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Low German phrasebook

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Low German or Low Saxon (Plattdüütsch in Low German) is a Germanic language spoken by about 5 million people world-wide. Most people living in northern Germany and eastern Netherlands (the Low Saxon language spoken in the Netherlands is considered a different language called Dutch Low Saxon, more information at Dutch Low Saxon phrasebook) use it as a second language. The language that will be treated on this page is thus the Low Saxon dialect spoken in northern Germany. Low German is an official dialect, historically, it used to be the first language of the Hanseatic League during the Middle Ages, and thus it had a certain prestige that came to vanish during the 16th century. Low German has also had a significant influence on such Scandinavian language as Danish, and even more Swedish. It also had a certain influence on the development of the modern Dutch language as well as on High German.

Low German is not a unified language, but rather an 'aggregate' of similar dialects having a common origin and common intelligibility, but sometimes showing few phonological and lexical differences. It took time to provide Low German with an efficient writing style, several were proposed and used. The 'SASS writing style' (Sass'sche Schrievwies), first proposed in 1935 by German linguist Johannes Sass, has now officially been recognised and is the most used one. It is the writing system that used on the Low German wikipedia and on official writings in Low German.

Difficulties[edit]

Since Low German is no unified dialect, it sometimes differs from one dialect to the other. However, the Low German dialects from western Germany are the easiest to understand, as they show a certain level of uniformity. Eastern dialects are often harder to understand, and they often contain more High German words or general influence. The Plautdietsch language, spoken in former Prussia, is a daughter-language of Low German, but is still understandable if you speak Low German.

Another, even bigger, hardship if you're trying to practice your Low German is the fact that most people in Northern Germany, whether Low German-speakers or not, will be more inclined to speak either English or High German with a stranger, rather than a dialect.

Situation within Low German dialects, and relation to other languages[edit]

Within the Low German speaking area (that is to say, the north of Germany, especially the Länder of Westphalia and Lower Saxony), there are often differences between the dialect people speak. A word can be the same when written, but pronounced in two different ways. Low German dialects from the West are however considered to be 'purer' than those from the eastern Germany, especially the dialect from Hamburg and Bremen. These two cities were historically - and are still nowadays - at the heart of the Low German historical speaking area. East-Frisian Low German (Oostfrees'sch Plattdüütsch - Ostfriesisches Plattdeutsch in High German) is the direct descendant of the Old Saxon language, the historical ancestor of Low German and sister language of Old English (Anglo-Saxon).

Low German's ancestor Old Saxon was the language of the Saxon tribes that didn't go to England. With genetic - and linguistic - insight, it is the English's closest sister language (with Frisian). However, 1,000 years of evolutions of both languages got the English and Low German to differ significantly. Loads of similarities remained though, but no mutual intelligibility is possible with long speeches between both languages. Only small couple of words can be recognised sometimes, or words pronounced differently such as "he drinkt en Glas Water" which corresponds to English "he drinks a glass of water" and which should sound relatively understandable to an English-speaker.

Pronunciation[edit]

Low German has some vowel sounds that are not known in many other languages so they may be hard to learn.

Short vowels[edit]

like 'a' in "calm", (but shorter)
like 'e' in "pen"
like 'i' in "pin"
like 'o' in "fork"
like 'oo' in "too" (but shorter)
ä 
(Umlaut, transcribed as 'ae') like 'e' in "ten", 'a' in "band"
ö 
(Umlaut, transcribed as 'oe') like 'i' in "Sir" (not a sound in English)
ü 
(Umlaut, transcribed as 'ue') like 'ew' in "EWWW (disgust)"
same as 'ü', but also consonant "j" in words of foreign origin ("Yacht")

Umlauts are usually (but not always) stressed.

