Austrian German vs German: 5 Key Language Differences with Examples

The German language is a blend of various dialects and adaptations. Each dicalect is contributing a unique cultural element. Germany, being the most populous among German-speaking countries, carries a deep-rooted history and tradition of the language.

But it’s not the only place in Europe where people talk German! Easy German has a great video explaining the differences between Austrian German and standard German, it’s full of examples. Take a look!

Austria too shares a valuable heritage and tradition in the German language. Austrian German provides a unique taste to the language: it has differences in words, accents, and there are numerous syntax patterns. If you want to visit the vibrant city life of Vienna or maybe the peaceful rural areas of Austria, understanding the variations of Austrian German will definitely help you.

Read this blog post to learn about Austria’s culture and the local language variation!

1. Introduction to Austria and Austrian German

Austria is a small, landlocked country in Central Europe: it has stunning Alpine landscapes and historic cities. It is bordered by Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. The country has a diverse terrain, with the western and southern provinces boasting impressive mountains, while the eastern provinces feature more gentle landscapes.

The capital of Austria is Vienna, which is also its largest city and cultural hub.

learn austrian german in vienna at night

Austrians are passionate about winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, with the country regularly hosting major events like the Alpine Skiing World Cup. You can learn more about sports in German our the website.

What is Austrian German (Österreichisches Deutsch)?

Austrian German, known as “Österreichisches Deutsch,” is the variety of the German language spoken in Austria. It is the country’s official language, understood and used by the Austrian population – currently around 9 million people – in everyday communication, media, education, and government.

Despite being a variant of Standard German, Austrian German includes several unique features. It borrows elements from various Austro-Bavarian dialects and has been influenced by the country’s historical development, including the legacy of the Habsburg monarchy.

2. Austrian German and Standard German (Hochdeutsch): a short overview

Standard German, or “Hochdeutsch,” is the standardized form of the German language used in formal settings across German-speaking countries. It serves as a lingua franca for speakers of different dialects and is the taught form of the language for learners worldwide.

Despite the differences, Austrians and Germans can generally understand each other well, as both speak variations of Standard German. There are differences in vocabulary, pronunciation, and sometimes syntax that can cause minor confusion or misunderstandings, but these are mainly exceptions focused particularly around region-specific terms or expressions.

3. 5 Key differences between Austrian German vs German

Austrian German has its own set of words and phrases that are not used or may have different meanings in Standard German.

There are numerous examples where everyday language in Austria differs compared to Standard German, which we will explore in detail in the following table. Take a look to see the 5 key differences related to vocabulary, dialects, grammar, word order and pronunciation.

DifferenceAustrian GermanStandard German
VocabularyAustrian German includes unique terms influenced by regional dialects and a history shared with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Words like “Paradeiser” for tomato, “Marille” for apricot, and “Erdapfel” for potato are common.Standard German vocabulary is more uniform across Germany and is used in formal and written communication, as well as in education. “Tomate,” “Aprikose,” and “Kartoffel” are standard terms for the foods mentioned.
DialectsAustrian German is heavily influenced by Austro-Bavarian dialects, which varies significantly across different regions of Austria. These regional dialects impact the vocabulary, pronunciation, and sometimes even grammar in spoken Austrian German.Standard German, or “Hochdeutsch,” is largely based on the dialects spoken in the central and northern parts of Germany. It’s the form taught in schools and used in the media, minimizing regional variations.
GrammarIn Austrian German, the genitive case is less commonly used, with a preference for constructions with the dative case or prepositional phrases. There is also a tendency to use particular modal particle words that might not be as prevalent in Standard German.Standard German retains the use of the genitive case more consistently, especially in formal and written language. It adheres to the grammar rules that are recognized across all German-speaking countries.
Word OrderWhile Austrian German follows the same basic rules for word order as Standard German, there is a tendency for variations in sentence structure, especially in casual conversation, which might be influenced by regional dialects.Standard German follows a relatively strict word order, particularly in formal writing. Sentences are structured with a strong adherence to grammatical rules, making the word order less flexible than in some dialects.
PronunciationPronunciation in Austrian German features softer consonants, a melody that differs from region to region, and vowel sounds that can be distinct from Standard German. This can be especially noticeable in the vowels, which are often more rounded and full.Standard German pronunciation is characterized by sharper consonants and a set of standardized vowel sounds. High German’s pronunciation is used as the basis for teaching German as a second language internationally.

4. Vocabulary differences between Austrian German and German

Austria and Germany not only share borders but also the German language, yet the words used in daily life can sometimes be worlds apart. Below is a table that introduces some common terms where the Austrian variant differs from what is typically used in Germany.

