Sometimes I ask myself how clear a Non-German can understand spoken German when it comes to reductions like

  • hammer / simmer / gehmer - haben wir / sind wir / gehen wir
  • haste / biste / weißte - hast du / bist du / weißt du
  • eimannfrei - einwandfrei
  • ... and many more

Often it's overlaid with the regional dialect. Then hammer can turn to hammor or biste can turn to bischt.

I understand it as appropriations to engl. gonna or wanna.

How far should the German speak accurately and what does the Non-German know from school?

  • 2
    I guess spoken innovations can hardly be taught, since they continue to be created. As a learner, I can tell you that I would have never understood (with a beginner knowledge) the reductions you mention. The same goes for every language, I think those things can come after a good knowledge has been built. Maybe you could divide colloquial speech into categories (kid of innovation with respect to the standard language), in order to understand how much and what can be easily got from non-natives.
    – martina
    Jul 17, 2013 at 15:32
  • 2
    As my foreign-born husband and I have discussed in the past, learning the formal version of a language will never hurt and can only help you sound educated, but it's also good to at least understand the colloquialisms and reductions. It might even help one transition into the culture by using them. Jul 17, 2013 at 16:15
  • I don't know where you live, but just go to another part of Germany where a significant different "German" is spoken and try to understand them and you will get an idea of that.
    – Em1
    Jul 17, 2013 at 19:34
  • 1
    I love to listen to non-native speakers once they are fluent because they usually are crisp-clear and a pleasure to hear because they avoid (or incompetent in using) those colloquialisms and reductions. For me, it is NOT a "good transition" indicator, but more of an artificial (and negative) "look, I can do! Transition completed, yeayh!" posing situation if a non-native speaker talks like this. Jul 18, 2013 at 0:30

1 Answer 1


At least the reduction of "du" to "-te", and "Sie" to "-se" is so widespread in spoken German that every student of the German language likely will hear them as soon as she/he speaks to a native German, or travels to Germany.

They even found their way into the dictionaries (Duden: haste) or became part of a proverb:

"Haste was dann biste was"

Other such reductions may be harder to hear (and thus to learn) as they are heavily influenced by regional dialects. To illustrate this further here is the Swabian variants of "haste" (hast du) and "hamse" (haben Sie):

hasch / hosch / häsch - habetse / hendse / hender (yes this is regionally different even within Swabia)

Such reductions within a dialect will probably be understood by a student of German no less than by a native German who grew up with another dialect. Even Germans will not understand the dialect of another region without practice.

This also is why Germans usually do not actively use reductions from another dialect in speech (e.g. "hammer" will be "ham wa" in Berlin). Therefore I believe it is perfectly fine for a student of the German language (and will mostly go unnoticed) if you did not learn how to use them. It definitely is better to speak accurately.

The same holds true for native Germans talking to learners. You should avoid contractions if you want to be understood but a more advanced learner will likely know about common contractions. After listening to conversations, or when learning by watching movies they will have heard them.

  • There are even people saying "Hassewas, bissewas" without intent. I consider this an indicator of limited education if there is no contextual reason for trashing the language like that. Jul 18, 2013 at 0:32
  • So you're saying it's no problem, as a German, to speak to Non-Germans without avoiding reductions; they are used to it, right? Could you clarify?
    – äüö
    Jul 18, 2013 at 7:17
  • @falkb: oh - I see. Your question was a bit unclear in that (I thought you were asking if a learner should learn or use them) - see edit.
    – Takkat
    Jul 18, 2013 at 7:34
  • No, "...should I speak accurately..." is related to the German speaker. Now I've precised my question.
    – äüö
    Jul 18, 2013 at 8:37

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