Johann Sebastian Bach is known to almost everyone. The composer's last name is pretty normal for Germans, but many non-native speakers have a problem with it: How do I pronounce this ch correctly? Don't worry, many German students experience the same challenge with pronunciation, and that is one reason why we focus on the correct pronunciation from class one. Did you know that (almost) all of our students learn German with us with the same goal?
For our student Paul, for example, it was the word Hauptbahnhof. "My first time in Germany, I didn't understand how anyone could pronounce it. I just didn't know where to pause in the word itself, that is, where a syllable ends."
He had this problem especially with long words - and there are many of those in German, as we all know. When native speakers spoke so quickly, the language blurred for Paul, so much so that he couldn't recognise a clear structure. Do you also face this challenge?
Pronouncing the German word Hauptbahnhof correctly WAS a major challenge, but he rose to it with huge success, knowing how important correct pronunciation is when communicating, without it, communication fails.
The importance of pronunciation is shown by this phenomenon: a learner may have language skills at a very high level, even C1, but if he or she speaks with an extreme accent and uses incorrect pauses, many people think: this is a pre-intermediate student.
Did you know that a beginner students language skills are rated much higher if he or she has good pronunciation and hits the right sentence melody? Small grammatical errors are then often not registered, as the language flows successfully between conversations, leading to the use of difficult German, which allows the German learner to progress again. Wunderbar!
Speaking German is of course much easier for most Europeans, in particular, native speakers of languages closely related to German, such as Dutch or Swedish, practicing less than others, however hardly any nation is alone with its phonetic problems. French and Italians also find words like Hauptbahnhof challenging, but for them it's not about syllables, it is that they don't know the h from their language. People from Spain, Russia and the Arab world can have their day ruined with umlauts äüö. English people may find squirrels cute most of the time, but they'd certainly be happy to do without ch twice in this word das Eichhörnchen, and they probably don't like to talk about the composer Johann Sebastian Bach either.
The questions is: can German students really manage to speak like native speakers? That is, in such a way that you no longer hear an accent and the speech melody is perfect?
Yes, it is possible! From the age of about 14, it becomes more difficult because language works automatically for people from then on, where we no longer think about how to form sounds, for example-
Then, after hours of practice, the student can finally pronounce an h. However, in the next conversation, the sound doesn't sound like it should and that can be quite frustrating.
We have taught over 500 students since GermanMind was founded. (Almost) all students have the same goal - to communicate. Our students want to speak and be understood. Often they think too much about their pronunciation, for example, it doesn't really matter whether you articulate an r in the front of your tongue or form it in the back of your throat; the most important thing is that they understand you. A little accent is not the end of the world, many Germans even find it very charming.
What's really important is that we support and educate you to speak like a native, not just to learn the German language. We help you to speak and sound like a native German speaker - with correct grammar and correct pronunciation. Bis bald!