I am so excited to be able to work with Trixi from Don’t Trust the Rabbit. Every once in a while someone will comment on a video that I have mispronounced something in the video. I chose some of those words and a few that I wasn’t quite sure of myself. You can see her tips below in the video. It is all in German, so you can turn on the subtitles in German or English by clicking CC and choosing your language. Below the video I delve into the tips given a bit more in detail to help you learn from my mistakes.
Affe (IPA: ˈafə) – monkey
I have done a few songs on my channel in which I have to say the word “Affe”. In almost every one of them, I have pronounced it with a long “A” sound instead of the short “A” sound. I think this problem actually stems from the English pronunciation of words. We have long and short vowels too, but they don’t act the same way that their German counterparts do. In English a long vowel sound makes the sound that you say when you sing the alphabet. A short vowel sound makes an entirely different sound. In German sometimes this same situation occurs. This is true of the difference between the short “I” and the long “I” in German. Other times, however, the sounds are pretty similar, but the length of time that you say the letter is different. This is the reason behind my error in the word “Affe”.
spezifisch (IPA: ʃpeˈʦiːfɪʃ) – specific
This error is very similar to the previous one, because it is the difference between the short “I” and long “I”. I have traditionally pronounced it with the short “I” sound, but it actually should be the long “I” sound. I also made the rookie mistake of pronouncing the “SP” combination like the English version instead of the German version which sounds more like “SHP”. Katja from Deutsch für Euch has a great video that talks about this when she went over the alphabet. Generally, the rule goes that if there is an “S” followed by a consonant, usually a “T” or “P”, you pronounce it as if it were “SCHP” or “SCHT”.
Eichhörnchen (IPA: ˈaɪ̯çˌhœʁnçən) – squirrel
This is one of the most famously mispronounce German words of all time. It is known as a shibboleth, which is a word that can be used to tell the difference between a native speaker and a non-native speaker. This is also the case with the English version of this word. German speakers usually can’t say it either. Apparently, though, my pronunciation of this word isn’t bad. So what makes this word so difficult? The first syllable isn’t difficult to pronounce. “Eich” is basically like the word “ich”, but instead of a short “I” sound you say a sound like the English long “E”. The middle syllable is the most difficult. The “ö” sound is problematic by itself, but if you ad in the “R” sound behind it, the problem is doubled. The last syllable is easy, because it shows up in a bunch of words in German. It is simply a “CH” sound followed by “EN”. Below you can find a quick video of Trixi and I pronouncing this word over and over again. I have also included Trixi’s video that is dedicated to only this word, which she uploaded almost exactly a year ago.
fror (IPA: fʀoːɐ̯) – froze (simple past tense)
This one contrasts two completely different “R” sounds in the German language. The first one is the “R” sound that helps back up the stereotype of the German language being rough and harsh, while the second one does exactly the opposite. The first one is formed by making the same “CH” sound as you would in “acht”, but vocalizing at the same time like you are trying to say “AH”. Combine this sound with the letter “F” and you end up with the starting sound of this word. If you want to say the last part of this word, you basically need to say “O” and “A” one after the other.
That’s it for this blog. Now you can be like Jay and Silent Bob below and think to yourself, “Hmm. I can pronounce those words now, too.”