When I read the Germans' writing on Facebook such as when commenting on news by Spiegel or Bild or any other posts, I do not notice a big difference from standard German in terms of spelling or tenses or even use of words. Am I correct to some extent? Is not writing there supposed to be more 'colloquial'? Why don't they write the same way they speak for example changing the original spelling?

In comparison to Arabic used on FB for example, it looks like a completely different language! I can imagine that only a very few words would pass without some modification. We as Arabic native speakers write on FB exactly how we speak in reality. Am I making here a valid point or the German language on FB is very distinct from the standard one but I do not happen to see the big difference yet?

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    I'm not sure, whether the main part of this question is covered by German Language, socio-linguistics and psychology seem also to be involved. The distinction may be similar (but stronger) to the difference between spoken and written language.
    – guidot
    Sep 2, 2018 at 10:53
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    Some such posters eschew all capital letters, and some post in slang or regional dialects. Sep 2, 2018 at 18:53
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    I think you can't take news sites as a source for colloquial speech. People posting there want to seem intelligent and (try to) write accordingly. Overall, comments on Facebook are not the best place to look for that, they are public and people don't want to be called out on their orthographic skills in public...
    – Dirk
    Sep 3, 2018 at 8:57
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    I'm from Lower Saxony, so I mostly speak standard written German. Someone I now is from the UK and lives in the north of Italy, in one of the few "German-speaking" villages. He tries to learn German, but finds it very hard because of the strong dialect they speak. For laughs, he has shown me the WhatsApp chat groups with his friends from where he lives. They all write their dialect, there are no rules for how to transliterate pronunciation and I do not understand more than a few words when reading that. Often I wouldn't even get what the messages are about.
    – simbabque
    Sep 3, 2018 at 10:13
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    @DirkLiebhold I don't really use facebook but if I read comments on tagesschau.de, I see an astonishing number of grammar and punctuation mistakes.
    – user6495
    Sep 3, 2018 at 11:25

5 Answers 5


I grew up near Graz, in the south-east of Austria. The first language that I learned when I was a little child was the local dialect. This dialect has no genitive case, dative and accusative case are often merged into one case, the vocabulary is sometimes different, and the pronunciation is also very different.

When I was 6, I entered school and did not only learn how to write, I also learned a different pronunciation for the already well known words, for some words I learned new synonyms, I learned about genitive case, and how to make a difference between dative and accusative case.

But the most important thing: When we were writing, we always and only had to write in the standard language, that was some kind of new language to me. This is the normal way how Children learn how to write. No child learns how to write dialect. So, we German native speakers are all used to write only in standard language, which is ok for most of us, because colloquial speech is not that far away from the standard.

There are no rules for orthography of dialects. My Grandfather Christian Schölnast was an author, and he also wrote a book in Mundart. ("Mundart" is synonym for dialect with an artistic connotation.) (Title of the book: »Warum sih der Hansl nit niedergsetzt hot«.) Although this book is written in the very first language I've learned, and although I still can communicate in this dialect, I find it really hard to read this book, because I'm not used to read German words in another version than in standard German.

There is also the phrase

Er spricht nach der Schrift.
He speaks as written.

This means, that someone is not speaking a dialect. This phrase shows, that most of us make a difference between the written standard German and the spoken local dialect.

This situation is even more extreme in Switzerland, where some years ago people said in a big survey, that about 80 % of the German native speakers in Switzerland feel that Standard German is a foreign language to them. Swiss people use two different variations of German Language: One for writing, and one for speaking.

But since the invention of social media people wanted to communicate with their friends in the same language that they used when they talked to them. And so, Swiss people began to write in their dialect also in social media, and since some years there is even a quasi-standard for orthography of Swiss Dialects.

This is different in Germany and Austria, because the colloquial speech in German and Austria is not so different from the standard as Swiss German.

About Arabic language

I'm not an expert for Arabic language, but as far as I know, there is one standard, that is spoken on the Arabic peninsula (Saudi Arabia and its neighbors), which also is similar to the language of the Quran. But in the countries in the north of Africa, people use variations of this standard Arabic, which sometimes are very different from the standard Arabic language. So the situation there is similar to Switzerland, where people use one language to write official documents, and another variation of the same language to communicate with friends. And in social media they want to use the language for spoken communication, but they have to write it. And so, they are writing in this language, although there are no official orthographic rules for this variation.

