An Introduction to Bavarian Posted by Constanze on Jul 27, 2014 in Culture, Geography, Language
Well, when I first started writing for this blog I promised I would bring some Bavarian into it. So here goes!
Firstly, why Bavarian?
The German side of my family come from Bavaria. I grew up speaking Bavarian more than Hochdeutsch (standard German), and even today, hearing it is as natural for me as hearing Hochdeutsch. When I speak German now I use Hochdeutsch with a few Bavarian influences, which a lot of German speakers find unusual (especially combined with my English accent!). I feel lucky that I was able to learn two ‘types’ of German, rather than just the one. Now I’d like to share my knowledge of it with you!
You may think that learning Bavarian is useless when you already know Hochdeutsch, but if you’re passionate about the German language then I assure you it is not. If you visit München, for example, you will most likely hear and see the Bavarian language in one place or another. And if you’re planning on going to Oktoberfest, you’ll hear plenty of Bavarian being spoken, including Bavarian Trinklieder (drinking songs)! Furthermore, all sorts of people speak it – not just the older generation. And lastly (if you need another reason), it’s just a great language to learn!
So if you feel like taking on a new challenge with your German, or if you are just visiting Bavaria and want to know a few words and phrases to understand the locals, then please read on!
This post will be a brief introduction to the Bavarian language, and then more posts will follow for those of you who want to learn some vocabulary and phrases.
1. The name of the Bavarian language in German is Bairisch. That is not to be confused with the word bayerisch, which refers to anything Bavarian (eg. “ein bayerisches Haus” a Bavarian house). Basically, Bairisch = language, bayerisch = anything Bavarian.
2. Bavarian is spoken across southern Germany and parts of Austria. But Bavarian differs slightly according to the region you’re in. The different dialects are split up as follows:
1. Nordbairisch (Spoken in Oberpfalz, Oberfranken, Mittelfranken, Oberbayern),
2. Mittelbairisch (Spoken in Niederbayern, München, Donau, Wien/Österreich)
3. Südbairisch (Spoken in Tirol, Sudtirol Italy)
(I speak Mittelbairisch, so my spelling/pronunciation on here will reflect that.)
3. Bavarian is still German, but it is so different to Hochdeutsch that it is often considered a language, rather than a dialect (for the sake of being consistent, I will refer to it as a language on this blog). Even natives from other parts of Germany have difficulty understanding it. So even if your German is very good, you will probably find it a challenge to understand at first! Do not let this make you doubt your German language ability.
4. Although Bavarian can be written, it is predominantly spoken. Even if they spoke Bavarian in daily life, most people would write in Hochdeutsch. This could be because Bavarian is not taught in schools. In addition, there is no official spelling for many Bavarian words; instead, they are written phonetically.
5. However, the Bavarian media often uses the language, especially in adverts and pop songs (which is why you’re likely to see/hear the language a lot when in this part of Germany). Many TV programmes are also in Bavarian.
6. Most Bavarians speak Hochdeutsch. They may or may not speak Bavarian in daily life. In my experience, this is different with everyone – even in a big city like München, you will still find plenty of shopkeepers etc. speaking Bavarian rather than Hochdeutsch. However, they will usually switch to Hochdeutsch if they realise that you are a tourist and/or are having difficulty understanding them.
7. In order to preserve the language, an Englishman (!) has started writing an official Bavarian dictionary. Apparently, it will be finished in 2050. Read more here.
8. Finally, what does Bavarian sound like? To demonstrate, here is a little video of Thomas Müller from the German football team speaking in Bairisch to a reporter after Germany won the World Cup (how have I not mentioned that yet??).
The reporter in the video is asking him how he feels to have missed out on winning the Golden Shoe. He replies:
“Des interessiert mir ois ned, der Scheissdreck! Weltmeister samma! Den Pott hamma! Den Scheissdreck goidener Schua kannst da hinter’n Oan schmian!”
Here’s how this translates into Hochdeutsch. You will see that there are some significant differences:
“Das interessiert mich überhaupt nicht, dieser Scheissdreck! Wir sind Weltmeister! Wir haben den Trophäe! Dieser Scheissdreck goldener Schuh kannst du hinter deine Ohren schmieren!”
And finally, this is how it translates into English:
“That shit doesn’t interest me at all! We’re world champions! We have the trophy! You can stick this shit with your golden shoe!” (He literally says “You can smear it behind your ears”)
That all sounds pretty rude and aggressive in English, right? It is important to point out that what Müller is saying is more light-hearted and humorous in Bavarian, with no offence intended. Bavarian is full of blunt, witty turns of phrase that often include swear words, so even though it might sound rude, it’s usually not!
Now you have some basic knowledge of the Bavarian language, plus an idea of how it sounds.
How do you feel about the language? Are you interested in learning it? And are there any specific topics (in terms of phrases, vocabulary, etc.) that you’d like me to cover in future posts?
Until next time – Pfiat eich! (That’s a colloquial Bavarian way of saying ‘goodbye to you all’)