Language

10 Difficult German Words and How to Pronounce Them

M.C.August 5, 20213-min read

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Here are our top 10 hardest German words and how to pronounce them!

The German language has a reputation for being quite aggressive and having words that are hard to pronounce. However, the language is also home to some beautiful German words, expressing concepts that don’t exist in the English language.

Compound nouns are a trademark of the German language. While the length of a word isn’t necessarily proportional to its difficulty, the sheer number of letters is enough to terrify the most advanced language learner. Throw some funny-looking letters (and sounds) in there too and you've got a recipe for a pretty hard language to pronounce.

1. Eichhörnchen (Squirrel)

Also a difficult one in English, this is a classic when it comes to difficult German words to pronounce.

red squirel on wooden bench

2. Streichholzschachtel (Box of matches)

If you want to complicate it even further, adding ‘chen’ to the end of it and an umlaut to the ‘a’ (ä) turns the meaning into a small box of matches: Streichholzschächtelchen (though it looks like it should mean so much more.)

3. Freundschaftsbeziehungen (Friendship relations)

Another compound noun classic in the German language. Breaking this word up, you’ve “Freundschaft” meaning friendship and “Beziehungen” meaning relations. Sometimes we love the logic of German!

friends in sunflower field smiling laughing

4. Rührei (Scrambled eggs)

Every time we try to pronounce this one, it comes out as a strange sound rather than an actual word. The German ‘r’ at the beginning of the word followed by ‘ü’ is what makes this one hard to pronounce. We are still practicing…

5. Arbeitslosigkeitsversicherung (Unemployment insurance)

Another brilliant logical compound noun here! Once you break it up into individual parts, it’s actually not that bad. The hard part comes when you try saying it all together as one word. Who knew a single word could be a tongue twister?

6. Röntgen (X-ray)

What’s more daunting than going for an x-ray? Some would say trying to pronounce the German word for an x-ray. In this case, you can blame Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, the doctor who patented the procedure in the late 19th century. To honor his medical contribution, his name landed into the German dictionary as both a verb and a noun.

7. Quietscheentchen (Rubber duck)

To help pronounce this one, remember that ‘qu’ is more of a ‘kv’ sound. With that, the breakdown would be “Quietsche” + “ent-chen.” Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually not that bad!

rubber duck blue background

8. Tschechien (Czechia)

Three consonants in a row is never a good sign, nevermind it being at the beginning of the word! cue facepalm

9. Kreuzschlitzschraubenzieher (Screwdriver)

This is one you definitely want to break up to help pronounce it more easily: Kreuz - schlitz - schrauben - zieher.

10. Schlittschuhlaufen (Ice skating)

The tricky part of this German word is to not also pronounce “schuh” with an ‘l’ in there. Once you pronounce “schlitt” and “schuh” together over and over, you’ve already gotten the hang of this word!

Admittedly, German words look very scary and hard to pronounce because we write them all together. However, the main tip for mastering those compound nouns is to break them up into its component parts. Take each part slowly and then when you’ve got the hang of it, pronounce them all together. Once you’ve mastered them, put them into practice by speaking to a native speaker:

That’s exactly where the Tandem app comes in. With Tandem, it’s easy to find German language exchange partners to chat with. Whether that’s through video or audio calls, voice messages or texting, Tandem supports your individual learning style. With millions of members in the online community, you’re bound to find someone with similar interests to you, ensuring your language learning remains fun and motivating. Download now!

If you want to find out more about the German language, be sure to check out our article on learning German online.

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