Yes, they speak English. Here the details…
- See also: Common visitor questions
The national language in Austria is German. (For the record, there is no such thing as “Austrian.”)
The standard of education in Austria is very high; pretty well all schoolchildren get a solid grounding in English. So you should have no trouble at all getting by using English, particularly in hotels, stores, restaurants and other places in Vienna used to dealing with foreign tourists.
The locals are also aware that most foreign visitors, for example, cannot speak German. As a result, you’re unlikely to offend anyone by addressing them in English as long as you’re not arrogant about it.
Indeed, you’ll find people eager to practice their English on you – you may have some trouble with that if you’re actually trying to practice your German.
Nevertheless, like everyone, the Austrians appreciate it if you make an attempt to learn a few words. Here some simple ones…
|Please||Bitte (pronounced bitter)|
|Thank you||Danke (like anchor with a d in front)|
|Hello||Grüßgott (formal, pronounced groose-got)|
Servus (informal, pronounced sair-vuss)
Auf Wiedersehen (owf-vee-duh-zane)
Tschüss (chuce; Austrogerman)
Baba (bah-bah; Viennese)
And if you want to really impress…here’s a bit of classic “wienerisch” for you:
Life’s a bitch, and then you die … Man hoz net laicht, oba laicht hoz an (it will sound even more impressive if you pronounce it wrong.)
For the record, Austrian German is more or less the same as the one used by the neighbouring Germans. The differences are accent and some vocabulary. The English say tomato, the Germans say Tomate, and the Austrians say Paradeiser.
Think of the differences much like the case with British and American English (though Germany and Austria use the same spelling for the formal version of their language).
Having said that, the local Viennese dialect (called wienerisch) can be almost unintelligible and many of the words or the pronunciation bear no resemblance to anything you might have learnt in German lessons.
Fortunately, the locals happily switch to standard German if need be, in case you’re having trouble understanding.