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Low German phrasebook

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Spread of the contemporary Low German and Dutch Low Saxon dialects

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 used on the Low German Wikipedia and on official writings in Low German.

Difficulties[edit]

Since Low German is not a 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 a couple of words are easily recognizable, whereas other words are spelled the same but pronounced differently such as: "he drinkt en Glas Water" which corresponds to English "he drinks a glass of water" which should sound relatively understandable to an English-speaker, once you see it spelled out.

But Low German is most known in Germany to be mutually intelligible with Dutch, and in fact both languages share more than a simple similarity in basic vocabulary or grammar. Historically, Middle Low German and Middle Dutch grew together in a kind of linguistic continuum across the northern regions of Germany and the South of the Netherlands and Belgium. The Saxons and the Dutch lived in mutual intelligibility, and this allowed the two languages - despite a few grammatical and phonetic differences - to grow together and to have a certain influence on each other. Even the writing system of Low German was highly influenced by Dutch, especially the way it treats long vowels. Some vocabulary of modern Low German still contains a certain Dutch influence, such words as trecken (to pull), wachten (to wait) or Wiel (a wheel) displaced their Low German rivals tehn, töven and Rad out of Dutch influence. This doesn't mean that trecken, wachten or Wiel aren't of Low German origin, they simply came to be the most common words (at least in the western parts of the Low German-speaking area) for to pull, to wait and a wheel because of their resemblance with their Dutch counterparts.

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, ai, aih 
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]

Common signs


OPEN 
Apen
CLOSED 
Slaten
ENTRANCE 
Ingang
EXIT 
Utgang
PUSH 
Drücken
PULL 
Trecken
TOILET 
WC, Toilett(en)
MEN 
Mannslüüd
WOMEN 
Froonslüüd
FORBIDDEN 
Verbaden
ENGLISH SPOKEN 
Hier warrt Engelsch snackt
GERMAN SPOKEN 
Hier warrt Hoochdüütsch snackt
DUTCH SPOKEN 
Hier warrt Nedderlandsch snackt
LOW GERMAN SPOKEN 
Hier warrt Platt(düütsch) snackt

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 ______ . 
Ik 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. 
Ik snack keen Plattdüütsch. (ick SNACK kayn plahdÜÜtsh)
I can't speak Low German. 
Ik kann keen Platt. (ick can kayn platt)
I can't speak Low German well. 
Ik 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. 
Ik 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. 
Ik roop de Polizei. (ick roap duh poh-LEE-tsay)
Police! 
Polizei! (poh-LEET-say)
Stop! Thief! 
Stop! Deef! (STOP dééf)
I need your help. 
Ik 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. 
Ik bün verlaren. (ick BÜN vuhr-lohr'n)
I lost my bag. 
Ik heff mien Packaasch verlaren. (ick HEFF meen pah-KAH-sh vuhr-LOH-run)
I lost my wallet. 
Ik heff mien Portemonnaie verlaren. (ick HEFF meen PORT-monay vuhr-LOH-run)
I'm sick. 
Ik bün süük. (ick bün ZÜÜHK)
I'm injured. 
Ik bün wunnt. (ick bün VOONT)
I need a doctor. 
Ik heff en Dokter nödig. (ick heff uhn DOCK-tuhr nö-dish)
Can I use your phone? 
Mag ik 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)

Time[edit]

before 
vör (VÖHR)
now 
nu (NOO)
later 
later (LOH-tuhr)
morning 
Morgen (MOHR'gun)
afternoon 
Meddag (MED-dahg)
evening 
Avend (OH-vuhnt)
night 
Nacht (NAHGT)

Clock time[edit]

one o'clock (when AM/PM are obvious)
Klock een (Clock ayn)
two o'clock (when AM/PM are obvious)
Klock twee (Clock tway)
one o'clock AM 
Klock een's Nachts (Clock ayns'nahgts)
two o'clock AM 
Klock twee's Nachts (Clock tway'snahgts)
noon 
Klock Middag (Clock MID-dahg)
one o'clock PM 
Klock een's Middags (Clock AIN'SMID-dahgs)
two o'clock PM 
Klock twee's Middags (Clock TWAY'SMID-dahgs)
midnight 
Middernacht (MID-duhr-nahgt)

Duration[edit]

_____ minute(s) 
_____ Minuut (min-UUHT) / Minuten (min-UUHT-uhn)
_____ hour(s) 
_____ Stünn (SHTÜN) / Stünnen (SHTÜN'n)
_____ day(s) 
_____ Dag (DAHG) / Daag (DOH'G)
_____ week(s) 
_____ Week (VAYK) / Weken (VAYK-uhn)
_____ month(s) 
_____ Maand (MOHNT) / Maanden (MOHN-duhn)
_____ year(s) 
_____ Johr (YOHR) / Johren (YOH-ruhn)

