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  5. How is my German accent?


How is my German accent?

Native German speakers, what do you think about my accent in German? I've been trying to learn the language for some time now. Is it horrible or tolerable? Does it sound closer to the accent in any particular part of Germany / Austria? And finally, any tips on improving it?


Thank you in advance <3

June 3, 2018


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Please do not take the following as criticism, but I have to be rather outspoken to explain what makes your reading sound non-native and what you have to watch out for (or rather listen for) in order to improve. This does not mean that your pronunciation is bad, not at all!

Apart from the mentioned sound quality of long and short vowels, other important issues are the too stressed, too distinct pronunciation of unstressed syllables (especially "Pilger", "pilgern") and the lack of sentence melody. The text as you read it does not consist of homogeneous sentences/phrases, but a "choppy" chain of words, where each word gets the same stress, and unstressed syllables more often than not get too much stress.

Unstressed syllables are very much reduced in spoken German and often don't contain a clearly pronounced vowel. The word "haben", for instance, is not pronounced as it is written, but sound assimilation takes place: [ha:bm]. The final n is assimilated to the preceding b and pronounced as a labial sound (formed by the lips) like m; the already weak e disappears. Note that this occurs in formal speech! In informal speech, the b usually also disappears completely: "Das haben wir" > "das hamwa", or even stronger with an additionally assimilated w and another vanished vowel: "ds hamma" (one single stress on "ham"). This kind of reduction in pronunciation of unstressed syllables is a very important, distinctive feature of German.

The sentence melody directs listener's attention to the most important message words. Try saying your text with stressing only the bold-faced syllables:

[Immer mehr Menschen pilgern aus religiösen Gründen] [oder weil sie dem stressigen Alltag entkommen wollen.] [Viele Pilger schalten aber trotzdem nicht richtig ab,] [weil sie das WLAN auch unterwegs nutzen.]

The bold-faced syllables are the stressed syllables of the most important words. "Menschen pilgern religiös - stress entkommen. Viele trotzdem - WLAN (notice here: two stressed syllables in a row) unterwegs." We have four larger segments (marked by the square brackets), each with its own build-up and decline in "tension" (for lack of a better word), which will be reflected in the sentence intonation. This is a somewhat simplified description as many minor variations depending on context, questions, use of irony, etc. are possible.

These issues are rather difficult to conquer. Only a lot of exposure to spoken language and pronunciation practice by mimicking German speakers or, better yet, practice sessions with a native speaker will help. You could try the official Memrise German course, where they only use native speakers instead of synthesized voices such as Duolingo and also have a section called "Meet the locals", where the phrases taught in the lessons are repeated by different native speakers in different areas of the country. If you constantly repeat everything that is said, you can really improve intonation, major and minor stresses, differences between written and spoken language, etc.


When I read your sentence with the bold parts emphasized I feel myself becoming more German.

Also, I think your comment was very German it its detailed and conscientious nature.


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Good to know my information is helpful!


Hey, I like this kind of topics. :) I think I understood almost everything fine:
"Immer mehr Menschen geh'n Pilgern aus religiösen Gründen oder weil sie dem Stress den(?) Alltag entkommen wollen. Viele Pilger schalten aber trotzdem nicht richtig ab, weil sie das Wlan auch unterwegs nutzen."

Things I noticed, that sound a bit off:
- You pronounce 'gehen' like 'gen' (an old fashioned word for 'to' or 'in direction of', with a short e). The first e should be longer.
- 'Gründen' sounded more like 'Grunden'
- 'ab' sounded like 'aaaaab' :x

Well, it sounds like Hochdeutsch from a foreigner. A bit shaky, but with no thick accent.


Your pronunciation is very good, to my ears no regional influence is noticeable. I think what gives you away as a non-native is mainly the slightly strained rhythm (I don't know how to explain it better). It's cute.

You might want to prolong the "e" in "gehen" and shorten the "u" in nutzen and the "a" in "ab".


For me it sounds a little bit French or maybe Japaneese. That all comes from the voval lenght, mostly short vovals which are a bit too long. The long vovels aren't that a problem they can become very long and sometimes even short (was, das) but the short ones have to be short. The sounds are great.


