Explaining the local dialect – gemma

Will or want

I’ve talked about my struggles of learning German in multiple posts, and I will no doubt continue to do so. One of the difficulties of living in Austria is that no proper German course will prepare you for the perplexing conglomeration of dialects.

Coming from Australia, where dialect is mostly very subtle, I now live in a country smaller than Victoria, with dialects ranging with the same kind of variance as London to Northern Ireland. Not only do people pronounce things completely different in the 9 states of Austria (yes, 9, you heard me right – more than Australia), but they also have their own names for things.

To try and explain the dialect I have to deal with, I’m going to use one of my favourite dialect words – gemma – to show you just how distorted Austrian dialect is from Hochdeutch (that is, proper German).

In Hochdeutch you might say gehen wir to say we’re going. In Austrian… let’s just shorten that right down to… gemma.


My ears aren’t yet well attuned to the vast differences in dialect, I just recognise that there are people I can understand perfectly well, and others that might as well be talking Russian!

So despite the fact that five years in and a lot of study I now have a fairly good grasp of the German language, the dialects are still way beyond me… so I guess it’s just a matter of time… a lot more time!



2 thoughts on “Explaining the local dialect – gemma

  1. Winfield Taylor December 28, 2021 / 9:37 pm


    I just ran across your blog entry while trying to come up with a proper translation of the lyrics to the song “Gemma Gemma” by Skolka. It seems to be written in the Weinviertler Dialekt according to what I’ve seen online.

    “Und I sog Gemma, Gemma
    weil waun I geh daun is für imma, imma
    weil do is sicher ned z´haus
    weil do is sicher ned z´haus”

    “Oiso lossts ois liegn und steh
    und hörts auf des Fernweh.”

    “Und I sog Gemma, Gemma
    weil waun I geh daun is für imma, imma
    I sog auf und davo
    und kumm nie wieder z´ruck”

    I lived outside of Stuttgart quite a while ago and had some exposure to Schwäbisch which was challenging (z. B., “bist” -> “bisch” etc.) and thus have a small amount of experience with Hochdeutsch and one of its dialects. However, I known nothing of the Austrian dialects and have not found an online reference in which I could look up these spellings or expressions.

    The text seems clear in parts, but my first mistake might be taking “Gemma” to be a name, unless it ends up as a play on words as it seems it might.

    At any rate, I am glad that I found your explanation of “Gemma”. Could you please take a look at the lyrics and tell me if you think the band’s use of “Gemma” is meant to be a play on words? It’s capitalized in “Und I sog Gemma, Gemma”, but when they sing “I sog auf und davo”, “auf und davo” is not treated similarly – i.e., as a quoted statement.

    Any help or further commentary on this would be appreciated. Thank you for the blog post and for considering my question.


    P.S. In case you’re interested, here’s a fun example of Schwäbisch (https://_www_youtube_com/watch?v=KRY5CWYxuMo) from SWR. “Äffle & Pferdle” were on while I was there.

    • debbiekaye1980 February 18, 2022 / 7:49 am

      Thanks for reading and for your question Winfield! The first thing I thought when I read the lyrics was ‘uh oh, this is some crazy dialect that I can’t understand’ – so it took me a while to enlist some help for your reply!
      Gemma in this case is used in the way I describe it – so ‘Und I sog Gemma, Gemma’ – is simply ‘and I say let’s go, let’s go’. I’m not sure on the capitalization, technically it shouldn’t be if it’s a verb, but then again this aint no normal Hochdeutch! And of course as we know, not all song lyrics always make perfect grammatic sense!
      Hope that helps you a little bit! There are a lot of crazy dialects out there when you’re learning a language!

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