berlin-slang

Ich bin ein Berliner: 23 Shiny Berlin Slang Words to Know!

Juten Tach! 

You respond: “Excuse me?”

Your Berliner friend was apparently greeting you, but you remember that your textbook said that to say “Good Day,” you should say “Guten Tag,” not “Juten Tach.”

This is the day-to-day language in Berlin, which you’re not taught in your online language course or during your summer school program.

In fact, Juten Tach is Guten Tag; it’s simply the written form of the way a person with a Berlin accent would pronounce Guten Tag, which later became a typical way to say “Hello” in Berlin.

Because you don’t want to face such a Schlamassel (difficult situation) in the future, you need to start learning a few basic Berlin slang words. And I’m talking words that are completely different from Standard German, not just words that are pronounced with a different accent.

Practicing your Berlin slang here and there will also help you easily connect with locals and impress your German friends.

At the beginning, you might have a hard time memorizing words. But if you use the following strategies, learning new slang expressions will be easy and as addictive as downing a Berliner Weisse mit Schuß (a light, Berlin-style wheat beer with a shot of syrup).

Learn a foreign language with videos

How to Memorize Berlin Slang Words

Make online friends from Berlin

Language exchange apps such as HelloTalk and LingoPal will allow you to connect with friends from Berlin who are looking for a language partner. After setting up your account and picking German as your target language, use the search tool to find prospective language partners from Berlin.

Personally, I’ve contacted tons of people who are interested in learning French or Arabic (which I speak fluently) and ended up with a list of about 30 wonderful friends with whom I’ve had Skype video calls and long WhatsApp conversations.

Sometimes people are very busy and you may get ignored, but don’t take it personally. Keep contacting other members and approaching them in different ways until somebody gets back to you.

Keep in mind that the more similar your interests are to your language partner’s, the more likely you are to have frequent conversations and a long-term friendship with them. You can also use language exchange website, italki, to find native speakers in Berlin and schedule some time to chat with them.

You can either find someone to do a language exchange with you for free (half the time you speak German, half the time you speak English) or a paid private German tutor to give you a more professional touch (and spend less time speaking English).

Visit Berlin to get some practice

Millions of people visit the crowded German capital every year. To break into Berlin’s community and make new local friends, you can attend language exchange meetups. There you can find Germans who might be interested in learning your native language, while teaching you some Berlin slang vocab in return.

Keep in mind that while you’re trying to find the right people, so are others, and it’s good to follow a few unspoken rules. Be nice and be sociable, asking about others and not just talking about yourself, and remember, other people are just as afraid to say “Hi” as you are, so they may feel fuddled or say some silly things at first. Be patient, and if the meetup is going well, kindly ask them for contact information and discuss the possibility of scheduling another meeting.

Use flashcards

To master new words perfectly, many language students use handmade flashcards that consist of writing down the new words on one side and their explanation or translation on the other side.

Although flashcards might take more time than other classic memorization techniques, they’re scientifically proven to be effective because they engage a mental faculty called active recall.

And let’s be realistic: if you don’t have time to make your own flashcards, you can always use some excellent flashcard apps to help you learn German. They’re not as customizable as homemade ones, but they’ll get the job done.

Download Anki

Anki is a spaced-repetition flashcard program that allows you to create virtual flashcards that ease memorization. It’s proven to be an effective method that’s more efficient than traditional study methods, especially as Anki supports numerous flashcard formats including images, audio and videos.

Spaced repetition consists of repeating words and expressions over spaced intervals. According to research published in Psychology Today by a group of professors at the University of Toronto, using spaced repetition to learn new vocabulary “enhances your ability to remember the information later.”

Watch authentic videos on FluentU

You can pick up new slang words and other useful vocab just by listening to native German speakers. FluentU takes this a step further by adding useful study features that’ll ensure you really learn every new word you come across.

That’s because FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

Since this is the content that native German speakers actually watch, you get the chance to experience how modern German is spoken in real life.

