8ung! 8ung! (Achtung! Achtung!)
There’s a faster, more fluent way to text in German.
Just like in English, you wouldn’t want your text messages to sound like they came out of a textbook or a formal letter.
You want to use shortcuts, slang and abbreviations to quickly tap out your text.
We’ll show you how to do that with 11 common German SMS abbreviations that you can use to fit in with native speakers. We’ll also give you some key tips for casual writing in German and even some ways for you to keep practicing on your own.
What Does Informal German Look Like?
Informal German texting and writing involves more than just knowing some SMS abbreviations. Here are some other elements you should incorporate to sound more natural and casual in your German texts.
- Swap the eszett (the letter ß) for “ss.”
- Keep nouns in lower case.
- Not only the spelling style but also the general structure of a sentence will often change when written in an informal way. In the last couple of decades, linguists have been noticing something called Kurzdeutsch (short German) appearing in a lot of online communities.
Take an idea like “I’m at work.” In standard German this would be expressed something like “Ich bin auf der Arbeit.”
But as the article above notes, the shortened form would be “Bin auf Arbeit.” The main idea is easy to understand despite the shortened form. And really, this happens all over the world when people are trying to save space and time with writing.
You might imagine that informal written German would drop the umlauts (ä, ö, ü). However that’s actually not the case, as a letter with an umlaut is entirely different from one without, and the meaning of most words would be different without it.
How to Practice SMS Abbreviations (Even if You Don’t Have a German Friend Right Now)
So how can you practice using German SMS abbreviations naturally?
The obvious choice is to find a German language exchange partner to text with. There are four big communities where you can text message with native speakers, and quite a few more that aren’t quite popular enough to list here.
- iTalki doubles as a paid tutoring resource apart from the free video, voice and text exchanges. It’s one of the largest language tutoring and exchange communities online with tons of German speakers looking to improve their written English in exchange for helping you practice.
- WeSpeke has a nice large community and a social-network setup to find new partners based on common interests.
For instance, you can answer some questions about books or travel to see who else might be familiar with those things.
- Hellolingo also boasts a large community with multiplayer language-based games, in addition to text chats.
- HelloTalk is a mobile platform designed like WhatsApp. It’s easy to find and add people, so don’t be surprised if you end up with more chat partners than you can count!
When you get a language partner, pay attention to how they write and do your best to copy it. Of course, most people will want to write formally in order to avoid teaching others bad habits.
However, all you need to do is tell them that you’re interested in having “native-like” chat writing and encourage them to write as they would to their own friends. They’ll catch on, especially if you start using the Kurzdeutsch correctly and accurately.
Outside of language exchanges, you can find tons of informal German abbreviations in online message boards or comment sections.
On YouTube, you can browse the most popular videos by country—here are the channels for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Just scroll through the comments section. Tons of people watch YouTube on their phones, so you’ll find plenty of Abkürzungen (abbreviations) there.
Another favorite is the massive online community forum at mädchen.de. Despite the name (mädchen — girl), it’s a forum for all young people and it’s stayed active for more than 10 years. Scroll through some of the posts and start to pick up the language as it really gets used online.
If you can’t get enough casual German practice, the videos on FluentU are the perfect next step. You’ll hear German the way native speakers really use it.
You can learn new words and expressions while you watch, thanks to FluentU’s interactive subtitles: Just hover over any unfamiliar word or phrase to get instant definitions, pronunciation and additional usage examples. Every video has its own vocabulary lists, transcripts, flashcards and fun quizzes, helping you get the most out of the authentic German media.
To get started picking up German slang, check out this very silly scientific experiment to find the longest praline candy in the world. You can explore the full library for free with a FluentU trial.
How to Decode 11 Essential German SMS Abbreviations
hdl (hab dich lieb) — I love you
This is actually a further contraction of ich hab(e) dich lieb. It’s a way to express that you’re really fond of someone in a platonic way—that you value their friendship, in other words.
mMn (meiner Meinung nach) — In my opinion
Just like in English, this phrase can be used at the beginning of the sentence or at the end. You’ll sometimes see it without capitalization: mmn.
No, nothing fell on the keyboard. They’re just stating their opinion.
zl;ng (zu lang; nicht gelesen) — tl;dr (too long; didn’t read)
A perfect calque of the English term, typically used to refer to a very long message online.
The full German phrase would be, Es war zu lang, also habe ich es nicht gelesen. (It was too long, so I didn’t read it.) And yet, there’s something far more elegant about condensing it to four letters, no matter the language.
nix (nichts) — nothing
The letter X isn’t used a whole lot in German, but when it is, it usually appears in nix.
This usage has even crept into spoken German because it’s quite a bit easier to say “nix” than to carefully pronounce “nichts.”
eh (ehe) — anyway, before, when
Weißt du eh nicht (You don’t know anyway)
n/ne/nem (ein, einem) — a/an
This is one step less formal from the now-commonplace contractions like zu + dem = zum (to + the = to the).
Also eigentlich hab ich ne brille aber ich trage immer Kontaktlinsen. (So actually I have glasses but I always wear contact lenses.)
ggf (gegebenenfalls) — as the case may be
Habt ihr jemals einen Star in dem Büro gesehen? Oder ggf in der Schule? (Have you ever seen a celebrity in the office? Or, as the case may be, at school?)
va (vor allem) — above all, especially
This one sometimes appears with a period, v.a. That’s a clue that it’s actually a more established abbreviation than some of the others on this list. After all, nobody speaking English writes L.O.L. when texting.
You can find v.a. in even the most formal German writing, including political speeches and scientific writing.
bzw (beziehungsweise) — or, respectively
Here’s another one that’s so commonplace it appears in everyday writing, not just the informal stuff in texts or online.
Das Wort hier ist veraltet bzw umgangssprachlich. (This word here is outdated and even slangy.)
siw (soweit ich weiss) — for all I know
Das ist siw die Wahrheit. (For all I know, that’s the truth.)
kp, kd (kein Problem, kein Ding) — no problem, it’s nothing
You’ll see kp a lot more in texts or instant messages than online comments. It’s a great quick response for when someone says danke, though it may come off a bit brusque depending on the context.
Keep your eyes open, start texting with German speakers and make the choice to read more and more German online. You’ll pick it up German SMS abbreviations just as the locals do.
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