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Your Ultimate German Pronunciation Guide

If you’ve studied German for any length of time, you’ve inevitably heard someone say how hard the pronunciation is, or something along the lines of, “it always sounds like Germans are angry when they talk.”

You’ve also probably heard it more than once.

Well, I’m about to say something that may shake up your view of the German language: its pronunciation isn’t actually that hard.

Yes. You read that right.

German pronunciation is not only logical, but it’s also very similar to English and many other Indo-European languages in many respects.

This has always fascinated me, why do people think that German speakers always sound angry? German uses the same “r” sound as the French language, which many people consider to be beautiful.

In my opinion, beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or in this case… the language learner?), so it honestly beats me.

Let’s learn about German pronunciation and get those pronunciation muscles flexing!

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Before We Begin

If you’re worried about learning German pronunciation, just think about English words like “twelfths,” “rural,” or “onomatopoeia.” How did you learn to pronounce these words? Probably by getting them wrong a few times.

German is just like that. You’re going to have to learn, practice and mess up. It’s okay.

Take a deep breath, relax, clear your mind of all negative emotions associated with German pronunciation, and let’s begin by looking at how to say Deutsch like you are from Deutschland.

Subconsciously mastering your German pronunciation is one of the best ways to perfect your accent. It feels more like fun than like work (hint: because it is) and it actually pushes your accent closer and closer to sounding native than almost anything else (if you go about it the right way).

How are we going to learn pronunciation without thinking about it? It’s pretty simple, to be honest.

Listening is one of the best ways to improve your accent because it opens your ears to things that you are doing wrong that you would have never noticed otherwise.

There are tons of methods to improve your pronunciation through the use of listening materials, but not all resources are created equal.

1. Introduction to German Pronunciation

German might sound like a difficult language to learn when you hear a fluent native speaker, but it really is not too difficult. The German pronunciation of the words is actually one of the simpler parts of the language to learn. 

However, you will want to know some of the basics of how to pronounce various parts of the language so you will be able to put it into practice with the German words that you are learning. Learning the way that the language is similar to and different from English can be very beneficial for those who want to grasp the intricacies of proper pronunciation.

1- Sounds and Syllables

When you learn to write German, you will see that they have 8 different vowels – a, e, i, o, u as well as those with umlauts ä, ö, and ü. The language also has 22 consonants – b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z, and Eszett ß. They have 30 letters, but they have far more sounds than letters. They have blocks of letters that form syllables.

You will find long and short vowels in the language. 

  • A
    • The short vowel a is pronounced as the “u” in pug
    • The long vowel “a” is pronounced as in godfather with an “ah” sound
    • E
    • The short vowel e is pronounced as the “e” in net
    • The long vowel pronounced as the “e” in elementary.
    • I
      • Short vowel i sounds like the “i” in independent
      • The long vowel sounding like the “ea” sound in team.
      • O
      • Short vowel o sounds similar to the “o” sound from orange
      • The long vowel sounds like the “o” in ton. 
        • The short vowel sound of “u” sounds similar to put
        • The long vowel sounds similar to the “u” in moon. 
        • ä
        • The short vowel ä as a sound similar to the “a” in carry.
        • No long vowel sound.
        • ö
        • The short vowel ö has a sound similar to the “o” sound in the word wording.
        • The long vowel sound similar to word. 
        • ü 
          • The short vowel sound of ü is u similar to the “o” in coast
          • The long vowel sound being similar to the word bag.

          The German language has a number of different pronunciation quirks that you will want to learn. As you become more familiar with the language, you will find that the German pronunciation does start to get easier.

          2. The Three Best ways to practice your German accent

          Below are some of the absolute best ways to practice your German accent without even thinking about it.

          1- Listen to Audiobooks

          Audiobooks are not only one of the absolute best resources for practicing your pronunciation; they’re also one of the easiest resources to find. Almost any book you can think of has been recorded and published as an audiobook, so all you have to do is search for it and listen to it!

          The best part about audiobooks is that you can always find something that interests you. 

          One of the most important aspects of good language study is being interested in what you are working on, and audiobooks make sure that this never becomes a problem.

          Interested in sports? There are audiobooks about that. 

          Interested in cooking? There are audiobooks about that.

          I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Whatever you’re interested in, just find a German audiobook about it and listen away!

          If you’re just starting out in German, that’s not a problem.You can easily find short stories and children’s stories in audiobook format for an easier listening experience. 

          If that sounds too boring, just wait until you get a little more advanced and then try finding something that you enjoy more. But don’t shy away from trying something that pushes you out of your comfort zone!

          It’s how you grow. Even if you don’t understand every word, your ears will become more accustomed to the sounds of German and your tongue will eventually be able to reproduce them.

