These few letters might trip the learned native English speaker up. Here’s how not to incur some Pseudo-Xenophobie.
We don’t need that initial P at all in our $10 English words of Greek origin, do we?
We just ignore that silly P and hiss out the S as if it were the first letter.
Well, Germans don’t roll that way. They are principally opposed to slackers, and that applies to letters getting a free ride in words. 1 This means you’ve got to pronounce that P. Don’t overthink it — this is a sound you already make effortlessly in English words like
With a little practice, you can make that plosive-sibilant combination from a dead stop. Don’t let that P schwarzfahren — make it board at the front of the bus and earn its Fahrstrecke!
- der Psalm
- die Psyche
This is maybe the most common one confronting the foreign speaker:
- der Dudelsackpfeifer
- die Pfaltz
- das Pfand
- der Pfau
- der Pfingsten
- die Pflicht
- der Pfund
The first one is not word-initial, but that consonant pile-up (ckpf) on the compound word split prevents you from taking the easy way out and artificially splitting the syllabary uprights. But that’s a great way to go for with these, which you can say with no trouble, can’t you?
- der Apfel
- das Opfer
- die Überempfindlichkeit
Your salvation here will be feigning disgust or disbelief. Make a scowly face, swing your head a bit to the side and puff your dissatisfaction non-verbally out between your mostly closed lips. There, you’ve done it. 4
Also beware Pt, in German words like Ptolemäus and Pterodactylus. The same rules apply as with Ps!
But why do we pronounce the P in our word “helicopter?” Blame the French.
X is easy when it’s bringing two syllables together. How about at the start of a word? In German, don’t pronounce a word-initial X like you would in English (namely, a voiced sibilant).
Pronounce that word-intial X just as if it were wedged between two syllables…
… and you’ll draw attention to your impressive vocabulary, not any foreign accent:
- das Xanthangummi
- der Xerxes
- die Xerographie
- die Xenophobie