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  • Writer's pictureSKEI Team

The German pronunciation

What does actually make each language so unique? First and foremost, of course, pronunciation! Ultimately, it is the sounds that determine how we perceive a foreign language.

What difficulties are there in acquiring German pronunciation?

Our linguistic apparatus is not tuned to the sound system of a particular language from the very beginning. That's why it's a great advantage to learn German, including pronunciation, alongside your own mother tongue, for example, as a child or in your younger years. This does not mean that it is impossible to do it at a later age. One should only be aware that there are sounds in German that have no equivalent in one's own language, and even those that are identical at first glance can be very difficult, because even with them one has to pay attention to differences in the nuances of sound.

Is pronunciation really that important?

Many people claim that language is there to convey information and that comprehension can be ensured in the language, regardless of how good or bad the pronunciation is.

Firstly, think about the impression you will leave with the person you are speaking to. Will you come across as an educated, competent person and convince the other person with your communication skills if you do not have good pronunciation?

Secondly, if you mispronounce just one sound, it can result in the words ending up with a have a completely different meaning than what you meant. Thus, the transmission of important information can fail and comprehension can also be prevented.

Thirdly, correct pronunciation is not only necessary for the correct articulation of sounds. It encompasses several aspects, such as sentence melody, tempo, rhythm and pauses when speaking, and affects other areas of language acquisition. Without correct pronunciation, one cannot learn the rules of reading, one could not cope with the unfamiliar spelling. It is hardly possible to perceive language only by hearing, because your idea of how to spell one word or another would often differ from reality. Thus, correct pronunciation has a direct influence on spelling.

How do you train pronunciation?

Did you know that you can't practise German without exercising your muscles? In German, it's all about the mouth muscles and the diaphragm. Just like professional singers do.

singers do.

Here are some well-known and helpful exercises for your speech fitness:

Explosive sounds

German is all about clear, expressive pronunciation, which is why it is sometimes accused of sounding "rude". This is because of the so-called "explosion sounds", which cause the air to be held back for a moment and then suddenly released. For example, P, T and K in "paper", "bag" or "coffee". To practise correct pronunciation, experts recommend taking a piece of paper, holding it vertically in front of your mouth and saying P, T and K so that it moves.

German throat

Many people cannot pronounce the German R in the throat. Here they recommend the following: When brushing your teeth, put some water in your mouth and gargle with it. In this way, you automatically activate the part of your throat responsible for pronouncing the correct German R. Most of the time, everyone can do this without even realising it.

Lip exercises

The umlauts Ä, Ö and Ü do not occur in all languages and are a real challenge for many learners of German. You must not forget that the umlaut above the vocabulary also has a meaning. For example, they distinguish between "beautiful" and "already". But how do you pronounce these unfamiliar sounds correctly? The way to Ü is via the I: pronounce the I clearly and distinctly while tightening the corners of your mouth. Hold the sound and pull your lips forward. And there you have it, the German Ü! You can continue on this principle with Ö, which is derived from E.

The rushing "I"-sound

With this sound, we lift the back of our tongue slightly in the middle of our mouth. This happens exactly at the point where we also articulate j. So you could try saying the word "yes", whispering or voiceless. You don't have to open your mouth wide to do this - the sound is even produced more accurately if you form a slight smile.

If you want to improve your pronunciation, you should listen as much as possible in your everyday life and observe a lot. Perfection would absolutely not be necessary here, however. It's more about being understood well and being comfortable with the language yourself. Remember that your accent is also an important part of your personality and linguistic identity. This accent also deserves consideration and recognition and may be kept as long as it does not interfere with communication with other people.

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