          Bonus: Listening by itself is great, but pick up a written copy of the same book and follow along with the reader. This will allow you to learn to read German and will give you visual memory hooks for the sounds you’re digesting. Listening and reading creates a rich experience that is sure to increase several of your German skills.

          2- Listen to Music

          German music is rich and varied and is also a great way to practice your pronunciation. All you have to do is find music you like and listen to it!

          There are plenty of different genres of German music, so it’s very easy to find something that you like. Just like with the audiobooks, there’s a bonus if you read the lyrics at the same time!

          It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find artists that will be universally appealing, but here are some artists that I have enjoyed or that are popular or famous:

          Revolverheld is one of my favorite German bands. The words are also often easier to understand than a lot of other music.

          Also, Sarah Connor’s album Muttersprache is one of my all-time favorites and is also easier to understand than most other music, due to the softer sounds.

          There are various types of music, so just find something you like, listen to it, and start feeling your pronunciation get better as your head bobs to the music.

          3- Listen to Native German Conversations 

          Listening to native German speakers talking is one of the best ways to improve your accent because it surrounds you with the real sounds of the language.

          Even though it makes so much sense, there are many learners who don’t take advantage of this fantastic learning method for one reason or another.

          The good news is that it’s now easier than ever to access audio of native German speakers talking without ever leaving your house. It’s almost like a little piece of Germany is coming to you!

          You can access a wealth of German audio just by searching on YouTube for native German content. This allows you to widen you German vocabulary and grammar while drastically improving your accent at the same time!

          Even though YouTube is a fantastic resource and Easy German is a great place for learners of all levels to start, there are many other sources of German audio that anyone and everyone should make use of to improve their pronunciation as fast as possible.

          The absolute best thing you can do for your accent is listen to a lot of material as often as possible, but you’ll also need to study some of the technical aspects of German phonetics to improve your pronunciation.

          Below is a list of the most important German phonetic rules to kick start your accent and get you well on your way to sounding native!

          3. German Pronunciation Guide


          1- How to Pronounce German Letters

          The German alphabet is very similar to the English one, but there are some key differences in pronunciation. Here’s a guide to each letter’s pronunciation and some additional resources to help you master each sound.

          • A – Pronounced “Ah”
          • B – “Bay”
          • C – “Tsay”
          • D – “Day”
          • E – “Ay”
          • F – “Eff”
          • G – “Gay”
          • H – “Haa”
          • I – “Eeh”
          • J – “Yot”
          • K – “Kah”
          • L – “Ell”
          • M – “Em”
          • N – “En”
          • O – “Oh”
          • P – “Pay”
          • Q – “Koo”
          • R – “Er” (approximate to the uvular German pronunciation)
          • S – “Es”
          • T – “Tay”
          • U – “Ooh”
          • V – “Fow”
          • W – “Vay”
          • X – “Ix”
          • Y – “Uep-si-lohn”
          • Z – “Tset”
          • Ü – Pronounce the German I with your lips rounded like a U
          • Ö – Similar to the “I” in “Girl.” 

          Ä – Sounds like an “Eh”

          ß – Double “s” sound. Called an Esszet.

          Even though the German alphabet is similar to the English alphabet, it’s important that you recognize the letters that are different and learn the differences in pronunciation in order to make your German understandable and enjoyable to listen to.

          Likewise, there are a few letters that are completely foreign to native English speakers. They are really are not difficult to learn and master, but it does take practice.

          2- How to pronounce long German words

          German is famous for its long words, and most people assume that the length of the word determines its pronunciation difficulty. 

          This, however, is not always the case.

          German is an agglutinating language, which means that words build off of each other. This actually gives you an advantage when learning to pronounce words because you can break each word down into smaller words to learn how to pronounce the larger one.

          Sound difficult? It’s not. I promise. Let’s look at a few examples to get a grasp of this concept:

          1. Freundschaftsbeziehungen – This word, made famous by Mark Twain, is actually composed of separate words, Freundschaft (friendship) + Beziehungen (relationships). By knowing each of these smaller words and breaking the large word into its constituent parts, the pronunciation becomes much easier. Just pronounce each part like it’s usually pronounced and you’ll be pronouncing the whole word correctly.
          2. Geschwindigkeitsbeschränkungen – This intimidating word is actually very common and important, but it’s also composed of several smaller words, making it much scarier. It just means “speed limit,” but its 30 letters make it much more frightening than it ought to be. It’s actually composed of two words that are each composed of smaller particles. These two words are Geschwindigkeit (speed) + Beschränkungen (restrictions). 

          As you can see, the compound words in German actually create a system that helps the learner rather than hinders them, but it helps to know the individual words so you can pronounce the longer ones with ease.

          3- How to Pronounce German Numbers

          Numbers are an essential part of every language, so it’s important that all German-learners know how to pronounce them well.

