In German, there are two fricative sounds that are generally unfamiliar to English speakers, the voiceless palatal fricative /ç/ and the voiceless uvular fricative /x/, both spelled as “ch” in German spelling. The two sounds are allophonically related, that is, they can be thought of as two different variations of the same sound conditioned by context. Watch the following videos and take careful note of the location of the tongue for each sound, and read the given tips for effective pronunciation. You may find it helpful to practice with these recordings to improve your pronunciation.
1: The Voiceless Palatal Fricative /ç/
The tongue is spread across the top of the mouth, leaving a narrow passageway for noisy airflow without vibration of the vocal folds. Take note of the tongue position in the following videos’ pronunciation of the words “richtig” (/ʁɪçtɪç/, “correct”) and “ich” (/ɪç/, “I/first-person subject pronoun”).
2: The Voiceless Uvular Fricative /x/
The tongue forms a narrow passageway for noisy airflow without vibration of the vocal folds past the uvula, towards the far back of the mouth. Take note of the tongue position in the following videos’ pronunciation of the words “Kuchen” (/kuxn/, “cake”) and “krachen” (/kʁaxŋ/, “to crack”).