While I was listening to the audio files of "Living language", I came across the word "spazieren". In the audio file the speaker pronounces it silent as in "er", but in other sources it's pronounced /ʁ/ like the "r" sound in "Rot".
Are they both correct? If yes, then why? If no, which one is correct?

  • 1
    Yes, pronounciation of r varies a lot according to region (and speaker). All variations are "correct".
    – dirkt
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 8:55
  • Related question 1 ,question 2, question 3
    – guidot
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 9:42

1 Answer 1


In fact, there are two pronunciations of spazieren:


In the south of the German spoken region (i.e. Austria and Bavaria) you will hear almost only
[ʃpaˈʦiːɐn]. You will hear it in colloquial speech (friends in a pub; members of a family), but also in situations where people speak standard German (i.e. professional speakers in TV and radio).

In northern regions of Germany, professional speakers will use [ʃpaˈʦiːʀən]. Sorry, I have no idea, which version is in use in colloquial speech in northern regions.

This is true for all verbs that end in -ieren (frisieren, lackieren, präparieren, ...).

Note also, that in German there are three different sounds to pronounce the letter r: [⁠r⁠], ​[⁠ʀ⁠] and ​[⁠ʁ⁠]. In German they are free allophones, which means: to pronounce the letter r, you can freely decide which of this three sounds you use. All three are correct. (This is not true for reduction syllables like »Fenster« which are pronounces with [ɐ], or exceptions like the one discussed here)


You can listen to the "official(1)" (i.e. correct) pronunciations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland here: Österreichische Aussprachedatenbank (adaba.at) Unfortunately this websites has an awful usability, so let me explain how it works:

  1. Go to http://www.adaba.at
  2. In the 2nd window, titled »Suche« (which means search):
    • click on »Orthographische Suche« (orthographic search)
    • enter the word, that's pronunciation you want to know into the search field (for example: »spazieren«)
    • click on the magnifying glass (leave all other settings as they are, or use them to refine your search as you wish)
  3. After a few seconds all words that contain your keyword will be listed above, in the 1st window, titled »Ergebnis« (result)
  4. Select an item from this list (click it)
  5. The phonetics will be shown in the country-list in the center of the Ergebnis-window. The flags mean:
    • red, white, red: Austria
    • black, red, gold: Germany
    • white cross on red background: Switzerland
  6. you can listen to a male and a female professional speaker for each country
    • red: female
    • blue: male

You will find other pronunciation databases too, but in this database only professional speakers speak the words. For example, the male Austrian speaker is Peter Fichna, who was for many years the chief speacher of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation.

What you hear in this database is not colloquial speech. You hear only the "official(1)" standard pronunciation.

(1) There is not really an "official" pronunciation. There is no committee that defines which pronunciation is right or wrong. I use the term "official" here just for the fact, that politicians use this kind of pronunciation in their speeches, that news reporters use this pronunciation when reading the news on TV or in the radio, that teachers in schools and universities (also teachers of the subject German ) use it when they teach, and that is it used in all other situations that have an official character.

  • Here in Berlin, the r is also not pronounced in more colloquial speech. I think that the last vowel sound is more to the front, though. (I am thinking of my own speech, which is not actual Berlin dialect but certainly regionally influenced.)
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 17:44
  • 3
    Ich hätte den Nord-Süd-Unterschied genau andersherum erwartet. :-o Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 5:39
  • @CarstenS Same with me (North-West Germany). The vowel sound is somewhere between [e] and [ə], it's certainly not [ɐ].
    – Uwe
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 9:35
  • Are you really sure the reduction from "ʀən" to "ɐn" has something to do with the region? I don't think so. It's just a common reduction.
    – äüö
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 15:30
  • @äüö: E kann durchaus sein, dass [...ɐn] in gesamten deutschen Sprachraum in der Umgangssprache verwendet wird. Dazu kann ich nichts sagen. Was ich aber weiß, ist, dass [...ɐn] in Österreich die ganz "offizielle" Standardaussprache ist, die auch von Nachrichtensprechern verwendet wird. Bei deutschen Nachrichtensprechern hört man aber die Version [...ʀən]. Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 15:47

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