Sprechen Sie Deutsch? How about the local dialect?

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Your German teacher may have taught you how to say hello, “Guten Tag,” but have you ever been answered with a friendly greeting of “Grüß Gott,” “Moin” or “Guude”?

Don’t worry if you didn’t understand. You have been introduced to the German dialect, and some Germans may not understand, either.

Just as the different U.S. states have varying slang words and dialects, so do the different regions in Germany. For example, a fisherman from the Frisian Islands up north will find it hard to talk to a winemaker from the Kaiserslautern area or a skiing teacher from the Alps.

Everybody has their own dialect. And this problem was even noticed by church reformer Martin Luther when he complained in 1538: “There are just too many dialects in the German language, that one might not understand each other properly.”

The reason dates back to early Germanic tribes who each had individual languages. Through the centuries, the scattered regionalism and small territories didn’t help much to unify the language. It was Luther and his Bible translation, as well as the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, that set a standard for what was eventually to become “Hochdeutsch,” the dialect-free standard version of German you learn in school.

Today, Germany has 16 major groups of dialects, but there are countless regional, even local, variations to each dialect. Other than in Great Britain, where speaking the regional tongue is a political dead-end, German politicians found it to be very helpful for their career to prove their belonging to a special region by means of dialect.

You will encounter a stronger type of dialect in the rural areas than in metropolitan regions, and it is not uncommon for villagers to pride themselves on their very own language variation.

So, as an example, if you are hungry and want to buy a plain bread roll: In the German capital of Berlin, you order “Schrippen,” whereas the Swabian bakery sells “Weckle,” its Franconian colleague offers “Breedla,” and the people in the south Baden talk about “Weggli.” They are called “Rundstücke” in the northern metropolis Hamburg, but “Semmeln” is your word in Bavaria. You need to ask for “Luffe” in the Braunschweig area, and that’s not yet counting Austrian and Swiss dialects.

But, if your German isn’t advanced enough and you are having trouble trying to cope with Ruhrdeutsch, Hamburgerisch, Kölsch, Hessisch, Sächsisch, Berlinerisch, Pfälzisch, Badisch, Plattdeutsch, Bayerisch, Schwäbisch or Fränkisch dialects, just stick with what you know — Hochdeutsch — and say, “Ein Brötchen, bitte!”

And if the German language and all its dialects don’t confuse you enough, here’s the bonus round! In contrast to other German dialects, “Bayerisch” differs so much from standard German that even native German speakers have difficulties speaking and undererstanding it.

So, the next time you are at Oktoberfest or sitting at a restuarant in Munich, listen for some of these phrases, or maybe try to use some on your own!

Hello! Could you tell me where to find a nice restaurant around here?

Griaß Eahna Gohd. Kenna Sie uns sogn, wo ma bei Eahna a guade Wirtschaft findt?

I would like to order a large glass of beer, please!

I mog a hoibe, bitschee!

Would you please bring me a menu?

Taatn S uns bitte d Speiskartn bringa?

Do you have roast pork with bread dumplings?

Hom’s a Schweinsbrohn mit Semmekneedl?

We would like to pay.

Mir mechatn gern zoin.

Thank you very much and have a nice day!

Dank schee und an scheena Tohg wünsch I!