German Language/German word for dad
QUESTION: Dear Janina,
I have three questions about German words for father, and I'd be very grateful if you would answer them for me!
1. Would you be kind enough to tell me what the German equivalent of "dad" is? In English, the word "dad" is very common, informal, but not too affectionate (considerably less affectionate than, for example, "daddy"). What would the German equivalent be?
2. Is there any difference in connotation between "Papa" and "Vati"? Is one more formal than the other? I've heard that "Vati" is more old-fashioned – is that true?
3. Would you know if any particular German word for "dad" would be more likely to be used in the German-speaking minority of Belgium?
Also, do you know if there is much difference in general between the German spoken in Germany, and the German spoken by the German-speaking minority of Belgium? I know that there is some difference in dialect between Germany and the German-speakers in Switzerland. Is it the same for the German-speakers in Belgium?
(I know this last question is quite obscure, and I'm very sorry if German language in countries outside Germany isn't your area of expertise – I'm very interested in the German-speaking minority of Belgium, and I didn't know anywhere else I could ask!)
Thank you so much for your time and help!
ANSWER: Hello Frances,
thank you very much for your question. I hope to be of some help to you.
Well, it is true that "Papa" and "Vati" are the German translations for dad. However, reading your description of how the word dad is used, I doubt that I would use the word Papa in the same way.
When talking to friends, colleagues and so on about my dad, I would always say "mein Vater", because I think using the word Papa would make me sound quite childish. Also thinking about times when other people told me something about their fathers, there were only few occasions when they would have referred to them as "Papa" or "Vati". So, it seems like there's no perfect equivalent to "dad" in German, which is not too uncommon when comparing two languages.
I can also confirm that "Vati" sounds more old-fashioned to me than "Papa". But this also be a regional thing. I am from the North, and maybe Vati is still common in the South or in the East of Germany.
I must confess that I don't know a lot about the German-speaking minority of Belgium. I remember having a professor at uni who turned out to be Belgium. I say "turned out" because he didn't have any kind of distinct accent that made you wonder where he might come from. But that really is the only person I ever met from the German-speaking minority in Belgium.
However, I found two websites about that part in Belgium. One seems to be a news website in German, and after a first look, their German doesn't seem to be too different from the standard German in Germany.
Here's the link: http://ostbelgiendirekt.be/
The other website is like an official information site about the region in East Belgium.
Both websites are in German, but I would still try and contact them ("Kontakt" option in the top bars) with any questions about their language. Don't worry if you can only write them in English, I am pretty sure someone will be able to reply.
I hope this helps.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hello Janina,
Thank you so much for your extremely helpful answer.
If you don't mind me asking, if you can remember, before you found out your uni professor was from Belgium, if you had had to guess where he was from in Germany, where did he most sound like? Although I understand that he didn't have a distinct accent, I have read that people from different parts of Germany do have different regional accents, so what did his accent sound most similar to?
Thank you again for your help, and for the website links, which are extremely useful!
Very best wishes,
I am very glad to hear that my answer was helpful to you.
It is true that there are many regional accents in Germany. As far as I can remember, the professor I mentioned didn't seem to have any particular accent, but spoke a very standard German. My guess is that he tried to make a point of speaking standard German as he was a professor.
I am very sorry that I can't be of any more help.