https://www.duolingo.com/FrankelPopankel

German vowel pronunciation

From other resources: German learning books, the Internet, German-fluent friends, I understand that the German long "e" (the first in leben) should be pronounced as the first half of the English dipthong long "a" (that is, the vowels German leben should be pronounced like English laden). However, I hear Duolingo pronounce exactly the same as "lieben". That is, like an English long "e". - Am I correct on how the German long "e" should be pronounced? - Is there really a difference in how "lieben" and "leben" are being pronounced by Duolingo which I just can't hear? - Is Duolingo pronouncing the German long "e" correctly for some areas and not for others?

December 5, 2016

13 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/jzsuzsi

Leben and lieben definitely sound different. I cannot explain it with English sounds, let's put in some nice IPA instead:

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Leben: ˈleːbən

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/lieben: ˈliːbən

December 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Zzzzz...

It has to do with the tenseness of the tongue. The vowel sound in lieben is the same sound as in the English beat. The vowel sound in leben does not exist in English. Start with the e in the English hen and make it long. Then, make your tongue tense. You should now have an approximation of the sound. :)

December 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/insomniaack

I dunno, eh? Maybe it exists in some form of English eh? Canadians can't help but say eh, eh? EHHHHH

December 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Gerardd88

As there are already some good explanations here on this sound I'll write a more general piece of advice :)

Very often you come across two sounds like your /e/ and /i/ or /h/ and /x/ (German ch). At the beginning they sound the same to you but after some time you learn to hear the difference so clearly that when you hear a word pronounced with the wrong consonant/vowel, it instantly sounds very wrong to you. It happened to me too with a few pairs of sounds, also with /e/. Remember that the most important thing is to be aware that this difference exists! If you're here, you've already won. It's great that you have such problems and ask such questions. Most people just think like "OK, It's somewhat like English a in made" and will pronounce it like that without improving. Never rely on approximations. If you are aware that you should hear a specific sound, you'll learn it perfectly with time. What's your native language? Are you familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet?

December 5, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/FrankelPopankel

American English is my native language. I've seen the International Phonetic Alphabet used, and have an idea of its purpose, but I have little to no grasp of the meanings of the various symbols it employs: only that they stand for different sounds.

December 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Gerardd88

The IPA is a fantastic tool so I couldn't recommend more to learn it. I am a great fan of the phonetic introductions on this channel (here are the links to three-video guide for German): 1: consonants; 2: vowels; 3: spelling;

Remember that if you are learning German you don't need to learn the whole IPA and all of those sounds , just those used for German. All the things you should know are mentioned in these videos. Then, if you feel you need to, you can try to master the specific sounds that cause you trouble. But again, the most important thing is to be aware of what you should hear when you listen to something in German - some special sounds, difference between short/long vowels etc. (He explains this idea quite well in the video, e.g. that 'passing familiarity')

Also the Wikipedia's IPA for... article can be helpful when you learn to remember those sounds and symbols. Viel Glück!

December 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/FrankelPopankel

Thank you. I haven't had time to look at these yet, but they look quite useful.

December 7, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/soundray

I agree with the other posters here who said that Duolingo's pronunciation is not completely reliable. If in doubt, you can find audio recordings for most German words on the Beolingus Dictionary pages (http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de).

The pronunciation of "leben" can indeed vary by region: in Swabia you may find the pronunciation of the first e closer to "ä" as in sägen. Both vowels typically occur only as part of diphthongs in English. The exception is Scottish: here you can find monophthong "e" sounds in words like pain, say, or stay.

December 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/FrankelPopankel

Okay. I guess then that I'd like to be assured that the Duolingo voice is in fact pronouncing these sounds differently. I very much doubt that a system with this kind of polish otherwise has neglected this detail, but I seem to be able to hear the difference in person (listening to native German speakers from South America), but not on Duolingo. Perhaps they're less subtle?

December 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/KatinkaHes

My native language is Dutch, which means my ear has been trained to more vowels than yours. I started learning German in high school, in my teens, and I can tell you that Duolingo sounds generally correct to me - though it's wrong in a very few specific cases.

I did not notice a problem with the difference between 'Leben' and 'Lieben' - and those two words do sound clearly different to me in general.

(Duolingo is consistently wrong in the pronunciation of the English word 'Live' - as it has two pronunciations, for two meanings, and Duo mixes them up. I'm pretty sure I would have noticed if Duo pronounced Leben and Lieben the same way).

December 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/FrankelPopankel

Okay. Thank you for the info. Maybe I'll learn to hear the difference.

December 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/Badenser

I think that Duolingo has a problem with it's sound. If they use single words, they sound like from a tin can and out of context. There are situations, when they are pronounced like that, but most of the time they sound different (like in questions or within a sentence). That is especially bad when in a language like French, where the endings are connected, but only under special circumstances.

On the other hand, in a sentence they sound right most of the time. Sometimes I do have the problem that I cannot understand the spoken word that Duo uses - even in my own native language!

December 6, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/conradsteenkamp

Leben should not be pronounced 'ay'. There is however a difference between the pronunciation of leben and lieben. Leben would be similar to the 'e' in expert, not quite, but close enough. Lieben would be similar to ee as in see.

December 11, 2016
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