“I hob ban Orzt goarbat”

WTF?!


Even if you are a native german speaker it becomes cryptical when you try to get the message behind sentences like this. Nevertheless, all those “mai”s and “samma”s have their origin in the various german dialects. For people from strong dialectic charged areas their idiom conveys a feeling of belongingness and home, for others it might just sound funny.

But how does a strong dialect catch on in business?

Germany is provided with a great variety of different dialects: There are some main ones such as bavarian, saxon or swabian but those can also be further seperated into subcategories. They originate from a large region, city or even just a little village and their development dates back to the middle ages or later. For the regional people, dialects serve as means of representing their home region or home town and shows a kind of special attribute. Nevertheless, strong accents mainly spoken from the rural elderly are often impossible to comprehend.

Des find isch ferschterlisch!

Nowadays, the usage of dialects in business are not generally bedeviled pursuant to Markus Hundt, linguist at the University in Kiel.  Nonetheless, especially in higher positioned jobs, there are always two sides of a coin: On the one hand, a person’s idiom could serve as a secret weapon to make him/her sound authentic. On the other hand, a dialect could damage the person’s respectability and position.
Hence, exercise caution with using your patois in important commercial situations and be aware of its effect: For external work in the country, it is mainly advantageous to deliberately show your idiom as a mean to remove distance and create a familiar atmosphere. An intimate accent sounds trustworthy and human.
Apart from regional external work,a dialect might cause problems e.g. for workers in a call-center agency. When talking on the phone to people from different regions, an idiom might be incomprehensible and therefore highly problematic. Furthermore, in national meetings involving people from upper echelon, an adequate language (as the German “Hochdeutsch”) is essential for a good conversation. The better the spoken standard German, the more intelectual somebody seems in the eyes of high-ranking business men. Such as appropiate clothing, it has become the prerequisite for business meetings to be able to speak fluent standard German.
Otherwise, it could happen that people with a strong accent are not taken seriously, cause violating laughter and are disadvantaged in their jobs.

Dat schelt groff!

No idiom is like the other: For example, the Bavarian dialect seems to be more popular than Saxon one. Markus Hundt believes this is due to the different appearance in public: Bavarians are said to be more offensive and self-confident in their language whereas Saxons know about their unpopular status and therefore seem rather shy. Moreover, dialects from countries abroad seem to be more favored by the Germans than accents from within the country, according to career consultant Thomas Röbel. Many Germans would even prefer the Austrian oder Swiss accent to the German one which he calls “foreign bonus”. Also other european dialects are said to be more friendly e.g. in german commercials for french cheese, swedish furniture or italian food.

We are not the only ones…

Besides the German language, there are lots of other languages that can be divided into different idioms. Englisch, the world language, as well! What I find personally interesting: According to a survey by the communications group “The Aziz Corporation”, the most desirable english accent in business is the scottish. The survey revealed that most people think that the scottish dialect conveys honesty, success and hard work. The author of a related article on the website “Friends of Scotland draws a link from the popularity of scottish speaking actors such as Sean Connery, Robbie Coltrane (“Hagrid”) and Robin Williams (“Mrs. Doubtfire) to the popularity of the accent. Who is not bewitched by the elegant tone of the ancient James Bond or the lovely voice of the carrying Mrs. Doubtfire?

Help, my dialect kills my career!

If you are absolutely panicked now and worry about how to manage your career with your strong accent, I am your resort:
The ancient swabian speaking Ariana Willikonsky offers standard German learning courses. Purpose of the courses is not to drive out your idiom but to enable you to switch between the dialect and the formal language. As Bavarians need to learn standard German in another way than Saxons, courses are specially assigned to different origins. Also, trainings are further assigned to different professional guilds. If you’d like to get more information, check this out .

My conclusion: In business, it is not only important what you say but also how you say it!

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5 responses to “

  1. Hey Nicole,
    I have just read this post and I was quite amused because the topics also concerns me and my relatives because at least some of us are very capable speakers of the “Odenwälder” dialect, sorry I just do not know how to call this dialect in English. I think you are right with the issue that there are jobs which strongly require the use of standard german. And my personal opinion is that even if one has a dialect, one should be able to speak both:
    Standard-German for the job and the dialect for the personal life at home and among friends and relatives. I have not heard about these courses, but I think some of my relatives would benefit from joining them!
    I have no recommendations for improving this post, it is just good the way it is 😉

  2. Hello Nicole!

    Nice greetings from beautiful saxony! I know the problem myself and it is true, that people consider dialect speaking people less educated or at least they make a fool out of you quiet often. I appreciate, that you treated this topic in such a honest way, because even if we pretend to have no prejudice, it hardly can be denied. I love how you structured your text with the high use of paragraphs which really facilates to stick to your way of thinking. Now I am “fertsch” and looking forward to reading more from you!

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