Austrian GermanStandard GermanEnglish Translation
JännerJanuarJanuary
FisolenGrüne BohnenGreen beans
ErdapfelKartoffelPotato
SackerlTüteBag
TopfenQuarkCurd cheese
MarilleAprikoseApricot
RibiselJohannisbeerenRed currants
SchlagobersSahneWhipped cream
KrampusA mythical figure similar to a demon
SesselliftSesselliftChairlift
HeurigerWeinstubeWine tavern
PalatschinkenPfannkuchenPancake
GugelhupfNapfkuchenBundt cake
SemmelBrötchenRoll
ObersSahneCream
MelanzaniAubergineEggplant
VogerlsalatFeldsalatLamb’s lettuce
KrenMeerrettichHorseradish
BuchtelnOfennudelnSweet rolls
RauchfangkehrerSchornsteinfegerChimney sweep
EierschwammerlPfifferlingeChanterelle mushrooms
PowidlPflaumenmusPlum jam
StiegenTreppenStairs
PölsterKopfkissenPillow
FleischhauerMetzgerButcher
GleichstromWechselstromDirect current (electricity)

Using the words alone is one thing but seeing them in action, in a real-life conversation is completely different. Let’s go through the vocabulary differences once again – this time, pay attention to chunks and see how the same convo looks like in Austrian German and in Standard German!

Austrian German conversation

Caroline: Servus, Joe! Wie war deine Geburtstagsfeier letztes Wochenende? (Hello, Joe! How was your birthday party last weekend?)
Joe: Grüß dich, Caroline! Es war wirklich nett. Wir hatten einen Heurigen gemietet und die ganze Nacht Palatschinken und Gugelhupf gegessen. (Hi, Caroline! It was really nice. We rented a wine tavern and ate pancakes and Bundt cakes all night.)
Caroline: Das klingt ja herrlich! Hast du auch Erdapfel- und Vogerlsalat gemacht? (That sounds wonderful! Did you also make potato and lamb’s lettuce salads?)
Joe: Ja, genau, und als Beilage gab’s Semmelknödel. Zum Trinken hatten wir Marillensaft und natürlich jede Menge Schlagobers für den Kaffee. (Yes, exactly, and for sides, we had bread dumplings. For drinks, we had apricot juice and, of course, plenty of whipped cream for the coffee.)
Caroline: Bei uns sagt man immer: Ohne Schlagobers ist kein Kaffee fertig! Ach, und hast du gehört, dass der Rauchfangkehrer letztens im Haus war? Er hat gesagt, unsere Stiegen seien die saubersten, die er je gesehen hat. (We always say: A coffee isn’t ready without whipped cream! Oh, and did you hear that the chimney sweep was here recently? He said our stairs are the cleanest he’s ever seen.)
Joe: Das glaube ich dir sofort. Du bist ja auch sehr ordentlich. Hast du eigentlich noch Powidl von deiner Oma? Ich würde gerne ein Glas mitnehmen, falls möglich. (I believe you right away. You are very tidy after all. Do you still have plum jam from your grandma? I would like to take a jar if possible.)
Caroline: Sicher, ich gebe dir ein Glas mit. Ich habe erst letzte Woche welche bekommen. Aber sag, bist du morgen beim Fleischhauer? Ich brauche noch ein paar Fisolen für das Abendessen. (Sure, I’ll give you a jar. I just got some last week. But tell me, will you be at the butcher’s tomorrow? I need some green beans for dinner.)
Joe: Ich bin sowieso unterwegs, also kann ich dir gerne Fisolen mitbringen. Und keine Sorge, ich vergesse nicht, das Powidl und die Eierschwammerl für dich zu holen. (I’ll be out anyway, so I can gladly bring you some green beans. And don’t worry, I won’t forget to get the plum jam and the chanterelle mushrooms for you.)

