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EDUCATION

Austria improves in English language skills

Austria has increased its position in the world rankings as a global leader in English language proficiency, according to a report released this week.

Austria improves in English language skills
Sprechen Sie Englisch? Photo: APA/epa

The Education First (EF) English Proficiency Index (EPI) placed Austria in seventh place out of 63 countries. Austria’s EPI score has increased by 4.63 points in the past seven years, to 63.21.

Denmark was the number one nation for English language proficiency (EPI = 69.3), Holland was second (EPI = 68.98) and Sweden, third (EPI = 67.80).

Austrians in every age group outperform European averages, with those aged 18-24 speaking the best English, suggesting that the country’s average English proficiency will continue to rise.

In Austria children start learning English at primary school, usually aged seven. 

The report shows Austrian women speak significantly better English than Austrian men, and the gender gap is greater than that in most European countries.

EF EPI 2014-English from EF Education First on Vimeo.

Some Austrians will be pleased to see that their English language skills are ranked higher than those of their larger neighbour, Germany, which places tenth. 

This Index is in its fourth edition and shows the performance in 2014 of 63 non-Commonwealth countries worldwide. The major trend highlights that Europe’s English proficiency remains far higher than in other regions, and continues to improve.

The study also concluded that there are strong correlations between English proficiency and income, quality of life, ease of doing business, Internet usage, and years of schooling. These correlations are remarkably stable over time, stated EF in its findings.

EF is the world's largest educational company, specializing in language learning, academic programs and cultural exchange. The company was founded in 1965 and today operates 500 schools and offices across 52 countries.

How The Local's nations fared:

1st Denmark

3rd Sweden

5th Norway

7th Austria

10th Germany

18th Switzerland

20th Spain

27th Italy

29th France

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

How to swear like an Austrian

We are certainly not advocating the use of these words, but they are important to know (in case anyone uses them against you). Here are some words you certainly shouldn’t use with the in-laws or around the kids.

A specific book listing Austrian words
An Austrian language (i.e. German) book. Photo: Wikicommons

Geil

We’ll start with a word so common you’ve probably even heard some embarrassing politicians use it as they try to get down with the cool kids. 

Geil is used to mean “cool” or “wow”. To show extreme approval, you can draw it out and say guy-el.

The word literally means “horny”. It is often used in the following phrase “ej, du geile Sau”, which is a pretty crude way of telling someone you find them attractive (hey, you horny pig).

Our advice: be careful with this word! As common as “geil” is in everyday slang, it could still cause your conservative father-in-law to choke on his Lebkuchen during Christmas dinner.

Kruzifix!

This one is a shout out to all the old Austrian men out there. “Kruzifix!” or “Sakrament!” is something you shout out in pain in the southern state if you’ve stubbed a toe or accidentally hit your finger with a hammer.

Our rule: don’t scream this word out in the presence of a priest. Avoid using on Sundays.

Mist

Here is a classic German joke for you: An American tourist driving through the countryside is lost. He pulls up at a farm and shouts to the nearest farm hand “Hey Mister, I need some help.” The puzzled farmhand replies “Ich bin nicht der Mister, ich bin der Melker.”

The joke being – a Melker is someone who milks the cows. A Mister would theoretically be someone who cleans out the Mist, the manure.

The word Mist, which you mutter when something has gone wrong, literally dung, is even an acceptable word for children to use and is equivalent to “flip or “darn it” in English.

Our advice: one to avoid if you’re trying to impress teenagers, otherwise safe.

Leck mich im Arsch!

Literally translated, this means “lick my ass/arse.” But for any of you budding sexy smooth talkers out there, it’s not to be used in an amorous context – it’s English equivalent would be “kiss my ass/arse”, although it’s perhaps a little harsher. 

For you classical music fans out there, it’s also the name of a Mozart canon composed in Vienna in 1782. As you can probably guess, it’s not one of his best-known works – think of it as the Mozart equivalent of a diss track. 

Our rule: It generally shouldn’t be directed at anyone you like. Other than in a classical music context, you’re most likely to hear it screamed by frustrated bus drivers or footballers. 

<em>A young Mozart, presumably about to have his mouth washed out with soap. Image: Wikicommons</em>
A young Mozart, presumably about to have his mouth washed out with soap. Image: Wikicommons

Schattenparker!

This word belongs to the fantastic tradition of making up insults to throw at people based on perceived cowardly behaviour.

A Schattenparker is literally someone who parks in a shadow. Sensible behaviour, one might think. Not to the hardy driver though – parking in shadow proves you can’t take the heat.

Famed members of this very manly collection are Warmduscher (warm showerer) and Frauenversteher (woman understander) – even if these should not exactly be insults.

You can make up just about anything to add to the list, as this website proves.

Our advice: throw in a few original ones at Christmas dinner and your future relatives will be cooing at the progress you’re making in German.

Vollpfosten

This word is the equivalent to the English expression “as thick as two planks.”

You use it to insult someone’s intelligence “Ej, du Vollpfosten”, which means “hey, thicko”, or literally “you big pole”.

Our advice: One to keep in your arsenal if a driver cuts you off on your cycle to work and then fails to apologise.

A book listing uniquely Austrian words
You won’t find most of these words in this book. Photo: Von DONT TALK TO MY CAT – Eigenes Werk, CC, Wikicommons

Scheiße

We all know the German word for shit, but one of its most appealing qualities is the fact that you can stick it to the front of just about any noun to indicate disapproval.

“Der Scheißkerl” means “that arsehole”, but you can add it to anything, really. Scheißwetter, Scheißaufgabe, Scheißauto (weather, task, car)… the possibilities are endless.

In Austria, the term “Geh scheißn“, is often used, which politely put is a command telling someone to go use the bathroom because you don’t care what they do.  A similar expression is “es ist mir scheißegal”, which means “I don’t give a shit”. 

Another colourful term is “Dir haben’s ins Hirn gschissen”, translated as “Someone must have taken a dump in your brain”.  

Our advice: have fun with this one, but keep in mind that non-German speakers are probably going to understand you. 

Viennese swear words

The Viennese dialect features a number of colourful swear words including Schiache Funsn (ugly woman), Heast du Beidl (you dick) and Oasch (Arse). 

A Schastrommel is a word describing a gossip who spreads bad news about other people .

Fetznschädl means “cloth head”, and can be used to berate a forgetful person. 

If you want to really up the Viennese feeling, simply add the term Oida to any swear word. It can be loosely translated as ‘dude’, but can be used in almost any situation. 

So one way to tell some one to get lost is to say: “Schleich di Oida”, which means, “slither away dude”. 

Arschkalt

A seasonally relevant one to end things. Literally “arse cold” – we’re not really sure why – but it’s a good way to hate on the long, grey winter.

Our advice: We don’t recommend swearing in front of someone you’ve not met – but on a cold winter’s day, all you need to do is nod and say “Arschkalt, oder?” and you’ll have a new friend. 

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