Here’s just a brief example of the variety of content you’ll find on FluentU:

berlin-slang

Watching a fun video, but having trouble understanding it? FluentU helps you get comfortable with everyday German by combining all the benefits of complete immersion and native-level conversations with interactive subtitles.

This way, you get German immersion online without ever worrying about missing a word.

berlin-slang

Just tap on any subtitled word to instantly see an in-context definition, usage examples and a memorable illustration to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to your vocabulary list for later review.

berlin-slang

Once you’ve watched a video, you can use FluentU’s quizzes to actively practice all the vocabulary in that video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.

Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and review words and phrases with convenient audio clips under Vocab.

berlin-slang

FluentU will even keep track of all the German words you’ve learned, then recommend videos and ask you questions based on what you already know. Plus, it’ll tell you exactly when it’s time for review. Now that’s a 100% personalized experience!

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.

23 Colorful Berlin Slang Words to Talk Like a Local

Now that we know how to learn Berlin slang words, let’s actually learn some!

For each word, we’ll see a simple definition, an explanation and an example of the word being used in a sentence. I’ll also include an equivalent word or phrase in Standard German.

1. Alki

Meaning: Alcoholic

Standard German Equivalent: Alkoholiker

Alki refers to people who are known for drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

Ich bin kein Alki, aber ich trinke Bier jeden Samstag.

(I’m not an alcoholic, but I drink beer every Saturday.)

2. Atze

Meaning: Brother or friend

Standard German Equivalent: Bruder oder Freund

Usually, Atze is used in Berlin to describe a friend or acquaintance in the same clique.

Hey Atze, was geht?

(Hey buddy, what’s up?)

3. Bammel

Meaning: Fear

Standard German Equivalent: Angst

In Berlin, Bammel describes the feeling of doubt, fear and uncertainty.

Ich hab’ Bammel, dass ich’s nicht schaff’. Das Schulprogramm ist in diesem Jahr schwer.

(I’m afraid that I won’t be able to do it. The school program this year is hard.)

4. Birne

Meaning: Head

Standard German Equivalent: Kopf

In Standard German, Birne means pear. In Berlin, it refers to the head when talking slang.

Ich hab’ Birne schmerzen. Ich soll den Arzt sehen.

(I have a headache. I should see the doctor.)

5. Brett

Meaning: Door

Standard German Equivalent: Tür

Brett is used to describe doors, especially those in a house.

Mach’s Brett ran. Es gibt zu viel Lärm draußen.

(Close the door. There’s too much noise outside.)

6. Futsch

Meaning: Broken

Standard German Equivalent: kaputt

In other German slang expressions, the adjective kaputt is usually replaced with weg. Although weg is still used in Berlin, Berliners also say futsch to describe things that are broken.

Mein Auto ist futsch

(My car is broken.)

7. Helle

Meaning: Clever

Standard German Equivalent: schlau

Helle is an adjective that describes clever, intelligent people, especially in academics.

Du bist helle. Eine 1 in Mathe ist nicht einfach.

(You’re clever. An A+ in math isn’t easy.)

8. Ick

Meaning: I

Standard German Equivalent: ich

Ick, just like Juten Tach, is a slang word that’s based on the Berlin accent. It’s pronounced like “ich” in Standard German.

Example: Ick hab heute nüscht zu tun. Vielleicht gucke ick Netflix an.

(I have nothing to do today. Maybe I’ll watch some Netflix.)

9. Kaff

Meaning: Hicksville

Standard German Equivalent: Ortschaft

In Berlin, Kaff means a small, suburban village that’s not interesting and which is isolated from urban areas and cities.

Example: Ich wohne in einem Kaff. Hier ist es echt langweilig.

(I live in a hicksville. It’s very boring here.)

10. Kröten

Meaning: A little money

Standard German Equivalent: ein wenig Geld

In Standard German, Kröten means “toads.” But in Berlin, along with its formal meaning, Kröten also refers to money, especially in small amounts.

Example: Gerade hab ick keine Kröten. Kannst du mir ein paar Euros leihen?

(I have no money right now. Can you lend me a few euros?)

