3

I'm planning to go in Stuttgart. For work, but as importantly to learn Deutsch so as to be fluent. (I self-evaluate only as A2).

I have discovered that Baden-Württemberg has a dialect which is strong and that they are really proud of: to the extent that I have read there is a swab proverb "We can do everything, except Hochdeutsch".

Would you advise against my going to Stuttgart if my aim is to be fluent in Standard German Hochdeutsch ? In clear:

  • Will I learn Standard German if I go to live in Stuttgart ?

I am asking, because I was Alsacian most of my youth, and the Elsässisch dialect (which I had not learnt at the time, and which was strongly a community-centered/driven way of communicating), was pretty different from German, though sounding similar.

I am really fearing to learn a non standard way of speaking German if I spend a certain time in Baden-Württemberg. Is this fear grounded or not ?

  • 3
    Not everyone in Stuttgart is a Schwab! – RedSonja Jun 14 at 12:12
  • 2
    With a French background, you will have no problems at all with the swabian nasals ;) – tofro Jun 14 at 13:11
  • After reading and pondering about the two answers, I think this other question's answers is a good complement: german.stackexchange.com/q/866/899 . I was not aware of such local variations: before asking here I thought only Bavarian was not understandable for non local inhabitants... – Stephane Rolland Jun 14 at 19:19
  • 2
    @StephaneRolland You can learn and practice Perfekt Hochdeutsch in any of the DACH regions. Just keep up with your course. – πάντα ῥεῖ Jun 15 at 4:35
9

This question can't exactly be answered with yes or no.

First of all there's a common misconception between Swabian dialect and Swabian accent*. Swabian dialect is really rare nowadays, especially in larger cities like Stuttgart. So you won't have to fear that you'll learn Swabian by accident. However it can be possible that you learn Swabian pronounciation and some regional words like "Weckle".

I work near Rottweil where Swabian dialect and accent is way more common than in Stuttgart and a Syrian colleague of mine definitly does not speak Swabian.

Additionaly Stuttgart is not a small Swabian village. It's a city with people from all over Germany and also all over the world. It's very unlikely that you'll mainly meet Swabians there, so I think your fear is unnecessary.

*Note: Swabian dialect is equally different from German as Dutch is. Some linguistics therefore consider Swabian a language, not a dialect. If you're not from southern Germany you won't understand a single word of a Swabian talking. But most people when they talk about Swabian reffer to the accent, or as Mr. Geiselmann wrote: "A very peculiar pronunciation of Hochdeutsch"

5

Self answer: in a nutshell, it's perfectly fine.

I went to Stuttgart and have happened to interact with a diverse range of persons.

With some people the accent is really really strong, but that's okay. Sometimes it just need to make them repeat; just saying to be learning German is sufficient for them to repeat gently.

In general (in the stores, in the streets, in the train station) not all people have this strong accent. None had this accent at the Scientific University.

So, the answer is that my fear was totally un-grounded. All the answers here have helped me reducing this fear to zero.


I was not thinking I could identify a German accent, and I clearly can. Nonetheless I would not be able to differenciate the Bayerisch accent from the Swäbisch accent: they share the same drift from Hochdeutsch, according to my novice ear.

There's been only one person that would not switch from dialect to German, and it was perfectly fine, because it was an annoying slightly drunk and aggressive person with whom I would not have enjoyed conversation.

Indeed I had already been there: I was not remembering, I had gone to several German cities with totally insufficient german skills and for really short time. Maybe that had strengthened my fear at the time.


More Off-topic: The city has a lot of trees, and is surrounded by forest. It's a really beautiful city. Really.

Now, that makes me think that I could even try going to Münich - it was out of question because I had been traumatized by audio contents I could not understand at all/not the slightest during my first try at one/two years of German lessons.

  • 1
    As you have noticed yourself, the level/intensity of dialect/accent depends on factors like age, family background, education, and there are plenty of people in Stuttgart that you understand just fine, but who, to the trained ear, are clearly speaking with some Swabian accent. And there will be some where it’s near impossible to understand them, especially if you venture a little outside Stuttgart. It will be exactly the same in Munich or any other city. Et je pense que c’est aussi le cas en France, par exemple autour de Toulouse ? – Raketenolli 14 hours ago
  • @Raketenolli The parallel has come to my mind. But I could not evaluate/make a comparison. Once my mind adopt/incorporate the understanding of a phoneme assemblage, I just cannot go back to the state when I don't understand it. Although strong, I have never been unable to understand French accents. I would rather make a parallel with American, Scottish, Irish, Australian accents, which to my ear diverge more than French accents. I agree it is totally subjective, but I think it is based on what the ear is trained to recognize: when not recognized it sounds like noise, not like an accent. – Stephane Rolland 14 hours ago
  • And Texan accent for example still sounds like radio-fm-am-noise for me, the interpretation of lots of syllables I just can't get it, though I am totally fine with British, or North-East American accent. – Stephane Rolland 14 hours ago
3

The question is, do you have alternatives?

Stuttgart is definitely not a good place to learn and practice standard German. Ordinary autochthonous pupulation most usually speaks their local form of Swabian, or if they try to avoid it (e.g. when speaking in more formal contexts), their pronunciation of Hochdeutsch is still very peculiar (see e.g. their variations of vowels).

