Understand German Slang: How to Speak Like a Native

Understand German Slang: How to Speak Like a Native

So, you have mastered German on an intermediate or expert level, but you don't quite know what Germans mean when they say 'I only understand train station'? Maybe German slang 'gets on your cookie' because you don't understand it yet – well don't worry, the following will introduce you to the most used German slang phrases.

Train Station

Was geht ab? Na? Mach's gut!

If you meet up with someone and he/she says 'Was geht ab?' it means he/she is asking for your wellbeing or inquiring what's new. It is equivalent to 'What's up?' or 'What's happening?'. Remember, this is an informal greeting used between friends. A good way to respond do this would be 'Alles gut' (it's all good, everything is fine), 'Nicht viel' (not much) or 'So einiges / Einiges' (quite a lot).

The probably quickest way to greet someone and ask for their wellbeing at the same time is 'Na?'. Short and simple - just one word. However, the most common phrases are 'Na, alles gut?' (Hey, everything good?), Na, alles klar? (Hey, everything good?) or Na, wie gehts? (Hey, how are you?). It's a good idea for you to learn all variations just to make sure you are prepared.


Krass, das ist der Hammer, wie geil!

Have you heard the phrases 'Krass', 'Hammer' or 'Geil' before but never really understood what they meant? Let's first have a look at 'Krass'. This is the equivalent to 'crazy'. If you love something ('I have never seen such a cool shirt before, that's crazy!') you could say 'Krass, ich habe noch nie so ein cooles Shirt gesehen!'. Even if you hate something ('Crazy, that's really horrible') you could say 'Krass, das ist schrecklich'. If you are in awe (Crazy, look at that!') you could say 'Krass, sieh dir das an!'.

Let's move on to 'Hammer'. While it translates to 'hammer', this slang phrase has nothing to do with a hammer. You may use 'Hammer' the same way as 'Krass' whenever you describe something you love or something that stuns you. However, it is necessary to add the words 'Das ist doch der Hammer' ('That is unbelievable') whenever using the phrase to react to something negative or something you don't like. The word 'Hammer' on its own can only be used to react to or express positive or extraordinary things.

Please be careful when using the phrase 'Geil'. While you may use it for things you find awesome and great by saying 'Das ist so geil!' (That's so cool!), the word 'geil' also translates to 'horny' in some contexts so be careful. Your best bet is to not use it until you feel comfortable. It's good to know what it means when you hear others say it, though.

Woman With Smartphone

Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof!

Let's focus on phrases consisting of several words. Feel free to use them in conversations with your German friends in order to practice, they will be surprised!

1. Ich mache blau! ('I make blue!'): This is the equivalent to 'I'm going to call in sick!' and is a phrase you use when you take a day off work or school, calling in sick eventhough you aren't sick at all.

2. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof! ('I only understand train station'): This has the same meaning as 'I don't understand it!' Whenever someone is trying to explain something to you but you just don't get it, this is the phrase for you.

3. Sie hat mir einen Korb gegeben! ('She gave me a basket!'): This means 'She turned me down!' Hopefully you will never need this phrase, but if so, this is how to tell your buddies.

4. Er geht mir auf den Keks! ('He gets on my cookie!'): This is equivalent to 'He gets on my nerves!' Of course he doesn't step on your cookie - but if he really gets on your nerves, this is how to express it.

5. Geh doch dahin, wo der Pfeffer wächst! ('Go where the pepper grows!'): This has the same meaning as 'Go jump in a lake!'. In Germany, we tell someone that annoys us to go to the place where the pepper grows - wherever that is. At least it is somewhere else.

6. Mache aus einer Mücke keinen Elefanten! ('Don't make an elephant out of a mosquito'): This means 'Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill!' and is quite self-explanatory.

7. Ich muss meinen inneren Schweinehund überwinden! ('I have to overcome my inner pig-dog!'): This is equivalent to 'I have to overcome my weaker self!'. Germans don't really associate it with an actual pig-dog - it's just something we have gotten used to saying.

8. Ich bin ins Fettnäpfchen getreten! ('I stepped in a bowl of grease!'): This means 'I've commited a blunder!'. If you've been clumsy, done a mistake by accident or you've started a conversation that turned sour, this is your phrase.

If you are looking for more German slang phrases, check out this article. In order to avoid rude or inappropriate slang, check out this list. If you want to make your German friends laugh, then try out this.


Auf jeden Fall!

Fun fact: Did you know that Germans have 10 slang words for cash? Check it out here Phrases you will also hear very often are 'Auf jeden Fall' (in any case), 'Prost' (Cheers), 'Naja'(Well..) and 'Fett'(Fat - Meaning: Cool!). Once you have mastered the above, you are ready to speak German like a native! Last but not least, don't be surprised when Germans call you 'Alter!' (old one). It's just a way of adressing you as their 'buddy', 'mate' or 'pal'. It works for both genders, but it's most often used for males. Now you're ready to greet your German pals with: 'Alter, was geht ab?'