Understanding Cologne's Local Dialect

The River Rhine and Cologne, Germany
The River Rhine and Cologne, Germany | © Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
Sarah Coughlan

Perched on the edge of the Rhine river, Cologne’s history is closely twinned with the rise of the Rhine as a shipping route. The people of Cologne, however, enjoy a reputation as among Germany’s most friendly, in no small part due to Kölsch, the local dialect.
Cologne’s dialect, part of the Mitteldeutschland group of dialects, reflects something deeper than just its differences from Hochdeutsch (high German). In Kölsch the locals can express something that is missing from Hochdeutsch: the essence of their city. The people of Cologne take their dialect seriously, so seriously in fact that their attitude to the city and to life can be expressed in their Kölsches Grundgesetz (Cologne Groundrules) which demonstrate that Cologne is home to pragmatic whimsy; at once romantic and realistic. Before readers are too quick to take Cologne too seriously however, it is important to remember that locals will happily tell visitors that ‘Kölsch is the only language’ you can drink; Kölsch afterall is not just the local dialect, it’s also the name of the local beer.

Cologne Groundrules:

Article One: “Es ist wie es ist”
Article Two: Es kommt wie es kommt
Article Three: Es ist bisher noch immer gut gegangen
Article Four: Was fort ist, ist fort
Article Five: Es bleibt nichts wie es war
Article Six: Kennen wir nicht, brauchen wir nicht, fort damit
Article Seven: Was willst du machen?
Article Eight: Mach es gut, aber nicht zu oft
Article Nine: Was soll das sinnlose Gerede?
Article Ten: Trinkst du einen mit?
Article Eleven: Da lachst du dich kaputt
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