Almost everyone have an accent, when they speak a foreign language. Even when I speak Swedish, which is very close to my native language, Danish, there is a little something that reveals I’m not Swedish, and the Swedes I know who have lived in Denmark for several years do also have an accent. Your German teacher in school probably speaks with an accent as well.
It’s almost unavoidable. The reason why, is that the older you get your ability to recognise unfamiliar intonation slowly get worse and worse. Children, on the other hand, have an ability to recognise all intonations. They need this ability to mimic speech from their surroundings, and without this ability they would simply not be able to learn to speak properly. This is why children don’t develop foreign accents, and one of the main reasons, why people who grew up with more than one language in their childhood learn foreign languages better.
Pronunciation does still matter though. People need to be able to understand you, and that can be difficult if you don’t have a descent pronunciation. In my job, I’m often in conference calls with people from all over Europe, USA, and China. Everybody speak with an accent of some kind, but some pronounce English words so bad that I’m not always entirely sure what they say.
A good pronunciation make you feel more relaxed when you speak German. The tongue is a quite complicated muscle, and when you speak another language you use sudden parts of the tongue more than you are used to. You will also need to use it differently, and that makes your tongue tired, just like your muscles will feel tired if you have worked too hard in the gym.
Speaking understandably and relaxed are essential, but you also need to be able to express yourself in the way you pronounce words. For instance when you want to express…
Irony and sarcasm
People will simply think you say is deadly serious if it’s not reflected in your speech.
It’s important to know the words that shows gratefulness, but saying it as you mean it is even more important.
Certain romantic sentences loose its glow if they are not pronounced with the right inflection and tone.
And the same does anger and many other feelings if you don’t pronounce them according to your emotional intentions.
So have can we improve our pronunciation? Here are six ways:
1) Reading up loud
And I do mean loud! Do also remember to change your voice, speed of speech, and intonation when it’s relevant. Find some texts, which suits your level of German, and don’t be embarrassed if your flatmates or family members can hear you.
The fact that singing is fun is in itself a great argument for including it in your learning. Moreover, you automatically change register and speed of speech in order to follow the song.
Before you can learn how to express emotions in German, you need to hear how it’s done. The best source for this are “Germans”, and you don’t necessarily need to go to Germany to find some. You can just watch German films.
4) Speaking German
You can obviously not come around this point…
5) Repeat tongue twisters
Some words cause more trouble than others. Write them down and repeat them over and over. This is a fantastic muscle exercise for the parts of your tongue you don’t use in your native language.
6) Online Material:
Slowgerman.com – German texts read up nice and slowly.
LiveMocha – Plenty of exercises and people to help you improve your pronunciation
Youtube – Search for “German Pronunciation” and you’ll find a lot of stuff.
BestGermanWebsites – Many great links and a few pronunciation
Learn-German-Easily – There is an audio recording to all the lessons, which will help you a little, when it comes to pronunciation
Germanpod101 – These pod-casts will defiantly also help you
Most Unfavorite German Words – Some discussing the most worst German tongue twisters