(Note: There are no swear words in this post.)
Are you surprised that you should learn German swear words? You shouldn’t be.
German, like every language, has its own group of salty words. And Germans, just like every other people, decide individually on if and when they swear and in which situation(s). And since they are overall a polite and diplomatic folk, it's not that often. Swear words are still considered naughty words.
A language is a living thing, and swear words and slang are a part of that. These are words which change over time (remember “rad” and “syche!” from the 90’s?!); a language is an expression of and is also part of its own culture.
When I say "learn German swear words," I mean know what they are. Recognize them. Know if something is bad or really bad. Know when something you hear is someone telling a joke and know when something is a direct insult.
Let’s take a look at why it’s important to at least know what swear words are in German:
1. You don’t want to misuse a naughty word.
This is one of the biggest "jokes" that people like to pull on German learners. German speaker Lukas teaches American speaker Will a naughty word, and either doesn't tell Will what it means or he tells him that it means something else. Will tries it out in conversation and offends his new friends.
Nobody wants to offend their new, German friends! So Will should definitely unfriend Lukas and block his number, however the damage has been done.
If you were to accidentally pick up a swearword, say, thinking it was an emphatic word but not a naughty word, and use it in polite company, you might be a bit embarrassed. In a private conversation, misusing a word might lead to some seriously hurt feelings. This would make any German learner feel foolish.
So learn what naughty words and swear words are. You don't have to use them. (And Germans would prefer you didn't anyway.)
2. You do want to know what’s going on around you.
As I mentioned above, a language is a living thing. You'll hear German all around you, in the subway, on the street, in the museums, at the theatre, at the office, and in der Kneipe after work. You might overhear a conversation that's about to get heated. You might walk past two people having an argument. You might turn the corner in some German town and walk into an uncomfortable situation. It happens here at home, it happens abroad. People disagree, people argue, people fight.
When you know what's going on around you, you can make a better decision on what you're going to do. Is it best to ignore it, because it's not a big deal? Should you turn around and walk the other way? Is it bad enough that you should call the police and get help for someone?
So just as you know what loads of swear words are in American English, but you probably don't use them very often, your awareness of them helps you navigate different situations in life. Consider German swear words in the same way. Be informed and know what's going on around you as you navigate your German learning and travel.
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