German pronunciation question

I’m doing Pimsleur German at the moment. There are two speakers, one male and one female. The male speaker’s pronunciation of “ch” is very close to “sh” rather than the usual German hard “ch” sound. This is the case in every word where “ch” appears, while the female speaker says the same words with the hard sound. No explanation (so far) has been given for this. Is it some particular dialect?

“ch” pronounced as [ʃ] rather than [ç] is pretty widespread in dialects of the Rhineland/the Palatinate/the Saar. Curious - you’d expect them to use speakers of standard German for language instruction.

You can even get a “k” sound in some areas (like Berlin).
Nena, of 99 Luftballons fame, was a “sh” speaker ich= “ish”

In standard German, the ch after front vowels as in ich is supposed to be pronounced [ç]. When I started studying German, this sounded to me liked the English sh sound [ʃ] as in “shoe” but it’s a different sound pronounced with the tongue slightly farther back in the mouth.

In standard German, the ch after u and other back vowels as in Buch is supposed to be pronounced . This is probably what you mean when you say “the usual German hard ‘ch’ sound.”

The two consonants [ç] and are allophones in German, meaning that if you pronounce one when the other is called for, it may sound funny but nobody will mistake your meaning.

Well maybe, but I don’t think I’ve actually got to any words like Buch in the CDs yet. Done plenty of ich and nicht though and those are the “ch” sounds I’m talking about. Her pronunciation is hard(er), his is much closer to “sh”.

In German the two sounds are called ich-Laut and ach-Laut, Laut being the German word for “sound” (pronounced approximately “Lout” and related to English loud). Like many allophones, the differentiation between the two is determined by the vowel that precedes it. Ich-Laut occurs after vowels formed at or near the front of the mouth–/i/ and /e/. Ach-Laut is heard after back vowels /a/, /o/, and /u/. I’m not sure about the umlauted vowels, since umlauting tends to move the vowels forward in the mouth.

An example of an allophone in English is the two quite distinct sounds represented by the letter L. At the beginning of a syllable it’s pronounced more or less with the tongue touching the back and sides of the palate–this is called the “clear L”. “Dark L” is heard at the end of syllables and is articulated without the tongue touching the palate at all. Most Continental languages only have the clear L, so when a French or German person learns English they first tend to use the clear L in both positions. This sounds quite odd in English, which was brought home to me when I was watching an American movie with dubbed in German. Al was the name of one character, and none of the German voice actors could master it. In one scene when Al was getting on a train, a woman hurried along the platform to get to him before he left, calling out “Al!..Al!..Al!”. But it came out more like “Alle!..Alle!”