Foreign Service Institute German Basic Course
Unit 1: Part 1
Wir sind in Deutschland
Basic Sentences [mp3 1.1]
How much is three and five?
Wie viel ist drei und fünf?
*End of mp3 1.1*
Changes since the 1960's : Verzeihung is a bit formal for excuse me. You can also use Entschuldigung when you want to get someone's attention. The currency in Germany (and Austria) is now the Euro, which is broken down into cents. Switzerland still uses the Swiss franc. Fräulein is NOT used anymore. At best it's considered old fashioned, usually somewhat sexist, and often times is only used to refer to a prositute. Instead of nein you'll often hear nee in most of Germany and na in the south and in Austria. [Thanks to kflavin84 for some of these updates!]
Notes on Pronunciation [mp3 1.2]
The spelling of a language only symbolizes to the native speaker the sounds which he already knows. You will learn these sounds directly from your instructor; the spelling will serve as an aid to listening. No spelling system adequately represents the sounds of the spoken language. and no attempt will be made at this point to outline exactly what sounds are represented by what symbols of the German spelling system. We will however present for particular drill and attention in each unit certain sounds which have shown themselves to be difficult for speakers of American English. In the meantime we ask you to remember two cardinal points:
1. The German of your text is printed in the standard German written style.
2. The letter-symbols used, although in most cases the same symbols we use in written English, in most cases do not represent exactly the same sounds we use in English. Therefore, DO NOT EXPECT GERMAN WRITTEN SYMBOLS TO REPRESENT SOUND VALUES YOU KNOW IN ENGLISH.
Pronunciation Practices. To be drilled in class.
A. Short Vowels
The German short vowels i, e, a and u are not dissimilar from English sounds. The o, however, is probably different from any sound that you have in English. Do not try to replace it by a sound from English, but rather reproduce the pronunciation of your instructor. The German front rounded vowels ö and ü do not occur in English. To produce the ö, put your tongue in the position for the German e and round your lips; for ü, put your tongue in the position for the German i and round your lips. You will then produce a sound similar to the German sound. Experiment until your instructor is satisfied with your pronunciation. Do not worry about the meaning of the words in these practices. Concentrate instead on the sounds.
|short i||short e||short a||short o||short u|
|short ö||short ü||e (unstressed)||e (unstressed)|
B. Long Vowels
There are no sounds in English exactly like the German long vowels. If you will pronounce English gate and then ask your instructor to pronounce German geht, you will notice that the English vowel sound seems to change during its pronunciation. but the German sound seems tense and stable throughout its duration. Your tongue actually moves during the production of the English vowel sound, but during the production of the German sound the tongue remains in the same position. The long ö and ü are formed approximately like short ö and ü. Pronounce German long e and round your lips to form ö, and pronounce German long i and round your lips to form ü.
|long i||long e||long a||long o||long u||long ö||long ü|
c. Distinguishing Long and Short Vowels
It is NOT ALWAYS POSSIBLE to distinguish long and short vowels in written German, as the German spelling system does not consistently mark them as such. Your best guide to the pronunciation of any given word is the way your native instructor pronounces it. However, a few hints can be given which will help you to recognize them most of the time. If you look back at the practice lists above you will see that the short vowels in most cases are followed by two or more consonants and they are always written with a single letter symbol. Then note that the long vowels are not always written with a single letter symbol and usually are followed by only one consonant. The following combinations of letters always designate long vowels: ie, ih - eh, ee - ah, aa - oh, oo - uh - öh - üh.
These combinations of two vowel sounds in German are very similar, though not identical to certain vowel combinations in English.