Lyric German Diction


For Anglophones, German looks far more difficult to pronounce than it actually is.  Once you have broken down the compound words into their semantic parts, you’ll find the phonetics behind the German language are quite predictable.  What a change from our native English!  Think of how many ways we present the sound [f] in the words enough, phone and fluff.  The main thing that non-native German speakers need to negotiate is the sheer phonetic content of the average German word.  You have to say it all!  Between the clusters of consonants (unlike French and English, you have to account for just about every consonant in German), the precise and expressive vowel colors, the semantic content of each word component, and the fact that many German words are made up of many parts, we have plenty to work out before we can tackle our Schubert Lieder or our Bach Passion!

Chiefly, the foreign sounds for non-Germans are the ich-laut [ç], the ach-laut [x], and the mixed vowels [œ], [ø], [Y] and [y].  In the German section of SingersBabel, you’ll get plenty of practice on these sounds with some remarkable Lieder and oratorios by Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Josef Haydn, Johannes Brahms and many more.  The texts are a wonderful blend of the biblical (Matthäus Passion), the supernatural (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s famous Erlkönig) and the human (see Robert Schumann’s take on Heinrich Heine’s heartbreaking Dichterliebe).  Viel Spaß! 

Barbara Paterson 



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