11. Karacho

Meaning: Fast

Standard German Equivalent: schnell

In Berlin, Karacho means quickly or fast. It always follows the word mit when used in a sentece.

Example: Er bretterte mit Karacho über die Autobahn. Er ist fast von einem Auto getroffen.

(He quickly tore along the highway. He almost got hit by a car.)

12. Sich kabbeln

Meaning: To squabble

Standard German Equivalent: sich streiten

Kabbeln is a Berlin slang verb that describes actions such as squabbling, arguing and fighting. It’s usually used to describe minor, short altercations.

Example: Die Brüder Markus und Lukas kabbeln sich oft.

(The brothers Markus and Lukas fight each other very often.)

13. Lulatsch

Meaning: Beanpole; a tall man

Standard German Equivalent: ein Großer Mann

Lulatsch is an adjective that refers to tall, thin individuals.

Example: Neben mir saß ein Lulatsch.

(Next to me sat a beanpole.)

14. Mampfen

Meaning: To smack

Standard German Equivalent: schmatzen

Mampfen is used to describe eating with noisy and annoying lip movements.

Example: Du sollst beim Essen nicht so mampfen!

(You shouldn’t smack your lips while eating!)

15. Nasenfahrrad

Meaning: Glasses

Standard German Equivalent: Brille

Nasenfahrrad means “nose bike” when literally translated into English. It’s an ironic way to describe glasses in Berlin slang.

Example: Ich trage ein Nasenfahrrad seit 2015.

(I’ve worn glasses since 2015.)

16. Pampig

Meaning: Cheeky or sassy

Standard German Equivalent: frech

Pampig is an adjective used to describe someone who’s direct, sassy and bold.

Example: Seine Schwester wurde richtig pampig

(His sister got really sassy.)

17. Pladdern

Meaning: To rain heavily

Standard German Equivalent: heftig regnen

When raining heavily, the verb Berliners use to describe the weather is pladdern, as it’s shorter than the Standard German equivalent, heftig regnen.

ExampleEs pladderte die ganze Woche lang.

(It rained heavily all week long.)

18. Piepel

Meaning: Young man

Standard German Equivalent: kleiner Junge

Piepel means a young man, and usually indicates an active, hard-working youth.

Example: Ihr Sohn ist ein netter Piepel.

(Your son is a nice young man.)

19. Rammdösig

Meaning: Stupid

Standard German Equivalent: dumm

Rammdösig is usually used to describe someone who is stupefied and unable to form clear thoughts.

Example: Mensch, sei nicht rammdösig! 1 plus 1 ist gleich 2.

(Man, don’t be stupid! 1 plus 1 equals 2.)

20. Stiefeln

Meaning: To walk [with far-reaching steps]

Standard German Equivalent: [mit weit ausgreifenden Schritten] gehen

Stiefeln means walking with slow and far-reaching steps.

Example: Ich soll zum Bahnhof stiefeln um meinen Freund zu treffen.

(I should walk to the train station to meet my boyfriend.)

21. Spack

Meaning: Thin

Standard German Equivalent: dünn

Spack ist an adjective that is used in Berlin to describe skinny, weak and thin people.

Example: Seine Freundin? Sie sieht schrecklich spack aus.

(His girlfriend? She looks terribly thin.)

22. Stampe

Meaning: Pub

Standard German Equivalent: Kneipe

Stampe is a slang word used to describe small, cheap, local pubs in Berlin. 

Example: Die neue Stampe an der Ecke ist echt toll.

(The new pub on the corner is really great.)

23. Schlamassel

Meaning: Difficult situation

Standard German Equivalent: schwierige Situation

In Berlin slang, Schlamassel is used to in difficult and troublesome circumstances.

ExampleDa haben wir den Schlamassel

(There we have the mess!)

 

Now that we’ve discovered 23 Berlin slang words and the best ways to memorize them, it’s up to you to start studying them.

You’ll get addicted to slang words once you start learning them—trust me!


Yassir Sahnoun is a writer, polyglot and co-founder of WriteWorldwidethe go-to resource for freelance writers whose first language isn’t English. You can learn more about Yassir at his website.

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