Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Widar: German pronunciation series, lesson #4. [Ich] and [ach] sounds.
Susanne: Hi everyone.
Widar: Welcome back to the pronunciation series.
Susanne: Are you getting the hang of German pronunciation, starting to feel more confident?
Widar: This time we are going to go over a concept called [Ich] and [ach].
Susanne: [Ich] and [ach] that sounds difficult.
Widar: Up until now, you’ve learned the basic German vowels and consonants and also learned what diphthongs and group consonants are and how they are pronounced.
Susanne: Today, we will guide you through the immensely important [Ich] and [ach] sounds that are fundamental for understanding and pronouncing German correctly.
Widar: And also give you some other miscellaneous pronunciation advice.
Susanne: Alright, then let’s jump into it.
Widar: When you listen to a German conversation, at a certain point, you will think that somebody might be a bit sick cleaning his or her throat.
Susanne: Yeah imagine it´s movie night on a Friday evening and you and your German friends chatted too long at home. The film starts at 8 PM. Someone checks the time and it’s already 8 PM. He might be very surprised and says something like
Widar: [Ach je, es ist schon acht Uhr]!
Susanne: Which in English means, oh dear, it’s already 8.
Widar: Did you recognize the throat cleaning sound?
Susanne: Maybe you should say it one more time.
Widar: [Ach je! Es ist schon acht Uhr]!
Susanne: [Ach] Good examples of the [ach] sound.
Widar: And it leads us right into today’s topic [Ich] and [ach] sounds.
Susanne: So what we’ve just heard was an [ach] sound but what exactly is that and is there a connection between both sounds.
Widar: Both sounds the [ich] and the [ach] sounds are consonant sounds. In written German, they are represented by the consonant cluster ch [ch] c plus h [ch] and [ch] are closely related but still are different sounds in German.
Susanne: But they do not appear in Standard English.
Widar: And that’s why native English speakers usually have a hard time pronouncing them correctly.
Susanne: Well then how do you pronounce them?
Widar: Hold your tongue and mouth in a position as if you want to build a [k] sound but try not to cut off the stream of breath as you do when building [k]. Instead, force it through the narrow opening between the tongue and through roof of the mouth.
Susanne: Quite tricky. First say [kkk] a few times. Now try to force your air over your tongue.
Widar: Good. If you want to build a palatal [ch] sound, the stream of air is forced through a flat but wide opening between the tongue and the roof of the mouth.
Susanne: Okay, say [chchch].
Widar: If you want to build a [ch] sound pronounce it towards the back of the throat. A little help might be the pronunciation of the guttural [ch] you know that lake in Scotland were according to Legend Ness, we had lake monster [Lochness].
Susanne: Oh you are right [Lochness] say [chchch].
Widar: Great. Now that you know how to pronounce both sounds, you need to learn when to use either [ch] or [ch].
Susanne: Yeah.
Widar: Whether you pronounce a [ch] or a [ch] sound, it’s determined by the immediately preceding vowel. So if ch, the written form for both the [ch] and the [ch] sound follows the back vowels O and [u] the O and [u] as well as the vowel [a] and diphthong [au] it will be pronounced as [ch].
Susanne: Examples for this are [Koch] cook where the [ch] is preceded by the vowel O. [Buch] book where the [ch] is preceded by the vowel [u] where the [acht] is preceded by the vowel [a] and [rauchen] to smoke where it’s preceded by the diphthong [au].
Widar: The [ch] sound occurs after Front vowels which are [e] and [i] as well as the umlaut [ä,ö,ü] and also after the diphthongs [ei] and [eu] as well as after the consonants [l,n] and [r].
Susanne: If you can’t remember all that, please check our accompanying PDF guide. Some examples for use of the [ch] sound are [schlecht] bad where the [ch] is preceded by the vowel [e] Ich where I where the [ch] is preceded by the vowel I, [Beichte] confession where the [ch] is preceded by the diphthong [ei] and [Kirche] where the [ch] follows the consonant [r].