Thank you everyone for your comments. I am open to all sorts of tips that will help me improve my accent. I just realized that I do tend to prolong some syllables and will do my best to improve it.

However I do think it's absolutely ridiculous to say "not-native". I think it's quite obvious that when someone is learning a foreign language, it's only natural that their accent is going to be far from sounding native. It may actually never reach a native level, even if you move to that specific country for the rest of your life. Therefore, when I ask people to comment on my accent in German on DUOLINGO, which is a language learning community, I obviously mean what do you think of my accent considering that I am an Ausländerin and still in the learning process. Additionally, I am reading a small text and that's why it tends to sound like a chain of words , I'm not having a conversation with someone. So to sum up, telling someone who's trying to learn a new language that they sound ''non-native'' is neither helpful nor to the point.

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You got very good feedback, and everybody was trying to be helpful.

Also, there is no difference in the fundamental points mentioned between sentences spoken in a conversation or read out aloud. On the contrary, you can prepare reading the text, in conversations you have to “improvise” on the spot. That is, when reading a text out aloud, you can really focus on everything beforehand.

Sentence rhythm and melody are considered even more important for German learners than having or not having an accent. It’s an important aspect of the pronunciation of larger units than individual words. And you do want to learn how to speak German and not just how to recite individual words, right?

But my apologies that I took the considerable amount of time to help you! Won’t happen again.


Your audio file seems to be gone, so i can offer no feedback to that.

But you asked
"Does it sound closer to the accent in any particular part of Germany / Austria?"
So, this not only implies but specifically asks if it is close to anything native, to a specific dialect, and the answer(s) was(were): it sounds not native, not like everyday German (or Austrian), because of this, this and this. Is this horrible? Not at all! Every German speaker would probably understand you. And imho it is better to start neutral, than already have imported some foreign traits that are not found in German.

But "neutral" high german is not a way the average German, Swiss or Austrian speaks, as was pointed out in detail. Not even when we try to! We would have to unlearn our ingrained style, which is sort of detached from the letters and it would still be based on our everyday speech. And this is different in German and Austrian too, because our usual speech differs depending on region very much and going back to each of our in theory very much the same "hochdeutsch" variants sounds than automatically different. I don't sound like a native German if I speak my very best high German! As an Austrian! And a German speaking his high German does not necessarily sound like an Austrian.

You have to adapt and mimic, if you want to sound more native. And I would assume that is the goal for anyone learning a language? If you are cool sounding non native, then it is no big problem, either. Some immigrants never learn to speak like a native. No matter how long they live here.

The German in Hannover is usually considered the closest to theoretical Hochdeutsch today, the German with least dialect noticeable. (once the best German was considered to be Sächsisch or also Prager German)


I'm not sure if this is directed at me, because I wrote that the clip sounds like Hochdeutsch from a foreigner. I did that because your question indicates that you wanted to know how you sound to a native.

Native German speakers, what do you think about my accent in German? ... Does it sound closer to the accent in any particular part of Germany / Austria?

So I didn't intend to be offensive or to discourage you. I just described what I hear, because I thought that is what you want to know. Maybe I should have to be a bit wordier, because I meant that your pronounciation may sound like not native, but it already makes it hard to guess where you are from. So that's kind of an achievment. :)
(And in the end I find it hard to tell how long someone learns a language in this forum. I wouldn't have thought that you consider yourself to be a beginner.)


No this was not directed towards you! You were not discouraging or offensive, on the contrary, you were kind and explanatory! Your advise is very useful and it really helped me understand that I do tend to prolong some syllables! Vielen Dank!! :) :)

Btw I'm neither a beginner or advanced! I gained my Zertifikat B1 in 2006, but after that I quit due to school/university. Unfortunately I have forgotten a part of it after so many years and I'm trying to get back at it!


-NOT NATIVE- Your pronunciation is really good and you hit all the sounds, as far as my knowledge goes, but maybe you are bit too flowy with the language if that makes sense. Try listening to how Cari from the EasyGerman youtube channel talks. Also maybe use this, even though it is mostly for listening practice it could help with speaking. http://listeningpractice.org/

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