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    Thanks a lot for the effort you put in writing this beautiful answer. Actually for the most part, this applies to Arabic as well, as there is a clear distinction between the written language and the spoken one. It's very rare if ever to find a book written with a dialect variety. This is as well the same in that no one in the Arabic world speaks the standard language, for the most part they are not able to do so and feel as if it is a strange language although they all are able to read it easily.
    – user34137
    Sep 2, 2018 at 12:01
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    The answer to my question is mentioned in your answer. It's about how big the difference between the standard and colloquial language. You said that in German it's not much a big difference and maybe that is why I do not notice the distinction. In Arabic on the other hand it is a huge difference and that is why the distinction is clearer in my language.
    – user34137
    Sep 2, 2018 at 12:05
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    For the most part, your information about Arabic is right except that no one in the Arabic world speaks the standard although we all write only with it apart from social media. And that's right what you said that the north African dialects are very hard even for us to understand and I mean by that the Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian dialects in particular not the Egyptian one maybe because the former ones are so influenced by French due to the long time French occupation.
    – user34137
    Sep 2, 2018 at 12:10
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    I agree with everything except with the notion that there is some kind of even a quasi-standard for swiss dialects. Most people I know are happy even to accentuate their dialect in informal writing...
    – Wilbert
    Sep 3, 2018 at 7:26
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    I learned German as a second language (my first language is English), and we were taught the official dialect, and I believe that this is the general practice for all formal language instruction. If a native German wants to be understood by the typical non-native speaker, they will have more success using the official dialect. (In a like manner, all of the books I've seen on Arabic teach Modern Standard Arabic.)
    – EvilSnack
    Sep 3, 2018 at 15:12

Nach den langen und sachkundigen Beiträgen oben, hier eine Antwort, für die fünf Zeilen ausreichen:

Es kommt darauf an, wer schreibt! - Es gibt nicht "das Deutsch in sozialen Medien". Gebildete und schriftsprachlich eloquente Leute schreiben praktisch so, wie sie in einer Zeitung schreiben würden. Jugendliche bestimmter Gruppen schreiben bewusst mit Jargon. Andere Leute schreiben falsch, weil sie es nicht anders können.

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    Thank you. Most answers above including yours are right and comparing only between different varieties/levels of informality of German itself. When I have posted my question I was comparing between two levels of informality (of languages used on FB) present in two different languages. Now I think it is somewhat difficult for a German native speaker who does not have a previous knowledge in Arabic to make this comparison.
    – user34137
    Sep 3, 2018 at 16:58
  • Example, I do not know anything about Chinese, so I can not make valid comparisons to Arabic, but I am fully able to make comparisions for different dialects or registers used in Arabic. That was been going here.
    – user34137
    Sep 3, 2018 at 17:01
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    @Abdullah Yes, I understand this. For example, I am fluent in Bulgarian, and when reading Bulgarian social media entries, I find that Bulgarians use generally "standard" language, although some who are not trained enough in correct writing do write in a more "hand made" manner, closer to spoken language. But there is no such stark difference as you report for Arabic. Sep 3, 2018 at 17:31

Germany alone has a dozen "major" dialects which are only mutually understandable for speakers of adjacent regions. Austria and the German speaking part of Switzerland only extend this problem.

It has existed for at least the past 1000 years and won't go away. Even though Luther and the Grimm Brothers did their best in the manifestation of a common German language. Also, there has been much trade and people moving around Germany for at least the past 200 years. Especially miners and early industrial workers from poor southeast Germany brought their upper German dialects to the industrial regions of northern and western Germany. In that process the Dutch-alike Plattdüütsch variety of German nearly died out while the upper German dialects stick around and new mixed dialects in the north arose.

And that's why German speakers have to settle on a common standard when speaking or writing to unknown people. There are just too many dialects and you limit your audience greatly if you speak/write dialect to an unknown public.

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    Thank you a lot for your answer. I can imagine that. I can say the same thing about Arabic except that on social media I think we tend to express ourselves more with our own 'major' dialects than Germans do with their dialects. One notable difference is that misspelling is the norm for us to go with our own dialectical way of speaking, the thing I don't see in German except rarely.
    – user34137
    Sep 2, 2018 at 15:27
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    Ane, d'haste abbama Glück g'hapt, dat wiadat nüsch machn.Ja, nein, da hast du aber mal Glück gehabt, dass wir das nicht machen.
    – Janka
    Sep 2, 2018 at 15:38
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    @Janka Jo, na, do host oba moi Glick ghobt, dass ma des net mochn. Sep 3, 2018 at 9:49
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    "which are only mutually understandable for speakers of adjacent regions" - not sure how true that is, do you have any references to that/examples?
    – arc_lupus
    Sep 3, 2018 at 13:07
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    @arc_lupus I was raised to speak a mostly dialect free German by my parents. I had trouble understanding the older people in my own village (in Baden-Württemberg). I really had trouble to understand the people from a village roughly 10 km away. And a few years ago, it took me a long time to recognize that someone was actually talking German on a train station in Bavaria. And even now my colleagues use new words for me although I'm just 50 km away from home. ("Schlecks" as a word for marmalade, which I never heard before. "Brötle" as a word for cookies)
    – Arsenal
    Sep 3, 2018 at 14:08

Disclaimer: I hardly use broader social media (like Facebook or Twitter).

From what I see now, Facebook and messengers dilute the German language. Especially younger people, who use these new media a lot, tend to not pay attention to spelling and grammar. While this is probably true in many languages, there seems to be a tendency in German for young people to find certain misspellings appealing.

There are some Youtubers that have started certain trends, and lots of people follow (in the literal sense) them and use these words on the internet as well as in their day to day spoken language. Other social media like popular Facebook groups do this as well.

