Living in Germany, you’ll notice pretty early on that some of the stuff Germans say sounds pretty familiar. Denglisch words (“Denglisch” is a mixture of Deutsch and English) are all over the place. Why do Germans use Denglisch words? Sometimes they describe a new concept that German never had a word for. And to some German ears, Denglisch words sound cooler or trendier.
But I think most Denglisch words are used because the German words would be soooo much longer.
Denglisch words in a department store. Photo by: Gmhofmann
Some favorite Denglisch words:
- using “shooting” to refer to filming. Once a filmmaker friend told me, “Yesterday was the shooting with the children.” He meant he’d taken video of child actors, while I gasped and asked if anyone was hurt!
- replacing German words with English ones. Karte already exists in German, yet train riders can buy a BahnCard. Karte can also mean ticket, but Germans also use Ticket more and more often. A two-in-one Denglicization.
- using the wrong English words, especially for tech. A Handy is a cell/mobile phone and a Beamer is an overhead projector.
- putting German grammar on English verbs. People might say they’ve upgedatet (updated) a system. A text message is called an SMS here, and now Germans are using “simsen” for “to text”/”to SMS.”
Of course, not all Germans are cool with Denglisch words. The founder of the German Language Society had a few things to say about it.
This sign reads: Stop Denglisch! We speak German. Photo by: Rafael Peñaloza
Denglisch words and German sounds
Enough of the mixing and the Denglisch words. Here are a few authentic German sounds to make you sound like a real native. This part was inspired by this post on how French people speak!
Alter! Roughly translates to “dude,” “c’mon,” or “oh man.” Pronounced: “all-tah!”
As in: Alter, I don’t believe a word you’re saying.
Boah! This one means “Wow” or “Jeez!” Pronounced: “bwah.” The more surprised you are, the longer you should stretch out the “aaahhhh” at the end.
As in: You paid a hundred euros for a pair of flip-flops? Boahhh!
Doch. This little word stands in for concepts like actually, but, and the useful concept of disagreeing-with-a-negative. As in:
Steffi: You didn’t make it to the store today, right?
Peter: Doch, I did.
Juhu! This is German for “Woo-hoo!” Pronounced: yoo-hoo, with the accent on the hoo!
As in: Juhu, it’s lunch time!
Nö… Pronounced like “Neuuuhh.” You know when someone catches you red-handed and you just give them a little, “Who, me?” look? Use a long nöööö for that. Or, when you’re giving an answer of “Nah,” use a quick nö. As in:
Steffi: Did you eat all the chocolate?
Peter: Me? Nöööö…
Steffi: Would you like a receipt?
Peter: Nö, thanks, I don’t need one.
Oje. This one is the German answer to (or origin of?) the English oy vey, or ai-yi-yi. Pronounced: “oh-yay,” but means exactly the opposite! For extra-bad oy veys, try “Ojemine,” y’know, like an English speaker might say “Jiminy Cricket!” And that one’s pronounced: “oh-yay-me-nay.”
As in: Oje, there comes the boss.
Quatsch! This one means “nonsense!” or “BS!” You can also use it after your own sentence to say, “Just kidding!” Pronounced: kwatch! Like watch with a K in front of it. As in:
Peter: I got front-row seats for the Lady Gaga concert next week for €20.
Steffi: Quatsch, you did not!
schweine- as an adverb, more than “very.” Always used for negative things – you can’t say something is schweine-interessant. Germans use pigs to make the bad stuff worse, go figure!
Das ist schweine-teuer! (That’s incredibly expensive!)
Es ist schweine-kalt. (It’s reeeeally cold.)
Zak! means something like “bam,” or “all of a sudden,” or also “chop chop!” Pronounced: tzak! (with a long A, like ahh.)
I was walking down the street when, zak, it started raining.
Zak zak, guys, let’s get a move on, it’s lunchtime!
Now, let’s put them all together. Here we go!
Peter: Juhu, I got tickets for the Lady Gaga concert next week!
Steffi: Alter, you did not! Those tickets sold out zak-zak-zak, 3 minutes after they went on sale.
Peter: Doch, I did.
Steffi: But I bet they were schweine-expensive.
Peter: Nö, they were €20 each.
Steffi: Quatsch. How much did you really pay?
Peter: €200. Each.
Steffi: Boah, that’s more than I can afford. Ohje, it hurts just thinking about it.
What other Denglisch words can you add to the list? What other funny sounds do Germans make? Let us know in the comments below!