Of course, if you happen to work in some of the larger, international companies, the German used there may be more like standard; that's because their staff will have been recruited from everywhere, not only the narrower region; if not anyway English is lingua franca there.

The use of dialect is also a question of social milieu. In academic circles, standard German will be more common; but then, academics usually are not locals but have come from somewhere else, or have lived quite a time somewhere else and are used to using standard German even if their first language was a dialect.

But even teachers at secondary schools may be sometimes unable to pronounce German the standard way even if they try.

Also, if you have contact to long-term resident immigrant groups (people from Croatia, Serbia, Turkey, Italy, etc. who came in the 1960s and 1970s) who may have adapted very well to the local community, you will find them speaking rather Swabian than standard German; they typically would even not be able to speak "proper" German, because in their everyday live there is no use for it.

As for understanding: that's no problem. Everybody understands standard German because it is the language used in media like TV and Radio.

  • Yes I have alternatives. Stuttgart was simply the easiest choice. For some reasons I don't know, it has clear higher concentration of job offers in a certain domain. I can't explain myself why, but the ratio is a least twice as more as any other city – Stephane Rolland Jun 14 at 10:57
  • 2
    "their pronunciation of Hochdeutsch is still very peculiar" Indeed. Just think of politicians like Winfried Kretschmann or Günther Oettinger. ^^ – miep Jun 14 at 10:58
  • 2
    @StephaneRolland - Perhaps just go there and spend a weekend, and see if you get along with it. - If you search for standard German, Hannover would be a good place (even people with low levels of formal education do speak standard German there). But then... Hannover... uuugh... (I am living there, but I grew up south of Stuttgart) – Christian Geiselmann Jun 14 at 11:00
  • 2
    If someone doesn't like Hannover, Braunschweig is the natural choice then. We hate each other. – Janka Jun 14 at 11:58
  • 4
    I think this answer greatly exaggerates. Most people from the city area will be able to switch to perfectly understandable Hochdeutsch, especially at work and especially with younger people (who will not even need to switch, as, in my experience, the 18-25 generation largely disregards the dialect). – tofro Jun 14 at 19:19
-1

You mentioned you were considering living in or near Stuttgart, but your question title asks about Baden-Württemberg.

First note, that there are at least three different dialects in Baden-Württemberg, that I know of from experience of growin up there. These are

  1. Swabian,
  2. Baden and
  3. Franconian.

Since historically Stuttgart has been the capital of Württemberg, which correlates loosely with the borders for the Swabian dialect, you naturally find the swabian dialect more distinct in residents, especially older ones.

From my experience, @miep is entirely correct pointing out the difference between pronounciation and dialect. The Swabian dialect has a quite unique vocabulary, and a lot of words stem from French. In this dialect, all standard grammatics from Hochdeutsch apply, but speakers tend to use them cautionless.

For example, the sentence

Ich habe mehr Geld als du.

is easily botched by any Swabian into

Ich habe mehr Geld wie du.

which is wrong by all means. Because Swabian speakers understand they are prone to committing this mistake, they overcompensate a lot and write e.g

Wie ich nach Hause ging, sah ich ein Pferd.

instead of

Als ich nach hause ging, sah ich ein Pferd.

This was just about the grammatical structures, let me tell you about special Swabian vocabulary. Just have a look at this wikipedia section. Not that there is no uniform way to write German dialect, so when you have to resort to written German, the only way to go is Hochdeutsch, and every German writer will use it (plus a little local botching as shown above).

The biggest problem for speakers might be the pronounciation, though. Aside from the mentioned regions by other commenters, you might be hard pressed to find a Region in Germany where standard Hochdeutsch is spoken.

The three pronounciation I mentioned all do some ellipsis of vowels at the end of words, and handle at least the pronounciation of "st" and "sp", "sch", "ch" and "t" wildly different.

I can speak here mostly about Swabian. Swabian speakers are aware of their pronounciation, and as such, when they try to speak Hochdeutsch, they overkompensate also in their pronounciation. This leads to even more wrong pronounciation.

I have read this slightly humorous article, and if you understand German, you might find it exhilarating.

Please not that most younger Swabians do not excessively speak or pronounce Swabian. I just recently have been on a trip to Alsace, and I can definitely confirm that Elsässisch is not understandable to a German speaker, while every German I have met was able to understand (although also to recognize instantly) Swabian pronounciation.

Good luck in your decisions.

  • 2
    -1 For suggesting a dialect is a botched version of the standard. – David Vogt Jun 15 at 13:25
  • Nonono. Please point out to me where I suggest a dialect is a botched version of the standard? I said, that [something in Hochdeutsch is] easily botched by any Swabian [...], which indeed is true. In Swabian by its own, this sentence might be fine. The only thing I am suggesting is that dilaect speakers and writers botch the standard language. Please remove your downvote – marc Jun 15 at 14:18
  • I was lead to my interpretation by the preceding sentence: In this dialect, all standard grammatics from Hochdeutsch apply, but speakers tend to use them cautionless. – David Vogt Jun 15 at 15:29
  • This is just my own experience from growing up and living near Stuttgart myself. Some sentences with constructions like "... die, wo ..." are what I refer to as careless, but that is not meant derogatory. – marc Jun 15 at 18:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.