If you're learning German, then you might be curious about how the language varies between Germany and other German-speaking countries. Especially if you have friends who speak other varieties.
Austrian German, or Österreichisches Deutsch, is a variation of Standard German influenced by Southern Germany and Bavaria's dialects. Over 98% of the population of Austria speaks German, which is the nation's official language.
Although Austrian German is simpler to understand than, for example, Swiss-German, there are still many differences.
This post covers the significant distinctions in both language variations. And teaches you essential words and phrases to communicate like an Austrian native speaker.
Get ready to understand the German of Austria and impress your friends, whether in Vienna or Salzburg or beyond.
By the way, if you're just getting started in German and want to make progress fast without getting bogged down in grammar then I recommend German Uncovered, which will take you from beginner to conversationally fluent through the power of story.
What Is Austrian German?
First things first – what is the Austrian variety exactly?
Austrian German, also known as Austrian Standard German (ASG), Austrian High German, Österreichisches Standarddeutsch, or Österreichisches Hochdeutsch, is a form of the German language spoken in Austria.
Minor changes in vocabulary, grammar, and expressions differentiate Austrian German from Standard German. Pronunciation doesn't differ too much from the neighboring German states.
So you might be wondering – is the language really different in Austria?
Is German Different In Austria?
Formally, Austrian German is almost identical to Standard German. On the other hand, spoken Austrian German has numerous different dialects, some of which are easier to understand than others. Many of the differences involve vocabulary and expressions.
German (and English!) are what you call pluricentric languages, which means they have multiple official variations. If you compare British English to American English, you can imagine how Standard German and Austrian German differ.
But how did this variety emerge? Let's take a brief look next at its history.
A Short History Of Austrian German
The formation of linguistic standards for Austrian German goes back to the 18th century. When mandatory school attendance was introduced in 1774, the government established administrative language standards.
Over the years, written German in Austria was influenced by Bavarian and Alemannic dialects. These variations to the language give many Austrians a sense of individuality to this day and give German in Austria its unique distinguishing characteristics.
Let's take a quick look in the next section at some of these accents and dialects.
Austrian Dialects And Regional Accents
Depending on the region, you can encounter many different accents and local dialects.
Austro-Bavarian dialects like the ones below are some of the most common forms of German you'll hear:
- Central Austro-Bavarian
- Viennese German
- Southern Austro-Bavarian
- Vorarlbergisch, or High Alemannic
Upper German dialects are also relatively common in everyday spoken language. In addition to these dialects, you can also find regional accents that are less intelligible.
Some variations even have words originating from non-Germanic Romance languages as a result of immigrant influence.
Speaking of words, let's get into some of the differences in Austria via the vocab in the next part.
Vocabulary Differences In Austria
Vocabulary is a great place to start when learning Austrian German.
When speaking with Austrians, there are several key vocabulary differences compared to Standard German, although you may encounter both.
Make a great first impression by learning the everyday words below.
Food & Dining Vocab
If you'd like to learn more Austrian vocabulary, check out the Austrian German Dictionary.
Austrian German Grammar
So, now you've mastered some of the vocabulary differences, let's move onto the grammar.
The good news is that many aspects of Austrian German grammar follow a variation of the rules of Standard German.
So you won't come across anything too dramatically different!
“To Be” In Austrian German
The first main difference is that in Austria, the verb “to be” has different conjugation patterns than in Standard German.
The Austrian version either uses a shortened form of the Standard German verb or takes a new structure altogether.
Forming the Plural
It's also common in Austrian German to drop the final “e,” if not other vowels, in the plural form.
You've probably noticed that Austrians love taking shortcuts!
The Past Tense
Typically, you use the Perfect tense to form the past in spoken German.
Austrian German is the same. But they often use a different auxiliary verb for individual expressions.
By the way, Austrians rarely use the simple past tense.
Austrian German Pronunciation
Pronunciation in Austrian German is similar to Standard German pronunciation. But some differences stand out.
- Umlauts appear more frequently, especially before the letters “r” and “l.”
Example: Austrians say “färbig” instead of “farbig” (coloured).
- Connect words with “s” instead of “e.”
Example: In Austrian German, you would say “Aufnahmsprüfung” instead of “Aufnahmeprüfung” (entrance exam).
