11 Hardest German Words to Pronounce

German is a hard language to pronounce, from the individual sounds to those crazy long compound nouns. Even individual words can feel like a straight-up tongue twister!

But don’t be intimidated.

You can master the hardest German words to pronounce—and in doing so, you’ll become much more comfortable with German pronunciation in general.

In this article, we’re going to focus on eleven of the hardest German words to pronounce. We’ve handpicked these words because they test your ability to pronounce important German letters or letter pairings correctly.

Are you up for the task?


11 German Words You Should Learn to Pronounce

1. Wollen — To want

How to pronounce it: [Vol-en]

Why would wollen, or the verb “to want,” be on this list? It’s because most beginners want to pronounce the w in this word like an English speaker would. This word is pronounced “vol-en,” not “wol-en.”

While not exactly a pronunciation issue, another common mistake is to confuse the conjugation will  for the future tense. Ich will schlafen  doesn’t mean “I will sleep.” It actually means “I want to sleep.”

2. Hähnchen — Chicken

How to pronounce it: [Hen-hye-en]

Meaning “chicken,” this German word requires knowing how to pronounce ä and the suffix -chen.

The first section of the word is easy: you would say “hen” (yes, as in a female chicken). Saying the -chen part takes a bit of practice. Rather than a hard ch sound like you’re used to hearing in “chicken,” this suffix is like trying to mimic a cat hissing, similar to the “h” in the word “huge”. 

So when you pronounce -chen, you end up with “hye-en.” The first part is long, but said fast, while the second is short. Altogether, you’ve got “hen-hye-en.”

3. Überstürzen — To rush something

How to pronounce it: [Ew-ber-shtur-tzen]

Vowels, especially those carrying an umlaut (the two little dots on top), are where the native speakers differentiate themselves from the rest. Creating the ü sound takes some practice but everyone can do it.

Start with a broad smile and say “ee”, then, holding that sound, move your lips into a circle, like you’re about to kiss someone after flashing your winning grin—the sound you’re now making should be a lovely Ü!

Yes, you’ll probably elicit a few laughs from your friends, but just make sure you say that st (“sht”) and z (“tz”) like a German and they’re sure to be impressed.

4. Eichhörnchen — Squirrel

How to pronounce it: [Ayh-hyun-hye-en]

One step up from the last word, this word is one that German learners often struggle with and involves one more umlaut. You’ve firstly got the confusion of e and i together, then that pesky -ch again. Pronouncing the following ö on its own is tricky enough, but the challenge is combining it with the -chen at the end once again. 

The diphthongs ei and ie might make your head spin, but there’s a super easy way to remember how to pronounce them—just pronounce the second letter as you would with the English alphabet. So with ei, you say it like in “eye.” With ie, you say “ee” like in “cheese.” 

As we mentioned before, the ch isn’t a hard sound and is rather pronounced as that “hye-en.” Try making the ch as soft as you can, slightly imitating a hissing cat. 

5. Zungenbrecher — Tongue twister

How to pronounce it: [Tzung-en-bre-chah]

German for “tongue breaker,” or what we would call a “tongue twister.” The z in this word sounds like a hard “tz” and the ch is the same sound that we saw above.

Also pay attention to the end of the word. Often when a word ends in -er in German, it’s not pronounced with a hard r, but rather a sound similar to “ah.”

6. Torschlusspanik — Last-minute panic

How to pronounce it: [Tor-shluss-pa-nik]

This unique German word means “gate-closing panic” when translated directly, but really describes the feeling of urgency to accomplish something before it’s too late.

It’s also a compound word and you can divide it into these words: Tor (door), Schluss (closing) and Panik  (panic). Vowels are important to pronounce properly here, but otherwise, the task simply lies in hitting those consonant syllables correctly.

7. Streichholzschachtel — Little matchbox

How to pronounce it: [Shtrai-hy-olts-schach-tel]

The challenge of this word, meaning “matchbox,” is the repeated “sh” sounds. Try splitting it into pieces once again: Streich (stroke), Holz (wood), and Schachtel (box).

For an extra challenge, you can tack on our favorite sound -chen at the end, transforming the word into Streichholzschächtelchen. Note that once you do this, the a is now changed into an ä, so can “eh” sound not an “ah.”  

