Why Is It Important to Have a Good German Accent and How Do You Achieve One?
As we’ve mentioned in many of our other articles, speaking German is a great benefit for you in work, studies, or your personal life. But this is only true if you can communicate in German effectively, and having a good accent has a lot to do with this.
We’re not saying you have to sound perfect in order to speak German — the most important thing is to start practicing without fear of making mistakes, and work on improving your accent over time. But it is important that you speak German in a way that you can be easily understood by native speakers — otherwise what’s the point of speaking German at all? To that end, here are five simple tips on how to speak with a German accent so that you can communicate easily and effectively.
#1: Start by Learning Simple Words to Practice the Basics
Learning how to speak German with a good German accent can feel a little daunting at first. It may seem like there are tons of rules you need to remember and follow, and that it is difficult to implement all the rules in your speaking.
Rest assured, learning how to speak with a good German accent will take time, but it will become much easier with practice! To make the process as easy and pleasant as possible for yourself, start practicing with simple words that are short and target one particular pronunciation rule. However, in order to do so you must make sure that you learn the German alphabet and its pronunciation perfectly.
We’ve put together a list of basic German words for each accent rule that we mention below, so that you can start practicing your German accent immediately. As you practice, use a good dictionary with an audio feature, such as Collins German-English dictionary, to check the correct pronunciation of each word and repeat it.
When you feel comfortable with your accent in basic words, you can move on to practicing with full sentences. In order to do so you must first learn to read in German, and then practice reading as much as possible to improve both your pronunciation and accent at the same time. Focus on common phrases that are used very often so that you can put them into practice in your German conversations and immediately see the improvement in your accent and communication.
Numbers in German
- One – Eins
- Two – Zwei
- Three – Drei
- Four – Vier
- Five – Fünf
- Six – Sechs
- Seven – Sieben
- Eight – Acht
- Nine – Neun
- Ten – Zehn
- Eleven – Elf
- Twelve – Zwölf
German days of the week
- Monday – Montag
- Tuesday – Dienstag
- Wednesday – Mittwoch
- Thursday – Donnerstag
- Friday – Freitag
- Saturday – Samstag
- Sunday – Sonntag
German months of the year
- January – Januar
- February – Februar
- March – März
- April – April
- May – Mai
- June – Juni
- July – Juli
- August – August
- September – September
- October – Oktober
- November – November
- December – Dezember
#2: Change the Usual Way You Pronounce Your Vowels
In general, German vowels are pronounced higher in the throat than English vowels. If you say “father” in English, you’ll notice that the long “a” sound comes from relatively low in your throat. If you were to say “father” with a German accent, it would sound a little more like a short “e”. To do this, you just have to constrict your throat a little and try to pronounce the vowel from the back of your mouth, rather than down in your throat. This is the same principle you should keep in mind when pronouncing vowels in German.
If you’d like a detailed look at each german vowel, check out our article on how to pronounce German vowels!
#3: Change Your Pronunciation of Consonants to “The German Way”
Learning the basic rules of German pronunciation is the key to getting a good accent. Here are our tips on what pronunciation to focus on in order to get a natural German accent.
Pronounce the letter “w” with a “v” sound
Do you know how to say “BMW” with a German accent? While English speakers say “bee-em double-U”, a German would say “beh em veh”. Yes, in German, the “w” is pronounced like a “v”! This sound is very common in German, even in very basic words, so if you make this change in your pronunciation when you read or say German words, you will already be much closer to speaking with a German accent. To start learning this aspect of German accents, try practicing with the simple German words with W below.
|wir - we||wann - when||entweder (...oder) - either (...or)
|Woche - week||warum - why||sowohl (...als auch) - both (...and)
|werden - become / will||was - what||weder (...noch) - neither (...nor)
|wollen - want to||welcher - which||obwohl - although
|wissen - know||wer - who||während - during
|zwei - two||wie - how||weil - because
|zwanzig - twenty||wo - where||zwischen - between
|Willkommen - welcome||wenig - little||wieder - again
|Winter - winter||weiss - white||Wecke - alarm
|Welt - world||Mittwoch - Wednesday||waschen - wash
|etwas - something||würde - would||Wissenschaft - science
Pronounce the letter “v” with an “f” sound
Since the letter “w” is pronounced with a “v” sound, what happens to the actual letter “v” in German? Well, except for foreign words, such as “die Vanille” or “die Vase”, the letter “v” in German is pronounced like our English “f” sound. This sound is a little less common in basic German, but you will see it a lot once you reach the intermediate and advanced level, so start your studies off on the right foot and learn the correct accent right from the start! Here is a chart with basic German words with “v” below for you to practice your German accent.
|Vater - father||vier - four||viel - a lot
|Vogel - bird||vierzehn - fourteen||von - of / by
|vielleicht - maybe||vierzig - forty||vor - in front of / ago
|verrückte - crazy||verdienen - earn||bevor - before
Pronounce the letter “s” with a “z” sound when necessary
If there is a single letter “s” at the beginning or in the middle of a German word, for the most part, it is pronounced like a “z”. So that means that the name Sandra is actually pronounced “Zandra” in German! And the word “also” (so/thus) is read like “alzo”. Keep in mind this rule doesn’t apply for the letter “s” at the end of a word. So “Haus” is still read the same way as “house” — but the plural “Häuser” is pronounced “Hoyzer!”. Likewise, words with a double “s”, like “müssen” (must) will also be pronounced with a regular “s” sound. There’s a lot to keep in mind here for just one letter, but take it slow, practice one word at a time, and you’ll be a master of the German “s” in no time. Practice the “s” sound with these basic German words, and pay careful attention to if they have an “s” or a “z” sound!
|sie - she / formal “you”)||sechs - six||sowohl (...als auch) - both (...and)
|es - it||sieben - seven||sagen - say
|das - the (neuter)||bis - until||sehen - see
|dieser - this (masculine)||aus - out of||also - so/thus
|sollen - should||seit - since||besonder - particular
|sein - be||was - what||sehr - very
|müssen - must||sondern - but rather||sich - oneself
There are a few exceptions to this rule, but focus on these basics first.
