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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Austria fails to make top tier for English skills

Austria has narrowly missed out on making it into the top tier of countries scoring best for English proficiency levels, according to a new study by language training company Education First (EF).

Austria fails to make top tier for English skills
Photo: Meg/Flickr

The level of English among adults in Austria is rated as “high” but is lower than in the top ranking countries, which were Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Finland. Germany placed 11th and Switzerland trailed behind in 19th place.

Along with Germany and Switzerland, Austria had done a good job of improving English teaching in recent years, the study from EF found. Austria ranks 10th out of 70 nations and recorded a slight decrease of 1.24 on last year’s score.

Austrians aged between 18 and 20 have a far higher English proficiency than other age groups, something the report authors note is “a positive indicator for the future”.

For the first time the study has revealed the connection between countries' English levels and their achievements in innovation, by looking at metrics such as technology exports and spending on research and development.

“Countries with higher English proficiency have more researchers and technicians per capita,” said the report.

“The ability to learn from the research of others, participate in international conferences, publish in leading journals, and collaborate with multinational research teams is dependent upon excellent English,” it concluded.

The report also found that correlations between countries' English ability and Gross National Income per capita, quality of life and internet connectivity remained strong and stable.

“The English skills of recent graduates in Austria, Germany and Switzerland indicate that English instruction in these countries has recently become more effective,” EF authors wrote in the study.

France was notable for failing to even make it into the top half of the 70 countries tested worldwide, coming in at just 37th place.

SEE ALSO: 8 ways Austrians get English totally wrong

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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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