1. Swiss German (Schwiizerdütsch)
For kicks, we’ll start with the German variety you’re least likely to understand. Schwiizerdütsch, also spelled Schweizerdeutsch or even Schwizertitsch, is the catch-all term for the different varieties in the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland.
So yes, they do vary from place to place even in this small country. However, they share some common trends—such as vowel shifts—compared to Standarddeutsch, which can affect even how the Swiss say the articles (words meaning “the” or “a”).
2. Austrian German (Österreichisches Deutsch)
As noted before, there is an Austrian Standard German which is very, very similar to the German Standard German you’re learning. In fact, if you see Austrian German in writing, such as in the newspapers Die Presse or Der Standard, you might not notice any differences at all!
But again, spoken language is different. You’ll immediately notice some pronunciation differences in the Standarddeutsch of this YouTuber, and when she switches out of the standard, you might even feel a little lost!
3. The Bavarian Dialect (Bayerisch)
We’ll continue our sweep of southern High German by looking at the Bavarian dialect next. Bavaria is in southeastern Germany, and it is the largest of the 16 Bundesländer (roughly equivalent to states or provinces) that make up the country. Why have I called it High German? “High” in this sense has nothing to do with high prestige or a high level of formality. It’s geographical. Bavaria is near the Alps. Mountains are high ground. That’s all it means.
Remember that we’re dealing with a dialect continuum here, not strict divisions. Bavarian shares similarities with the other varieties I’ve just described, but it often strongly confuses Germans from other parts of the country. This Bavarian ska band almost became Germany’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2013. Despite being a fan favorite, the song’s hard-to-comprehend lyrics may have been the reason for its defeat. How much do you understand?
4. The Berlin Dialect (Berlinerisch)
Some say that Berlinerisch is dying due to the mass media influence of Standarddeutsch, decades of division and the shrinking number of Berliners who have lived in the city their whole lives. The dialect is known for replacing its “ch” sounds with “k,” softening hard “g” into “j,” and blurring the lines between the accusative and dative cases. See if you can hear these differences in this lively rant.
5. The Upper Saxon Dialect (Sächsisch)
Isn’t “Saxon” just another word for “German”? Not quite! Saxony, or Sachsen, is another one of the 16 Bundesländer. It is in the eastern half of the country and was part of the former German Democratic Republic during the Cold War. Germany may be reunited now, but this dialect still provokes some strong and divisive opinions. It’s considered by many to be the “ugliest” German variety.
Markers of this dialect include a different pronunciation of the “ei” vowel sounds, so that they sound less like English “hi” and more like English “hay.” Some “R” sounds also take on a different quality.