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The German Consonant 'w' Includes sound files!

The German consonant 'w' is pronounced like an English 'v' in the words 'very' and 'video'. The sound is also represented in phonetics by the phoneme 'v'. Although this may take some getting used to, the articulation of the sound itself is one with which English speakers are familiar. In both languages, the upper front teeth and the lower lip come together to form a narrowing through which the air passes with a trace of a hiss. It is called a 'fricative' consonant, which means that is articulated by forcing air through a narrow gap in the vocal tract in such a way that friction is audible.

The /v/ phoneme, the sound that is made when you say the German letter 'w', is thus formed in the same manner and the same place as the German /f/ phoneme. The difference is that you use your vocal cords to make the /v/ sound, but not when you articulate /f/. To feel the difference between the two consonants, place your hands over your ears and repeat the German words fein and Wein (which begins with the /v/ phoneme, despite its spelling). When you say fein, the only thing that should hear is the airstream passing out through your mouth. But when you say Wein, you should be able to feel your entire head vibrate.

Click here to listen to the soundsClick either here or on the sound icon on the left to hear a native speaker say six German words which all contain the letter 'w'. Note how the sounds are all pronounced in the same manner as the English letter 'v'.

(to expect)

Click here to listen to the soundsWords that contain both the German letter 'w' and the German 'v' can initially cause beginners some problems, as we need to make two mental adjustments from the sounds that we are accustomed to making when we see these letters written in English. Click either here or on the sound icon on the left to hear five German words which contain both of these letters in different orders. Practise saying them until you feel comfortable with the articulation of the consonants.

   wie viel
(how much)
(to disappear)

Click here to listen to the soundsNote also that the letter 'w' is also pronounced as a /v/ sound when it appears in a cluster with other consonants. Click either here or on the sound icon on the left to hear four German words in which the letter 'w' is preceded by either 'sch-' or 'z-'. The words themselves are supplied in the box below along with their English translation:

(actually, in fact)

Click here to listen to the soundsNote that the German letter 'w' is pronounced when it appears in 'wr-' consonant clusters. In the following examples, contrast in particular the difference in articulation between the German word Wrack and its English equivalent wreck, and wringen and its English equivalent wring. Click here to listen to these two words.

(to wring)

Weiter! How to pronounce the German letter 'y'

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