German Hacks

German Hacks Episode 6 – Umgangs- und Jugendsprache

German Hacks

Hi and welcome to a new episode of German Hacks. I’m your host Kirsten Winkler.

This is the second episode about hacking German colloquial language or Umgangssprache as we call it in German.

Funny is that the speakers of Umgangssprache don’t actually call it like that as to them it’s simply the way they speak on a daily basis.

Let’s have a look at the different forms of colloquial German and slang and who are the people who speak these.

1) Anglizismen

Anglizismen refer to the influence of English on German and other languages as well. People who see this influence as a negative thing, call this combination of German and English Denglish – Denglish.

Most funny in this first group are the so called “Scheinanglizismen”. These are words that German believe to be actual English words, but when said to a native English speaker he or she won’t understand, or at least the word has a different meaning in English.
A true classic is the noun das Handy – das Handy which is a cell phone or mobile phone whereas the English handy – something is handy translates to “praktisch” or also “bequem”.

Another one I like is how Germans use Peeling, again a noun das Peeling which is exfoliation to us or also used for body scrub.
A good part of the German population now also translates the English “it makes sense” with “Es macht Sinn” instead of the correct German “Es hat Sinn”. So we’ve switched the verb from haben to machen.

Germans also like to use job titles of English origin such as Facility Manager instead of the simple (maybe too simple) Hausmeister or Key Account Manager für Betreuer wichtiger Kunden.

A third example in this group are verbs of English origin that we now use in German as if they were German and have never been anything else! Let’s take the verb to check – checken in German. As you can see we simply add our usual German -en ending to the verb and would then also conjugate in the traditional way: ich checke, du checkst, er/sie/es checkt and so on. And that’s how an English verb becomes a German one! Its meaning remains almost unchanged.

2) Jugendsprache

Jugendsprache is the mostly oral way how teenagers or young people of different age groups express themselves.
The influence of English is dominant which is for instance represented by the omnipresent “cool”.

Moreover, Jugendsprache is pretty explicit, it exaggerates, provokes and is ironic.

Without really having a function in a sentence, German teenagers constantly use the term “und so” – which I would roughly translate by “you know” (instead of the literal ‘and so’). Also “irgendwie” – somehow/somewhat is pretty popular. Irgendwie can then be combined with other words to express both positive and negative things. Examples that come to mind are terms like irgendwie schön, irgendwie cool or irgendwie scheisse.

Coming back to the verb “checken” I mentioned earlier in this podcast. It’s a favorite of German teens and can be used in various ways.
As a question for example in class: Checkst du das? Do you understand what we have to do? What is the exercise about?
As a recommendation using the imperative “Check das mal!” or also as an insult which is a newly created word “Nullchecker” which describes a person that doesn’t understand anything.

Lastly, teens also create their own words. Some of which are hard to understand and need an explanation but others quickly make their entrance into normal Umgangssprache. For example, “Egosurfen” describes the action of looking for your name on the Internet and “Fail or also epic Fail” is of course a big mistake or failure.

That’s it for this episode of German Hacks. Next time, we’re going to hack German grammar again. That should be fun! You can download this episode and all previous episodes of German Hacks on iTunes or via Until then, tschüss, bye, bye!

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Title Music by: Dan-O at | Undiscovered Oceans

  • Bill Price

    Hi Kirsten. I love these German Hacks Podcasts. Will you be doing more? I hope so. I check back every week for a new one. Thanks for doing what you do to help us with German.

    • Hi Bill. Thanks a lot. I have been pretty busy the past couple of weeks but I am definitely planning to record a new batch of episodes, soon.