Standard German conversation

Caroline: Hallo, Joe! Wie war deine Geburtstagsparty letztes Wochenende? (Hello, Joe! How was your birthday party last weekend?)
Joe: Hallo, Caroline! Sie war sehr schön. Wir hatten eine Weinstube gemietet und die ganze Nacht Pfannkuchen und Napfkuchen gegessen. (Hello, Caroline! It was very beautiful. We rented a wine tavern and ate pancakes and Bundt cakes all night.)
Caroline: Das klingt wunderbar! Hast du auch Kartoffel- und Feldsalat gemacht? (That sounds wonderful! Did you also make potato and lamb’s lettuce salads?)
Joe: Ja, genau, und dazu gab es Semmelknödel. Zum Trinken hatten wir Aprikosensaft und natürlich viel Sahne für den Kaffee. (Yes, exactly, and there were bread dumplings to go with it. For drinks, we had apricot juice and, of course, a lot of cream for the coffee.)
Caroline: Man sagt ja: Ein Kaffee ist erst mit Sahne komplett! Übrigens, hast du mitbekommen, dass der Schornsteinfeger neulich da war? Er meinte, unsere Treppen wären die saubersten, die er je gesehen hat. (They say: A coffee is only complete with cream! By the way, did you notice that the chimney sweep was here recently? He said our stairs are the cleanest he’s ever seen.)
Joe: Das glaube ich dir. Du bist immerhin sehr penibel. Hast du noch Pflaumenmus von deiner Großmutter? Ich würde gern ein Glas mitnehmen, wenn es geht. (I believe you. You are very meticulous, after all. Do you still have plum jam from your grandmother? I would like to take a jar if possible.)
Caroline: Klar, ich gebe dir ein Glas mit. Ich habe erst letzte Woche welches bekommen. Aber sag mal, bist du morgen beim Metzger? Ich bräuchte noch grüne Bohnen für das Abendessen. (Sure, I’ll give you a jar. I just got some last week. But tell me, will you be at the butcher’s tomorrow? I need some green beans for dinner.)
Joe: Ich bin ohnehin draußen, also kann ich dir grüne Bohnen mitbringen. Und mach dir keine Sorgen, ich denke an das Pflaumenmus und die Pfifferlinge für dich. (I’ll be out anyway, so I can bring you some green beans. And don’t worry, I’ll remember the plum jam and the chanterelle mushrooms for you.)

You can now observe and use the lexical chunks in context in German. If you want to learn more about this method, sign up and get the Conversation Based Chunking Guide for German.

5. Essential Austrian German phrases you have to know

To truly connect with locals in Austria, it’s important to learn some key Austrian German phrases.

Grüß Gott” is a common greeting, which literally means “Greet God,” but is used like “hello.” Saying “leiwand” is the Austrian way of saying “cool” or “great.” Food also has different names, such as “Topfen” for “curd cheese” and the previously mentioned “Marille” for “apricot.” These small but important differences can make a big impression if you want to visit Austria.

Austrian German PhraseEnglish TranslationUsage Context
Grüß GottGreet God / HelloA common greeting used in Austria. Appropriate for most social situations.
ServusHello (informal)An informal and friendly greeting, can be used for both “hello” and “goodbye.”
LeiwandCool / GreatA colloquial expression in Austrian German to describe something as “cool” or “great.”
TopfenCurd cheeseUsed to refer to a type of soft, fresh cheese, common in Austrian recipes.
MarilleApricotThe Austrian German term for “apricot,” often used in culinary contexts.
ErdapfelPotatoAn Austrian term for “potato,” reflecting regional linguistic variations.
FisolenGreen beansAustrian German for “green beans,” a common ingredient in Austrian cuisine.
SchlagobersWhipped creamUsed in Austria to refer to “whipped cream,” a topping for desserts and beverages.
HeurigerWine tavernAn Austrian establishment serving new wine with a license to serve food; a part of the wine culture in Austria.
GugelhupfBundt cakeA type of cake known as “Bundt cake,” a traditional sweet treat in Austria.
PalatschinkenPancakeThe Austrian term for “pancake,” typically thinner than the German version and filled with sweet or savory fillings.
KrampusA mythological creatureA creature from Central European folklore, associated with Christmas. In Austria, he is known for scaring naughty children.
SackerlBagThe Austrian term for a small bag or sack, often used for shopping.

6. Should you visit Austria?

Austria is a beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and a vibrant history. Starting from the stunning architecture of Vienna to the magnificent Alps, Austria offers a range of experiences for travelers!

learn austrian german in austria

Plus, it’s a fantastic place for those interested in music, art, history, and enjoying the famous Austrian cuisine and coffee culture. Whether you’re exploring cities or the countryside, Austria is a charming destination worth visiting – even if it’s just for leisure or even to learn German!

7. Learning Austrian German and High German with Conversation Based Chunking

While Austrian German and High German share many similarities, there are key vocabulary differences to be aware of. Whether you aim to learn Austrian German or High German, the Conversation Based Chunking method is an effective learning strategy.

By focusing on phrases and language “chunks” used in real-life conversations, you can quickly pick up the language nuances.

Sign up now to learn more about the Conversation Based Chunking method and learn German!

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