Pronunciation of Riefenstahl

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.

Reefenshtal, basically.

I have no idea what your dinner mate is talking about a German “r.” A “w” is pronounced as a “v” but an “r” is an “r.” Roll it if you can, but it’s still an “r.”

I’ve only heard it pronounced REEF-en-shtahl.

It’s important not to mix up Riefenstahl and Wiesenthal. One of them made films for the people the other tracked down.

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”.

Edited: “Uvular R”! That’s what it’s called.

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.

I pronounce “wreath” exactly as if the “w” were not there.

Your dinner guest obviously had no idea what he was talking about.

That seems to be an all-too-common affliction among that group.

"You mean like Field Marshal Wommel?

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.

That’s a perfect explanations of how to pronounce the german R; I wish my German teacher had explained that to me.

Now you’ve lost me; where does the “W” come in? Isn’t that sound one of the lips?

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.

It’s twoo, it’s twoo!

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.

It seems likely that your friend was conflating two people. Leni Riefenstahl was a Nazi propagandist film director. Elie Wiesel is a Holocaust survivor and writer.

Or he was thinking of Simon Wiesenthal. Either way he’s a boor to publicly badger somebody so stridently over pronunciation, and an ass because he was dead wrong! :slight_smile:

German, unlike English, has consistent pronuciations.

Except when it doesn’t…compare the ch sound in Blech vs Milch vs Chemie.

Or, the sp sound in Spiel vs Wespe, or the st in Stadt vs Donnerstag.

And then of course, vowels all can be pronounced long or short…

Sonne vs froh

Glas vs Mann

wenn vs sehr

and so on.

Consistency doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a one-to-one correspondence of orthographic segments to phonemes.