Improve your English pronunciation

Would you like to improve your English pronunciation? We have an important tip for you: Pay attention to how you say consonants at the end of English words.

Standard German has something called final devoicing (Auslautverhärtung) which means that voiced (stimmhaft) consonants at the end of words such as -d, -g and -b are devoiced (stimmlos) to -t, -k and -p. 

Let’s look at the two German words Rat (council or advice in English) and Rad (wheel in English). Even though they are spelled differently, they are pronounced the same: /ʁaːt/, -d becomes -t. Korb (basket) is pronounced “Korp”. Tag (day in English) becomes “Tak”.

Because devoicing at the end of words feels very natural to German speakers, they often do the same in English. But unlike German, English words can end in both voiced and voiceless consonants. 

Look at the following examples:

Voiced consonants: bed /bɛd/, bag /bæɡ/, robe /ɹəʊb/
Unvoiced consonants: bet /bɛt/, back /bæk/, rope /ɹəʊp/

As you can see, no word pair sounds the same. But English learners generally say the words “bed” and “bet” the same way.

Our advice? You can improve your English pronunciation by saying English words out loud and pronouncing the final sound slowly and clearly.

Mindy Ehrhart Krull
About the author

Originally from the US, Mindy Ehrhart Krull holds a master's degree in journalism and has been teaching English and working as an author, editor and proofreader in Germany since 2008.

At DELS, she leads a team of several English trainers and language professionals.

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