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I'm new to German, I select Themen aktuell as my textbook, but it confuses me at the very first stage.

Feel free to watch this lesson here. Don't worry, it's very short :)

The speaker pronounces German e as [ei]:
helga ['hɛlga] as ['heilga],
heiße ['haisə] as ['haisei].

Is it a dialect or not?

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Helga is pronounced ['hɛlɡaː] in German. Heiße in pronounced ['haɪ̯sə] in German.

The reason why you hear [ei] both times most likely is you are used to a more hushed pronounciation (AE speaker maybe?). This example is over-pronounced because it's a compromise between clarity and the way people actually talk.

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In the first seconds of this record a female voice says "Guten Tag, ich heiße Helga Brunner." Her pronuncation of "Helga" and "heiße" is totally in the area of normal. No dialect there.

I would, however, derive from her pronunciation of "Brunner" that she is a resident of Austria; but that's only due to a very faint peculiarity of the pronuncation of the -er here, and does not affect the "Helga" and "heiße".

Note that some of the voices later in the record are clearly from non-native-German-speaking immigrants (Sweden, Russia, etc.) with respective accents. Some others are native speakers of German probably even with training in standard (theatre and broadcasting) pronunciation. It seems the record uses sound bits taken from many different sources.

  • So, as a beginner, is it alright to pronouncing German e as [ei] just like the woman in the audio? By the way, I'm about to learn real-life German at the very beginning, is there any article or video that about the pronouncing variations in colloquial cases like this guy do in English. – preachers Sep 4 '18 at 11:37
  • @preachers Interestingly in the "Ich heiße Helga Brunner" as pronounced in the first seconds of your sample record I (native speaker and professional user of German, also with some linguistic background) do not hear anything in "Helga" I would describe as [ei]. Could it be that your own linguistic background has left you with a peculiar sensitivity to e-ei differences? What is your native language? – Christian Geiselmann Sep 4 '18 at 12:25
  • My mother tongue is Mandarin actually. I guess the [ei] I hear in Helga could be produced by the change of the tongue position as she pronounces "l" immediately after "e". But I couldn't explain the [ei] sound I hear in heiße. – preachers Sep 4 '18 at 13:45
  • @preachers Your comment is very interesting. Based on the fact that, as far as I have noticed, native speakers of Mandarin often do not hear a clear difference between the sounds associated with l and r in European languages, we might have found here, in the e/ei problem, a phonetic area where your hearing is more sensitive or more developed than ours. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 4 '18 at 16:46

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