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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Pfälzisch: A guide to the distinct dialect of Rhineland-Palatinate

The state of Rhineland-Palatinate is known for its beautiful landscapes, wine, and a dialect even Germans themselves struggle to understand. We break down the lingo you'll need to understand the natives.

Pfälzisch: A guide to the distinct dialect of Rhineland-Palatinate
A stone in Rhineland-Palatinate with a citation in the local dialect reading, roughly translated: "Where the axis of the world gets oiled up, and we watch out that nothing happens to it". Photo: DPA

In Rhineland-Palatinate there is a secret. The entire population is, essentially, bilingual. 

Recently, concerns have been raised about the “dying out” of local dialects in Germany. Visitors to the Rhineland could be forgiven for thinking the dialect is nothing more than a slight twang to the Hochceutsch (standardised form of German we hear and read in the media) spoken by locals. 

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

Out of ear-shot, however, and at the end of the winding country roads, “Pfälzisch” is still very much alive and well. It’s such a rich and colourful dialect that it can even seem like its own language. 

Norre weil du dich domols
ääfach bei mer eighenkt hoscht,
wie mer hääm sin,
do bin ich, norre weche dir,
gschdolwert iwwer mei äächene Fieß:
Un mein Knechel umgeknixt, un wie! Ganz grie-gääl-bloo!

(Just because back then,
When you just put your arm in mine,
As we were walking home,
Just because of you, I
Tripped up over my own feet:
And twisted my ankle, and how! All green-yellow-blue!) 

In truth, it’s more of an amalgamation of languages. Because of the historically fluid borders between the Rhineland and what is still colloquially known as “Lothringen” (Lorraine), there is a strong French influence. Words like “Malöör” (bad luck) from the French “Malheur”, replace the more traditional German vocab like “Unglück”. 

Other words remind of the shared germanic root of English and German, pronouncing many of German T-sounds as D-sounds, like “Daa” (day) instead of “Tag”. 

With that in mind, The Local has collated some of the most essential Pfälzer vocabulary, to give you a taste and really stun the locals as an expat living in the Rhineland, or a visitor to the beautiful, but often underappreciated, province.  

The basics: 

Aarisch: sehr – very 

Ajo: das stimmt / ich stimme dir völlig zu – that’s true/ I completely agree 

Allahop: also gut/in Ordnung – alright then/ok then 

Allemo: Ja, natürlich

Babbele: reden – speaking

Bagaasch: Verwandtschaft – relatives, from French “baggage”

Drepsele: sanfter Regen/ light rain

Due: tun / machen – to do

Ebbes: etwas – something

Elwetrittcher: a local mythical creature, described as a chicken-like figure with antlers

Fraa: Frau – woman

Gäälrieb: Karotte – carrot

Gell?: nicht wahr? / stimmts? – right?

Geworschdel: Durcheinander –  a muddle

Gosch: Mund – mouth

Guggemo do: Guck mal – look at that

Grumbeere: Kartoffel – potato

Hä?: Entschuldigung, ich habe sie nicht verstanden, können sie das bitte nochmal sagen? – excuse me, could you repeat that, I didn’t hear you the first time

This video shows conversations in Hochdeutsch (standard German) vs. Pfälzisch.

Hamma: haben wir – we have

Hasche?: hast du? – do you have? 

Isch ebbes?: ist etwas? – is something up?

Isch kennt misch uffreesche – “Ich könnte mich aufregen” – ein Ausruf der Wut / “I could get so annoyed” an exclamation of anger/frustration 

Jesses!: Ausruf des Erstaunens/exclamation of disbelief/surprise

Mänsche?: meinst du? – Do you think?

Sellemols: damals – back then

Oh her doch uff!: Ach, hör doch auf damit! – Oh, stop that! 

Uffbasse!: Pass auf! – watch out! 

Colourful expressions: 

Rutsch mer doch de Buckel nunner! – “Slide down my back!” – as much as: Go to hell / I don’t care

Die sinn en Kopp un en Arsch – “They’re one head and one arse” – they’re just like one another / just as bad as each other

Fer en Klicker un en Knopp – “For a marble and a button” – bought affordably, a real bargain

Wer lang kräxt, lebt lang – “Those that complain the most, live the longest”

Was ma hat des hat ma – “What one has, one has”

Es hellt sich uff zum wolgebruch – “It’s brightening up for a cloudburst”

Er/sie hat de hinnere in zwe haenn genomm – “He/she took his/her backside in two hands” – he/she made a swift exit / ran away quickly

Der is am deiwel aus de Pan gehubst – “He/she must have jumped out of the devil’s pan” – they’re a bad apple

Do kennt ma helle Träne forze un senkrecht in die Luft scheisse – an expression of anger

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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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