S2E6: Does German bark?

Harsh. Angry. Rough. These are words that are often used to describe how German sounds. But why do many people have this impression? What about the German language makes it sound so hard? And does German sound different to native speakers than to non-native speakers?

In this episode I talk to François Conrad, a researcher and teacher of linguistics at the Leibniz University Hannover. We talk about the five features of German he has identified as being responsible for the 'barking' nature of the language. We look at the difference between word languages and syllable languages, how German's 'harshness' actually has advantages, and how other languages such as Spanish and English compare to German with respect to harsh-sounding features.

Outro music: Make A Step by Euphoniques.

Read the transcript here.

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About this episode's guest

François Conrad is a research and teacher of linguistics and the Leibniz University Hannover and the team leader of the project "Die Stadtsprache Hannovers", which investigates the myth of Hannover German being the "best" High German.

Email: francois.conrad@germanistik.uni-hannover.de
Website: www.francoisconrad.com


Warum Deutsch bellt und Französisch schnurrt: Eine klangvolle Reise durch die Sprachen Europas
Duden, 2021

Why does German sound so (beautifully) hard, English so posh and French so insanely charming? Anyone who enjoys travelling will have asked themselves these questions at some point. Join our protagonists Horst and Strumpf on their grand journey across Europe and discover amusing things about German pronunication compared with other European languages. Why is "Banane" easier to pronounce than "Schnaps"? And what is the German glottal stop all about? Join us on an exciting journey of language and discovery!
(Blurb translated from the German original)

Buy the book


Science Slam
"Warum klingt das Deutsche so schön (hart)? (François Conrad – Science Slam Vorentscheid Nord)"

Links and information

This episode also features Sophie and Tanja from S2E4: Austrians learning English, as well as Emily Irish and David Grace.


This episode was first released on 29.03.2022.

YOTE theme music by Vincent Tone (PremiumBeat.com)

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