Keeping Churches and Cherries Apart in German

by Expath Language School

Cherry or church? Let's distinguish the two sounds.


Confusing Words: Kirsche and Kirche — These two German words mean “cherry” and “church”, respectively, and are often difficult for learners of German to pronounce correctly or to differentiate.

Sound it Out

The “sch” in Kirsche (“cherry”) is pronounced just like an English “sh” — as in “fish”, “shawl”, “show”, “sheer”, etc.

The “ch” in Kirche (“church“) is a bit more challenging, as this sound does not exist in English. It’s also found the important German words ich, mich, dich, Gesicht, Gericht, etc.

Although English speakers usually successfully substitute this sound with a “k”, “sh” or “kh”, a better approximation for pronouncing “ch” in German is by following these three tips.

  • It’s similar to the “h” in “huge” and “human”.

  • It’s like the “sh” in “fish” except the teeth are kept open and not closed (as in “sh”) — make sure your tongue touches your lower gums.

  • Air is passing over the tongue, not around it (as in “sh”).

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