Why do Germans sometimes pronounce "V" as "W"?

A lot of Germans do this when they speak English. For example, “village” comes out as “willage.” That is, as an English “W.”

It seems especially weird because the “V” sound exists in German.

Interesting sidebar: John Gielgud, as Dr. Esau in The Formula, included this effect in his very nice German accent.

Any ideas?

Well I’m german :slight_smile:

It might be just confusion on the part of the person as typically the W is pronounced like a ‘v’. For example, sometimes I say “ve” instead of “we”, and the like. But I don’t recall ever pronouncing the V like a W.

Ok, my boyfriend just pointed out that I DO sometimes mispronounce the V :slight_smile:

I would say ‘west’ instead of ‘vest’. In that particular case, the german word is: “weste” so my brain might get confused, thinking it’s spelled the same in english, so I pronounce it with the enligh “w” sound.

“Village” beats me though.

The situation in German is the following:

In “real” German words the “v” is prounounced f: Vogel (bird)
In more or less “foreign” words a German “v” is pronounced like an English “v”, originally I guess this was for (pseudo-) latin/romance words, but it became the default for all words of foreign origin: variabel, Venus, Veda
A “w” is always pronounced like an English “v”, the Englisch “w” does not exist.

So to a German the words “vet” and “wet” would be pronounced the same (the possibility “fet” is usually discarded.) Germans learning English know about this, but when deciding intuitively they make lots of errors.

It’s overcorrecting. The speaker knows that the sounds he’s tempted to say as /v/ should be pronounced /w/, and overcorrects so that even those sounds that should be a /v/ end up as /w/. This isn’t restricted to Germans speaking English; in fact it’s one of the things that makes foreign accents sound so foreign.

I second that. I once had a German exchange student who began overcompensating after about four months (pronouncing “village” as “willage” etc.)

I’ve seen American students in Germany become similarly flummoxed after a few days, weeks or months. I just ask them: "What do Germans say VW (Volkwagens)? The answer, pronounced “fau veh”, sets them straight. It’s a useful mnemonic; that factoid is usually taught early, and is well ingrained by the time they get confused.

Well, they do drink a ton of beer…

The Chinese who speak English also do this if they aren’t focusing. They don’t really have the “v” sound, so they use “w”.

It’s not that big a deal. I’m just impressed they learned English.

The second german exchange student I hosted did this… but usually only after she’d had too much wodka.

I definitely am guilty of this. When speaking Afrikaans, I tend to overcompensate the W/V/F situation, which is the same as German W/V/F. If it is, say, the word “wens”, it should be pronounced vens, but then my brain misfires, and I think of the words as being “vens” which would then be pronounced “Fens”.

And then when I throw in an English word, I tend to pronounce it according to Afrikaans pronunciation. So if I say “Window” in the midst of an Afrikaans phrase, it comes out “Vindow”. And English is my mother tongue.

A German friend of mine pronounced “W” as “double U”. To me, it’s always been “dub ya”.

Listen to the call letters on a television station. They almost always say “Double U.” (Unless they say “Kay”)

An old friend of mine from one of the Scandanavian countries surprised me when he said that his website address was:

“wicky wicky wicky dot whatever dot dee kay”

Most of my students just call it “double”, which threw me at first.

A common mistake among Japanese English speakers is to use “katakana pronunciation”. When foreign words are transcribed according to the Japanese phonetic system, every syllable must end with a vowel or “n” sound. Many people pronounce the words this way even when speaking English. I’m always having to correct things like “I ate some toast-o.” However, more advanced students sometimes overcorrect their own speech and drop vowels from the ends of words. I’ve heard the name of a certain major Canadian city pronounced “Toront” as often as not.

I used to work with an immigrant German (came to the U. S. in 1966 at the age of 44). He spoke accented English but he did not do this.
In Russian (this German had himself learned Russian after being captured in Roumania during WWII) the situation is different. In 1968 I heard Brezhnev or some other English-speaking Soviet official say “conwention” when speaking in English. And there was a Russian physicist, who died in 1968, named Dr. Lev Landau (I can’t imagine how a name like that would be spelled in Russian orthography).

My grandfather came from an area that is now in eastern Poland, in which everyone pronounced their Vs as Ws. Supposedly other Poles could identify people from this area, based on this linguistic quirk.

Since the borders changed so often, there were times when there was actually no Poland, and when my grandfather was growing up, his town was part of Russia. He always identified himself as Russian, and his native language was Russian.

When he emigrated to the US and learned English, he sometimes substituted Ws for Vs in English too.

It’s always “double-U” to English speakers on this side of the pond. In fact until I read your post, I thought “dubya” was a joke about the Texan accent!

Yeah, I used to teach English here too. And for whatever reason, many of my students (advanced or NOT :mad: ) pronounced “potato” as “potate.”

“Yestade my flends n I ate POTATE FURAIII!”

I know, it’s wrong to make fun…

I’ve never heard anyone outside of the South refer to it dubya either. It’s definitely Double-U around these parts.

Yeah, I used to call my sister DW (Dee-Double-U) by her initials, but since the emergence of G W Bush I call her D-Dubya or just Dubya :stuck_out_tongue:

Well let’s see, I suppose “double U” is the correct way to pronounce “W”, but with my German friend, the pronunciation seemed drawn out a bit, more like “dub bull U”. Where I am more used to “dub U”, I think I had “dub ya” on the mind from all the G.W. posts. But I do believe you will hear “dub ya” in other parts of the south, Tennessee perhaps?