You may be surprised to learn German is spoken all over South Tyrol. We’re here to help with some basic terminology and useful German and Tyrolean phrases for common situations you’ll likely come across on your trip.
Before traveling to any country, learning a bit of the local tongue is well worth the time invested. Locals appreciate the effort even if you mangle their language.
Many young people speak English in South Tyrol as it is now taught along with German and Italian; however, road signs, menus, historical markers and tourist placards will be almost entirely in German and Italian, as well as an ancient language known as Ladin. which is still spoken in certain valleys in the Dolomites such as Val Gardena and Alta Badia. Indeed, the language of South Tyrol is as complex and as fascinating as its geography and history.
Time-Saving Tip: Download our South Tyrol Travel Resources to obtain a PDF of Useful German & Tyrolean Phrases & Words. It’s a great resource you can access quickly on your tablet and phone while traveling.
Your Guide to Stress-Free Travel in South Tyrol & the Dolomites
Personally, we like that the use of English is limited in South Tyrol and the Dolomites. Discovering the world in another language elevates every experience. It is culturally invigorating, fun, and a good excuse to flex one’s mental muscles. Knowing basic words and phrases goes a long way in making travel situations less stressful.
Tip: If you are interested in really learning German (or practically any language for that matter), we highly recommend Babbel. We purchased lifetime access to their tool at a great price and could not be happier with it.
Before going further in this post, it’s important to note that Tyrolean German is different than the dialect spoken in other Germanic regions of Europe. Do not let this worry you if you already know a little German. The basic phrases we cover here will allow you to communicate with German speakers in South Tyrol. In addition, we also include some common Tyrolean German words and phrases you may encounter.
First Things First – German Pronunciation
Knowing how letters are pronounced is always a good thing to commit to memory. Then, when you encounter an unfamiliar term, on a menu, for example, you will be able to better guess its pronunciation and sound a teaspoon less ridiculous. Below you’ll find the alphabet (only for letters that vary in sound from English) along with the German pronunciation of each letter.
- “A” is pronounced “Ah”. The “A” is always long
- “ä” is pronounced like “ay” as in the word “say”
- “Ch” is pronounced like a hard “K”
- “e” at the end of a word is pronounced “ah”
- “ei” is pronounced as a long “I” as in “eye”
- “ie” is pronounced as “ee” as in “see”
- “J” is pronounced as “Y”
- “I” is pronounced as “leh” as in “letter”
- “ö” is pronounced as “er” as in the end of the word “better”
- “Sch” is pronounced as “sh” as in “shower”
- “ü” is pronounced as “ee” as in “see” but while saying the sound, round your lips (it really works!)
- “U” is pronounced as “oo” as in “boot”
- “V” is as “F” as in the beginning of “fish”
- “W” is pronounced as “V”. For example, wine in German is “wein”, which is pronounced “vine”
- “Z” is pronounced as “ts” like you would hear at the end the word “hats”
German Greetings & Other Handy Phrases
Similar to English, German greetings vary by time of day. In the morning, “Guten Morgen” is used, which many German speakers shorten to simply “Morgen”. “Grüß Gott” (pronounced “GrooS GoT” and meaning “God bless you”) is a common popular South Tyrol language greeting that we hear frequently when greeting other hikers on the trails. Other more casual greetings are “Hallo” or even “Hi”. To introduce yourself, you can add “Ich heisse (your name)”.
Now that you’ve begun a conversation, you’ll need to know:
- Ja = Yes
- Nein = No
- Sprechen Sie Englisch? = Do you speak English?
- Ich spreche kein Deutsch = I don’t speak German
- Bitte = Please
- Danke = Thank you
- Bitteschön = You’re welcome
- Entschuldigung = Excuse me/sorry
You’ll hear a variety of goodbyes including “Auf wiedersehen” (or shortened to “Wiederschaun ” in Tyrolean German), “Tschüss”, “Servus”, and “Bis bald”, among others. Auf wiedersehen is the most formal and Tschüss is used in more informal situations. Bis bald is the same as “see you soon”, so is more properly used when you will likely see the individual again. Tschüss and Servus are a couple more informal farewells. In general, we followed the lead of whoever we were meeting and used the same greeting.
Useful German Phrases for Getting from Point A to Point B
- Wo isch…? = Where is…?
- Wie komme ich zu…? = How do I get to…?
- Ich habe mich verlaufen = I’m lost
- Links = Left
- Rechts = Right
- Geradeaus = Straight ahead
- Umdrehen = Turn around
- Das nächste Dorf = The next village/town
- Der Bahnhof = The train station
- Die Bushaltestelle = The bus stop
- Die Straße = The street
- Der Weg = The path
Let’s Eat & Drink! Ordering in German
Knowing some German is very handy when ordering at restaurants, bars and cafes. You can ask for a table with your party size by stating “Tisch für (zwei) bitte.” In this example, you’re asking for a table for two (zwei). With any of these statements, don’t forget please (bitte) and thank you (danke).
When ordering, begin with “Ich möchte” for “I would like”. Below are some common drinks and food you may be ordering.
- Rotwein = red wine
- Weisswein = white wine
- Bier = beer
- Wasser = water
- Kaffee = coffee
- Nudeln = pasta
- Pizza = pizza
- Brezel = pretzel
- Salat = salad
- Kuchen = cake
- Eis = ice cream
When hiking in South Tyrol, we’ve found that not all restaurants along the paths will have a kitchen or it will only be open at specific hours. So these questions may be helpful before and during your meal:
- Das Menu? = Do you have a menu?
- Ist die Küche geöffnet? = Is the kitchen open?
- Wo ist die Badezimmer? = Where is the bathroom?
- Wieviel kostet das? = How much does this cost?
- Können Sie das bitte aufschreiben? = Can you please write that down?
- Kann ich mit Kreditkarte bezahlen? = Can I pay with a credit card?
At the end of your meal you may be asked: “Mogsch a Schnapsal?“, which is “Would you like some schnapps?”. The appropriate answer in our opinion is always “Ja, bitte!” while enthusiastically shaking your head up and down. Another locally-famous libation you should order is a Hugo Spritz.
If you are an American reading this, keep in mind that dining in many European countries is an experience, so the service is much slower. Europeans tend to take their time much more so than Americans while eating, so you’ll likely need to ask for your bill at the end of the meal with “Rechnung bitte” or the Tyrolean German phrase: “Zol’n bitte” (the bill, please).
By the way, if you are renting a car while in South Tyrol, see our post on driving in Italy It will help you enjoy a stress-free time on the road.
LEARN MORE: Discover the 10 Must-Try Foods of South Tyrol