How to pronounce worm

In my experience, many German native speakers (including myself) tend to mispronounce the noun worm, referring to a long thin creature with no bones or legs, that lives in soil. The mistake usually made is to pronounce worm as [wɔː(r)m], just like the word warm, see here. However, the correct pronunciation of worm is instead given by [wɜː(r)m], with the letter o pronounced just like in word. You can listen to the correct pronunciation here. I don’t have an explanation why I make this mistake, because I never have problems pronouncing the o in word as [ɜː]. But now that you have been made aware of this mistake, I’m quite sure you will notice how often it is made by German native speakers, and possibly by yourself.


3 thoughts on “How to pronounce worm

  1. Hi – your post about ‘worm’ being difficult for German speakers to pronounce is really interesting. I don’t think any of my German students ever had to say ‘worm’ so I had no idea it was a challenge. Do you mispronounce it because you’re ‘reading’ the word in your head? Is it the sound of ‘worm’ that’s hard or is it the thought of the shape of the word?

    Is it true that ‘squirrel’ is difficult for German speakers too?

    • Thanks for your comment. I am not sure why worm is so hard. Perhaps people are trying to avoid the [ɜː] sound because it resembles the German umlaut ö. However, I personally have no issues with squirrels. I had come across the claim that Germans have trouble with pronouncing squirrel, but have not witnessed that so far. Maybe I should slip the topic into English conversations more often :-).

      • If the word ‘squirrel’ is the British army’s new secret weapon and spy detector, then you’ll have fun discombobulating them with your top notch pronunciation. They’ll have to find a new shibboleth word – maybe worm. 🙂

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