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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to German.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Jenni.
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of German pronunciation.
English vs. German
German uses the exact same letters as English. It also uses one extra character (ß), and has unique markers which looks like two dots appearing over some vowels (ä ö ü).
But let's try not to focus and rely on the German letters too much. Let's focus on the sounds. There are a total of 28 consonant sounds and 17 vowel sounds in German. The good news is that most of these sounds are identical to English. First, let's listen to some common German vowel sounds.
a e i o u
As you heard, these vowels don't sound that different from English.
One thing to note though, is that German vowels are pronounced much more clearly than English. We also have more vowel sounds than English, so that's why it's very important that we pronounce them clearly. Unlike English, we try to maintain a constant pitch from start to finish without tapering off.
a e i o u (hold each letter for ~1 second)
Some vowel sounds, will be unfamiliar to you.
Some vowels, such as A, O, and U, can have two dots over them. We call these dots "umlaute." They indicate a change in the original pronunciation of the vowel. Compare the following pairs of vowels:
a, ä
a +e = ä (Äpfel = "apples") – it is pronounced like the "e" in “melon”
o, ö
o + e = ö (Öl = "oil") – it is pronounced like the "I" in “girl”
u, ü
u + e = ü (Hürde = "hurdle") – there's no direct equivalent
The vowels with the two dots over them are essentially a combination between the vowel, and an E sound. Sometimes they're represented as AE, OE, or UE.
Now, let's take a look at German consonants.
Like vowels, German consonants are predominantly similar to English.
b, d, f
Other consonant sounds however, may be a little more challenging.
r (rost)
r (Rübe)
r (Schmarrn)
These are the sounds that you'll need to focus on perfecting.
OK. Let's move on.
Tricky Letters
Some consonants in German aren't actually pronounced as they look to an English speaker. Let's take a look at some of these letters.
The German V, isn't pronounced like an English V, but as an F sound. So both V and F in German, are pronounced as an F sound.
Vogel (“bird”), Fett (“fat”)
The German W, on the other hand, is pronounced like a V sound.
Wasser (“water”), Wagen (“car”)
German is also notorious for its "ich" and "ach" sounds.
The German CH, isn't pronounced like the CH in “church.”
Ich ("I")
Licht (“light”), Recht (“law”)
It could also be pronounced another way...
wach (“awake”)
Dach (“roof”), noch (“still”)
The former is pronounced closer to the front of the mouth, while the latter is pronounced at the back of the mouth.
Next, is the SCH. This one is actually pronounced like the "sh" in “sheet.”
schmal (“narrow”), schnell (“fast”), Schlaf (“sleep”)
Now that you have gained a better understanding of German sounds, let's take a closer look at some common mistakes and how to fix them!
Common mistakes
We mentioned before that English speakers do not maintain the pitch of the vowel throughout. This often occurs because English speakers tend to "glide" on the vowel, needlessly adding a Y sound as they prolong the vowel.
When pronouncing German vowels, try to maintain the same pitch throughout the vowel.
Bad (“bath”), Nebel (“fog”), Igel (“hedgehog”), Ohr (“ear”), U-Boot (“submarine”)
Bär (“bear”), blöd (“corny”), über (“over”)
Another challenging sound is the German guttural R sound.
rund (“round”), Rast (“break”)
You want to produce the sound at the back of your throat, as if you're gargling water. Try it!
r, r
Well done.
In this lesson, you were introduced to German pronunciation. You learned that English and German share a lot of similar consonant and vowel sounds. You also learned that German vowels are pronounced evenly throughout. And in this lesson, you were introduced to some unfamiliar German sounds and the common mistakes that learners make.
We've covered only the basics of German pronunciation. If you're interested in learning more, check out our entire course titled "The Ultimate Guide to German pronunciation". In that course, we cover and break down every single sound in the German language, showing you mouth and tongue positioning, and giving you tips to help you perfect your German pronunciation.
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of German grammar, where you'll learn about German word order and how to build basic sentences in German. See you in the next lesson! Bye!