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I'm not sure if this question is completely on-topic since I think it's largely a cultural question rather than being strictly about German language, but I noticed a tag so I thought it would be worth asking...

I spent the first 12 years of my life in Germany and then the next 15 in the US so I am lucky enough to speak both languages like a native speaker. However, whenever I'm in Germany, I always get tripped up when it comes to the pronunciation of Denglish words. For example, the English/Denglish word "Sorry" is often used in Germany and pronounced kind of like "soury" with a guttural R sound. I am unsure of whether I should pronounce it "correctly" (ie, as a more or less native speaker of English would) which I think makes people believe I'm a loud American who thinks he can just speak English to everyone or should I say it like a German would to fit in? I end up feeling awkward either way! Obviously I could simply use the Denglisch word's true German equivalent, but in some contexts, this can sound stilted.

Is there a general preference for the pronunciation of Denglisch words?

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@c.p. how is this not about German? Sure, it could be a lot more concrete, but it's pretty clear what he's asking about, in my opinion at least... –  clinch Apr 2 at 15:43
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@Vogel612 Well..., I've never heard "sorry", but, as you say, that might be regional. I guess I just cannot stop finding funny the fact that an question that asks for a right method to transgress the rules has to do with German. Anyway, I didn't vote neither directon, nor vote to close. I still don't see an opinion-independent way to answer it if it's not edited, that's my point. –  c.p. Apr 2 at 16:13
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As a general language/cultural proposition, I think it's more polite to be understood and to fit in, within reasonable limits. As an American, I tend to use brief foreign phrases when abroad and try to make them sound not obviously foreign. The converse, pronouncing foreign words in the US in the foreign custom, can be perceived as jarring (e.g. trilling the Rs in "burrito") and somewhat pretentious. This does not really apply to someone who has a consistent foreign accent, however. But I can't comment on the German custom or expectation in this regard. –  NL7 Apr 2 at 16:14
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@c.p. - There's an expected pronunciation and someone with an otherwise non-Spanish accent who singles out words like burrito or Nicaragua for special accent and inflection is defying that conventional expectation. The conscious choice to defy convention (rather than to retain one's prior customary inflection, as with a non-native English speaker) is what might signal pretensions. The same would apply to over-pronouncing words like hors d'oeuvre or bonsai. Some people over-pronounce foreign words for reasons related to self-perception (i.e. worldly). –  NL7 Apr 2 at 19:02
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@Wrzlprmft, those that you get when you follow the links at the bottom of Google's page. –  Carsten Schultz Apr 3 at 17:24

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I'm an Austrian physicist and I cringe every time I hear "Shwrodinger", "Ainsdine", "Goudel" and other names of people*. In German to English, eu, st, sch, ä, ö, ü, etc. get lost every time, but I've been adviced to do the same mispronunciations when talking with Americans, so they can follow you. Conversely, in both directions and in general, for social reasons, I'd just go as the Romans do.

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Van Gogh....... –  Carsten Schultz Apr 3 at 8:30
    
@CarstenSchultz: And Johann Sebastian Bak. And Youler for Euler. The list is long of course, I just mentioned the people close to my heart. You shouldn't change the names of people, that's cruel. But then agian, I really like when english speaking people say stuff like Bremstrahlung or Führerdiskriminantenproduktformel. "Bwemsdwralung". –  NikolajK Apr 3 at 8:34
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@NiftyKitty95 +1, but well, that's not proper from German. Basically, that's how English pronunciation works. So the problem is not symmetric: in German you hear rightly pronounced gallicisms, and so on. –  c.p. Apr 3 at 9:05
    
@c.p.: I see your point, but I think we can make a case that consider Words like Bauer, Maurer and also Einstein are indeed German. –  NikolajK Apr 3 at 9:24
    
Thanks for this answer @NiftyKitty95. I think "going native" is the best approach so I have accepted this answer. –  user5887 Apr 3 at 13:23

I went to a German school in the U.S. so students would constantly flip flop between languages. I would say that in most cases people would revert to the pronunciation of whatever language they were currently speaking in. So for your example, if I was saying sorry in a German sentence, I would pronounce it like you described. I think in general the converse didn't occur as often but likewise, I would americanize the pronunciation of German words used in English sentences (e.g. pronouncing Kinder in Kinder Surprise as more of a drawled word that rhymes with the American tinder- please forgive me, I don't know what the correct phonetic spelling would be).

However, as mentioned in the comments by @NL7, this is primarily a cultural/social issue. Provided you aren't butchering the pronunciation, people will understand you. The issue then becomes how you want others to perceive you and that's something you will have to judge for yourself. Always use the correct pronunciation and some will find you pretentious. Always use the incorrect pronunciation and others may judge you as ignorant. There's a happy medium but it's highly situational in my experience.

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While NiftyKitty95’s answer has a point that you might usually want take a look at what native speakers do, it does not take into account that English and German speakers treat loanwords differently: German speakers with sufficient knowledge and training of English pronunciation¹ will in my experience usually do the following:

  • If a word has been borrowed some time ago and is not perceived as a loanword anymore: They use the German pronunciation. Some of these words can be identified by having been adapted to German spelling and grammar to an extend that exceeds a bare minimum. Examples: Keks (cookie, from cakes), Kodierung (encoding, from code). Note that even half-adapted pronunciations might exist, in which, e.g., a silent e remains silent, but the rest of the word is adapted (I have no good example for this at hand).
  • If it’s a newer loanword (or a technical term that is not relevant to everyday language): They try to pronounce it as if it were an English word, but without using a particular English accent or tonality². With other words: They take the English pronunciation’s IPA representation and pronounce it as if it were German word having that IPA representation (speaking the missing phonemes as if speaking English). Examples: Motherboard, Code.

Following that is also what I recommend. In particular do not apply your English tonality or accent (which is rather difficult anyway); instead try to apply the IPA instruction to your current accent so that you do not switch, e.g., from a slight Texan accent of German to a thick Texan accent mid-sentence.

“Butchering” the English pronunciation by pronouncing the English spelling as if it were a German word may even hampering the communication with Germans. E.g., I remember some announcement in a train that sounded like “for for to free”. Only after hearing the German version once more, I identified it as “4:43”.


¹ which includes most younger people, academics and people who have to use English in oral communication regularly
² Received Pronunciation comes arguably very close to this for a standard German pronunciation, maybe some English accent is even better.

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love the Keks thing :) –  Takkat Apr 3 at 18:36

Well, unaware of the social effect of your choice, Wikionary entry for the German word sorry actually has both pronunciations:

  • one that matches the English word: [ˈsɔri]

  • a second one, that maybe reproduces the germanized word: [ˈzɔʀi]. The z-sound is as if the word would be actually read in German; the R-sound, like that in drei, as well.

So, my guess is, you should be happy with any choice – and so should be your interlocutor.

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I would not think much about the pronunciation of "sorry" in German. It is an English word and you can pronounce it in the way you are used to. The difference in pronunciation is minimal, when Germans pronounce the English word correctly. And most Germans speak English or have learnt it at school. If some German pronounces the word in a different way, he probably does not know English and then he should not use English words.

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Are you aware of the problem saying pronounce the English word correctly when we are just discussing the correct pronunciation? –  Str. Apr 4 at 11:22

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