Lose your accent! German vowels “ö” and “ü”

Pay attention to your lips!
Pay attention to your lips!

You can sound like a native in any language. Even though speaking with a foreign accent seems like a normal state, you can learn how to make the sounds that sound easy in the mouths of natives. This video series increases your awareness of all the parts of your mouth you use for speaking. A language never felt so good!

German “ö” and “ü” confound learners with awkward contortions. Technically, though, English includes the same mouth positions, but in a different order. If you can speak English, you can make these sounds—only pay close attention to how you arrange your tongue and lips. The video will show you how.

Dr. Thomas Coates blew my mind. He taught me how my tongue, lips, jaw, and teeth create language. Like a Chinese calligrapher learns how each finger holds a brush, like a yogi breathes with specific depth and stretch of her diaphragm, I took the first steps towards mastering language: losing my accent.


Photo credit: Kate Dreyer via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

4 thoughts on “Lose your accent! German vowels “ö” and “ü”

  1. Do English speakers really have a problem with the ö? It’s exactly the same vowel sound as in in the English words work, work, heard, shirt etc. Sure, this particular vowel sound is always followed by an “r”, in English, which is not the case in German, but nevertheless, it’s the same.

    Nice vid, shall share it.


    1. There are two aspects of this. One is that I’m coming from a US context, and we pronounce the “r” strongly in those words like “heard” and “shirt.” In fact, I’ve heard the ö pronounced with the same US “er” so that “böse” comes out “berse.”

      Two is that I think the vowel in British English comes out without rounding. The lips have to round to make the German sound properly. Nevertheless, the British “er” comes much closer than I previously gave it credit for. Thank you!

      Thank you for sharing! You clearly have a lot of credibility, and you’ve really helped my videos get out there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rachel

        I pronounce the sounds in “shirt” and “boese” a little bit differently, but… I can’t quite say how. It’s like my lips are a little tighter in “boese”? There’s a little more tension in my throat, too. I’m sitting here saying it both ways and I can’t hear any appreciable difference, but.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Rachel

      I’ve never had a problem with it because, as you said, it’s so close to “er” or “ir” in most British/Australian/New Zealand accents. But Richard is American, so he always pronounces the R, which is something that both Germans, Australians, Kiwis and (most) Brits don’t do… so for him “er” is a very different sound.

      I remember sitting in class once being drilled in the word “Seeloewe” for twenty or thirty minutes – there was another Australian/non-native who had trouble with those sounds, too. It’s not the OE that I had trouble with, it was the double-E that stumped me. Eventually the teacher gave up – I went home and watched the complete first season of Torchwood in a day and that cured me – the same sound is used by Welsh-English speakers for “ay”, as in “mate” – it’s actually common throughout much of the British Isles. Just as well I worked out how to make the sound, because it’s used in Gaelic, Spanish, Greek and Hebrew as well.

      Liked by 2 people

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