen”.  

3. “Bescheuert”

People wait for a train in Munich. Photo: DPA

While you were probably taught the adjectives “schlecht” and “schrecklich” over and over again until you could say them standing on your head, you probably haven’t heard of the more colloquial “bescheuert”.

Whether something’s rubbish, annoying, or depressing – if it brings you down, it can be described as “bescheuert”.

But when you get to Germany, you’ll hear anyone and everyone uttering the phrase “das ist total bescheuert!” as they dash onto the station platform only to have missed the train by a few seconds.

4. “Na?”

Forget “Wie geht es Ihnen heute?”, “Wie geht’s dir?”, or even “Was geht ab?”. Why trot out all those long phrases when you can stick to the one-syllable word “Na?” to ask how someone is?

You can also use “Na” to ask how something went. When your friend comes back from a date, no lengthy question is required, just a simple “Naaaa?” will get across that you want to know all the details.

But try not to confuse it with the rather more sarcastic “Na und?” (“so what?”).

5. “Alter”


In America you’d say “buddy”, in England you’d say “mate” and in Scotland “pal”. But how do you refer to a male friend very casually in German? “Alter” or “Alta” is the way.

“Alter, was geht ab?” (“Dude, what’s up?”) is often heard among German teens. As you can tell, this kind of slang is very colloquial, so it’s generally only used by younger people.

6. “Quatsch”

“Das ist totaler Quatsch”, you might think when someone shamelessly declares that they are an authority on a particular subject when they clearly don’t know the first thing about it.

If you say that something is “Quatsch”, it means that it’s utter nonsense or complete gibberish.

7. “Bock auf etwas haben”

People dancing at a club in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA

If you know the expression “Lust haben” (“to want to do something” or “to be up for doing something”), the phrase “Bock haben” means roughly the same thing.

Not really up for the day trip that your German friends are organising? “Ich habe keinen Bock darauf” will convey your lack of enthusiasm.

Completely down for a night out, though? “Ja, ich hab’ Bock drauf” will show that you’re interested.

8. “Auf jeden Fall”

“Bock haben” and “auf jeden Fall” go hand in hand on the enthusiasm scale.

Instead of using “natürlich” (“of course”), a piece of vocab which was probably drummed into you at school, try out the more casual “auf jeden Fall” (“definitely” or “for sure”).

And if you want to be really down with the kids, you can shorten it to a simple ‘auf jeden’.

9. “Jein”

Another way of expressing uncertainty, “jein” is a mashup of, yep you’ve guessed it, “ja” and nein”.

So if you want to express that you’re quite doubtful about something, or you just don’t want to come down really strongly on one side or the other, “jein” is the one to use.

10. “Mach’s gut!” 

German footballer Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photo: DPA

Forget the textbook ways of saying goodbye – the casual “Tschüß” and the more formal “Auf Wiedersehen” – by throwing in a “Mach’s gut!” to your friends instead.

Literally translated as “Make it good!”, the phrase is the equivalent of “Have a good one!” in English.

For all The Local’s guides to learning German CLICK HERE

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For members


10 words to help you enjoy the German summer

Summer has arrived in Germany, so we’ve put together a list of ten words to help you navigate the hottest season.

10 words to help you enjoy the German summer

1. (die) Sommersprossen

A close-up of a woman with prominent freckles.

A close-up of a woman with prominent freckles. Photo: pa/obs/myBody / Shutterstock | Irina Bg

The German word for ‘freckles’, translates literally as “summer sprouts”, as these little spots start to appear on many people’s faces as soon as the sun begins to shine in spring and summer.

2. eincremen

A woman applies sun lotion on a summer's day.

A woman applies sun lotion on a summer’s day. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

To help protect against sunburn, it’s important to use a lot of sunscreen during warm summer days in Germany. Thanks to the magic of German separable verbs, there is a specific word for applying creme to the skin – eincremen – which can also be used to talk about applying sun lotion.


Den gesamten Körper vor dem Aufenthalt in der Sonne eincremen

Apply creme to the entire body before sun exposure.

Einmal eincremen reicht nicht, um die Haut einen ganzen Tag lang vor Sonne zu schützen.

It’s not enough to apply sun cream just once to protect the skin from the sun for a whole day.

3. (die) Hundstage

A dog lies exhausted on the stones of a terrace in summer temperatures.

