8 German Words You'll Struggle To Pronounce (If You're Not German)
We chose the most difficult German words we could find and asked people learning German to pronounce them. Here's what happened, with pronunciation tips below.
The German language has a reputation for being hard to pronounce, but, to be fair, it’s somewhat undeserved. It might sound strange at first, but German has very consistent rules of spelling and pronunciation. The video above shows people struggling with some complex words; the tips below will help you avoid making the same mistakes.
Brötchen: bread roll
r – Move your tongue further to the back of your throat, and make a sound as if you are gargling water (or you’re Homer Simpson thinking about donuts).
ö – Pronounce a “u” as in “turn”, but tightly round your lips while doing so, or try to pronounce an “e” like in “feel”, but shape your mouth like you’re saying “o”.
ch – Make a soft "hissing cat” sound by raising your tongue to the back of your mouth and smiling while you exhale.
Rührei: scrambled eggs
The second r should almost not be pronounced, like in British English.
ü – To produce the ü, say “ee” as in “see” and then tightly round your lips while doing so.
Schleswig Holstein: a federal state in the very north of Germany
sch – “sh”
st – “sht” like in the Yiddish word “shtick”
The main tip for the following words is to break up each one into its component parts. German words look very scary because we write them all together, but they’re pronounced just like compound words in other languages.
E.g. Waschmaschine breaks down into Wasch and maschine which you can probably guess means "washing machine". Even though the words are smooshed together, you’re still pronouncing separate syllables.
Eichhörnchen - squirrel
breakdown: Eich + hörn-chen
Quietscheentchen - rubber ducky
breakdown: Quietsche + ent-chen
qu = “kv”
Schlittschuhlaufen: ice skating
breakdown: Schlitt + schuh + laufen
Fünfhundertfünfundfünfzig: five hundred fifty-five
breakdown: Fünf + hundert + fünf + und + fünfzig
z – makes a ts sound, like the sound of the drop of water on a hot stove, or when you open a bottle of carbonated water
Streichholzschächtelchen: little match box
breakdown: Streich + holz + schächtel-chen
ä – "ai" in air or “a” in “late”