How the German language differed between East and West

One surefire way to tell whether somebody is an east or west German is to ask them what noise a duck makes. West Germans will typically say quak, quak, while east Germans will say nak nak nak.

As far as the latter are concerned, it’s frogs that go quak, not ducks. The sound nak nak actually comes from a well-known children’s TV character in GDR, Schnatterinchen the duck. These two variants are still being passed down by parents to their children today.

A new book published by Duden about language in the GDR – fitting given the upcoming 30th anniversary of German reunification on October 3rd – is more concerned with other aspects of everyday speech.

In her book Mit der Schwalbe zur Datsche – so sprach der Osten (roughly translated as ‘From the moped to the summer cottage – this is how East Germans spoke’), author Antje Baumann explains 50 terms used in the German Democratic Republic.

The list ranges from Antifaschistischer Schutzwall (anti-facist protective wall), the East German term to refer to the Berlin Wall, to the widely spread phenomenon of the Westpaket (a care package sent by West Germans to the East).

Read more: The Local Germany

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