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German Language/Vowel Pronunciation

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Question
I'd like to start off by saying thank you, thank you for taking the time to help people like me in need of random bits of help.

I am fairly certain that I have most of the pronunciation of the German alphabet down; however, I seem to be having a real problem grasping the long and short a. To be completely honest, I don't know by whom the guides are written, a native speaker or just some guy who speaks German. At any rate, I seem to be getting different examples by different people; thus, I was wondering if you could just give me a short explanation of the long and short a. Help from a native speaker would be much appreciated. I realize there are dialectal differences in pronunciation; thus, I would just like to know the most common pronunciation.

Answer
Hello John,

thank you for your question. I really appreciate that you're learning German, because I realize it is quite a difficult language to learn.

I hope that I can be of any help.

I believe good examples for the pronunciation of the German short a can be found in the English words "cut", "hut", "but". I am aware that there are also differences in the pronunciation of these words in English, so I'd like to point out a website to you which I also find very helpful when working with German and English.

On dict.cc you find a very good English-German dictionary. It also offers the option of listening to words spoken either by a computer voice or by native speakers who recorded their voices.

So if you type in German words with a short a like "kann", "flach", "hat", you can just click on the loudspeaker symbol next to the German word and listen to the examples. I always find that very helpful. As a German native speaker I can assure you that the audio examples are really very good.

You can do the same with words with a long a like "fahren", "haben", "aber".

From my experience in learning foreign languages (English and French in my case) I can only advice you to try and listen to native speakers as much as possible. Even if you don't understand everything, it still gives you a good idea of the general sound and rhythm of the language. Thanks to the internet, this is possible in most parts of the world today.

On this website you find a good choice of radio stations that you can listen to online:
http://www.deutschland.fm/
They won't be playing only German music, but the hosts will talk German and the news will be in German. And the radio stations usually look for people who speak standard German, especially for the news.

Another great website is Deutsche Welle:
www.dw.de
In the media center you find a lot of video and audio files to listen to in German. Here you will also hear standard German.

I hope that this is helpful to you.
Good luck with further learning the German language.

Best wishes
Janina

German Language

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Janina

Expertise

As a native German speaker working professionally with languages, I can answer questions concerning German grammar, spelling and punctuation. I can also help with understanding and short German-English translations. As I also speak French, I might also be helpful concerning German-French translations. Translation only refers to short texts here.

Experience

I am a German native speaker working as a translator for English and French. I am concerned with language issues as grammar and spelling on a daily basis. I am very interested in these kind of topics, as any good translator should be. I also have a very good insight in the differences between English and German (and also French), so I might be able to give helpful explanations why specific things are the way they are in a specific language.

Organizations
I am a member of the German Translator Association BDÜ.

Publications
My translations are published in form of manuals, company and product presentations, and websites, but you won't find my name there, as translators of technical texts are only rarely featured.

Education/Credentials
I studied translation at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne (FH Köln), and have been working as a freelance translator for five years now.

Awards and Honors
I haven't received any awards, but receiving awards is really quite rare for translators.

Past/Present Clients
Mostly translation agencies in many different countries.

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