Step 2. Phonetics

I started trying to learn Swiss German using the Pimsleur Swiss German CD course. However, once I had thoroughly exhausted that resource, I was a bit stumped on how to proceed with my studies. I had to get a bit more creative with my learning and started to try to memorize words and sentences I could find on the Internet but I wasn’t always sure how the words actually sounded.

I finally figured out that the best approach (for me) to being able to increase my vocabulary, was to learn the phonetics of the language so that I didn’t need to get my friends explain to me how every word was supposed to sound.

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My friend trying to sound out for me how to say “my job is boring”

This solution to this took me a while to get to though… Between the Pimsleur CDs and the realization that I needed to be able to pronounce words to be able to remember them were many wasted hours of bookmarking websites and almost giving up this seemingly impossible quest of learning this language that many people on the Internet said “can only be learned if you grew up there”. At one point I decided that Swiss German was impossible to learn and started trying to learn High German instead. Shortly thereafter however, I was back at the farm and had to sit through a couple conversations in CH (from which I understood next to nothing) and made up my mind to switch back to learning Swiss German reasoning to myself that “if I’m going to learn a whole new language, I might as well learn the one that will allow me to understand my friends”.

(Sorry for getting sidetracked for a bit, I just wanted to emphasize the fact the lack of learning resources is definitely a tough obstacle to overcome and empathize with anyone feeling the same way as I did)

One resource that I found to be extremely helpful to learn Swiss German was a Youtube channel called Maryangel24. The channel was created by a girl from Zurich who creates videos that provide tons of useful information about Swiss German. It is not a “professional resource” but I found it to be one of the most helpful resources (and its free!). A lot of the information I post stems from info I learned from this channel so I highly recommend it as a resource. For this reason, lots of the info I post will resemble dialects from the Zurich area.

SWISS GERMAN PHONETICS

a aww
e ahh, ehh, euh
i ee
o oh
u ooh
ä aeh
ö euh
ü uu
Vowel clusters
ei like how you would say “I”
eu oi/oy
Consonants
c g sound
h air or silent (silent h prolongs the preceeeding vowel)
j like a y
p b sound
t sounds like d
k kchrreuh
q kchrreuh
r rr (like spanish)
v either a v or a f
w v
x ks
y uu or ee
z ts
Consonant clusters *rules don’t apply to compound words
sch sh
sp shp
st sht
ch chrr
ck kchrr
pf pf
Double consonants – when there is a double consonant, you have to linger on it

This is all summarized very well in the following video

With this new set of knowledge, I could now look at a text and read it out loud (with a certain degree of accuracy), even if I had no idea what I was saying yet…

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