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Are you tired of getting tongue-tied in each German conversation? Here are 15 tongue twisters you can practice with and improve your German pronunciation.
The German language is a part of the West Germanic language group, similar to English and French. With this in mind, many language learners who want to learn German expect a seamless learning experience. But after taking the first deep dive into the language, most learners are astounded by the challenging German pronunciation. If the typical sentences can trip a tongue or two, how difficult would it be to say the usual German tongue twisters?
According to a study by the US Department of State Foreign Service Institute, a learner needs at least 750-900 class hours to speak fluent German. Additionally, you can get a shortcut to fluency if you study casual German expressions that you can use for regular conversations. But that won’t be enough if you want to master the language at the native speaker level.
One of the main difficulties in learning German is pronunciation. Add the compound words to the mix, and you got yourself a tongue-tangling experience. Once you tackle the hardest of German idioms out there, you’re about ready to face the elephant in the room: tongue twisters. If you’re looking for the most popular and challenging tongue twisters out there, check the list below.
Each tongue twister in German usually has a certain sound theme. It’s kind of similar to how “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” works, where the focus sound is “P” and “K”. Learning German sounds via tongue twisters might not be ideal for beginners. You can try these easy German phrases first. These words are tailored for beginners to imprint the tongue and lip form in making specific sounds that can only be found on German accents.
English Translation: Two twittering swallows sit between two plum branches
Swallows are common birds found in all parts of Germany, especially the barn swallow. And since they often live in the branchy trees, they often build their nests on plum trees. It would take tons of patience to say this sentence without tripping your tongue. Nevertheless, this tongue twister aims to practice the “z” and the “zw” sound. German “Z” produces a sound like “TS”, unlike its English counterpart.
English Translation: Do you like wax masks?
The “CH” sound can confuse new learners because of its different pronunciation based on the letter preceding it. One of the pronunciation is called the back “CH”, which is often found on words where the “CH” is preceded by a, o, u, or au. In this tongue twister, you can practice the back “CH” with the words wachsmasken and macht, with other German words as well.
English Translation: Assassination of a Hottentot potentate’s aunt.
If you thought a one-word tongue twister doesn’t exist and cannot hurt you, think again. Germans like to use compound words, but didn’t want to use space or hyphens to separate the individual words. Hence, a single word can form into a tongue twister. A good trick to use when trying to speak long German compound words is to separate each component and speak slowly.
English Translation: Lümmer, the miller eats green vegetables by the bowlful for breakfast.
Umlaut vowels (or vowels with double dots) are one of the hardest concepts to wrap your head around when learning German. One of the toughest umlaut to pronounce is the “Ü”, which doesn’t sound quite a lot like the vowel “u”. The nearest sound you can compare it to is the French “U”. By using the tongue twister in this item, you can practice your “Ü” a little bit further.
English Translation: The Fischer's son Fritz is fishing for fresh fish.
When you want to practice your “f” and “r” sound, this tongue twister is a good sentence to practice on. It is the German equivalent of the famous Peter Piper twister in the English language. In fact, you can make this sentence longer by adding “Frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritze.” which just reverses the meaning of the first sentence.
English Translation: Red cabbage remains red cabbage and a wedding dress remains a wedding dress.
Who would’ve thought that “red cabbage” and “wedding dress” would be in the same sentence? In German, red cabbage (Blaukraut) and wedding dress (Brautkleid) has a similar “Br” sound that works well together. Hence, a lot of people use it as a tongue twister. There’s even another, more confusing version of this sentence. “Wenn meine Braut Blaukraut klaut, dann ist sie eine Blaukrautklaubraut” means If my bride steals red cabbage, then she’s a red cabbage-stealing bride.
English Translation: A student in cuff boots stood on a sharp stone and stared at the silent, mute stars for hours.
Even the English translation for this sentence is a tongue twister on its own. The target of this exercise is to improve the “sp” and the “st” sound, which is literally everywhere in this sentence. Both sounds are produced as “ssshhhhh”, then the sound of the consonant after it. (sssshhhhtudent, ssshhhhhpitzen).
