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I have recently started learning German, and I am facing a great deal of pain in pronouncing 'e'. I am not a native English speaker, but I am speaking it since I can remember. So while learning German some pronunciation becomes very difficult.

In English, we don't distinguish the various sound of 'e', like 'e' in elephant ([e]) or 'e' in eat ([i]). In my native language, we don't have [e]. Pronouncing becomes more difficult when uvular fricative [r] joins in, like the word 'geradeaus'. Whenever I pronounce it, the sound 2nd [e] is suppressed by [a], and I find it hard to distinguish between the 2 sounds. Is there any way to understand this better? I understand that it will take some practice, but any advice on how I can improve my understanding?

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  • Welcome to SE! Most online dictionaries have audio of most words you're likely to encounter, and Google translate will do computer generated audio of entire sentences if you want. So my advise is to look up the word, play the sound file, imitate it as best you can, and repeat until you're satisfied that you sound the same as the recording.
    – RDBury
    Apr 30 at 1:23
  • About your IPA spelling: "[r]" does not denote the uvular fricative, but an alveolar trill, so either you got the name wrong or the letter. (Phonologically, /r/ is an acceptable spelling, of course.) Apr 30 at 6:42
  • In addition to phipsgabler's comment: The IPA representation of the voiced uvular fircative is [ʁ]. Besides, I would pronounce the second <e> as [ə] (schwa) instead of [e] (and the first <e> not at all): [ɡʁaːdəˈʔaʊ̯s]. Apr 30 at 8:54
  • Actually, I didn't know how to add an IPA symbol, that is why I wrote a simple 'r'. In a stack answer somewhere (I cannot find it now), it was mention that 3 types 'r' are used in german: 1. Uvular fricative 2. Alveolar trill 3. Uvular trill. Since the 3rd one is rather hard to pronounce, most of the pronunciations use either uvular fricative or alveolar trill.
    – Momobear
    Apr 30 at 10:33
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First of all: there is no [e] at all in geradeaus! That might be surprising, but:

  • The first <e> is mostly omitted. If it is pronounced, then as [ə].
  • The second <e> is pronounced [ə] by default (but can also be omitted, at least in some dialects).

Thus, in IPA: [ɡ(ə)ʁaːdəˈʔaʊ̯s]. The [ə] should be easier to pronounce than [e].

Now, regarding the distinction between [ə] and [a]:

There is a glottal stop [ʔ] between [ə] and [a]!

The vowels are not adjacent, there is no soft transition. Instead, they are sharply separated by the glottal stop. In order to pronounce them separately, you should try to pronounce the obligatory glottal stop in between.

Glottal stops always occur (at least in German Standard German):

  • In front of a word that starts with a vowel.
  • In front of a compound part that starts with a vowel.

Glottal stops usually occur:

  • Between two vowels that don't belong to a diphtong.
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    Exactly! The glottal stop is one of the most spoken consonants in German language (and in English and many other languages too), but it has not representation in the written language. There is no letter and no combination of letters for it. But although it is not written, this consonant still is the first sound in »Apfel« (also in English »apple«), it appears twice in »oh-oh«, it separates the first and second syllable in »beachten« and makes the only difference between »die Spiegelei« (to fool around with a mirror) and »das Spiegelei« (fried egg) Apr 30 at 9:50
  • You are right, no letter depicts a glottal stop. So for future pronunciation, how would I know where does a glottal stop occur?
    – Momobear
    Apr 30 at 10:39
  • @Momobear The glottal stop occurs always before words and compound parts that begin with a vowel, no exceptions (that's why many German speakers have a hard time not to do it when speaking other languages). Also, it occurs between two vowels that aren't a diphtong. Apr 30 at 10:55
  • Downvote: The “always” assertion is plain wrong. It depends on the variety. There are varieties of standard German that have glottal stops and others that don’t.
    – mach
    Apr 30 at 11:26
  • @mach If something is wrong, please leave a comment or edit the post to correct it. Downvote is the last resort. Your aggressive downvote behavior against the rules is offensive and not justified. If you consider the answer "plain wrong", then why don't add in German Standard German to make it right? We cannot collaborate as a platform on this basis. The asker "recently started learning German". Do you really think it isn't helpful with his problem to tell him that in German Standard German there is always a glottal stop? Apr 30 at 11:46
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Well, "geradeaus" is a composition of "gerade" and "aus", and both parts stay intact. Leave a little gap between "gerade" and "aus" and don't try to merge the vowels together.

Most Germans drop the first 'e' in "gerade", so you'll hear "grade-aus" in practice.

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