Days[edit]

the day before yesterday 
ehrgüstern (AIR-ghüshtuh-rn)
yesterday 
güstern (GHIS-tuh-ruhn)
today 
vundaag (voon-DOHG)
tomorrow 
morgen (MORE-gun)
the day after tomorrow 
övermorgen (Ö-vuhr-more-gun)
last week 
vörige Week (FÖH-rishuh VAYK)
this week 
düsse Week (DÜ-suh VAYK)
next week 
tokamen Week (TOKOHM-un VAYK)
Monday 
Maandag (MOHN-dahg)
Tuesday 
Dingsdag (DINGS-dahg)
Wednesday 
Middeweek (MIDD-uhvayk)
Thursday 
Dünnersdag (DÜNNUR-sdahg)
Friday 
Freedag (VRAY-dahg)
Saturday 
Saterdag (ZOH-tuhr-dahg)
Sunday 
Sünndag (ZÜN-dahg)

Months[edit]

January 
Januarmaand (jahn-uu-AHR-mohnt)
February 
Februarmaand (fay-bruu-AHR-mohnt)
March 
Märzmaand (MEHRTZ-mohnt)
April 
Aprilmaand (Oh-PRIL-mohnt)
May 
Maimaand (MAY-mohnt)
June 
Junimaand (YUU-nee-mohnt)
July 
Julimaand (YUU-lee-mohnt)
August 
Augustmaand (ow-GHUST-mohnt)
September 
Septembermaand (sep-TEM-buhr-mohnt)
October 
Oktobermaand (ock-TOW-buhr-mohnt)
November 
Novembermaand (no-FEM-buhr-mohnt)
December 
Dezembermaand (day-TZEM-buhr-mohnt)

Colours[edit]

black 
swart (ZWAHRT)
white 
witt (WHIT)
gray 
gries (GREES)
red 
root (ROWT)
blue 
blau (BLAW)
yellow 
geel (GAYL)
green 
gröön (GRÖÖN)
orange 
orange (oh-RAHN-djuh)
purple 
vigelett (FISH-uhlett), sangen (PUHR-puhr)
brown 
bruun (BROON)

Transportation[edit]

Bus and Train[edit]

How much is a ticket to _____? 
Woveel köst en Ticket to _____? (VOA-vale köst uhn TICK-et toa _____)
One ticket to _____, please. 
En ticket to _____, beed. (uhn TICK-et toa _____, bate)
A one-way ticket, please. 
Eensame Reis, beed. (AYN-zohme reyss bate)
A round trip, please. 
Hen-un-torüch, bate (HEN-oon-trüsh bate)
Where does this train/bus go? 
Wor geiht düsse Tog/Bus hen? (VOA gayht düsuh togh/boos HEN)
Where is the train/bus to _____? 
Wor is de Tog/Bus to _____? (VOA iss duh togh/boos toa _____)
Does this train/bus stop in _____? 
Stoppt düsse Tog/Bus in _____? (SHTOPT düsuh togh/boos in _____)
When does the train/bus for _____ leave? 
Wannehr geiht de Tog/Bus to _____ rut? (won-NAYR gayt duh togh/boos to _____ root)
When will this train/bus arrive in _____? 
Wannehr kümmt düsse Tog/Bus bi _____ an? (won-NAYR küm-t düsuh togh/boos bee _____ ahn)

Directions[edit]

