Tuesday 26 August 2014

how to transcribe English speech

I found this booklet in the estate of my wife's aunt. 

It's from 1945 and purports to teach Everyday English. One thing that amuses me is the transcription system, which is geared to the German reader. 

Look at the way the <th> is transcribed and you will understand why so many Jerries replace /θ, ð/ by /s, z/. Some still seem to have the booklet in one of their desk drawers.

"Ve have ße means to make u talk"

(Mind the use of the definite article!)


  1. Fascinating find, but sad way to find it. 1945? Was he looking forward to a time when Germans could visit pikäddillissökes without dropping in by parachute? Weimar was Russian zone, and if you've read John le Carre you'll know all about the KGB and pikäddillissökes.

  2. Sidney,
    may I correct you? Germans could visit 'ße pikäddillisökes" (as well as 'ße trafalgarsquär').

    BTW: Are you familiar with the story about the shibboleth the British military intelligence used to expose a German spy? They had him pronounce the name Churchill. If he pronounced it with a clear l, they shot him.

    1. You're welcome. Not sure I have heard it, but I can imagine it. One story I have heard concerns a German spy planted among British prisoners to pose as a prisoner; he was given away be his RP being too perfect (clearly a different speech coach to the good Dr Kummer.

  3. I hope the had a second chance before they shot you, by pronouncing ɬ.