I have found in one learning lesson that there is a difference between two words mentioned in title. But I can not find any audio evidence of this. Is there a real difference or it can be neglected in everyday use?

  • You can listen to some samples on pons.eu, dict.leo.org and Duden.de. – Em1 Aug 20 '13 at 9:05

Both words are pronounced the same (in standard German): [ˈzaɪ̯tn̩], singular [ˈzaɪ̯tə]; source: Duden-Aussprachewörterbuch (3rd ed., 1990).

German orthography has a tendency to separate homophones wherever possible; similar cases are Leib/Laib, Lärche/Lerche.

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    Or dass/das or seit/seid to give some more common examples. – Wrzlprmft Aug 19 '13 at 18:19
  • As long as we're listing them...*Gäste* and Geste are relatively common words that sound similar. – Dustin Aug 20 '13 at 5:54
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    @Dustin Gäste is not homophonous with Geste where I live, it's [ˈɡɛstə] and [ˈɡeːstə] respectively. – I'm with Monica Aug 20 '13 at 8:44
  • I do not pronounce them the same, I distinguish betwenn Saite with [aɪ̯] and Seite with [ɛɪ̯], as in the answer by @Takkat. But that may be due to the fact that my father is originally from Stuttgart... – I'm with Monica Aug 20 '13 at 8:51
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    In the official spelling rules (page 9), both, Seite/Saite and Lärche/Lerche are used as examples for words that are pronounced identically, but spelt differently. – Wrzlprmft Aug 20 '13 at 10:16

Pronunciation is regionally different in Germany. In Swabia this example is pronounced like follows:

Saite [aɪ̯] or [ɔɪ̯] as in "Saitewürstle"
Seite [ɛɪ̯] as in "Gang uff'd Seite, I mecht vorbei", or "Seitenbacher"

Note however that this is inconsistent. Depending on the word, the Swabian pronunciation of "ei" may be [aɪ̯], [ɔɪ̯] or [ɛɪ̯].

The standard "hochdeutsche" pronunciation of Seite (like Saite) is considered as stilted in Swabia. Swabians therefore pronounce these words consistenly with their dialectal tone even when they do not speak dialect otherwise.

This may lead to confusion on how to appropriately pronounce when listening to natives having different regional roots.

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    Same for (Upper) Bavarian: Saite ['swatn], Seite ['saɪ̯tn] ... oh, and there's also ['seɪ̯tn] - for "selten", i.e. "rare". – Mac Aug 20 '13 at 8:22

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