Widar: Alright. That’s quite something to learn. Just one more note here. Lots of German adjectives end on the suffix [ich] mid of the vowel I plus consonant [g]. In standard German, this suffix is always pronounced [ch].
Susanne: For example in [wichtig] important
Widar: Yes we don’t say [wichtig] but [wichtich]
Susanne: But to every rule, there are exceptions and another popular suffix may show you the German diminutive suffix [chen]. It’s used in words like [Frauchen] which in English means you are dog master [Kätzchen] which means kitten and many more.
Widar: Right and instead of being pronounced as an [ch] sound, the diminutive suffix [chen] is always pronounced as [ch].
Susanne: Okay. It’s more obvious if we give you some examples. The German word to smoke is
Widar: [rauchen].
Susanne: Okay. It’s spelled rauchen [rauchen]. So this verb ends with [chen] but it’s pronounced as [ch].
Widar: It’s because the [chen] in [rauchen] is not a diminutive suffix even though it looks like one. Same goes for [Kuchen] cake a noun that also ends with [chen] but rather [chen] is not a suffix.
Susanne: Exactly. A diminutive suffix adds to the whole word like in our example [Frau] women plus the suffix [chen] results in [chen].
Widar: So the basic rule is if it’s a diminutive suffix, it’s pronounced as [ch]. If it’s part of the root word, the pronunciation of ch [ch] depends on the preceding vowel.
Susanne: What we wanted to show you is that you need to be careful if you read a word that ends in [chen] or [chen]. It’s not always diminutive suffix.
Widar: But in case you pronounced it wrong, nobody will take this as an offense. Just keep practicing and try to remember our few exceptions.
Susanne: Right.
Widar: Okay last but not least, we should look at the letter C [c] and its combinations.
Susanne: Right the letter C [c] can appear in the initial position in foreign words.
Widar: [c] C in the initial position can be pronounced [c] as in [Kätz] or [Hetz] if it comes before [ä,e] or [i].
Susanne: Can you give us some examples of that [Walter]?
Widar: Sure. [Cäsar] caesar, [Celsius] Celsius and [circa] approximately.
Susanne: And what about the initial C or [c] in other context?
Widar: If [c] comes before [a,o] or the diphthong [o] it will be pronounced [k].
Susanne: Okay some examples.
Widar: Camping.
Susanne: Camping.
Widar: Computer.
Susanne: Computer.
Widar: Couch.
Susanne: Couch. Okay, but usually the letter C or [c] appears in combination with the letter H [h]. This combination is crucial for building the [ch] and [ch] sounds.
Widar: This is different with ch [ch] in the initial position of foreign words.
Susanne: Yes. German words of foreign origin that start with the ch can be pronounced in a variety of possible ways.
Widar: Like [k] as in [Christ] Christ or [Chaos] chaos.
Susanne: As in chef, the chief or the boss or [charmant] charming.
Widar: And [ch] as in [Check] check or [Chip] chip.
Susanne: And lastly like the [ch] sound [Chemie] chemistry or [Chinese] Chinese.
Widar: All right. Well that ends our lesson on [Ich] and [ach].
Susanne: Make sure to keep practicing. Listen over and over again if you need to.
Widar: Let us know if you have any questions at germanpod101.com
Susanne: See you next time.
Widar: Before we go, we want to tell you about a way to improve your pronunciation drastically.
Susanne: The voice recording tool.
Widar: Yes. The voice recording tool in the premium learning center.
Susanne: Record your voice with a click of a button
Widar: And then play it back just as easily.
Susanne: So you record your voice and then listen to it.
Widar: Compare it to the native speakers
Susanne: And adjust your pronunciation.
Widar: This will help you improve your pronunciation fast. Thank you for listening.
Susanne: See you next time.
Widar: [Tschüss]!
Susanne: Bye.