How do I get to ... ? 
Woans gah ik to ... ? (VOAWAHNS goh ick toe)
...the train station? 
...de Bahnhof? (duh Bohn-hoff)
...the bus station? 
...de Bushaltstell? (duh BOOS-halt-SHTELL)
...the airport? 
...de Flegerhaven? (duh FLAYSHER-hah-vuhn)
...downtown? 
...dat Zentrum? (dat TZEN-troom)
...the youth hostel? 
...de Jöögdherberg? (duh YEUGHT-hayr-berg)
...the _____ hotel? 
...dat _____ Hotel? (dat _____ hoh-TELL)
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate? 
...dat Amerikaansche/Kanaadsche/Austraalsche/Britsche Konsulaat? (hut ah-may-ree-KAHN-shuh/kah-nah-d'shuh/OW-STRAH-lshuh/BRIT-SHUH kon-zoo-LAHT)
Where are there a lot of ... 
Wor gifft dat veel ... (VOA gift dat fale)
...hotels? 
...Hotels? (hoh-TELLS)
...restaurants? 
...Restaurants? (res-tow-RAHNTS)
...bars? 
...Bars? (BAHRS)
...sites to see? 
...Sehnswöördigkeiten? (zééns-VÖHR-dish-kay-tun)
Can you show me on the map? 
Köönt Se mi dat op de Koort wiesen? (KÖHNT zuh mee dat op duh KOHRT VEEZ-un)
street 
Straat (STRAHT)
Turn left. 
Böögt Se links. (böhsht zuh LINKS)
Turn right. 
Böögt Se rechts. (böhsht zuh RESHTS)
left 
links (LINKS)
right 
rechts (RESHTS)
straight ahead 
liekut (LEEKOOT)
towards the _____ 
na _____ (NOH)
past the _____ 
achter de/dat _____ (aghtur duh/dat)
before the _____ 
vör de/dat _____ (FÖHR duh/hut)
Watch for the _____. 
Kiek ut för de/dat _____. (keyk OOT för duh/dat)
intersection 
Krüsung (KRÜHZ-oong)
north 
Noorden (NOHR-duhn)
south 
Süden (ZIGH-duhn)
east 
Oosten (OHS-tuhn)
west 
Westen (WES-tuhn)
uphill 
bargop (bar-GOP)
downhill 
bargdaal (barg-DOHL)


Taxi[edit]

Taxi! 
Taxi! (TAK-see)
Take me to _____, please. 
Bringt Se mi na _____ beed. (BRING-t Zuh mi noh .... bate)
How much does it cost to get to _____? 
Wat köst dat, üm na _____ to gahn? (WAT KÖS'dat üm noh _____ toa GOHN)
Take me there, please. 
Bringt Se mi güntsieds, beed. (BRING-t Zuh mi GÜNT-ZEED, bate)

Lodging[edit]

Do you have any rooms available? 
Hebbt Se enige Kamern free? (hepp-t zuh aynishe KAH-murn fray)
How much is a room for one person/two people? 
Woveel köst en Kamer för een/twee Persoon/Personen? (HOO-vale köst uhn kah-mur för AYN/TWAY pur-soan/un)
Does the room come with bedsheets 
Gifft dat Bettdöker in de Kamer? (Gif'dat BET-döhkur uhr in duh KOH-mur)
Does the room come with... 
Gifft dat ... in de kamer? (Gif'dat ... in duh KAH-mur)
...a bathroom? 
...en Baadstuuv (...uhn BOHD-shtoov)
...a telephone? 
...en Telefoon (...uhn tay-lay-FONE)
...a TV? 
...en Feernsehn (...uhn fayrnzéén)
May I see the room first? 
Mag ik de Kamer toeerst sehn? (Magh ick duh KAH-mur toa-éérst zéén)
Do you have anything quieter 
Hebbt Se wat Rohigers? (heppt zuh vatt ROA-ihshurs)
Do you have anything... 
Hebbt Se en ... Kamer? (heppt zuh uhn ... KAH-mur)
...bigger? 
...grötter? (...GRÖT-turr)
...cleaner? 
...schöner? (...SHÖWN-uhr)
...cheaper? 
...billiger? (...BILL-ishur)
OK, I'll take it. 
Goot, ik nehm düsse. (goat ick name Düsuh)
I will stay for _____ night(s). 
Ik bliev _____ Nacht(en). (ick bleev _____ naght(uhn))
Can you suggest another hotel? 
Köönt Se mi en anner Hotel anraden? (Köhnt Zuh mi uhn ahn-NUR howe-TEL AHN-rah-dun)
Do you have a safe? 
Hebbt Se en Safe? (heppt zuh uhn SAFE)
...lockers? 
...Sluutfäcker? (SLOOT-feck-uhr)
Is breakfast/supper included? 
Is de Fröhkost/dat Avendeten inbegrepen? (is duh fröhkost/dat AH-vund-ay-tun IN-buh-gray-pun)
What time is breakfast/supper? 
Wo laat is de ontbijt/ dat avondeten? (VOA loht is duh fröhkost/dat AH-vund-ay-tun)
Please clean my room. 
Köönt Se mien Kamer reinmaken. (köwnt zuh meen KAH-mur RAYN-moh-kun)
Can you wake me at _____? 
Köönt Se mi üm _____ opwaken? (köwnt zuh mi üm _____ OP-wohk-un)
I want to check out. 
Ik will vertrecken. (ick will vur-TRECK-un)
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