          Rather than write out every number in German and explain its pronunciation (which would be a massive waste of time for everyone involved), I’m going to briefly explain the number system and then link resources that help with the concept and the pronunciation.

          First, German numbers are similar to most other numerical systems in that they add onto each other from 1-100 and then repeat under each denomination above 100. So 77 would be seven and seventy, 777 would be seven hundred seven and seventy, and so on.

          The German numerical system is not difficult, but learning to pronounce it will go a very long way in being understood by native German speakers.

          Using some of our resources like our number vocabulary list is an excellent way to learn these numbers and their pronunciation and you never have to leave your own home!

          4- How to Pronounce German Letter Combinations

          One of the most difficult parts of mastering any language’s pronunciation is learning its letter combinations. Letter combinations are the sounds that certain letters make when they’re next to one or more other specific letters.

          German has quite a few distinct letter combinations, but they are consistent and none of them are too difficult to pronounce:

          1. Tsch – This is a common combination and can be seen in the word Deutsch. It’s pronounced exactly like the English “ch” like in “couch.”
          2. Sch – Without the “t,” this combination is simply pronounced like the English “sh” like in “shoe.”
          3. Ch – This is by far the hardest for English speakers, and it’s pronounced almost like a cat hissing but not nearly as angry.
          4. Sp – This is pronounced like an English “sh” plus “p.” It is very simple.
          5. St – Similar to “sp,” this is like the English “sh” plus “t.” This combination and the combination of “sp” only apply when they are at the beginning of the syllable. There are other scenarios when these words are pronounced differently. Otherwise, they are pronounced as follows.
          6. St – For the middle or end of a syllable, this is pronounced as the “st” in “straight.”
          7. Eu – This diphthong is pronounced exactly like “Oi” in English. 
          8. Ei – This diphthong is pronounced like the English word “eye.”
          9. Ie – Another diphthong, but pronounced like the English long “e.”
          10. Pf – This interesting combination is produced by pronouncing a “p” and “f” sound as close together as possible.

          5- How to Pronounce German City Names

          German city names are important for every German student because they are likely to come up in most learning texts as well as conversations with native speakers from Germany.

          Learning to pronounce German city names well is also a bonus for travel within Germany and will help the learner avoid sounding like a tourist or beginner.

          1. Berlin
          2. München
          3. Köln
          4. Frankfurt

          These are the largest cities in Germany and will likely be the subject of most discussions about Germany, but they also demonstrate the methods for pronouncing German cities.

          Vowels are pure and clear in German, which distinguishes German pronunciation from English. Pure vowels are the trick to correctly pronouncing German city names.

          4. Why is Correct Pronunciation in German Important?

          Correct Pronunciation

          Proper pronunciation is important, very important. Some say it’s even more important than getting the grammar perfectly correct! Why would this be?

          1) Good Understanding 

          If communicating with native speakers matters to you when learning German, you need to be understood when you talk, and you need to be able to understand the native speakers. After all, without understanding, the purpose of language is null and void! In order to be understood, you need to be able to speak the language in a way that is familiar to native speakers, or at least recognizable by them. 

          When learning to speak a new language, you will learn that the more you progress the more intricate it becomes! For instance, almost every language has vocabulary that may look the same in writing, but because the words are pronounced differently, they have very different meanings. This means that you may say a word in German, and because of a slight change in pronunciation, the meaning of the word changes completely. Understandably, this can make for pretty embarrassing situations! At worst, your mispronounced German will sound garbled to a native speaker. 

          Knowing the nuances of how a word or letter is pronounced will also help you to understand spoken German better.

          No worries if this feels hard; you’re learning, and with our help at GermanPod101, you will not have a problem with mispronunciation if you follow our advice and examples carefully.

          2) Good Communication 

          Not pronouncing German or any other language correctly can lead to a lot of frustration because you’re unable to express what you mean, and you will not be understood correctly. Even if you have total knowledge of German grammar, and can write it like a native, not knowing how to speak it properly will only make for very frustrating communication all around.

          3) A Good Impression 

          Even if you’re only a beginner, it is possible to speak any language correctly. This way, you are bound to make a good impression on native speakers, and when you’re more fluent, you will be likely to garner a lot more respect than a fumbling newbie speaker who doesn’t care much for correct pronunciation. 

          People often have a lot of patience for someone who learns to speak a new language, but native speakers are more likely to address you and engage with you in conversation if you work hard on your accent. This is simply because you’ll be able to understand one another! So, proficiency in pronunciation can mean the difference between having none or plenty of German speaking friends. It will also serve you well in the workplace, and make you popular with your German speaking managers and employers or employees.

