topic posted Sun, December 14, 2003 - 7:26 PM by  blank
Hi, I'm developing a short story and one of the main characters is German. Ok, so how do I write a German accent? Can anyone give me some examples, info, or resources to check out?
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  • Re: Accents?

    Listen to the some WW2 movies...Hans und Franz on SNL...

    In German, W is pronounced like a V. V is pronounced like an F. Ls are sometimes "cut off" with a very short pronunication. J is pronounced like a Y. U is usually, but not always, pronounced like "ooh" as in chute.

    I don't know that a German accent would show up that much in written dialogue. An actor saying lines from a screenplay would need to adjust their speech, but the sentences wouldn't be that different. German word order in sentences changes, but not the way it does in Romance languages.

    A German might drop some of their own words into English sentences every once in a while:

    mit = with ("mitt")
    die, der, das = the ("dee" "dehr" "dahss")
    das = that (a pointing word) ("dahss")
    was = what ("vahss")
    wie = how, or a polite way of asking "what?" ("vee")
    bitte = please, or excuse me ("bitteh")
    danke = thank you ("donkeh")
    doch = duh, or a word for emphasis ("dohch" with very little "ch" sound)
    herr = Mr. ("hair")
    fraulein = Ms. ("froyline")
    frau = Mrs. or wife ("frow" like "cow")
    ja = yes ("yah")
    nein = no ("nine")

    Some things I would avoid that I've seen written before and have no basis in reality are:

    "zat" I've never heard any Germans replacing D with Z. Germans say "das" for "that" as in "Wieviel kostet das da?" Don't have any German characters saying "zat"

    "zinking" Same deal as "zat" No such animal. Germans don't use Zs in place of Th. If a German were to mispronounce "Th" he'd be more apt to say a "T" sound than a "Z" sound.

    I'll be back...
    • Re: Accents?

      If I were you, I'll just put some German stopwords into the text, where they don't alter the content; things you could expect a german to keep saying, even after years abroad : "Bitte" , "Ja", "Stimmt", "Sicher"...
      Also expect germans to have problems with the forms of must, shall, should, will, would... those expressions are arranged quite differently in german..

      (can't give you the exact rules, see, as I am neither native english nor german
      • Unsu...

        Re: Accents?

        Here's a question - when is writing dialog "with accents" appropriate or helpful to a story? I know that for some writers (Irvine Welsh comes to mind) it's a trademark, but in some short fiction I've read in the past, attempts to write "in accent" come off as inconsistent and hard to follow. Is it a matter of familiarity with the accent in question, and how possible is it to lend a sense of context to an accent that is outside your personal history?

        Just some questions - I don't know that I have a feeling on it either way, outside of the good and bad examples I've experienced as a reader.
    • Re: Accents?

      Thanks for the info.
      • Re: Accents?

        I wouldn't recommend trying to write an accent unless you're utterly familiar with it (e.g. you can hear it in your head without even trying).

        Lose the German identity of your character, or just make them so well educated that their grammar & so on is impeccable. The biggest distinct characteristics of a German character would be cultural (orderly, concerned about boundaries & privacy, taciturn & to the point, etc.), anyway...

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