English Translation: Schneider's scissors cut sharply
The “Sch” sound in German is pronounced similar to the “sh” sound in English. Basically, you ignore the “C” sound and proceed to use “sh” as usual. But instead of relaxing your lips, it should be formed into a round shape or “o” to make a deeper “sh” sound. Since each word in this tongue twister has that “sch”, you’ll have a lot of chances in practicing it.
English Translation: Clever little cats don't scratch crocodiles.
For this tongue twister, the sound in focus is the “K” sound. German “K” is pronounced the same way the last letter “K” in “cook” is pronounced. In theory, this sentence might look so easy because of the similarities between English and German K. However, you can’t just ignore the fact that all of the Ks are at the beginning of each word, which can escalate the difficulty pretty quickly.
English Translation: Did the pilot want to fetch coal with the red boats, or did the pilot quietly steal the coal?
At a glance, this tongue twister doesn’t have any particular sound theme, until you reach the middle of the sentence. With this tongue twister, the learner can practice the different applications of the German “o” (not the umlaut version “ö”). You can also found some interesting vowel combinations, silent “r” usage, some “s” sound, as well as “e” + “n”. It’s a mix of German-specific sounds, but the primary focus is how German “o” is produced.
English Translation: Of course, the shivering forester was delighted with the joyful feeding of the freezing birds on Friday morning.
Here’s another mixed bag of German-specific sounds in one sentence. Primarily, the focus sound in this tongue twister is the German “fr’ sound, specifically the throaty sound of “r”. You can also practice your umlauts ö and ü from some of the words in the sentence. For some speakers, the hardest part of this sentence might be its excessive use of vowel combinations. This is where some of the confusions can manifest (e.g. saying “freylick” for Freilich, instead of “fra-ilissh”).
English Translation: Who wants to wash white laundry?
Short and sweet? More like “Short and confusing” for German language learners. Primarily focused on the “W” sound, each word in this sentence starts with “W”. Take note: in this language, the “W” is pronounced with “V”. If you’re not into practicing “W”, you will still have a hard time figuring out how to shift from one vowel sound to another.
English Translation: Every year in July Jana and Julia eat blackcurrants.
One of the most interesting differences in English and German sound is “J”. In German, “J” has the equivalent “Y” sound, which is a bit confusing (especially if you’re a Spanish speaker too). You’ll also get some “e” and “ee” action to make things more tongue-twisting. Get ready to get mindblown (and quite possibly, confused) by reading this tongue twister aloud.
English Translation: Fat Dieter carries thin Dieter across the thick mud.
Before we end the list with a challenging tongue twister, here’s a breath of fresh air. German and English “D” sound is the same. For this tongue twister, you’re only going to think about other sounds (like umlauts, “K” sound, and “e” sound). Still, this tongue twister can be a bit challenging if you’re still not used to other German-specific sounds.
English Translation: On October 10th at 10:10, 10 tame goats pull 10 tons of sugar to the zoo.
Here’s a fun thing to do before trying this tongue twister: put it in a Google Translate query and hit the “Listen” button. The words might sound the same as each other. The main focus of this tongue twister is to improve your “Z” sound, which is similar to “ts” (like the last two letters from the word “hats”).
“Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft” is considered currently the longest German word. It is a compound word that consists of 80 letters and is worthy to be considered as a tongue twister itself. Wanna know the meaning? Here it is:
“association of subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services”
It might not be the most useful word in the whole German language, but it sure is fun to try and pronounce it perfectly.
Pronunciation is one of the biggest challenges in learning a new language. It’s even more tedious and a bit intimidating if you’re trying to learn a language like German.
Don’t hesitate to use these German tongue twisters to improve your pronunciation. If you’re still having a tough time getting those aussprache right, you can use tutoring services like Justlearn and get a guide from native German speakers online.
Fischers Fritze fischt frische Fische
“Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft” is considered currently the longest German word. It is a compound word that consists of 80 letters and is worthy to be considered as a tongue twister itself. Wanna know the meaning? Here it is: “association of subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services”
One of the main difficulties in learning German is pronunciation. Add the compound words to the mix, and you got yourself a tongue-tangling experience. Once you tackle the hardest of German idioms out there, you’re about ready to face the elephant in the room: tongue twisters.
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