Introduction & A
Within this section you will find a ton of tips for pronouncing words in German. The best way to use this is to start watching the video and read the text at the same time. This will allow you to see the examples that are given in the video and you can follow along. When I say a word in German, I pause, so you can practice it. If you need a longer pause, just pause the video.
Watch the video all the way through once. Then practice the example words and try to pronounce them as I do. Then rewatch the section of the video with the example words and try to mimic my pronunciation again.
Introduction to Pronunciation
Before you go off searching for vocabulary lists to learn or trying to form your first sentences, you need to understand how the German language pronunciation differs from the English. I’m not going to introduce the German alphabet yet, as you don’t need to know how to say the letters, you need to know how the letters function within words. Don’t worry, though. I’ll get to the alphabet in due time.
While English is a Germanic language, meaning that both languages evolved from a similar linguistic ancestor, they do still have quite a few differences. Since a lot of the consonant sounds in German are the same or similar to the English ones, we are going to start with the vowels and get to the consonants and special consonant combinations after that.
If you are familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), I have included those versions next to all of the German words so you can approximate the pronunciation from that. The information in the following portion of this course is also included in the following portions of this section, so you can practice it yourself.
For every vowel in German there are two pronunciation options. Short vowel sounds are used before multiple consonants. The long vowel sound can be formed in many different ways including: before single consonants, before the letter “H”, and when the vowel is doubled. In this vowel pronunciation guide, you will see examples of each of these for each vowel.
The sound is the same for both the short and long “A” sounds in German, but the length of the sound is different. The German short “A” sound is just a short burst of sound, while the German long “A” sound is a bit longer. Most of the time, this won’t really matter much and you really can’t tell the difference unless you are really paying attention. There are occasions, however, when it matters a bit more.
The German long “A” sound is the same as when your doctor tells you to open your mouth and say “Ah”. You are supposed to hold your mouth open for a while when your doctor says that, so you should keep your mouth open when saying the long “A” in German, too. In order to make sure that you say the German short “A” correctly, you simply act like you a teenage girl who is offended by something. Dad - “No, you can’t go to the mall.” Teenager - “Ah, that’s like so unfair.” (If your head bobbed to the side when you read that, you are doing it correctly.)
Short “A” Examples
Preceding Multiple Consonants:
der Kamm [kam] - comb
in Massen [ˈmasn̩] - in large quantities
kalt [kalt] - cold
das Wasser [ˈvasɐ] - water
die Kraft [kʀaft] - power, strength
Long “A” Examples
Preceding a Single Consonant:
kam [kaːm] - came (past tense of “to come”, kommen)
in Maßen [ˈmaːsn̩] - in moderation
an [an] - on
sagen [ˈzaːɡn̩] - to say
war [vaːɐ̯] - was (past tense of “to be”, sein)
Preceding the Letter “H”:
das Jahr [jaːɐ̯] - year
sah [zaː] - saw (past tense of “to see”, sehen)
der Zahn [ˈʦaːn] - tooth
der Hahn [haːn] - rooster
die Fahne [ˈfaːnə] - flag
das Paar [paːɐ̯] - pair
das Haar [haːɐ̯] - hair
die Waage [ˈvaːɡə] - scale
End of a Word, but Not Stressed:
das Sofa [ˈsɔfa] - sofa
das Mofa [ˈmoːfa] - small moped