I have recently bought a board game where you play the role of a submarine captain and you have to instruct your crew to move the submarine in one direction: north, south, east or west.

This game can be played in any language and I usually play it in English, so the captain gives orders saying "Head North!".

To make the game a little bit more difficult for the other team, I thought about each team playing in a different language. And since some of my friends are German, this is the option preferred after English.

When I asked my friends how they would translate "Head north", they came up with some options:

  • Kurs Nord
  • Richtung Norden
  • Segeln Norden

My question here is: which will be the best translation to give the orders in German?

It is supposed to be a military submarine captain giving orders, so it should be some naval/military slang and the orders should be given in imperative (the captain is not asking to go north, he is commanding to do so!).

Also should it be Nord or Norden?

  • 5
    You might want to watch "Das Boot". German war drama about submarine U-96 during World War II. I think next to a full documentary or joining the navy this might be the next best thing to getting military style commands on a german submarine... although there are some points of criticism about how the actors portray the german sub crew.
    – Adwaenyth
    Oct 5, 2016 at 13:43

1 Answer 1


Formally, course is not commanded using compass directions (north, south, east, west) in mil-speak, too long and too easy to mis-interpret. You rather give the course in degrees, 0° heading north, going clockwise 90° east, 180° south and so on. So in a proper military order, the terminology would be

Neuer Kurs: 0 Grad!

Or, even more snappy:

Kurs 000! (null-null-null)

See here: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kommandos_in_der_Schifffahrt

[Neuer] Kurs Nord! and Richtung Norden! would be fine, auf Nordkurs gehen as well, but don't really sound professional. The "German friend", however, who proposed "Segeln Norden" should undergo a thorough background check - He might be spying for some foreign power, because that is definitely not German.

  • 9
    +1 deserved for the last two sentences ^_^
    – Stephie
    Oct 5, 2016 at 12:05
  • 6
    Also, "segeln" is specifically the act of navigating a ship with sails, so it's completely nonsensical on a submarine.
    – Philipp
    Oct 5, 2016 at 13:18
  • 1
    Thanks, very helpful answer. By the way if someone was curious about which game I'm talking about, it's a board game called Captain Sonar.
    – Elerium115
    Oct 5, 2016 at 15:29
  • 1
    If I recall my "commands to the helm" from my time in the US navy you'd generally give a rudder direction, a rudder amount, and a course - so something like "Helmsman! Left standard rudder, steady new course 000" would be a typical command. In German I think this would be something along the lines of "Steuermann! Linke Standard Ruder, stetig neue Kurs 000". Oct 6, 2016 at 3:07
  • All German players I ever saw/heard playing Captain Sonar just said the direction (Nord, Ost, Süd, West) without any command word like head or anything else like that. Dec 11, 2019 at 21:37

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