Sure, it’s easy to know what main language people speak in France or Spain, you know, French and Spanish. Germany is pretty clear cut, too, with German. But what language is spoken in Austria? Great question, and we are here with your answer.
What Language is Spoken in Austria?
As much as we’d all like to say that Austrian is spoken in Austria, that is not the case. The main language of Austria is German. However, it’s not quite that simple, either. There is a form of German referred to as Austrian German that the people of Austria speak. But before we get into this any further, let’s touch on a bit of Austrian history.
Austria had a very busy history from its beginning through the 20th century. Landlocked and tucked between Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, Austria was once the center of European traffic and had a very prominent reign. Its art and history are rarely matched; Vienna was a main spot in Europe. Things changed from century to century, though.
We find this brief piece of history pertinent to the language of Austria.
In the decades following the collapse in 1918 of Austria-Hungary, the multinational empire of which it had been the heart, this small country experienced more than a quarter century of social and economic turbulence and a Nazi dictatorship. Yet the establishment of permanent neutrality in 1955, associated with the withdrawal of the Allied troops that had occupied the country since the end of World War II, enabled Austria to develop into a stable and socially progressive nation with a flourishing cultural life reminiscent of its earlier days of international musical glory.
With transition, turmoil, and tenacity, you can see how Austria has not only a rich and varied cultural history, but also a rich and varied language. Sure, we said the language of Austria is German, but there actually is quite a bit more to it than that.
Austria’s German Language
Yes, Austria’s main language is German. However, there are many dialects and variations throughout the country. Think about the United States and all of the dialects we hear. Southern US English is quite different than that in the Northeast. With different accents, vocabulary, and terminology, the same language can often sound quite different. However, it is understandable from one group to another.
This can happen in Austria, too. As far as Austria’s German, there are plenty of different dialects. Though most people speak German, as you travel throughout the country you’ll hear many different dialects. For instance, the German that people speak in Vienna is quite different than in other parts of Austria.
And travelers will also hear a couple of other languages including Austro-Bavarian and Alemannic. Check this out:
In addition to German, Austria is home to around seven million speakers of Austro-Bavarian, a group of Upper German languages that are spoken across the country, with the exception of the federal-state of Vorarlberg and some areas of Tyrol’s Reutte District. In those locations, residents use an Alemannic dialect instead. Austria is home to around 300,000 Alemannic speakers in total.
Austro-Bavarian and Alemannic
Though German is the official language and most everyone speaks it, Austro-Bavarian and Alemannic are two unofficial languages and are also quite common throughout the country. If you are planning on A Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, for instance, you’ll probably be all set with German. However, if you want a tour of the beautiful city of Vienna, you may hear something that sounds pretty different, though it’s German all the same.
The local Viennese dialect (wienerisch) is almost unintelligible and many of the words or the pronounciation bear no resemblance to anything you might have learnt in German lessons. “Net” instead of “nicht”, “wouse” instead of was, “hotz” instead of “hat es.”
Other Languages in Austria
But wait, it’s not just German, Austro-Bavarian and Alemannic that people speak in Austria. You’ll hear quite a few other languages, too. Tomedes.com tells us that it is common to hear Bosnian, Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Romani, Italian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Turkish, and English. In fact, an impressive 73% of the population of Austria speaks English. An interesting fact here is that women outperform men in English proficiency in Austria. So you may hear that Sound of Music tour in English or have your Viennese coffee served to you in English while you marvel at the beauty of the city.
We thought this is a good place to toss in a couple of English to Austrian German important words. It’s always nice to give it a go when you are visiting a different speaking culture:
- Please – Bitte
- Thank you – Danke
- That’s beautiful – Das ist schön
- Have a good day – Haben sie einen guten tag
Languages per region
If you are traveling through Austria, you probably want to know what language the people speak in what regions. Whereas you’ll find German and English throughout the country, these other languages and dialects will be in smaller pockets.
- Turkish: Many Turkish speakers live in Vienna. You may also hear this language interspersed throughout the country.
- Burgenland Croatian: Some Austrian residents, primarily those living in Burgenland, the easternmost Austrian state, speak Burgenland Croatian.
- Hungarian: This language is also a common one in Burgenland.
- Serbian: Though not as common, you may hear people speak Serbian throughout Austria.
Traveling through Austria
If you decide to travel through Austria, it’s important to know the languages. Even if you’ll just be passing through or staying a short time, it’s nice to know what language is spoken. Also, be adventurous and give it a try. You may choose to take some time beforehand to learn some phrases or brush up on your German or Austro-Bavarian.
If you are interested in learning a language, there are lots of ways to go about it. You can take a language course to really dive in and learn it or simply add a translation app to your phone. There are also in between methods like all of the language learning programs around like Babbel or Rosetta Stone.
Austria is a stunning country with show-stopping architecture, delicious food and drink, picturesque country, and a history to match no other. With the beauty, art, and intellect of Vienna, the lure of the winding Danube River, and the snow painted Alps, it’s a beautiful destination.
Perhaps when our world sees travel once again, this will be on your list.
Language Knowledge is for More than Travel
When you are traveling through a country with an unfamiliar language, sure, a language app is useful. However, when you are looking at translations or doing work involving other languages, a language app really won’t cut it. This is where you’ll turn to professional translators.
For instance, perhaps you have a book or movie covering some Austrian history or with an Austrian character. To make it credible and appeal to Austrians, you’ll want accurate translation. Whether it’s just certain parts of your work or you want to translate the entire thing, it’s a great idea to work with a German translator. Or as we discussed, another language translator to fit your Austrian market.
What to look for in a translator
Whether you are looking in the entertainment, business, or some other sector for translations, you should look for certain attributes. Let’s keep Austria in mind with its great mix of languages. We know many people in Austria speak German, but is that enough? We talked about different dialects in different regions, so it’s important to identify your region and dialect. Then find a translator with these skills. In other words, know your audience and make sure your translator knows them, too.
Another key is to find a translator familiar with your material. All of these and more are materials we see translated, and different translators have skills for each one.
- E-learning materials
- Radio material
- Television commercials
- Software & applications
- Internet videos
- Corporate promotional materials
Authenticity and Credibility
Skills are one thing, creating authentic and credible translations is another. The more authentic your translation is, the better it will be received. Your translator does not have to be a native Austrian German speaker, but they should know it beyond simple fluency. Things like subtle nuances, slang, idioms, and great pronunciation, and a natural sound are all imperative to smooth translations. Remember, authentic and credible. That will make your translation seamless.
Summing Up What Language is Spoken in Austria
Ha, you thought you were going to get a simple answer when you asked what language is spoken in Austria, right? Austria is not the only country with a diverse and varied language that matches its history but is definitely high on the list. This diversity only adds to the beauty and depth of the culture.
If you’re ready for some great beer and strudel mixed with beautiful music and stunning castles, put Austria on your list to visit. If you’re into finding hidden cafes to sit for hours with delightful coffees or take a romp in the hills resounding with musical memories, visit Austria. As we learn from this Austrian proverb, “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”
You will find this beauty in Austria.
You’ll also find it in the language. Don’t ruin it with a bad translation. If you’re looking to have some work translated into one of the Austrian languages, be it German or a smaller spoken one, let us at Bunny Studio give you a hand. Our translators are top-notch professionals and we have one to match your needs. Just reach out to us, we’d love to chat and see how we can help.