How do Austrian German and Germany’s German differ?

Austrian German and German for Germany, while both being varieties of the German language, have some notable differences. These differences are comparable to the differences between American English and British English.

Here’s a breakdown of the key distinctions:

  1. Vocabulary and Terminology:

    • There are several words that are different in Austrian German compared to German as spoken in Germany. For example, the German word for “tomato” is “Tomate” in Germany but “Paradeiser” in Austria.
  2. Pronunciation:

    • The accent and intonation can be noticeably different. Austrian German is often softer than the German spoken in Germany. The variations in pronunciation are akin to regional accents in English-speaking countries.
  3. Grammar and Syntax:

    • While the grammar is largely the same, there are some subtle differences in usage and syntax between Austrian German and German in Germany.
  4. Formality and Etiquette:

    • Austrian German tends to be more formal. For example, Austrians often use formal titles and surnames in business and social settings more consistently than Germans.
  5. Spelling and Official Rules:

    • While both countries follow the German orthography reform (Rechtschreibreform), there are specific terms and usages that are standardised differently in official documents.
  6. Legal and Official Documents:

    • Legal and government documents in Austria may use terms and phrases that are specific to the Austrian legal and governmental context and might differ from those used in Germany.
  7. Cultural References:

    • Austrian German may include references to Austrian culture, history, and traditions that might not be as familiar in Germany, and vice versa.

It’s important for a translator to be aware of these differences, especially in a business or legal context, where misunderstandings can have significant consequences. This is why when translating documents, it’s often necessary to know not just the language (German) but the specific variant (Austrian or Germany) that is needed.

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