          Learning to speak German properly is also a sign of respect for not only the language, but also the native

          5. Secrets to Learning the Correct German Pronunciation

          Introduction

          1) Use voice recording tools to perfect your pronunciation

          GermanPod101 has plenty of resources to help you with your German pronunciation, so be sure to make thorough use of our recordings with native German speakers. These are available not only to demonstrate to you how you should pronounce German vocabulary, but also sentences and dialogues. Watch and listen to these over and over again to train your ear, and watch the teacher’s mouth as she speaks in the video lessons. Then, copy the speech as best you can. Later, you can record yourself to hear if you sound like a native speaker and compare yourself with native speakers. Great for self-motivation.

          2) Practice in front of the mirror.

          And see that you’re copying the correct lip and mouth movements.

          3) Use our GermanPod101 dictionary!

          Use the German dictionary provided by GermanPod101 to look up words and listen to the audio pronunciation. This will go a long way towards giving you an idea of how to pronounce a word or letter correctly.

          4) Train your ear to the language!

          Make an effort to listen often to German music and recorded books, and watch plenty of German movies and/or TV shows in German. This will train your ear to the language, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you pick up the accent. Remember, this is the way we learned to speak when we were young - mostly by listening to the adults talking, and repeating what they say!

          5) Practice, practice, practice… 

          Repetition of the same thing may be boring, but in learning a new language, you’re creating new pathways in your brain. For these to remain and become habitual, you will need to repeat the correct pronunciation often.

          6) Make friends with a native German speaker.

          Don’t be shy to address them in German! Ask them to correct you when you make a pronunciation mistake - this is a wonderful way to practice and learn the language first-hand, and also to make new friends.

          7) Practice your pronunciation with your German teacher!

          If you’re a serious student and don’t know where to meet native German speakers, consider investing in GermanPod101’s Premium PLUS plan. This means you will have your own native German teacher available to practice your pronunciation with, and much more! Send recordings of yourself speaking German and get feedback from your German teacher.

          6. Conclusion

          Secrets to Learning

          German offers a unique challenge to all who study it, but it is a rewarding and valuable language to study. 

          No matter how many times you’ve heard that German is difficult to pronounce or understand, you can still learn to pronounce German with the simple steps above. 

          German pronunciation is well within your grasp. 

          The only way to end up not learning it is to give up right away, or to never start.

          Best of luck to you on your journey to master German pronunciation.

          Tschüß! Bye!

          7. How to Download Your Free Guide to Beginner German

          Download Your FREE Guide to Beginner German!

          If you want to master the German language and become fluent, get this German eBook!
          You need physical worksheets to practice on.

          This eBook is a MUST-HAVE for all German learning beginners!

          FREE German eBook

          Download your FREE German practice sheets PDF today and learn the German language in no time!
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          Log in with Your Free Lifetime Account and we’ll give you a bundle of PDF cheat sheet including Survival Phrases, Romantic Lines, Learning Tips… — absolutely FREE!

          3 Reasons to Learn German Through PDF Lessons

          Let’s now take a closer look at how studying German lessons in PDF format can help you reach your dream in up to half the time of normal video or audio lessons!

          ① Saves Minutes on Your Data Plan

          Learning German through PDF lessons can dramatically reduce your data use. Once a lesson or tool is downloaded, you can then access it offline via your computer or smartphone any time or place regardless of Internet access. And once you’ve downloaded the German lessons in PDF format, you can actually access them faster than logging in and trying to do so via a live site. So not only will learning German using PDF lessons save minutes on your data plan—it will save you some significant time as well as the lessons add up!

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          Sometimes, a tiny smartphone screen just isn’t adequate, especially when you are trying to learn something new. The great thing about PDF lessons, tools or files is that they can be quickly printed and taken anywhere after you download them. In fact, printing out German lessons in PDF format can actually save you time when compared to going through the material on a smartphone with a small screen—even with the extra printing time!

          ③ Great Study Tool to Boost Retention and Mastery

          Studying video or audio lessons online is a great way to learn a language because students can play and rewind sections as many times as needed until the lesson is mastered. But when you review the same German lessons again in PDF format, an incredible thing happens: your retention dramatically improves! Thanks to Time Spaced Repetition, seeing the information again in written format helps reinforce the information in your mind and improves both retention and recall. The benefits of learning German using PDF lessons quickly add up to significant time savings for you, your data plan, and your dream of learning a new language!

          Why are we giving it away?

          Learning to read and write is a must for all beginners. Although you get video lessons on how to write in German at GermanPod101, you’ll still need physical worksheets to practice on. That’s why you’re getting this printable tutorial PDFs as a gift.

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          How to Introduce Yourself in German
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          Has anyone thanked you today? We will. Thank you for reading this article and learning with us! In fact, today, you’ll learn the many different ways to say “Thank You” in German. It’s one of the most important German phrases. Check it out and watch the video too to practice your pronunciation.

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