Awhile back I was at dinner and we were talking about movies and I mentioned that I had watched The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (I pronounced it something close to rife-en-stal) the night before. The guy across from me piped up loudly, YOU MEAN WIESENTHAL?!! I said, no, I think it’s Rife-en-stal, to which he barked, NO, IT’S A GERMAN R! WEEEESENTHAL!
I honestly don’t remember how it was pronounced in the movie; I just said it the way my film teacher had said it in college. It killed the conversation though so we didn’t talk about it anymore.
I’m not claiming I’m right, just honestly curious. I’d actually hate to mispronounce it again in front of someone so passionate.
I think I understand what his friend meant…there’s a particular “r” in German that’s kind of formed by raising the back of the tongue toward the palate. It’s ALMOST right in the middle between an English “r” and an English “w” and an English “l”.
I suppose the way we pronounce “wreath” might be what the dinner clod is thinking, but we really don’t pronounce the “w” in “wreath.” Maybe a lazy German teacher just told him to pronounce it as a “w” that way but I can’t agree with that.
Yes, in German, the “ie” combination is always* pronounced like an English long E as in “reef,” while the “ei” combination is always pronounced like an English long I as in “rife.”
*I’m sure if there are any exceptions, someone will be along to correct me.
The “W” may not be a desirable part of it…it all depends on what your lips are doing while your tongue is rising. I’ve heard it more in exaggerated German accents than in any kind of sanctioned German language classes.
Thanks for the confirmation that this guy was mistaken (although he’s a very intelligent, well-educated guy - speaks several languages and holds a masters in philosophy - and he said it with such conviction that when I started this thread I was kind of expecting him to be right.)
I was also wondering how he got S out of F, and TH out of ST. If you notice, the first letter is not the only part he changed.