If you look at the Jugendwort des Jahres vote with the Langenscheidt publisher, who makes dictionaries, you'll see that a lot of them are somehow adopted from English. Last year's winner is I bims, which was meant as a humorous take on young peoples' lack of knowledge about how to use their own language.

Another typical thing is the lack of capitalisation and punctuation, contractions and overuse of emojis. Newspapers like Spiegel would never do that. They write traditional language that is supposed to sounds serious.

I would say that the older generation of internet users (or people in general) does not understand this young slang. To me, it sounds stupid, and reading messages that are written in this way make me think the writer is not very educated.

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    Something is bound to happen when they enter the workforce... Imagine them sending an email to an (important) customer. Sep 3, 2018 at 11:21
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    @Abdullah German is not very forgiving about using the wrong tense or case or person. It will just sound wrong. Sometimes you'll get region stuff as well. The other answers deal with that. For example, to me hearing ich war gegangen gewesen is wrong. The gewesen is like a double past indicator that makes no sense. But to the person from Berlin saying that it's just the way they speak. This has nothing to do with social media though.
    – simbabque
    Sep 3, 2018 at 12:39
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    Oh, another thing I did when I was 15 or 16 and chatting on the computer was just coming up is for example to write net instead of nicht. But now that I can comfortably write with 70 to 80 words per minute on the computer it doesn't really matter any more and I would rather write complete sentences with full words and punctuation. Professionalism might have changed that, too.
    – simbabque
    Sep 3, 2018 at 12:42
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    @PeterMortensen What makes you think they don't know how to write a formal business email? It's just that when chatting with their mates, they use a different linguistic register. Sep 3, 2018 at 14:41
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    @simbabque Well yes. Sloppy language in a CV is very different from sloppy language in a FB post. I have supported throwing out an application because the English was so poor. Sep 3, 2018 at 14:52

It's obvious that every language has its own special features that distinguish it from other languages. This is why it is often said that the comparison between two languages is wrong and one should think only like native speakers when trying to speak the new language. The similarty between Arabic and German is very big especially in terms of declension, grammatical cases, flexibility of words order in a given sentence among many other things.

It looks like that the language itself has an effect on the mentality of the speakers. Some researches have been done on this issue to show how the language affects the way of thinking of the speaker. It is given that in most languages there are major as well as regional dialects; in addition, there are many levels of formality and informality in the written and spoken language. It seems that due to the distinction between Arabic and German, what I as a non-native speaker see more or less colloquial may not be what a native speaker sees. In my opinion, it has to do with psycology as well.

A few objective differences however can be noticed between Arabic and German used on social media; for example, generally speaking Germans tend to avoid misspelling in contrast to Arabic where the misspelling is the norm to fit the way we speak in reality. I can assume that English share German this characteristic as well. I would also assume that maybe the difference between the informal standard language and the standard language is bigger in Arabic in comparison to German. What I mean by the informal standard variety is the language usually spoken on TV or between two completely stangers who have just met, the same language used in lectures in universities and by high status or well educated people. This could be another reason why I see the distinction in Arabic clearer than it is in German.

  • I think the major difference is the Quran is still the authoritative source for "correct" arabic. That makes "correct" arabic a highly artificial language not very close to how people talk everydays, today. In Europe, we have Latin for that purpose, a language no one speaks any more, apart from fixed expressions and scientific names for things.
    – Janka
    Sep 2, 2018 at 21:14
  • The Bible was also copied in Latin through the medieval, until the 16th century, when some monks (including Luther) decided it was time to translate it into the language of the people (by the way, that's what Deutsch means.) WHY? Because Gutenberg's invention of printing with moveable types made books written in Deutsch cheap, and a Latin Bible (though also printed with moveable types by the time) was an anachronism.
    – Janka
    Sep 2, 2018 at 21:16
  • That is a big difference between Arabic and other languages not only German, but I do not see the connection to our main topic of discussion (social media). However, Quran is the source of pure and correct Arabic. Of course nobody can speak like Quran the same way in German or English nobody speaks like a book of proverbs. Quran has saved Arabic through all the previous hundreds of years. Imagine how cool is it to be able to read books written hundreds or thousands of years ago like they are written today.
    – user34137
    Sep 3, 2018 at 3:17
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    Yes, that's why it was so attractive to become literate in Arabic during the medieval. At the same time, most of Europe were illiterates (includes the emperors). But for the very same reason, Luther translated the Bible to Deutsch (the "language of the people"). People should become literate and be able to read the "word of god" in their own language. And this worked, too. People created a whole new religion based on that and Luther's (and other monks') ideas of self-studying the Bible.
    – Janka
    Sep 3, 2018 at 6:07
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    Uh, and today's English speakers can't read old English because it's nearly German. Today's German speakers can read both old English and middle high German (since about 1100) after an adaption phase. Upper German texts from 1500 and afterwards are intelligible to German speakers but beware of old fashioned phrases and spelling. Today's lower German is much harder to read. For everything older than 1000 years, you need to know Latin, but that's still a widely taken school subject in the German speaking countries. (I learned Latin for seven years, and I still don't know why – curiosity?)
    – Janka
    Sep 3, 2018 at 6:14

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