Yesterday I asked for a simple recommendation online: a local language trainer who speaks Austrian German and offers online lessons. Little did I know, this innocent question would ignite a lively debate, shared stories, and remind me of the time my Austrian mother-in-law gave me an alien look in a Munich supermarket when I asked her for the “Tüte”.

But what about the professional realm? Is there merit in learning German from someone who speaks with an Austrian accent, knows the local lingo, or even a bit of dialect to navigate the infamous Viennese grumpiness? Based on anecdotal evidence, and some real digging into the topic, I think that it indeed helps in the workplace later on.

A Tale of Two Accents: Austrian vs. German German

Austrian German and Standard German (often referred to as “Hochdeutsch”) share a lot in terms of vocabulary and grammar, making them mutually intelligible. However, the devil is in the details. Austrian German boasts unique expressions, distinct pronunciation patterns, and even different verbs and nouns for everyday objects and actions​​​​. For instance, where Standard German uses “Aprikose,” Austrian German prefers “Marille.” And it’s not just vocabulary; pronunciation, verb conjugation, and even the use of prepositions can differ significantly, adding layers of complexity and richness to the language​​.

Moreover, understanding these nuances goes beyond mere communication; it’s about cultural integration. Austrian German is influenced by the region’s history, including its ties to the Bavarian dialect and Slavic languages, enriching its vocabulary with words like “Sackerl” (small bag) instead of the German “Tüte”​​.  Austrians may use different verb conjugations, particularly in the past tense, and employ distinct diminutives that can change the gender of nouns, a detail that could trip up even fluent speakers. For instance, diminutives in Austrian German often end in “-erl”, as opposed to “-chen” or “-lein” in Standard German. This linguistic diversity reflects Austria’s cultural identity, emphasizing the importance of politeness, formality, and a more melodic speaking style​​​​.

While on this topic, the city of Vienna has this languages app which, among others, translates from German to Viennese Wörterbuch – Wiener Sprachen App.  At least for fun, check it out.

The Professional Significance

I remember being on a project, just switched to speaking German and working with a very Austrian company, I would get happy tears of joy and a bit of nostalgia on the occasional Zoom call with the ex-colleagues from Frankfurt. Jokes apart, that was a bit of a cold shower moment. For me, comfortably and naively speaking English up to that point. And for my native German coworker, who complained about not understanding anything in meetings anymore.

So, should one learn German with an Austrian accent for professional success? Most arguments would say yes.

Diving into the academic realm, research underscores the influence of accents on hiring decisions and workplace dynamics. A study from PLOS ONE focused on the economic decisions influenced by regional accents in Germany demonstrated the strategic use of language in professional contexts, revealing social discrimination against speakers with out-group accents. This suggests that accents can affect cooperation and competition in the workplace.

Accents can profoundly influence first impressions and interactions in professional settings. Research indicates that while linguistic diversity is a reality in our globalized world, perceptions of different accents can vary widely, impacting understandability and potentially leading to biases. For instance, a study highlighted the dynamics within the Lingua Franca English (LFE) speech community, where speakers from various linguistic backgrounds communicate in English across different societal domains, including business and academia​​. This research has shown that while linguistic diversity is common, perceptions of accents can impact understandability and lead to biases. Although this doesn’t directly address German, it highlights the broader issue of accent perception in professional environments.

For work, knowing Austrian German can be a plus. It shows respect for the culture and can make communication smoother. It’s more than just speaking a language; it’s about understanding people’s way of life. Making an effort to learn local expressions or accents can make a big difference in how you’re seen at work. It can be especially important in job interviews or when you’re new to a job, showing you’re not just proficient in a language but also adaptable and respectful of cultural nuances.

Learning Austrian German isn’t just about surviving social settings; it can open doors. Whether it’s getting the melody of Austrian pronunciation right, understanding the cultural weight of certain phrases, or knowing when to say “Grüß Gott” instead of “Guten Tag,” it’s all worthwhile. You don’t need to master every local dialect, but showing you’re willing to learn can really enhance your professional image. It could be the subtle edge that distinguishes one candidate from another, demonstrating not only language proficiency but also cultural adaptability and awareness.


In conclusion, while Austrian German and Standard German are fundamentally the same language, their differences in dialect, pronunciation, vocabulary, and cultural context are significant enough to influence professional interactions. For international professionals navigating the job market in Austria or Germany, an understanding of these linguistic nuances can improve communication and cultural integration, becoming a crucial asset in their professional toolkit.

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