Pronounce the letter “z” with a “ts” sound
Except for foreign words like “zoo”, the letter “z” in German is pronounced with the same consonant you have at the start of “tsunami” or “tsar”. That means that “Zentrum”, meaning “center”, is actually pronounced “tsentrum”! You’ll find that this letter is extremely common in German numbers, as well as some other frequently used words. Try reading the German words below to practice your accent with this sound.
|zwei - two||zu - to||zeigen - to show||letzte - last
|zehn - ten||zwischen - between||zeichnen - to draw||zurück - back
|zwölf||bezüglich - concerning||zahlen - to pay||zusammen - together
|zwanzig||ganz - entire, all||jetzt - now||Zeit - time
|the “teen” #s:|
|multiples of 10:|
Pronounce a German “r” by rolling it in your throat
If you’d like to pronounce the German “r” with a German accent, you should say it by rolling it at the back of your throat. This may be a little hard, because the English language doesn’t have this sound – you can think of it like an English “gh” or “rh” sound but deeper in your throat. Try gargling some water and notice where it is in your throat: that’s the spot where you should try to pronounce the “r”, right at the top of the esophagus. This sound can be heard at the beginning of a word, at the beginning of a syllable, or after a consonant.
|Rom - Rom (name)||Büro - office||Bruder - brother
|Ronald - Ronald (name)||darauf - (preposition)||krank - sick
|reisen - to travel||Kellnerin - female server||Freund - friend
Pronounce consonant sounds with the tip of your tongue
In general, German consonants at the ends of words are enunciated more than in English. Whereas a native speaker would barely pronounce the final “g”, “d”, and “b” in words like “pig”, “dad”, and “stub”, a German would say them much more clearly, but pronounce them more like “pik”, “dat”, and “stup”. So, we can see that in general, a German accent makes consonants at the ends of words both more audible and also change to a different vowel sound. This may feel a bit counterintuitive, so don’t worry about getting this perfect right away, but start paying attention to consonants at the end of words when you listen to native speakers or check words in the dictionary.
|“g” ending, “k” sound||“b” ending, “p” sound||“d” ending, “t” sound
|Tag - day|
Schlag - punch
Zug - train
Flug - flight
Krieg - war
Montag - Monday
|Staub - dust|
lieb - kind
gelb - yellow
Korb - basket
taub - deaf
halb - half
|Bad - bath
Strand - beach
und - and
Abend - evening
Hund - dog
Bild - picture
#4: Learn the Special German Sounds and Their Pronunciation
How to pronounce Ä
You’ll notice that the phonetic symbol for the short “ä” sound in German is the same symbol as for the short “e”: /ɛ/. This is great news for you, since English has an extremely similar “e” sound too, so it will be easy to pronounce in the German accent! It’s comparable to the “e” sound in “red”, the “ai” sound in “air”, or the “ay” sound in “says”. For the long “ä” sound, just hold the sound for longer. You can practice your accent with the short and long “ä” vowel sounds with the words below.
|Short Ä||Long Ä
|längs - along (a river, street, etc.)||während - during
|Bäckerei - bakery||Ähnlich - similar
|Hände - hands||später - later
|Äpfel - apples||Mädchen - girl
|Männer - men||Währung - currency
|Bänke - benches||Nächste - next
How to pronounce Ö
This sound doesn’t exist in the English language, but it is fairly easy for English speakers to grasp. Start by saying an English “e” sound such as in the word “red”, and round your lips into an “o” shape as you say it. What you’ll get is the German short “ö”. For the long “ö”., just hold the sound for longer! Try practicing this sound with the following words:
|Short Ö||Long Ö
|können - to be able to||mögen - to like
|zwölf - twelve||schön - pretty
|plötzlich - suddenly||Öl - oil
|öffnen - to open||böse - evil
|wörter - words||Löwe - lions
How to pronounce Ü
Like the Ö sound, the Ü sound doesn’t have a natural counterpart in the English language, but it is quite easy to understand how to pronounce it. Start by saying a long “i” sound, like in the word “beet”, and round your lips into an “o” shape as you say it. And voila, you’ve just said the German “ü”! Practice the correct accent with these words.
|Short Ü||Long Ü
|dürfen - to be allowed to||für - for
|müssen - must||über - over
|fünf - five||bezüglich - concerning
|zurück - back||Bühne - stage
|würde - would||Mühle - mill
|Schlüssel - key||üben - practice
How to pronounce ß
After all these brand-new vowel sounds, it will be a relief to hear that you already know this last sound — it is a regular “s” sound! The ligature ß, called “Eszett” or “scharfes S”, is another way to write “ss” (a double “s”). The real tricky thing here is knowing when to use it in spelling — but like everything else in learning a language, this is best learned gradually and with practice and time.
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Now that you’ve learned and practiced the components of a good German accent with basic German words, it’s time to move on to practicing with sentences! It’s best to practice with useful sentences you can use often in your German interactions so that you can keep practicing and focus on practical language that will really help you to communicate better. And for this, the very best solution is Global General!
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