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I am trying to flatten my accent and I'd like to know some words and sounds to use as markers for improvement.

As an example, I know that "ich" is often mispronounced "ick" by Americans. I'd like to know what words, when mispronounced, scream "American" -- and how I might improve my accent.

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    We have several questions about accent reduction on Language Learning Stack Exchange. – IkWeetHetOokNiet Sep 25 '16 at 19:02
  • ick might scream Berliner as well. Or Dutch. – c.p. Sep 25 '16 at 19:03
  • Or Cologne//Rhine/Ruhr – Jan Sep 25 '16 at 19:16
  • It's a very broad question. Ironically, speaking "too Hochdeutsch" can sound "suspicious" as well, in that sense ;-) However, one thing that came to my mind was the possibility to over-emphasize the prominent ending "...en" in German words. "Guten Morgen" in reality is rather pronounced roughly(!) like "Gutn Morgn". I think that carefully listening to native german speakers is key here. – Marco13 Sep 26 '16 at 2:45
  • @Marco13: Note that [ɡuːtn̩ mɔʁɡn̩] is as standard as you can possibly get (given that there is no official pronunciation standard for German). – Wrzlprmft Sep 26 '16 at 7:34
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I'll start with learning consonants that do not exist in my own language. These are [ç] as in I[ç] or Tei[ç], [x] as in Ba[x] or Da[x] (Bach/Dach) and especially the German r, which is usually rendered as [ʁ]. There is a variant of [x], which is [⁠χ⁠], the unvoiced counterpart of [ʁ]. The American "r" is a sure telltale sign, by the way.

A sound you already know, [v], is the common way to pronounce "w". The [w] in engl. "water" doesn't exist except for loan words. "s" has to be rendered as [z] in High German (as in "design") when appearing as initial sound and as [s] when it appears as final sound. Other sounds change as well, when they appear as final sound:

  • b => p
  • d => t
  • g => k
  • [ʁ] => ɐ (for unstressed endings such as -er, -ur)

Another important property is that every German syllable begins with a consonant; however, there is one that doesn't appear in writing: the glottal stop ʔ.

Vowels are much harder to learn. I'd propose to just exercise speaking short words again and again.

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    Adding to this: A "z" in German is almost (?) always pronounced as [ts], never as [z] like in English. Some Americans I know have a hard time keeping that in mind, even though the [ts] sound itself doesn't really pose a problem to them. +1 for the Auslautverhärtung. Saying "Zug" like a German isn't really hard for an American, it's just very counterintuitive. – Raketenolli Sep 26 '16 at 8:21
  • "every German syllable begins with a consonant" -> then there should be no entries in my Duden starting with 'a', 'e', 'i'...?!? – Stephie Sep 27 '16 at 5:53
  • @Stephie: Depends...the glottal stop just doesn't appear in written German. In the end, it is not necessary, as it is sufficient to know that every syllable that seemingly begins with a vowel begins with a glottal stop instead. German native speakers usually do not know it exists. – Veredomon Sep 29 '16 at 12:15
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We tend to have broad, "twangy" vowels in addition to the ones heard in German. In American English, "Apple" "deer" "ice" "owl" "ugly" are words that, if pronounced correctly, are pretty "American"

Attached is a recording of your question read by me (American accent) and the words I listed above.* https://www.dropbox.com/s/bzyghhyxxdcupnf/American%20Accent-1.m4a?dl=0 *I made a mistake saying "ick": most americans would say the "i" like the "i" in "igloo"

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