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GERMAN LANGUAGE

9 words and phrases that will make you sound like a true Austrian

As a non-native speaker, it can sometimes be tricky to blend in with the locals. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 9 words and phrases that will help you sound like a proper Austrian.

Oktoberfest celebrations in 2017.
Vienna's Hofburg palace (Photo by Peter Oertel on Unsplash)

1. Na?

“Na” is also often used in combination with other short words, to make some of the most frequently used German phrases, such as:

Na dann – Well then

Na ja – oh well

Na, toll – oh, great (sarcastic)

Na, und? – and so what?

Na klar! – but of course! 

Na, los! – go on then!

READ ALSO: 10 German words that English should adopt

2. Doch

Using this multi-versatile four letter word will not only make you sound like a real native, but will also help you express yourself in a way that no English equivalent can!

The word has several meanings, but perhaps the most unique is its function as a negation of a negative statement, for example:

Hast du die Liste nicht mitgebracht? – Didn’t you bring the list? 

Doch! – Yes I did!

or 

Sie ist mir hoffentlich nicht mehr böse? – I hope she isn’t angry with me any more?

Doch! – Yes she is!

3. arschkalt

People walk in front of the snow-covered memorial of Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780) in Vienna on December 3, 2020. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

This rather rude expression will come in handy when you want to make your feelings known about the weather this winter.  Literally meaning “arse cold“, the word describes that sensation we all know well – when it’s so bitterly cold outside that your backside freezes.

4. Ach so

If you find yourself taken by surprise, or suddenly reminded of something, then use this phrase to convince everyone of your true Austrianness. 

For example, if, while shopping, you’re reminded by the cashier to enter your pin, you can loudly and proudly declare: 

Ach soooo! – Ah, now I see!

5. Feierabend

When you’re about to leave work this evening, and your colleagues ask “gehst du schon?“ (are you going already?) tell them “ja – ich habe schon Feierabend“ (“Yes, it’s the end of work for me already”).

This cheerful sounding compound noun literally means “celebration evening“ and is used to mean “the end of work”. The “Feier” (celebration) part, reflects the meaning of leisure, free or rest time.

READ ALSO: 10 catchy songs to help you learn German

Examples:

um 17 Uhr ist bei uns Feierabend – We stop working here at 5pm

Wir machen jetzt FeierabendWe’re calling it a day now

6. Egal

Don’t care? Then tell someone: “es ist mir egal!“ 

This word is used surprisingly often to express indifference or to describe something of little consequence, and has the same linguistic roots as the English word “equal”.

Examples:

es ist mir egal was du sagst  – I don’t care what you say

es ist egal wo du herkommst – It doesn’t matter where you come from

7. Das ist mir Wurst

If you want to go one step further than “egal“, you can declare: “das ist mir Wurst!“ – literally meaning “that is sausage to me!“ – to show that you really couldn’t care less. 

Want to sound even more authentic? Just make the word “Wurst” into “Wurscht” – because that’s how they pronounce sausage in southern Germany.

 

8. Es geht

Literally meaning “it goes”, this phrase is a very Austrian way of saying that things are not great, but they’re ok. 

Examples:

Es wird eine Stunde dauern, geht das? – It will take an hour, is that ok?

Es geht – It’s alright

9. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof

Finally, if you haven’t got a clue what someone is saying (or want to fit in), tell them: “Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof” – literally “I only understand train station” – a way of saying: “I’m confused.”

This idiom is similar in meaning to the English “it’s all Greek to me”, and shows that you don’t understand something, or don’t want to understand something.

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For members

GERMAN LANGUAGE

The seven stages of learning German every foreigner goes through

German is a notoriously difficult language to learn and the path to fluency is marked by milestones that every budding German speaker will recognise.

The seven stages of learning German every foreigner goes through

Stage 1: Terror

You’ve just set foot on Austrian soil and are ready to begin your new life in Österreich. While you may have left home feeling excited and full of enthusiasm for learning the German language, you now find yourself in a world of alarmingly long and confusing words containing strange symbols which are impossible to pronounce – and that’s before realising that there are regional dialects to make things harder.