Long vowels[edit]

a, aa, ah 
like 'aa' in "Afrikaans"
e, ee, eh 
like 'a' in "day"
ie, ieh 
like 'ea' in "sea"
o, oo, oh 
like 'o' in "ago"
u, uu, uh 
like 'oo' in "too"
ä, ää, äh 
somewhat similar to ee, like 'a' in "day" without the 'i' sound at the end
ö, öö, öh 
similar to 'e' in "mercy"
ü, üü, üh 
like 'ü' in German "München", but longer

Diphthongs[edit]

au, auh 
like 'ow' in "how"
ei, eih 
like 'i' in "write"

Consonants[edit]

like 'b' in "bed"
like 'ts' in "bits" before 'i' and 'e'; like 'k' in "kid" else
like 'd' in "dog"
like 'ph' in "phone"
like 'g' in "go" at the beginning of a word, within a word or at the end of it, 'g' is pronounced either like a kind of mild 'sh' (after e, i, ä, ö and ü) or like a guttural sound similar to Spanish 'jotta'-sound (after a, o, u)
like 'h' in "help"
like 'y' in "yoga"
like 'c' in "cat"
like 'l' in "love"
like 'm' in "mother"
like 'n' in "nice"
like 'p' in "pig"
like 'q' in "quest" (always with "u")
like 'r' in "arm", like 'r' in "feather". Terminal Rs are almost silent but with the hit of an "r" sound. Rs beginning a word or syllable are rolled as in Spanish
like 'z' in "haze"
like 't' in "top"
like 'f' in "father" at the beginning of a word, and like "v" in "victory" elsewhere
like 'v' in "victory", never like 'wh' in "whisky"
like 'cks' in "kicks"
like 'ts' in "bits"
ß 
usually High German, like 's' in "was"

Other diagraphs[edit]

ch 
either like a kind of mild 'sh' (after e, i, ä, ö and ü) or like a guttural sound similar to Spanish 'jotta'-sound (after a, o, u)
sch 
like 'sh' in "shell"
ng 
like both 'ng' in "singing", and 'ng' in "finger" at the end of a word

Phrase list[edit]

Basics[edit]

Hello. 
Moin. (mO'yn)
How are you? 
Wo is't? (voa iss'et?)
How are you? (informal)
Wo geiht dat di? (vOA guIte dat'dEE?)
How are you? (formal)
Wo geiht dat Jem? (vOA guIte dat yem?)
Fine, thank you. 
Goot, schööndank. (GOAT shÖWndahnk)
Fine, thank you. (formal)
Dankeschöön, dat geiht. (DahnkeshÖWn, datt guIte)
What is your name? 
Wat is dien Naam? (vatt iss deen NOHM?)
What is your name? (formal)
Wo heet Se? (voa HAYT zéé?)
What is your name? (informal)
Wo heetst du? (voa HAYTs'doo?)
My name is ______ . 
Mien Naam is ______ . (meen NOHM is _____ .)
My name is ______ . 
Ick heet ______ . (ick HAYT _____ .)
Nice to meet you. (informal) 
moi di kennen-to-lehren. (MOY dee KEH-n'n toh LEH-r'n)
Nice to meet you. (formal)
moi Jem kennen-to-lehren. (MOY yem KEH-n'n toh LEH-r'n)
Please. 
Bidd (bidd)
Thank you. 
Dankeschöön. (DAHNK'schÖWn)
Thank you. 
Dank. (DAHNK)
You're welcome. 
Geern daan. (GEHRN DAHN)
Yes. 
Ja. (YOH)
No. 
Nee. (NAY)
Excuse me. (getting attention
Deit mi Leed. (DITE mee LAYT )
Excuse me. (begging pardon
Dat deit mi Leed. (dat DITE mee LAYT)
I'm sorry. 
Dat deit mi Leed. (...)
Goodbye 
Weddersehn. (vedde'zehn)
I can't speak Low German. 
Ick snack keen Plattdüütsch. (ick SNACK kayn plahdÜÜtsh)
I can't speak Low German. 
Ick kann keen Platt. (ick can kayn platt)
I can't speak Low German well. 
Ick snack nich goot Platt. (ick SNACK nish goat platt)
Do you speak English? (formal) 
Snackt Se Engelsch? (SNACKT zéé ENG-ulsh?)
Do you speak English? (informal) 
Snackst du Engelsch? (SNACKs'doo ENG-ulsh?)
Is there someone here who speaks English? 
Gifft dat hier een, de Engelsch kann? (GIFT datt heer AYN, DAY ENG-ulsh can?)
Help! 
Hülp! (HÜHLP!)
Good morning. 
Goden Morgen. (GOA-dun-MORE-gun)
Good evening. 
Goden Avend. (Goa-dun-A-vent)
Good night. 
Gode Nacht. (Goa-duh-NAHGt)
Good night (to sleep
Slaapt ji goot. (SLAHPT yi GOAT)
I don't understand. 
Ick verstah dat nich. (ick fe'STOH datt nish)
Where is the toilet? 
Wor is de Toilett? (voa iss de tvah-LET?)

