German accent of Henry Kissinger

Hi, I’m just listening to Henry Kissinger for the first time in my life and it’s quite interesting to hear that he’s been able to preserve his German accent. What does he sound like to your ears?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: The lone climber[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten,

It still sounds loud and clear as a German accent to me - I suppose it has shades of Arnie, too.


Somehow I doubt that HK has been trying to preserve his accent. :lol: But considering how young he was when he arrived in the US, it is a little bit surprising that his accent is still so noticeable.

Yes, HK still speaks with a distinct accent, but I really think HK’s accent sounds much different from Arnie’s.


I agree with both of you, Alan&Amy. HK does sound differently than Arnold but then again you can hear their accents have similarities (‘shades’ as Alan puts it.) The funny part is that HK speaks absolutely fluently and grammatically correct (how else would he have been able to work for the US government) – he just has this distinctive German accent. Maybe, that’s one his success secrets…[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: Freezing conditions[YSaerTTEW443543]

Henry Kissinger’s brother has no foreign accent. Someone once asked him how he succeeded in losing his accent, when Henry didn’t. His answer was something to the effect of, “Simple. I listen to people and Henry doesn’t.” I don’t remember if those were his exact words, but close.

I tend to think that HK succeeded in spite of his accent, rather than because of it, and I also doubt that he made an attempt to preserve it. In my experience teaching pronunciation – and from what I’ve read, other people have noticed the same thing – people who maintain that bad an accent for so many years, despite high intelligence and competent language education, are usually very arrogant people who are overly worried about their dignity. They also seem to give little credence to anything that’s not written on paper. I had one lawyer for private lessons once who was so hard-headed that after four years she never noticed how her husband’s first name was correctly pronounced – and his name was just Bob! She could say it right if you showed her, but it she had never realized that she pronounced it wrong. When I finally brought it to her attention, and she realized she’d been saying it wrong, she still resisted pronouncing it correctly. The irony is that these people feel undignified when pronouncing their new language well, so they hold on tight to their old accent, and frequently wind up sounding undignified anyway.

Arnold’s English is not that similar to Henry’s. It’s easy to hear that they have different accents. It’s extremely rare for either one of them to make a mistake in grammar or vocabulary. Arnold’s speech has more natural melody and intonation than Henry’s, so Arnold’s sounds more “English” despite his heavy accent. Arnold has one very persistent mistake, though. He very frequently says “mit” instead of “with”. Sometimes in a very long interview that’s the only mistake he makes, but he does it scores of times.

Henry Kissinger is from Fürth, Germany. That’s a city adjacent to Nuremberg in northern Bavaria, Frankonian being the ethnicity and so is the lokal dialekt.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is Austrian. I don’t know exactly from what region.

From about Frankfurt (state of Hessen, center south) over Bavaria down to Austria (south) German dialects are related. It’s the same idiom with of similarities. That’s why their accents in English sound about but not exactly the same.

German dialects from other regions like Cologne (west), Berlin (east) or Hamburg (north) are significantly different and not related.

I grew up in Nuremberg (HK’s region) and I’m lost when people from Cologne oder Hamburg go heavily in their native dialects. I’d need subtitles then.



Kissinger lived in US from 1938 but like most Jews he probably spoke even more Hebrew after he arrived in the New York - The Jesuits say- Give me the child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man … - I would guess Kissingers accent on his third or fourth language is similar to an early role model of his - if not indeed his own Father - who was a teacher - how do we know its not a Ashkenazic Hebrew accent or a bit of both?

how do we know its not a Ashkenazic Hebrew accent or a bit of both?

I don’t believe that because I’ve never heard such an accent on any German Jew. There is an German-Jewish dialect called “Jiddish” you can hear from Polish Jews, probably from those out of former West Prussia, but that is not present in todays Germany, certainly not in the region HK out of.

I found out: the Austrian state Arnold Schwarzenegger comes from is Steiermark.



PS: HK has got an American English accent when speaking German. Arnold doesn’t.