Germans pronouncing Hurrikan

It has been pointed out to me by Anon. of Frankfurt am Main that, as with ‘curry’, German newscasters have difficulty pronouncing ‘Hurrikan’ or ‘hurricane’. Some pronounce it in an acceptable English way, but others produce a weird U sound as already commented on.

I see I am not the first on this terrain. Rocko, at the end of August, heard a presenter saying it in English and an expert saying it in German, and the presenter gradually adapted her pronunciation to his during the interview:

bq. Während die Moderatorin das Wort Hurrikan die ganze Zeit englisch aussprach (“Härrikäin” mit weichem R), sagte der Experte, der immerhin Professor war, nur immer Hurrikan. Mit “Hu” und “Kahn” und nicht mit “Hä” und “Käin”. Es war deutlich festzustellen, dass die Moderatorin im Laufe des Interviews ihre eigene Aussprechweise des Wortes an die des Experten anglich. Zuerst fing es damit an, dass sie das weiche “R” gegen ein härteres eintauschte. Es folgte ein “Härrikähn” ohne ein das Wort aufblähendes “i”. Dann, nach einem Videobeitrag, hat sie die Aussprechmöglichkeit des Meteorologen komplett übernommen. “Hurrikahn”.

The recommended pronunciation there is ‘Wirbelsturm’. Here is

bq. Harriken? Hörriken? Harrikäin? — Es gibt erschreckend viele Möglichkeiten, die Bezeichnung für die amerikanischen Wirbelstürme auszusprechen. Der Name∞ entstammt übrigens einer Sprache amerikanischer Ureinwohner. Die erstgenannte ist wohl die mehr oder weniger offizielle Aussprache des Wortes “Hurrikan” im Deutschen (so mein Oxford-Duden-Wörterbuch). Im Englischen hingegen gibt es mindestens zwei Möglichkeiten …

LATER NOTE: No, it is an intermediate variant, where the vowel sounds more like an ö. Here is the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (first edition):


The standard American pronunciation comes after the double pipe ||. I admit the vowel looks weird (I am not an expert on phonetics). The asterisk is ‘a warning that the British and American pronunciations are different in an important and unpredictable way’. As you can see, there are at least two British pronunciations, of which I use the first. But I think, as with ‘curry’, that it’s the thought of the English R that causes the newsreader to produce a new sound.

7 thoughts on “Germans pronouncing Hurrikan

  1. As I understand it, Harriken approximates the standard British pronunciation, Hörrikäin the general American one. It must be hard for Germans who haven’t lived in either country to be consistent in using the one or the other dialect’s pronunciations.


  2. I wondered the same when I listened to the “depressing” German news (which I actually found hilarious — Evelyn Hamann lässt grüßen).

    What’s it with the pseudo-anglicised pronunciation, German accent and all? I thought “Hurrikan” was a German word, prounounced [‘hʊrikan], unlike the English word “hurricane”, with its two possible pronunciations, [‘hʌrikən] and [‘hʌrikɛɪn]…

    (And my brother really liked Cörriwurst when he was little.)

  3. It seems to be a quasi-German Standard, promulgated by many but by no means all native-German school teachers of English here, that English words shall be pronounced incorrectly, e.g. willage (village), Beerming-Hamm (Brummiland), Lonndun (the city in which Tony B. resides), Oxfortt (the famous British university town), Hyoosten (where the space missions are launched), Fishandships (that famous British staple diet) and Hammandekks (another, this time American, type of breakfast fare….)
    I don’t know personally whether it’s good or bad… I guess they at least all pronounce things the same. At least they make an effort and are far more enthusiastic than Brits who mostly are not interested in learning foreign languages


  4. Chris: true, there is a German pronunciation too, but they have not been pronouncing it that way all the time. I added a note to the entry indicating a wider range of accepted pronunciation, but I believe the German sound in ‘urr’ in foreign words is not the same as any of these.

    Paul: what’s wrong with Hyoosten?

  5. OK – It is painful, isn’t it? It shouldn’t be, of course, but it is. As you say, they are more enthusiastic – but that’s Germans in general, rather than newsreaders, of whom one is entitled to expect more.

    The BBC has a pronunciation service for newsreaders, doesn’t it? I seem to remember something like that. They made them pronounce gorilla and guerilla differently, and the way they pronounced guerilla sounded weird.

    Then again, there’s CNN, where they don’t like to report any foreign news unless they’ve found a local with a very very strong accent so you can scarcely understand what they’re saying.

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