How to pronounce “Bach” (the composer)

“Bach” is a german word for brook/creek/beck, a small watercourse. The composer Johann Sebastian Bach (born  21. March after the Julian calendar/ 31. März 1685 after the Gregorian calendar; deceased 28. Juli 1750) was german and his name sounds like the brook. My bosses can’t pronounce his name correctly and I have seen Mulder in the x-files pronounce the name just as badly, so I guess it’s difficult for Anglophones.

The “a” is pronounced like the “u” in “bucket” and not like the “a” in garden. The “ch” is a very difficult sound for the Anglophones, it is not pronounced like “ck” or “k”. It has a completely different sound and there is no word containing this sound in english.

When you say a “ck” or “k” you lift a part of your tongue up to your palatine and tongue and palatine get contact. Then the tongue goes down fast and clicks. You don’t do that with a “ch” in german. To pronounce a german “ch” the tongue must not get contact with the palatine. Instead, let your tongue lie behind your teeth, drag it a bit to the back and try to narrow the larynx, now exhale. That’s a german “ch”. It sounds like the wheezing of Darth Vader in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (the original trilogy). Or maybe like a mixture of Darth Vader with a hissing cat (don’t imagine the looks 😉 ).

I hope you have fun on testing. 🙂

\”Der Bach\” from the online dictionary Leo

Johann Sebastian Bach aka Johseb for his admirers ;)

Johann Sebastian Bach aka "Johseb" for his admirers 😉 (source Wikimedia)

6 thoughts on “How to pronounce “Bach” (the composer)

  1. That’s interesting. I think I’m as close as I’ll get on the ‘ch’, but I’ve been saying the ‘a’ as in garden.

    • Yes, most anglophones do. It should be a very short a. But you’re already very good, if you can say a “ch”

      • My ‘ch’ probably wouldn’t sound right to you, but it’s an attempt. It’s difficult when the sound doesn’t exist in your own language.

      • I know. I’ve been to Iceland once. And they got very funny sounds in their language. Sounds that neither exist in English or German. Lion king: can you feel the love in Icelandic:

      • It sounds nice, but I think it would be difficult to learn. I played it a couple of times and there were sounds that my ears would take much longer to become attuned to, even with the subtitles there to help.

      • Indeed. And sometimes it’s the same for me in France. I don’t even hear the difference.

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