You’re confronted with long words like Ausländerbehörde, Aufenthaltsbescheinigung, and Wohnungsanmeldung and the prospect of having to get to grips with a language whose average word contains 14 letters slowly dawns on you. It’s terrifying.

Tip: Don’t panic. At first, learning German can seem like a daunting prospect, but as you start to take your first baby steps into the language, you’ll soon realise it’s not as bad as you think. And those long words are just lots of smaller words squashed together.

READ ALSO: ‘Brutal’: What it’s really like to learn German in Austria

Stage 2: Determination

You’ve got over the initial shock of realising the true scale of the linguistic mountain you’ll have to climb to learn German – and you resolve to conquer it.

You enrol in a language course and arm yourself with grammar books and language learning apps, and you start making progress very quickly. You realise that a lot of German words have the same roots as their English cousins and that words and phrases are sticking in your head more quickly than you expected. The flames of optimism begin to grow.

A couple practices the German language. Photo: Annika Gordon/Unsplash

Tip: Keep up that spirit and persist with the grammar books and vocab learning, ideally on a daily basis and start speaking the language as much as you can – even if it’s just reading aloud to yourself. 

Stage 3: Obsession

Spurred on by your new ability to introduce yourself, talk about the weather and tell people about your pets, you launch an all-out assault on the German language.

READ ALSO: How to remember the gender of German words

You’ve got post-it notes filled with vocab stuck all over your flat, you’ve got three tandem partners and ORF is blasting 24/7 from your Laptop.

You are now officially obsessed with the German language.

Tip: Don’t be too hard on yourself once this phase of unbridled enthusiasm burns out. Though it’s great to have a period of immersion in the long-run, regular learning – even for shorter periods – is the key to progress.

Stage 4: Experimentation

You’ve now got a solid base of internal vocab and you’ve got to grips with the most important grammar rules. You can use the dative and genitive cases with increasing ease and you’re using modal verbs on a regular basis. 

You now feel ready to road-test your new language skills in the big wide world. You don’t ask Sprechen Sie englisch? (do you speak English?) any more and instead try to communicate only in German. 

Tip: Bolster this experimentation phase by consuming more Austrian media. Listen to Austrian podcasts, check out Austrian TV shows and try to read the news in German. 

READ ALSO: 8 Austrian TV series to watch to improve your (Austrian) German

Stage 5: Frustration

Just as you were starting to gain confidence in the language, you hit a brick wall. You spent an evening in the company of German speakers, or you attended a meeting at work where you found yourself fumbling for vocabulary and stumbling over grammar.

You can’t, for the life of you, remember whether it’s der, die or das Licht even though you’ve looked it up at least a hundred times. 

A German dictionary. Photo: Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash

What’s the point, you ask yourself. You want to give up and just switch to speaking English permanently, as everyone you meet seems to speak perfect English anyway.

Tip: Everyone feels like this at some point when learning a new language and it’s likely to happen more than once on your language-learning journey. Keep going and don’t compare your German language skills with the English skills of German natives. Remember that most Austrians have grown up listening to songs and watching films in English, so it will take you a bit longer to get to grips with German in the same way. 

Stage 6: Breakthrough

You’re not quite sure what’s happened, but something seems to have clicked. You’re suddenly using the right past participles 90 percent of the time and you’re using reflexive verbs with ease. People are rarely switching to English when speaking to you and you’re understanding almost everything you see and hear.

READ ALSO: Six ways to fall in love with learning German again

Tip: Remember this feeling when you are revisited by frustration in the future. 

Stage 7: Acceptance

You still make mistakes, you don’t know all of the words in the German dictionary, and you still mix up der, die and das – but it’s ok. You’ve come a long way and you accept that your German will probably never be perfect and that the learning process will be a lifelong pursuit. 

Tip: The more you use the language, the more you’ll improve. Keep reading, speaking and listening and, one day, it won’t even feel like an effort anymore. 

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