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Only a small number of Berliners speak the pure Berlinisch dialect, but the strong regional accent is also very distinctive. Listen out for ge pronounced as a soft je, the soft ch as a hard ck, or das as det; reading the phonetic spelling in Berlin cartoons will give you an idea of how it works. Slang words abound for just about anything (Olle is a woman, Molle or Pulle a beer, Stampe a pub) and almost all the public buildings in the city have nicknames - only a true Berliner would think to call the Haus der Kulturen der Welt the 'Pregnant Oyster', for example.

In 1998 Berlin, along with the rest of Germany, had to adapt to a thorough spelling reform, standardising some of the quirks and inconsistencies in the German language. Surprisingly for such an opinionated bunch, most Berliners took the changes in their stride, but many other states organised citizens' petitions in protest. In the end, though, the reform prevailed, and from 2005 the new orthography became the official standard, with barely a peep of complaint to be heard. For more information about the spelling changes visit www.neue-rechtschreibung.de.

Check out Deutsche Welle's dialect guide (www.dw-world.de/dialektatlas) for a few localised pointers.

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