I tried to get the example of pronunciation of the word of "Universität" from Google Translate but the pronunciation that I got from it was a little far from my expectation. Google Translate pronounced "Universität" as "Universiteet". I didn't get why "ä" can be the "ee" sound?

This is pronunciation from Google Translate:


  • 1
    What's the ee sound?
    – c.p.
    Mar 22, 2014 at 12:38
  • I'm not sure but you can click on my link go to google translate the sound from there in my opinion its sound likes "Universiteet".
    – fronthem
    Mar 22, 2014 at 12:55
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    He is probably talking about "in some varieties of standard German, /ɛː/ and /eː/ have merged into [eː], removing this anomaly. In that case, pairs like Bären/Beeren 'bears/berries' or Ähre/Ehre 'spike (of wheat)/honour' become homophonous"
    – blutorange
    Mar 22, 2014 at 13:21
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    @terces907 in English teeth is [tiːθ], while in German Universität's ending sounds [ˈtɛːt].
    – c.p.
    Mar 22, 2014 at 14:34
  • 1
    Link works for me, and it is pronounced correctly in my (native) opinion.
    – Ingmar
    Mar 22, 2014 at 14:44

2 Answers 2


Generally there is no "correct" pronunciation for German, mainly because of so many regional variations. Nevertheless there are common pronunciations given for words in the various dictionaries:

Still, these pronunciation vary considerably.

People believe that German as spoken in and around the city of Hannover is the most understood variant. This also led to creating the "ARD-Aussprachedatenbank" to help people working there as newsreaders to share a common pronunciation.

Links to soundsamples from this database are given in the Duden online dictionary:

This pronunciation will let you be on the safe side when learning.

  • 1
    The ARD-Aussprachedatenbank is only useful for German German (the variation of German language that is spoken in Germany). But it does not help if you want to learn Austrian German or Swiss German. In Austrian German there is no difference between the pronunciation of »Beeren« and »Bären« or between »Ehre« and »Ähre«. So in Austria »Universität« is spoken the same way as (the not existing word) »Universitet« would have been pronounced. And this matched very fine with the pronunciation offered by Google. Mar 23, 2014 at 12:21
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    @HubertSchölnast: yeah that's pretty much the same for almost all German speaking regions including Bavaria, Switzerland, Saxonia, Swabia, Hesse, and more. For learners it is very confusing to tell them they should not use the Hanover pronunciation when in Austria, or elsewhere. Also I doubt that people who learn German as a foreign language really want to learn a Swabian, Saxonian, Swiss, or Austrian dialect.
    – Takkat
    Mar 23, 2014 at 14:16
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    In addition the ORF, SF, DRS, and Radio Bolzano also use this database.
    – Takkat
    Mar 23, 2014 at 14:18
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    Österreichisches Deutsch ist KEIN Dialekt! Es ist eine der drei Standardvarietäten der deutschen Hochsprache. (Vergleichbar mit britischem Englisch, das ebenfalls kein Dialekt sondern eine Varietät der englischen Sprache ist). In Österreich werden viele Dialekte gesprochen, aber es gibt KEINEN österreichsichen Dialekt. Die in Österreich gesprochenen Dialekte sind den Dialekten Niederalemannisch (in Vorarlberg) Südbairisch (in Kärnten und Teilen Tirols) und Mittelbairisch (im Rest Österreichs) zuzuordnen. Mar 23, 2014 at 17:28
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    Für Dialekte gibt es keine genormte Rechtschreibung. Für Österreichisches Deutsch gelten aber verbindliche Rechtschreibregeln, die zum größten Teil mit den Regeln für Deutsches Deutsch übereinstimmen, in Einzelfällen aber abweichen (z.B. Adventkalender und Schweinsbraten statt Adventskalender und Schweinebraten). Diese Regeln werden vom Ministerium für Unterricht und Kunst im Österreichischen Wörterbuch herausgegeben, das meines Wissens das einzige noch gültige amtliche Wörterbuch einer Varietät der deutschen Sprache ist. (Der Duden ist seit 1996 kein amtlich verbindliches Wörterbuch mehr.) Mar 23, 2014 at 17:35

It seems that you were expecting [ɛː], but heard [iː]. Indeed, Google's pronunciation has [eː].

Your expectation was correct, and if you learn German, [ɛː] is the pronunciation that you should probably try to achieve. However, as noted in the comments, regionally the pronunciation might be [eː] instead of [ɛː].

On the other hand, [e:] and [i:] are different phonemes that Germans always distinguish. There is a clear difference between for example beeten ([e:]) and bieten ([i:]). Depending on your native language that distinction may be hard for you to hear.

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