8. Freundschaftsbeziehungen — Friendship relationships

How to pronounce it: [Froynd-schafts-beh-tsee-ung-en]

By now, you should have quite a few German sounds in your arsenal! The next important sound is -eu, which you will see often in German words such as neu (new) and  Freude (joy). These letters combined are pronounced as “oy.” 

If we break this word down, it’s Freundschafts  (friendship) and Beziehungen  (relationships). In the second word, don’t forget the “ts” sound for the z and that the h is silent. 

9. Kreuzschlitzschraubenzieher — Phillips screwdriver

How to pronounce it: [Kroyts-schlits-schrau-ben-tsee-ah]

In this word, we’re coming across familiar sounds once again, such as -eu and z. Similar to Streichholzschachtel, we need to use the “sh” sound a couple of times in this long word.

This word breaks down into the following: Kreuz  (cross), Schlitz (slot), schrauben (screw) and Zieher  (puller).

10. Arbeitslosigkeitsversicherung — Unemployment insurance

How to pronounce it: [Ah-bites-loh-zig-kites-ver-sich-eh-roong]

Try to say this word, meaning “unemployment insurance,” five times fast. The key to this one is breaking out each individual element.

We’ve got Arbeit (job), -losigkeit (related to separation/loosening) and Versicherung (insurance). Pronouncing your vowels correctly is key to getting this word right, along with the ch sound.

Many beginners might have trouble with the gk pairing in losigkeit. The best way to remember how to pronounce them together is to soften the g, similar to the sound of -ch we learned. Then you take that throaty sound and combine it with a hard “k” sound right after. 

11. Sozialversicherungsfachangestelltenauszubildender — Social insurance clerk trainee​

Try this one on your friends when they ask you to say something in German. 

This word is also best pronounced word-by-word, step-by-step. Sozial (social), versicherungs (insurance), fachangestellten (skilled) and auszubildender (trainee). 

You already know how to say the “tz” sound for z and versicherung was in the last word, too. Remember that st is pronounced as “sht.”

What Are the Hardest German Sounds to Pronounce?

By practicing the difficult words we’ve chosen above, you’ll learn several common German letters and letter combinations.

It’s important to know how to say each letter of the German language in isolation, but when you start putting them together, things can get a little crazy. Here are the common German sounds and pairings you’ve come across above, along with tips on how to achieve proper pronunciation:

  • st: Say this as if it were spelled “sht.”
  • w: Resist the urge. In German, this letter sounds like the English “v.”
  • z: Pretend there’s a “t” before it and it becomes “ts.”
  • eu: Pronounce this one as “oy.”
  • ch: In the syllable -chen, the ch can be a throaty, almost hissing sound. Remind yourself how to say “Loch” Ness monster and then soften it quite a bit.
  • ä, ö and ü: Umlauts are a subject all their own. These vowels are different from a, o and u. For example, a is pronounced “ah” while ä sounds more like “eh.” Ö is best said with lips puckered out for a kiss (“ooh”), while ü is pronounced even thinner.

If you can master these sounds and combinations, you won’t just be prepared for the difficult words, but your general pronunciation skills will also seriously jump!

You can practice listening to these different sounds as used by native speakers on FluentU, with videos about German pronunciation included.

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How to Prepare for the Hardest German Words to Pronounce


Baby steps are key here and it’s important to prepare your ear and train your tongue. Otherwise, you’re diving into the deep end without knowing how to swim.

The Sounds of Speech app from the University of Iowa plays individual German sounds and shows you diagrams and videos of how they’re pronounced. As you see the word being pronounced, move your own lips in a similar fashion. A little bit of muscle memory is all it takes.

Finally, take advantage of the quick video guide below to see and hear how unique German sounds are pronounced. Replay the video as often as you need to in order to become familiar with the proper pronunciation.

Aside from the difficulty of the individual sounds, long German words can often be intimidating. How do you string all those syllables together?


As we saw above, the best way to tackle these words is to break them into smaller ones. German’s great like that. If you can, write down the parts of the word that you know underneath, separated from the rest.

Mouth the words out loud if you have to. Even sounding out each letter combination you come across can provide much-needed breakthroughs.

If all else fails, there’s always the dictionary. For example, LEO offers audio pronunciations in both English and German.


There you have it! Practice your pronunciation and soon you might be mistaken for a native German speaker.

And One More Thing...

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