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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone.
Welcome to The Ultimate German Pronunciation Guide.
In this lesson, we'll cover stress, rhythm, and intonation in German.
Stress, refers to the prominence or relative emphasis placed on certain syllables in a word.
When you say "unbelievable" in English for example, do you notice how "lie" is accentuated?
That's because it's pronounced longer, and louder than all of the other syllables.
This happens all the time in English, *and* in German.
Like in English, if you stress the wrong syllable in German, it will sound very un-natural.
Therefore, it's important to know which syllable to stress when pronouncing German words.
The general principle, is to stress the first syllable of a word.
Arbeiter (worker)
trinken (to drink)
This works for most words in German. However, there are always exceptions.
Loanwords or names for example, will preserve the stress rules from their language of origin.
Gustáv (German name)
There are many more exceptions to this, including a few irregular ones, so it's best to just stick to the general rule of stressing the first syllable whenever you use a word that you're unfamiliar with, and then later check with a dictionary, or a native speaker and imitate how *they* say it.
Next, is rhythm in German.
Fortunately, rhythm in German is stress-timed, like English.
Each syllable in German is not pronounced for the same amount of time.
Some syllables are actually said *longer* or shorter than other syllables.
This makes sense, because we know that German words contain stress, which not only makes some syllables LOUDER, but *also*, longer.
Therefore, it would make sense that stressed syllables will be said for longer than non-stressed syllables.
But did you know that non-stressed syllables are actually shortened and said softer as a result?
Like in English, this happens all the time in German. Compare a sentence in German that is said over properly, to one which you would hear in everyday conversation.
Wir wollen gehen. (we want to leave)
Wir woll'n geh'n.
Listen to another example.
Wir haben es gesehen. (We have seen it)
Wir haben`s gesehn
Okay, let's move on.
Finally, we have intonation.
German intonation is very similar to English. For example, the pitch falls at the end of declarative or imperative sentences.
Ich gehe arbeiten (I go to work)
Mach das Fenster zu! (Shut the window!)
Marie macht das Fenster zu. (Marie shuts the window)
If the sentence is continuing however, the pitch will rise at the end of the first and any subsequent clauses, up until the end of the sentence where it has a falling pitch.
Marie macht das Fenster zu, denn ihr ist kalt. (Marie shuts the window, because she feels cold)
Most questions in German will end with a rising pitch.
Hast du Hunger? (Are you hungry?)
Magst du Fußball? (Do you like soccer?)
Hat Peter eine Katze? (Does Peter have a cat?)
Unlike English though, German questions can sometimes have a falling intonation as well. This is typical of what/why/when/where questions that contain a presupposition or make an assumption in which the result is likely.
Was für eine Katze hat Peter? (What kind of cat does Peter have?)
Here, the speaker is asserting that Peter has a cat, so the question has a falling pitch.
Here's another example.
Wie ist das Wetter heute? (How is the weather today?)
Questions that have a falling pitch are generally quite informal, and can sometimes be used to signify annoyance or strictness.
For example, if a parent is talking to their child and wants to communicate strictness, the question would have a falling pitch at the end.
Hast du deine Hausaufgaben gemacht? (Have you done your homework?)
Okay, well that's all for intonation.
In this lesson, we covered stress, rhythm, and intonation in German.
In the next lesson, we'll review the material that we've covered in this series.
Were there more things familiar to English than you thought? Please comment and share your thoughts!
See you in the next Ultimate German Pronunciation Guide lesson!