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If I want to learn the German language, which dialect should I learn?

In other words, I would like to know about the dialect which is most common?

(I have just arrived in Germany and living in Bavaria for the next 2 years at least, I am currently at level B1)

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    You preferably learn standard German but get used to the Bavarian dialect as well (which will happen either way if you're living there for two years). – Em1 Apr 21 '13 at 17:33
  • Possible duplicate: german.stackexchange.com/questions/5808/… – Eugene Seidel Apr 21 '13 at 22:26
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    Don't try to learn Bavarian, try to understand it. Your aim should be to speak normal standard German, every Bavarian will understand you, they are bilingual. – rogermue Oct 22 '14 at 6:53
  • My mother (now age 96) from Brooklyn had Plattdeutsch spoken in her home when young. All relatives from Low Saxony. She was led to believe this was a dialect from Frisia, therefore some Dutch, and the dialect was felt to represent a poor form of the German language. It was called "Low" German, likely in reference to the lowlands of Saxony and the nearby Netherlands. My question in this discussion: what form is Rosetta Stone? – Mark Bauer Oct 25 '14 at 22:41
  • @Mark-Bauer Rosetta Stone and most other plattforms try teaching Modern High German, "Hochdeutsch", or Standard German, which is mostly synonymous, but perhaps a little less strict. I wouldn't say I could speak Hochdeutsch, and my attempt to emulate it is standard. Since hoch does not imply highlands, the lowlands interpretation might be wrong. I have come to assume that hoch implies contract, official, policy (höflich "courteous, polite"? Hochkultur?), but I forgot the derivation. Likewise uncertain, I found low might have meant basically old, think "hand me down. – vectory Feb 6 at 5:45
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Hochdeutsch is the description for the contemporary standard version of German, they way the language is usually written and spoken. Therefore, it is also the easiest variation to learn, because if you look for exercise books, they will cover most probably Hochdeutsch instead of a dialect.

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    Well, I don't thinkt, that there German classes other than Hochdeutsch. Even here in Bavaria. All the dialects are 'only' spoken, there's no offical writing for none of them. – Christian Graf Apr 22 '13 at 12:21
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    In some Swiss dialects, there are rules for writing, but they are rarely used. – gamag May 27 '13 at 19:04
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    @ChristianGraf Asterix in Mundart is written in dialect. (Please check your spelling.) – Robert Aug 21 '14 at 20:01
  • @ChristianGraf, there is definitely a Kölsch-to-German dictionary. And I own half a dozen records with lyrics written in Kölsch, with translations into German. – gnasher729 Aug 25 '14 at 11:58
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    At Christian Graf - There is a lot of literature in Bavarian dialect, even poetry, there are dictionaries and there is even a short grammar by Merkle, Bavarian Grammar. – rogermue Oct 22 '14 at 6:57
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The (rare) dictionaries and grammar books for German dialects exist for reasons of a) research b) entertainment. They are not used for teaching classes (isolated exceptions not considered).

You will have to search very long to even find classes to teach you dialect. Yes, there are some, e.g. I know that municipal adult education centres (Volkshochschulen) in Northern Germany sometimes offer Plattdeutsch classes, and i would suppose that you might find something like this also in other dialect-loving regions. But this is again rather for entertainment and to some extent also for preserving cultural heritage.

If you ever consider attending some course like this, be aware that they will teach it in a contrastive way, i.e. based on the standard language (Hochdeutsch). So, standard German is the first thing to learn.

Being able to understand and even actively use dialect may, however, be really useful when you happen to live in a dialect-prone region and want to socialize with people who live a very local lifestyle: live and work where they were born and raised. They might be actually close to unable to use standard German in oral communication (in writing they use standard German still), or feel very uncomfortable using it, and would be much more open to people speaking to them in their dialect. So, that could be a motivation to actively learn a dialect.

The problem is that these dialects are not standardized (well, they are dialects), meaning that e.g. Swabian in the village of Schweinhausen will be noticably different from Swabian in the village of Äpfingen 20 kilometres away (I just picked some villages, there is nothing special to them). So people will always instantly understand that you are not from their immediate area.

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The best, in my opinion, is to learn Hochdeutsch first, and then as much as you can of the dialect of the place where you live.

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Right, you will have to learn the standard written German, that the Germans pronounce very differently according to the region where they come from - this standard or Hochdeutsch is "spiced up" with a lot of dialect words added and pronounced somewhat differently from what the written version. It can be quite hard to understand especially the Bavarian dialect (although the Bavarians will always understand you speaking standard "high" German), with the Swiss German the case is even worse, which I (being a German teacher myself) cannot really understand without difficulty. Also some people will make fun of you, speaking strong dialect to make you look stupid. Yes, there is something called "German humor" ! Don´t worry: Ask them politely to speak slower and they will, after some months you will be OK !

  • I doubt that this answer is useful. It does not add new facts to the already given answer, and your good advice will likely be a bit late, 16 months after the question was raised. – Matthias Aug 21 '14 at 20:46
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    @Matthias: It does add new aspects, however in a very unstructured manner. Considering the late advice: This question is of general interest (as all questions should be), so this does not matter. – Wrzlprmft Aug 22 '14 at 11:52

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