Facebook iconTwitter icon

Oxford German Network banner image

Oxford German Olympiad 2017


The Borrowers: German loanwords in English

English has borrowed German words in all kinds of areas. Some of these have become a natural part of everyday English vocabulary (angst, kindergarten, sauerkraut), while others are primarily intellectual, literary or scientific (WaldsterbenWeltanschauungZeitgeist), or used in specialist fields, such as “gestalt” in psychology, or “aufeis” and “loess” in geology. Some of these German words are used in English because there is no true English equivalent, as is the case with gemütlich or schadenfreude.

What other loanwords can you think of? Click on the wordcloud above to learn more German loanwords in English!

German in Switzerland

“Swiss German” varies from region to region and there is no such thing as a standard spelling. So every writer of Swiss German can, to some extent, create his or her own language, which is dependent on the precise location of the writer. Today, poems are increasingly being written in dialect again, especially by spoken word artists and slam poets. Find out about some great modern Swiss poets and watch them perform their poetry here!

Why not try learning some Swiss German phrases? Take a look at this glossary of easy and useful phrases - and if you need some help with pronunciation, check out this video of basic greetings in Swiss German.

Mundartliteratur - Dialect literature

Dialektliteratur or Mundartliteratur is characteristically composed in the dialect of a specific region instead of standard or High German.

The Austrian poet HC Artmann is probably most famous for his early poetry collection, which he wrote in Viennese dialect, although he also wrote a great deal in standard German. His collection, med ana schwoazzn dintn (meaning “mit einer schwarzen Tinte”/“with a black ink”), was published in 1958. Many of his Viennese poems are characterised by grotesque, sometimes morbid imagery and themes, like the poem in this link. He shows that poetry written in German dialects are far from "quaint" or less formally and thematically ambitious.

Find out more about HC Artmann's poetry and read some samples of his work here! H.C. Artmann is also part of Round 2 of the Olympiad! To find out more, read the entry guidelines and the poems here (you'll need to submit your entry here).

Native German-speakers all over the world!

The model Heidi Klum now hosts a number of TV shows in the USA, perhaps most notably the fashion design competition Project Runway, where she is known for eliminating candidates by saying “Auf Wiedersehen”. In fact, “to be auf’d” has now established itself as a synonym of “to be fired”, at least on the show.

Jürgen Klopp, formerly the very successful and expressive football coach of German club Borussia Dortmund, is now having a good time in Liverpool! And of course you’ll find German football players all over the world.

But how many of these other native German-speakers who left their home country to live and work elsewhere have you heard of? Fritz Lang (film producer), Carl Laemmle (founder of Universal Studies in California), Matt Frei (journalist and newsbroadcaster), Martin Roth (former director of the V&A museum), Arnold Schwarzenegger (former bodybuilder, ‘actor’ and governor of California), Marlene Dietrich (actress, cabaret artist, singer), Romy Schneider (actress), Diane Kruger (actress), Christoph Walz (actor), Daniel Brühl (actor), Nina Hagen (singer), Nico (singer), the British Royal Family, Liselotte von der Pfalz, Theodor Adorno (philosopher), Albert Einstein (physicist), W.G. Sebald (writer), Hans Holbein (artist),... Can you think of any more?