Problems[edit]

Leave me alone. 
Laat mi alleen. (LAHT mi AHLAYN)
Don't touch me! 
Raak mi nich an! (RAHK mi nish ahn)
I'll call the police. 
Ick roop de Polizei. (ick roap duh poh-LEE-tsay)
Police! 
Polizei! (poh-LEET-say)
Stop! Thief! 
Stop! Deef! (STOP dééf)
I need your help. 
Ick heff Ehr Hülp nödig. (ick HEFF éér HÜLP nöh-dish)
It's an emergency. 
Dat is en Nootfall. (hut IS uhn NOWT-guh-vahl)
I'm lost. 
Ick bün verlaren. (ick BÜN vuhr-lohr'n)
I lost my bag. 
Ick heff mien Packaasch verlaren. (ick HEFF meen pah-KAH-sh vuhr-LOH-run)
I lost my wallet. 
Ick heff mien Portemonnaie verlaren. (ick HEFF meen PORT-monay vuhr-LOH-run)
I'm sick. 
Ick bün süük. (ick bün ZÜÜHK)
I'm injured. 
Ick bün wunnt. (ick bün VOONT)
I need a doctor. 
Ick heff en Dokter nödig. (ick heff uhn DOCK-tuhr nö-dish)
Can I use your phone? 
Mag ick ehr Telefoon bruken? (MAHG ick éér tay-luh-FOAN BROOK-k'n)

Numbers[edit]

een (AIN)
twee (TWAY)
dree (DRAY)
veer (VééR)
fief (FEEF)
söss (ZÖHS)
söven (ZÖ-vuhn)
acht (AHGT)
negen (Né-shuhn)
10 
teihn (TAYN)
11 
ölven (ÖLVUN)
12 
twöölf (TWÖHLF)
13 
dörteihn (DÖHR-tayn)
14 
veerteihn (VééR-tayn)
15 
föffteihn (FEEF-tayn)
16 
sössteihn (ZÖHS-tayn)
17 
söventeihn (ZÖ-vuhn-tayn)
18 
achtteihn (AHGT-tayn)
19 
negenteihn (Né-shuhn-tayn)
20 
twintig (TWIN-tish)
21 
eenuntwintig (AIN-uhn-TWIN-tish)
22 
tweeuntwintig (TWAY-uhn-TWIN-tish)
23 
dreeuntwintig (DRAY-uhn-TWIN-tish)
30 
drüttig (DRÜT-tish)
40 
veertig (VAYR-tish)
50 
föfftig (FEEF-tish)
60 
sösstig (ZÖHS-tish)
70 
söventig (ZÖ-vuhn-tish)
80 
achttig or tachtentig (AHGT-tish or TAHGT'n-tish)
90 
negentig (Né-shuhn-tish)
100 
hunnert (HOON-nuhrt)
200 
tweehunnert (TWAY-hoon-nuhrt)
300 
dreehunnert (DREE-hoon-nuhrt)
1000 
dusend (DOO-zuhnt)
2000 
tweedusend (TWAY-doo-zuhnt)
1,000,000 
een Millioon (ayn mil-YOON)
number _____ (train, bus, etc.
Nummer _____ (NOOHM-muhr)
half 
de Hälft (duh HELFT)
less 
weniger (VENI-shuhr)
more 
mehr (MAYR)


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