Why Germans Think the Word "squirrel" is Difficult to Pronounce

This may be as much as a shock to you as it was to us: Germans have difficulty pronouncing SQUIRREL! Anything after “squ-” becomes incoherent. In fact, Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear found a brilliant method of detecting undercover German spies. Simply ask them to pronounce “squirrel” and it’s all downhill from there. According to him, “No German, no matter how well they speak English, can say ‘squirrel’.”
So what’s the deal? Phonologist Carols Gussenhoven says the problem lies in the syllable structure of the word “squirrel”. Since “-rl” is an end cluster in German, it’s difficult for them to pronounce it in a different position in a word.

Sucks to be them, considering bushy tailed rodents are almost as awesome as non-bushy tailed rodents.

Don’t believe us? Youtube it. 🙂

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To be fair, one of the best ways to catch out a non-native speaker of German is to get them to try to pronounce “Eichhörnchen” – which means “squirrel”. Or even worse the Bavarian dialect word for squirrel, which is something like “oichkatzerl”.

Is there a pattern here? Perhaps it’s true of every language that the “shibboleth” test can best be carried out using the word for squirrels. What an amazing bit of synchronicity that would be.

What other words for squirrels around the world are hard to pronounce for foreigners, I wonder? Send ’em in!