Schwäbisch is the regional dialect of the German language home to the region of Schwaben (Schwabia in English - pronounced shway-bee-uh). Schwabia covers the southwest corner of Germany, hailing Stuttgart as an unofficial cultural capital. Schwabians are especially known for their extreme thriftiness. Moreover, they speak a dialect of German linguistically closely related, but acoustically very different.
I spent three weeks in Schwabia in the summer of 2003 staying with a German family. I was fluent in German to begin my residence, but hadn't been exposed to Schwäbisch. I couldn't understand a complete sentence the first day I spent with my host family, becoming slowly accustomed to the unfamiliar sounds of the dialect. As an American, my comprehension of a dialect encompassed differences in accent and pronunciation of orthographically identical words. In Germany, however, dialects diverge nearly enough from the standard language to merit new languages altogether.
Having returned to the United States to speak some Schwäbisch with some of my German-speaking friends, I received comments ranging from, "What does that mean?" to "How did you learn Chinese?" Granted, not every comment came from an intelligent person, but from German-speakers nonetheless, showing how truly different Schwäbisch is from its derivative language.
Here are some examples of Schwäbisch compared with their equivalent Hochdeutsch sentences:
- "I gang hoi" (ee gong hoy), compared with "Ich gehe nach Hause", meaning "I'm going home."
- "Gosch hoi" (gosh hoy), compared with "Gehst du nach Hause?", meaning "Are you going home?"
- "I hock hier" (ee hoke hee-uh), compared with "Ich sitze hier", meaning "I'm sitting here."
- "Hosch du Bock zu penne?" (hosh doo boke tsoo penn-uh), compared with "Hast du Lust zu schlafen?", meaning "Do you feel like sleeping?"
- "I han koi Ahnung!" (ee hon koy on-oong), compared with "Ich habe keine Ahnung", meaning "I have no idea."
- "Schlafet Sie da denna?" (shlof-it zee dah den-uh), compared with "Schlafen Sie dort drinnen?", meaning "Are you sleeping over there?"
A Schwäbisch tongue-twister would perhaps best demonstrate the simplification of the German language into this dialect:
- "De Ober hats Speck Bscheck z' spät bschtellt" (deh ob-uh hots shpek bshek ts shpate bsh-telt), compared with "Der Ober hat das Speck Bestech zu spät bestellt."
Overall, Schwäbisch is an extremely simplified, and in a way, lazy version of Hochdeutsch. In the end it proves to be quite fun to speak, too.