Here’s how to speak English and sound like a real German in seven essential steps:
1 The German R is pronounced the same way as the French R (so if you’re familiar with French you already know this one). For native English speakers, this can be a tough one. Think of it like this: Imagine you have a hair stuck in the back of your throat and you’re trying to get it out. How would you sound? Hrrr, hrrr, hrrr. That’s a sharp, “aggressive” sound, so you need to take away the “H” in front, to make the R soft-sounding. It will sound almost like gargling. If you know how Spaniards pronounce J, you’re onto something. Not the Mexican way of saying J, which is almost the like an English H sound. The Spanish J is too harsh and sharp though, so remember to soften it.
2 D’s will usually sound like T’s. “Drinking and dancing can be hard on your credit card” becomes “Trinking and tancing can be hart on your credit cart”. Notice that the first D in “credit card” is pronounced with a T. Germans do use the letter D and pronounce it just as one would in English, but many of the words that start or end in a D in English will start or end with a T in german. The German way of saying “to drink” is “zu trinken”.
3 U is difficult because there are several ways to pronounce it in English. Because of that, Germans learn to emulate the sound of a word, not how to pronounce particular letters (since they vary anyway). U’s that almost sound like A’s in English, such as in “uncle” become AH sounds in German – “Ahncle”. U’s that sound like “yew” in English become “yoo” in German.Let’s look at an example: “I understand that Ukraine is an underdeveloped country”. Think about it. Doesn’t the U in “understand” sound different from the U in “Ukraine”? In German, the sentence would sound like this: “I ahnderstand zat Yookraine is an ahnderdeveloped cahntry”.
4 The TH-sounds. When you think about it, there are two TH-sounds in English: The TH in “there” or “though” is soft, while the TH in “with” or “think” is more sharp. Make sure you understand this difference in English. Germans have problems with both TH-sounds.The soft TH is pronounced like a Z (“I don’t want to do zat zough”). The sharp TH is simplified to more or less just a T ( I tink zis is a torough explanation).
5 W, in German, is pronounced exactly like the English V. This means that if you want to say “Where, what and when” and at the same time sound like a German, you would have to say “Vere, vat and ven”. Conversely, when words do begin with a V in English, many Germans will get it mixed up and pronounce it as if it were spelt with a W (unless of course they pronounce it like an F). It’s not uncommon to hear a German refer to a VHS as a “Wideo cassette”.
6 V is pronounced exactly like the English F. So if you want to sound like a German speaking English, instead of saying “In Venice you can see vast amounts of venerable buildings”, try saying “In Fenice you can see fast amounts of fenerable buildings”
7 Germans have a problem with certain A’s. In English, A is pronounced differently, depending on context. The sound of an A in “after”, “cat” or “flashy” is different from the A-sound in “falling”, “ball” or “stall””, right? The A’s in the first three word (after, cat and flashy) would be replaced with an E-sound and become “efter”, “ket” and “fleshy”. The A’s in the second three words (falling, ball, stall) would be replaced with a British English/New York accent AW (not the general American AH-sound).
Master these seven elements and you’re well on your way to doing a great German impression.