Exploring the Diversity of German Dialects


Like many modern languages, German is a synthesis of older dialects that were spoken in the past in what is now geographically and politically regarded as Germany, together with surrounding European territories where speakers of one dialect of German or another still live. What makes German dialects so interesting is that even today these dialects are part of the complexity and diversity of spoken German, even though standard German is used throughout educational facilities and is the language of government.

Understanding Dialects

Accents vs. Dialects: Unravelling the Difference

Accents and dialects are often confused and in many cases, people think that when someone speaks with a different accent, it means that they are speaking in a different dialect. The reality is that accents are not the same as dialects. The best way of describing the difference is to explain how two people who speak the same dialect may sound different because they are speaking with different accents. More correctly, accents are how people pronounce words, not their choice of words and phrases. Communities of German speakers may speak with different dialects, which may mean that they pronounce commonly spoken words differently (i.e. they have different accents), but also their choice of vocabulary, or even the grammar they use may be different.

German speakers who listen to each other and communicate will experience some difficulty when they encounter other German speakers who speak in a different accent or a different dialect, but will probably still understand these people better than if they try and communicate with someone speaking in a different language.

Diversity within German Dialects

It must be noted that German is spoken throughout Germany, Austria, and parts of Switzerland as well as many people in other parts of the world where German speakers have migrated over the centuries. These people are a treasure house of different German dialects and accents, even though the standardization of the German language allows every German speaker to communicate with all the other German speakers wherever they live and whatever their age.

German Dialects in Germany

German dialects are often rather too conveniently divided into Low or Nieder Deutsch and High or Hoch Deutsch. The two terms, “low” and “high” refer to the locations within what is now called Germany. High German is in the south of Germany, which is more mountainous than the north, which is quite flat. In the north is where, as one might expect, “low” German is spoken. In reality, there are differences between the low dialects and within high dialects as well. There is also a distinct “Middle” German dialect.

Of all this diversity, there had to be some eventual standardization emerging. This has been attributed in part to the invention of the printing press and Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German. Hoch Deutsch, for one reason or another, became the dialect that was chosen as the “standardized” dialect for use in all of Germany. This dialect is no more correct than any other dialect but just got to the ‘finish’ line before any other dialect.

Whether you’re navigating the rich tapestry of German dialects or require precise translation, trust our German NAATI Translator for accurate and certified results. Your linguistic journey starts here.

Future of German Dialects

Perhaps, unfortunately, it’s hard to see many minor German dialects surviving for long. Communication these days is so widespread that speaking in a local dialect is slowly dying out. Germans are far more mobile than they were years ago and communicate in diverse ways. This university of communication demands a standardized language and a standardized dialect.

There are many different German dialects, as well as different accents used. Over time, a standardized form of the German language has emerged, which makes it easier for German speakers wherever they live to communicate easily. The current standard dialect which has been selected to be that of modern German originated in the higher or more mountainous parts of Germany, hence it being called Hoch, or “high”, Deutsch. Dialects of German may not survive modern trends and it is possible that in years to come may only be a memory.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for your convenience and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should not take, or refrain from taking, actions based upon the content of this article. Prior results do not guarantee similar outcomes. Please seek professional legal advice.

Some Tips for De Facto Visa Document Translations

Are you applying for a visa for Australia as a de facto partner of an Australian citizen or resident? The process can be painstakingly slow and complicated when you do it yourself, especially if you need many visa document translations because your native language is not English. Here are some tips to help you through the process.

The most important piece of advice is to know exactly what documents you need to provide and how recent they must be. The worst part of applying for a de facto visa is that it can take a long time gathering all the relevant documents – especially if you have spent time living or working in more than one country because you will need police checks and maybe fingerprints from each one. These can get “out of date” before everything has been translated and sent to the Department of Immigration and Border Control.

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Have you been to Africa or South America? Get your Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate Translated

If you are a visitor to Australia from Germany or you are a recent migrant, you may have had several vaccinations previously in Germany. Your children may also have had vaccinations which were considered important in Germany or were part of the German health system or you have made it an important aspect of your family’s health to make sure you have up to date vaccinations.

Continue reading “Have you been to Africa or South America? Get your Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate Translated”

“Translation” – Not Always the Same Thing


Writing things over to another language can be a funny old game sometimes, for the simple reason that culture often intervenes. If there’s a better reason than the following for using a competent German NAATI translator – as opposed to downloading Google Translate – then we’ve yet to come across it.

First attempts to translate Coca-Cola into Chinese became essential after market researchers discovered that the locals interpreted the name as “bite the wax tadpole”. After much prodigious effort translators chose the word ’kokoukole” meaning “happiness in the mouth” instead.

The General Motors name “Nova” means “it doesn’t go” in Spanish-speaking South America. Hopefully the glue they stuck the badges on with wasn’t made in Germany?

Colorado brewers Coors should have been more careful with their Spanish translations too. Their slogan “turn it loose” became “suffer from diarrhoea”.

KFC walked right into it after their media specialist managed to morph their brand into the Chinese equivalent of “eat your fingers off”.

On a lighter note, Frank Perdue’s translators were probably feeling German English Australia Migration Translation Servicechicken after someone mentioned that they’d translated “it takes a strong man to make a tender chicken” into Spanish as “it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate“.

Please don’t think for a moment that anything similar is possible in the case of our skilled Migration Translators. They’re all highly-educated human beings, and everything is edited twice.

We found the translation blunders on Articles Base. Thanks to Stuart Wilde for the Fox and Chicken.