Willkommen to another blog post encouraging you to learn German. This time, we’re slinging slang at you.
Picking up a language through colloquial expressions is one of the most fun ways to learn. Of course mastering German slang terms will get you into the most desirable locations. Places like the discotheques of Düsseldorf and the hammams of Stuttgart for starters.
For these reasons and more, we’ve chosen five German slang terms you’re unlikely to come across in any German textbook. Read on!
Jein is a confusing yet satisfying combination of the words ja (“yes”) and nein (“no”). The term expresses indecisiveness, and suggests that the speaker is somewhere between a yes and a no. The term is generally followed by a statement that sets out the pros and cons of a proposal or idea.
An English equivalent might be “kind of”.
Did you know? The term was introduced into everyday German speech by hip-hop band Fettes Brot, in which a man debates if he should cheat on his girlfriend.
– Möchtest du mit mir zu Annas Basketballspiel kommen?
– Also, jein, ich bin mir nicht sicher.
– Do you want to come to Anna’s basketball game with me?
– Well, kind of, I’m not sure.
Not a blend of squash and Quidditch as you might expect, this next commonly-used term has been around for centuries. Quatsch can either refer to something silly or something that is not worth one’s time or attention, or can be used as an interjection to describe a situation which makes no sense or is utterly rubbish (Das ist Quatsch!).
The term actually stems from the verb quatschen which means “to talk nonsense”.
Note: If you’re travelling to Bavaria or Austria, feel free to use its counterpart, Schmarrn. Schmarrn and Quatsch: it’s the buddy cop movie we want to see made.
Example: Lukas redet in letzter Zeit nur Quatsch – kann er mal damit aufhören?
Translation: Lukas is talking nonsense at the moment – can someone make him stop?
Krass is a versatile yet common German slang term and can be used to describe a variety of feelings, from something being fantastic, to being dreadful, disgusting, hilarious… the list goes on. Context is key to use this slang term, as it can either be used in a positive or negative way. However, we wouldn’t recommend using it in front of your university professor or employer.
In English, we would use “whoa!” or the slang term “sick”.
Did you know? The word takes its roots from the Latin word “crassus” which means “gross”.
Example: Hast du schon die Onlinekurse von Gymglish getestet? Die sind krass! Du solltest dich so schnell wie möglich anmelden.
Translation: Have you tried Gymglish’s online courses? They’re sick! You should subscribe ASAP.
Used across all age groups, geil is a tricky one. The most accurate translation of this term would be something along the lines of “terrific”, “cool” or “awesome”. German speakers also use it to compliment on someone’s appearance (similar to the English slang term “hot”). Do not be fooled, as geil also has other meanings – namely “lewd” and “horny”.
Fun fact: German supermarket chain Edeka created a three-minute ad based around the ambiguity of the word geil.
– Ich habe gerade meinen Abschluss an der Universität München gemacht.
– Geil! Lass uns ein Bier trinken gehen.
– I just graduated from the University of Munich.
– Awesome! Let’s grab some beers.
Unrelated to Queen and their falling hammer, this slang term is so optimistic, it may well blow your lederhosen off. Hammer is often used to describe a situation which is cool or outstanding, or to express a feeling or surprise or satisfaction.
Hammer can be used either as an adjective, a noun or a way of intensifying another adjective.
Note: the first meaning of hammer in German translates into English as “hammer” and refers to the same tool.
Example: Der Film war der Hammer.
Translation: The movie was awesome.
Bonus: Ist gebongt
The German phrase ist gebongt is a useful way of showing something has either been decided or agreed upon. Replying to something your German counterpart has said with ist gebongt is a quick and efficient way to indicate the matter has been settled and that you have both come to an agreement.
The most common English equivalents would be “sure”, “righty-o” or “okey-dokey”.
Did you know? Although very scarcely used, the past participle gebongt stems from the verb bongen which means “to ring up” (as in to scan an article at the till).
– Lass uns die Ausgangssperre ab 19 Uhr ignorieren und zu dieser Raveparty gehen.
– Ist gebongt.
– Let’s forget about the 7pm curfew and go to that rave party.
Has this list lived up to your expectations? If you answer “jein”, we feel we’ve done our part. In the meantime, you might want to try our online German course Wunderbla for free for seven days. Short, fun and personalized German lessons to improve your German skills. Geil!