I am in a learning stage and I was wondering if pronunciation and (even accent) differs a lot across the places in Germany.
E.g. "Ich" being pronounced differently at different places made me think about this.

Will the standard way of learning German be sufficient to converse with people in Deutschland without worrying much about pronunciation and accent?

  • For pronunciation of "Ich" have a look at my answer to a related question in which I note that some regions pronunce the "ch" as "sch".
    – Em1
    Jun 13, 2012 at 9:46
  • To give a quick rough answer. Most Germans will be able to speak in a good pronounced standard German. You still will be confrontrated with some minor "wrong" articulations, but there's no need to worry about that.
    – Em1
    Jun 13, 2012 at 9:56
  • @Em1: ...and in Berlin, they say neither "ich" nor "isch", but "icke". Actually a good example for what I wrote in my answer about the sound shifts. ;-)
    – DevSolar
    Jun 13, 2012 at 12:06
  • 1
    What is meant by "differs a lot" - how do we measure it? However: If you learn German, everybody in Germany will understand you. And most people are able to adjust their language, whether they're talking to someone of their hood or to a foreigner. All people watch the same TV-series. Jun 14, 2012 at 12:49
  • 1
    @userunknown: Meiner Erfahrung nach hört man "ick" oder "icke" v.a. in (Rand- und) Ostberlin bzw. von (Rand- und) Ostberlinern. Berlinerisch war im Osten bis vor 20 Jahren noch relativ verbreitet.
    – sbi
    Jun 21, 2012 at 12:53

2 Answers 2


Historically, the German language underwent two major sound shifts (Grimm's law and High German consonant shift, a.k.a. "Erste Lautverschiebung" / "Zweite Lautverschiebung"). However, neither sound shift encompassed the whole "Sprachraum" (language area), effectively dividing German accents into three major areas, depending on which of the sound shifts affected them and which didn't. Add the numerous regional dialects, and the German language is a versatile one indeed.

There are variations in pronunciation as well as in vocabulary ("Kolter" for a blanket in Hessen, but they know to call it "Decke" when talking to a non-native; "Pölter" for pyjamas in Ostwestfalen which they would call "Schlafanzug" when talking to someone from abroad, like someone from Cologne... ;-) ). The regional vocabulary is not likely to show up in standard learning material, and the pronunciation differences are not so bad as to really impede communication. (While an Australian sounds funny to an American, and uses a couple of strange words, you still understand each other without major difficulties. It's the same for a Frisian and an Austrian. The occasional misunderstanding is taken in stride and with a smile.)

Bottom line, accents differ significantly, but I wouldn't worry about it.

  • Aber bin ich richtig der Annahme, dass Wörter wie "Kolter" und "Pölter" vom Aussterben bedroht sind, da diese Wörter vorwiegend von den "älteren Generationen" gesprochen werden?
    – Em1
    Jun 13, 2012 at 14:27
  • @Em1: Nein, durchaus nicht. Diese Begriffe kommen zum Großteil aus den regionalen "Platt"-Mundarten (Niederdeutsch), und die sind tatsächlich dabei auszusterben. Diverse Begriffe haben sich aber in den allgemeinen Sprachgebrauch eingefügt, und sind durchaus auch bei jüngeren Generationen im Gebrauch. ("Kolter" haben wir von unserer 20-jährigen Nachbarin in Hessen gelernt. ;-) ) Bei manchen Begriffen sind sich vor allem die Jugendlichen nicht einmal bewußt, das sie überregional unüblich sind. Die komischen Blicke, die wir von besagter Nachbarin für "Pölter" geerntet haben, waren klasse. :-D
    – DevSolar
    Jun 14, 2012 at 9:12

Here is a nice paragraph on German as a pluricentric language.

The difference between the pronunciation of a newscaster from Hamburg and one from Vienna is equal to the difference between the pronunciation of a newscaster from New York and one from London.

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