- An “el” ending often replaces “chen.”
Example: “Würstchen” in Standard German becomes “Würstel” (sausage) in Austrian German.
You might know that Germans tend to be very direct when speaking to others. Austrians, on the other hand, formulate their sentences more politely.
Let's look at how a German would say, “I didn't get around to it yet,” compared to how an Austrian would say the same.
- Example: Ich bin leider noch nicht dazu gekommen. (I'm afraid I didn't get to it yet.)
- Example: Tut mir leid. Ich bin nicht mehr dazu gekommen. Etwas wichtiges hat es leider verhindert. (I'm sorry. I didn't get to it yet. Something important came up.)
Moreso than Germans, Austrians value giving explanations in situations like these.
10 Essential Austrian German Phrases
So, you're probably ready for some Austrian idioms, expressions and slang by now.
Austrians have dozens of expressions unique to their country. To blend in with native speakers, you'll need the phrases below.
Aufgewärmt ist nur ein Gulasch gut
When translated, this expression means, “only a goulash tastes good reheated.” Austrians use this saying to remind friends that rekindling a relationship with an ex might not be the best idea.
Bist du deppert!
This phrase has two different meanings. The sentence says, “what an idiot!” Saying this to a German would likely offend them. However, Austrians also use the phrase as an expression of amazement to mean, “wow.”
Das geht sich (nicht) aus
To say whether something is possible or impossible, Austrians use this saying, which is confusing to most Germans.
Das taugt mir
If you like or enjoy something or someone in Austria and Bavaria, you can express your interest by saying, Das taugt mir.
Die Oaschkortn ziagn
If you “Get the ass card,” you're having bad luck that day.
Hüft’s nix schodt’s nix
Translated, the phrase says, “Doesn't help, doesn't hurt.” Use this saying if your Austrian friends are hesitant to try something new.
In German, a Leinwand is a canvas, but in Austria, it means something is fantastic.
Na no na net
Austrians use this string of words as the long way of saying yes when their friends don't understand their affirmative response the first time.
In English, you might call your friend Dude. Similarly, Austrians say Oida, particularly younger generations.
Semmas is a way to ask your Austrian friend if they're ready to go. Gemma, or Gehen wir? is a way to say, let's go.
How To Learn Austrian German
Now you've seen the differences between standard and Austrian German, how can you actually learn it?
Well, instant immersion is one of the best ways to start learning German. Naturally, you'll learn fastest by speaking with native Austrians too.
But even if travelling to Austria isn't an option, you can still become familiar with the dialect from home. Austrian apps, movies, and TV shows can help you pick up colloquialisms and everyday expressions.
So in the next section, let's take a look at some of these immersion tools.
There are endless Austrian movies to choose from, many of which are available for free on popular streaming sites.
The Sound Of Music
Known as “die Trapp Familie” in German, this Austrian film could be a perfect place to start since you're probably already familiar with the storyline.
The Piano Teacher
Immerse yourself in an Austrian fantasy with this tale of a pianist in Vienna.
If you're interested in a more recent Austrian cinema example, the Paradise film trilogy is an attention-grabbing movie to start with.
You can also learn Austrian dialects by watching TV shows.
The actors in this family show speak with a Viennese dialect, or “Wienerish.”
This crime series is a spin-off of “Kaisermühlen Blues”.
This Austrian comedy will help you become more familiar with the country's sense of humour.
Austrian Language Apps
Finally let's take a look at some German learning apps, specific to the Austrian variety. These apps are available for your Android or iOS to help you learn Austrian German dialects and accents.
This app has over 150 Austrian radio stations where you can listen to music, podcasts, and shows.
Read trending articles from popular magazines and newspapers in Austria. You can also visit links to the websites of each.
Another option is to learn Austrian German by connecting with native speakers online through an app like Tandem.
Final Thoughts On The German Of Austria
So there you have it – everything you need to know about the German of Austria, from vocab to pronunciation via movies and more.
As German is a pluricentric language, that makes it that much more fun to learn all the different dialects.
By learning regional dialects, you'll get more exposure to authentic spoken German. And Austrian German offers the perfect opportunity to test the waters since it's one of the easier accents to understand.