A dog lies exhausted on the stones of a terrace in summer temperatures. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Martin Gerten

‘Dog days’ are colloquially referred to in Europe as the hottest period in summer from July 23rd to August 23rd.

The term ‘dog days’ dates back to the 14th century and was originally associated with the first appearance of the star Sirius of the “Great Dog” constellation. However, due to the changing position of the Earth’s axis, the time period has shifted by about four weeks.

Nevertheless, you’ll still hear people all over Germany referring to the “Hundstage.”

4. eisgekühlt

A glass of mineral water with ice and lemon.

A glass of mineral water with ice and lemon. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Daniel Karmann

There’s nothing better than cooling off with a refreshing, ice-cold drink on a hot summer day, so make sure to use this word at the beach bar to specify that you want your drinks at a near-zero temperature!


Das Kokoswasser schmeckt am besten eisgekühlt.

The coconut water tastes best ice-cold.

5. (die) Waldbrandstufe

A sign on a forest path indicates forest fire level five.

A sign on a forest path indicates forest fire level five. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-centralpicture | Soeren Stache

The Waldbrandstufe – meaning forest fire level – is a warning system that has been used in all German states since 2014 to indicate the level of forest fire risk, based on the local heat and dryness levels.

Level 1 stands for very low fire risk in forests and level 5 for very high risk. When the Stufe (level) is above 3 or 4, certain measures – such as banning barbecues – will come into force locally.

You will often see the Waldbrandstufe sign in woodland areas, near beaches, or on weather reports over the summer.


Lagerfeuer werden aufgrund der hohen Waldbrandstufe nicht geduldet.
Due to the danger of forest fires campfires will not be tolerated.

6. (der) Strandkorb

Beach chairs stand in sunny weather on the beach in the Baltic resort of Binz on the island of Rügen.

Beach chairs on the beach in the Baltic resort of Binz on the island of Rügen. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

The “Strandkorb”, literally meaning beach basket, is a special type of beach chair that you will find on almost every German beach. The traditional beach chair was invented in 1882 by German basket maker Wilhelm Bartelmann in Rostock.


Hier kannst du in der Ostsee baden oder dich in einem Strandkorb entspannen.

Here you can swim in the Baltic Sea or relax in a beach chair.

7. (die) Radtour

A man and a woman cycle through Lüneburg Heath.

A man and a woman cycle through Lüneburg Heath. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/HeideRegion Uelzen e.V. | Jürgen Clauß, HeideRegion Uelz

Germans love biking, so it’s no surprise that a specific word exists for the summer phenomenon of going on a Radtour – bike tour.

READ ALSO: 10 things to consider for a bike trip in Germany


Der gesamte Rundweg ist eine leichte Radtour.
The entire circular route is an easy bike ride.

8. Sonne tanken

A man on an air mattress sunbathing on a lake while a model boat passes him by.

A man on an air mattress sunbathing on a lake while a model boat passes him by. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Warnack

If you love summer, then you probably like to lie in the sun and soak up the rays. In German, you would call this “Sonne tanken” – literally to fuel up on sun.


Ich will einfach nur Sonne tanken!

I just want to soak up the sun!

9. (die) Sommergewitter

Lightning striking in the Hanover region in June 2021.

Lightning striking in the Hanover region in June 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

Another very specific word, this term is used to describe the phenomenon of summer thunderstorms.


Die ersten Sommergewitter rollen quer durch Deutschland.

The first summer thunderstorms are rolling across Germany.

10. (die) Eisdiele

A scoop of strawberry ice cream is placed on top of another scoop in a waffle cone at the "Eiskultur" ice cream parlor in Schöneweide.

A scoop of strawberry ice cream is placed on top of another scoop in a waffle cone at the “Eiskultur” ice cream parlor in Schöneweide. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Kalaene

Finally, no summer would be complete without a generous helping of ice cream. In German, the most common name for an ice-creme parlour is “Eisdiele”. 

The word seems to have joined the German language when the very first ice-creme parlour was opened in Hamburg in 1799.

READ ALSO: Spaghetti ice cream to Wobbly Peter: Why we love Germany’s sweet summer snacks


Es gibt eine sehr gute Eisdiele an der Promenade.

There is a really good ice-creme parlour on the promenade.