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FAMILY

German word of the day: Die Regenbogenfamilie

This colourful German word represents the acknowledgement, but also the struggle of LGBTQ+ families.

German word of the day: Die Regenbogenfamilie
Archive photo shows two men holding hands at a gay pride celebration in Thuringia in 2011. Photo: DPA

A Regenbogenfamilie is a family where at least one member is a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

It’s a compound made from the German word for family “die Familie”, and rainbow “der Regenbogen”,  which makes reference to the international symbol of LGBTQ+ communities, the rainbow flag. 

Like the symbol, the word is meant to be a celebration of the colourfulness and diversity found in families, as well as the wider Queer community.  

In a recent article, the Tagesspiegel highlighted how Regenbogenfamilien (the plural form) are still struggling for representation and equality. Despite there being at least 12,000 households with Queer parents in Germany, there are almost no representations of Regenbogenfamilien on German television. 

Families also still experience high levels of discrimination and rejection. Even the word ‘Regenbogenfamilie’ has had to struggle for recognition. 

READ ALSO: German LGBT actors come out en masse in plea for diversity

Though it was already being used in 1990, and may have been invented even earlier, it was only entered into Duden, the most popular German dictionary, in 2009. 

To this day, 13 years later, Duden still defines Regenbogenfamilie as “Familie mit gleichgeschlechtlichem Elternpaar”, (a family with same-sex parents). The definition excludes bisexuals, transgender people and other members of the Queer community. 

Thankfully LSVD, the biggest LGBT+ organization in Germany, offers a more comprehensive definition: 

“Familien, in denen mindestens ein Elternteil gleichgeschlechtlich liebt oder transgeschlechtlich lebt.”
(Families, in which at least one parent loves homosexually, or identifies as transgender.)

However, these different definitions show the cultural prejudices the LGBTQ+ community are up against when trying to start a family. While same-sex couples are slowly more and more accepted by society, understandings of sexuality and gender are still quite limited – and largely taboo to talk about. 

Accepting words like Regenbogenfamilie is a step in the right direction, though, as it’s not easy to talk about something without the vocabulary to express it. 

Examples:

Wir sind eine Regenbogenfamilie.

We are a rainbow family.

Regenbogenfamilien sind häufig Diskriminierung und Vorurteilen ausgesetzt.

Rainbow families are often subject to discrimination and prejudice.

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Umgangssprache

This is a good word to be aware of when you're looking out for phrases to add to your everyday vocabulary in Germany.

German word of the day: Umgangssprache

Why do I need to know Umgangssprache?

We may be getting a little meta here, but we think it’s worth knowing this word so you can listen out for the words around it (or know when not to use this type of language).

What does it mean?

Umgangssprache, which sounds like this, means ‘colloquial language’ or ‘slang’. These are the kinds of words and phrases you might not find in a textbook, but they are heard in everyday life.

By using slang vocabulary, you’ll be able to bring your sentences to life and sound like a true local.

The term is said to have been introduced into the German language by the writer and linguist Joachim Heinrich Campe at the beginning of the 19th century.

Umgangssprache is shaped by the world around it, whether its regional factors or social circumstances of the time. 

Here are a few examples of colloquial phrases and words:

Geil means horny in German, but it is also used colloquially to describe anything you think is cool. In English, you might use the word ‘sick’ or ‘awesome’ in the same context.

Krass is another colloquial word that can mean lots of things. It is usually used to intensify the meaning of something very bad or something very good depending on the tone and context. So something disgusting is krass, and something amazing can also be krass

Das ist mir Wurst translates to ‘that’s sausage to me’, and means you don’t give a toss. 

Das ist doch Käse translates to ‘that’s cheese’ and expresses that you mean something is absolute nonsense. 

And a ruder one is: Das ist am Arsch der Welt. It means ‘that’s the arse of the world’ and refers to a place that is far away or very difficult to reach. In English you might say ‘back of beyond’. 

You would hear these kinds of phrases in relaxed conversations in cafes and bars, but they aren’t so common in formal situations. 

Use it like this:

Ist das Umgangssprache oder kann ich das bei meinem Chef benutzen?

Is that colloquial language or can I use it with my boss?

Mir gefällt die umgangssprachliche Floskel: auf dein Nacken!

I really like the colloquial phrase ‘this is on you!’

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