Bavarian is the language of Oktoberfest. A dialect of Southern Germany, this funny Dutch-sounding lingo is infused with the gemütlichkeit and oldy-worldy lore of this most traditional part of Germany. It’s great fun to try and get your tongue around after a few Maß!
In this post:
Find out more about Bavarian and German Dialects
Learn your key Phrases for Oktoberfest
Take our Crash Course in Bavarian
Germany is rich in regional dialects. Much more than just an accent, a dialect is close to being a totally separate language – largely unintelligible to outsiders. In the UK most of our dialects died out in the second half of the twentieth century. Not so in Germany where nearly all the regional dialects have survived into the modern world. Bavarian is one of the strongest of all, still spoken widely in South West Germany and Austria.
And it is, of course, Bavarian that is associated with Oktoberfest. It’s the language the Alps: of beer drinking, leather shorts and floral dirndls. Many people mistake it for Dutch, but in truth, it’s a lot harder to understand even than that. Find out for yourself…
Munich residents are great beer drinkers and the more they drink, the more likely they are to slip into speaking Bavarian. At the yearly beer festival you can hear the unique dialect being spoken everywhere. It’s a sound synonymous with tracht (the old fashioned costumes worn at the fest) and beer.
Wiesen is the slang name for one of the Oktoberfest (and yes, it is pronounced like ‘reason’ with a ‘w’). Wiesen literally translates as ‘meadow’ and it refers to the large open area in the city where Munich first got together to celebrate the marriage of Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810 and where they have been sitting down to celebrate pretty much every year since. What started in the Bavarian capital 200 years ago has spread around the globe and now millions sit down to celebrate the beer harvest and get to know each other in many different languages.
There are now so many mini-Oktoberfests all over the world, that it could be happening in any language from German to Mandarin!
Oktoberfest is a fantastic moment to practise your language skills and hone your skills for making small talk. Giving you the confidence to make friends at an Oktoberfest beer bench, or indeed anywhere else where you want to chat with local people. Pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable and have a go. Here are some of the phrases you’ll need
Wie komme ich zur Wiesen?
How do I get to the Wiesen?
Wiesen actually means field or meadow in German and it refers to the area in Munich where the festival takes place, Theresienwiese (Therese’s field). It’s the very field where a little over 200 years ago Princess Therese of Saxony married Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and the whole town got drunk in celebration. They enjoyed it so much, they’ve yet to forget an anniversary!
Noch ein bier, bitte
Another beer please.
In 2014 there were over 65 million litres of beer sold in the two weeks of the Oktoberfest. That’s enough to fill 2.5 Olympic sized beer halls!
Welches Zelt gefällt Ihnen am besten?
Which tent do you like best?
The Oktoberfest all takes place inside massive tents, each run by one of the big breweries of Munich and each with its own distinctive beer, music and atmosphere.
Halt deine Lederhosen fest!
Hold on to your Lederhosen!
Lederhosen are the funny leather shorts that locals of Bavaria are so famous for wearing. One pair of lederhosen can last you a lifetime, so try not to lose them!
Die nächste Runde zahlen Sie!
The next round’s on you!
Don’t worry, this will never actually be said to you at Oktoberfest. In Germany people don’t buy rounds. Everybody pays for their own beer which, considering it costs well over €10 for a big beer, is perhaps just as well.
Language learner, teacher and contributing author to the Rosetta Stone magazine
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