German Dialects: 13 Different German Dialects Spoken in German-Speaking Countries

A person from northern Germany would probably struggle to understand someone speaking German from the far south – and vice versa.

This is just a replica of a short conversation between two users on Reddit’s biggest German language learning subreddit r/German for the question of How different are the dialects across Germany?

It’s a topic that everyone tries to answer. But what’s the underlying truth here? Easy German made street interviews on regional German dialects, so if you’re interested, check out the opinions of others here:

In this post, we’ll try to guide you closer to the conclusion related to German dialects – we promise it’ll be worth it, and we’ll answer as many questions as we can!

How many German dialects are there?

To answer this question, you have to be really up-to-date with the latest developments in the language learning scene.

What exactly counts as a dialect? And what are independent languages?

It’s challenging to pinpoint exactly how many dialects fall under the Low, Middle, and Upper German categories. This topic is influenced by political factors and linguistic ones, too.

The truth is that German dialects exist not only in German-speaking countries but also in places like Poland, USA, Slovenia. Who would’ve thought?

And then you could even consider Texas German as either a German dialect or a completely separate language.

german dialects on germany map

Languages are of complex and dynamic nature. They evolve, borrow words from other languages, influence each other and slowly change over time. In this blog post, we listed 13 of the most popular and well-known German dialects.

This is not a list that covers everything, but the most important German dialects are all here. And what’s even better?

We’ll give you short examples with the German dialects’ main characteristics.

1. Low German (Plattdeutsch)

Plattdeutsch is a real gem of the north.

It’s spoken in northern Germany and parts of the Netherlands. This dialect didn’t go through the High German consonant shift, so it sounds quite different from standard German.

You’ll hear it in Hamburg, Bremen, and parts of Schleswig-Holstein. It’s known for its flat, sing-song intonation.

A classic example is “Moin moin!” instead of “Guten Tag!” for hello.

2. High German (Hochdeutsch)

This isn’t really a dialect, but the standard form of German.

It’s what you’ll learn in school and hear on the news.

Hochdeutsch developed from Central and Upper German dialects.

It’s used throughout all German-speaking countries for official communication, education, and media.

If someone says “Ich komme aus Deutschland”, that’s Hochdeutsch.

3. Upper German (Oberdeutsch)

Oberdeutsch covers dialects spoken in the south of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and South Tyrol.

It includes Bavarian and Alemannic dialects. These dialects often replace ‘st’ with ‘scht’.

So, “Das ist gut” becomes “Des ischt guat” in many Upper German dialects.

4. Central German (Mitteldeutsch)

Mitteldeutsch bridges the gap between northern and southern dialects.

It’s spoken in central and eastern Germany, including Frankfurt, Mainz, and parts of Saxony.

These dialects often soften ‘ch’ sounds.

For example, “ich” might be pronounced more like “ish”.

5. Bavarian (Bairisch)

Bairisch is spoken in Bavaria, parts of Austria, and South Tyrol.

It’s known for its sing-song intonation and unique vocabulary. “Grüß Gott” is a typical Bavarian greeting.

They also love diminutives in German, so a little house isn’t “Häuschen” but “Häuserl”.

6. Alemannic (Alemannisch)

Alemannisch includes Swiss German and dialects spoken in Baden-Württemberg and Vorarlberg. It’s known for its guttural ‘ch’ sounds and the use of ‘sch’ where standard German uses ‘s’.

Ich verstehe das” becomes “I verschtoh das” in many Alemannic dialects.

7. Austrian German (Österreichisches Deutsch)

While similar to standard German, Austrian German has its own flavor.

It’s got unique vocabulary and some pronunciation differences.

For example, “Erdäpfel” instead of “Kartoffeln” for potatoes. They also love their diminutive “-erl” ending, so a bit becomes “a bisserl”.

8. Franconian (Fränkisch)

Fränkisch is spoken in Franconia, a region of northern Bavaria. It’s known for its soft consonants and unique vowel sounds.

Guten Tag” might become “Guddn Dooch” in Franconian.

9. Swabian (Schwäbisch)

Schwäbisch is spoken in Baden-Württemberg.

It’s famous for turning ‘st’ into ‘scht’ and for its unique vocabulary. “Ich habe” becomes “I han” in Swabian.

They also love their “le” diminutive, so a house is a “Häusle“.

10. Upper Saxon (Obersächsisch)

Obersächsisch is spoken in Saxony and parts of Thuringia. It’s known for its sing-song intonation and the tendency to soften consonants.

Guten Tag” might sound more like “Gudn Dahch”.

11. Hessian (Hessisch)

Hessisch is spoken in the state of Hesse.

It’s known for its unique pronunciation of ‘ch’ sounds and for dropping end consonants.

Ich” often becomes “Isch” in Hessian.

12. Kölsch

Kölsch is the dialect of Cologne.

It’s known for its sing-song intonation and unique vocabulary.

A famous Kölsch phrase is “Et kütt wie et kütt” (It comes as it comes) instead of “Es kommt wie es kommt“.

13. Berlin German (Berlinisch)

Berlinisch is spoken in and around Berlin.

It’s known for its direct, often witty expressions and its unique pronunciation.

Ich‘ becomes ‘ick‘, and ‘das‘ becomes ‘det‘. A typical Berlinisch phrase is “Ick bin ein Berliner” instead of “Ich bin ein Berliner“.

Major dialects with unique vocabulary

Since the German dialects are hard even for Germans, no one can expect you to know every word in every German dialect.

Don’t worry!

We made a great vocabulary list for you where we list the dialect word along with Hochdeutsch and their English meanings.

Dialect WordDialectHochdeutschEnglish Meaning
MoinPlattdeutschGuten TagHello
Grüß GottBavarianGuten TagHello
ServusAustrianHallo / Auf WiedersehenHello / Goodbye
GellSwabianNicht wahr?Right?
NuUpper SaxonJetztNow
BüdchenKölschKioskSmall shop
StubbiPlattdeutschKleine BierflascheSmall beer bottle
SemmelBavarianBrötchenRoll (bread)
OachkatzlschwoafBavarianEichhörnchenschwanzSquirrel’s tail
GrüeziSwiss GermanGuten TagHello
Pfiat diAustrianAuf WiedersehenGoodbye
DiggaHamburg GermanKumpelBuddy
SchrippeBerlinischBrötchenRoll (bread)
SchaffeSwabianArbeitenTo work

Should you learn standard German or one of the many dialects?

By the end of this post, you’re either in complete despair or you’re intrigued by the sheer amount of German dialects that you could choose from. But which one should you learn?

Here, the answer is pretty straightforward: learn standard German. It’s the best and safest bet if you want to learn to speak German and want to be understood by everyone.

This is the first step. After you mastered standard German, you can choose any German dialect you like, and be proficient in that one. For now, we can give you a FREE German Starter Pack – a guide that helps you along your language learning journey.

We use the Conversation Based Chunking method for teaching – a method that has helped tens of thousands of students learn a new language. If you sign up now, you’ll get an essential German chunking list, other resources to learn Spanish, and exercises to practice German!

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