Pronunciation

The German alphabet

more than 26 letters in the alphabet - German has a so-called extended latin alphabet

the extra letters are ä, ö, ü and ß

the pronunciation of some of these letters does not exist in the English language

several letters are pronounced more from the back of the throat: g, ch, r (though in Austria the r is trilled)

the w in German sounds like the v in English

the v in German sounds like the f in English

most of the time the s in German sounds like z in English when placed at the beginning of a word followed by a vowel

the letter ß (sharp s) is the only letter that will never be at the beginning of a word

A, a
pronunciation: ah
as in: father

examples: der Adler (eagle), Januar (January)
B, b
pronunciation: approx. bay
as in: Baby

examples:der Bruder (brother), aber (but)
C, c
pronunciation: approx. tsay
as in: Celsius (soft c sound in German sounds like ts)

examples: Celsius (Celsius), Caesar (Caesar)
D, d
pronunciation: approx. day
as in: dollar

examples: der Dienstag (Tuesday), oder (or)
E, e
pronunciation: approx.ay
as in: elegant

examples: das Essen (food), die Erde (earth)
F, f
pronunciation: approx.eff
as in: effort

examples: der Freund (friend), offen (or)
G, g
pronunciation: approx. gay
as in: gorgeous

examples: die Gabel (fork), gut (good)
H, h
pronunciation: haa
as in: hammer

examples: der Hunger (hunger), das Haus (house)
I, i
pronunciation: eeh
as in: Igor

examples: der Igel (porcupine), die Idee (idea)
J, j
pronunciation: yot
as in: yellow

examples: das Jahr (year), der Joghurt (yoghurt)
K, k
pronunciation: kah
as in: car

examples: das Kamel (camel), der Kuchen (cake)
L, l
pronunciation: ell
as in: love

examples: die Liebe (love), das Land (country)
M, m
pronunciation: em
as in: milk

examples: der Mann (man), die Milch (milk)
N, n
pronunciation: en
as in: night

examples: die Nacht (night), nichts (nothing)
O, o
pronunciation: oh
as in: oven

examples: der Ofen (oven), Ostern (Easter)
P, p
pronunciation: approx. pay
as in: party

examples: der Park (park), die Polizei (police)
Q, q
pronunciation: kuh
as in: coral

examples: das Quadrat (square), die Quelle (source)
R, r
pronunciation: approx. er
as in: rich

examples: die Reise (journey), rot (red)
S, s
pronunciation: ess
as in: zoo

examples: die Seife (soap), das Salz (salt)
T, t
pronunciation: approx. tay
as in: tea

examples: die Tasse (cup), der Tee (tea)
U, u
pronunciation: ooh
as in: you

examples: die Universität (university), unter (under)
V, v
pronunciation: fow
as in: father

examples: der Vogel (cup), der Vater (father)
W, w
pronunciation: approx. vay
as in: van

examples: die Wohnung (flat), das Wasser (water)
X, x
pronunciation: ix
as in: axe

examples: die Hexe (witch), das xylophon (xylophone)
Y, y
pronunciation: approx. uep-si-lohn
as in: yellow

examples: die Yacht (yacht)
Z, z
pronunciation: tset
as in: tsar

examples: die Zeitung (newspaper), der Zar (tsar)

Umlaut + ß

Ä, ä
pronunciation: approx. a in apple
as in: apple

examples: der Ärger (trouble), die Äpfel (apples)
Ö, ö
pronunciation: approx. u in burn
as in: burn

examples: Österreich (Austria), das Öl (oil)
Ü, ü
pronunciation: no approx. sound in English
as in: --

examples: die Übung (exercise), über (over)
ß
pronunciation: ss
as in: sound

examples: die Soße (austria), der Fuß (foot)

Diphtongs

ai, ei
pronunciation: eye
as in: Iceland

examples: das Ei (egg), der Eimer (bucket)
au
pronunciation: ow
as in: cow

examples: auch (also), das Auge (eye)
eu, äu
pronunciation: oy
as in: --

examples: die Europa (Europe), die Häuser (houses)
ie
pronunciation: eeh
as in: ear

examples: die Liebe (love), die Biene (bee)

Paired consonants

While diphthongs are always vowel pairs, German also has many common paired consonants that have a consistent pronunciation as well.

An example of paired consonant would be st, a very common combination of the consonants s and t, found in many German words.

In standard German, the st-combination at the beginning of a word is always pronounced like sht and not like the st found in English stay or stone.

So a German word such as Stein (stone, rock) is pronounced shtine, with an initial sh-sound, as in show.

ch after e, i, i ei, ie, eu, äu, ö, and ü
pronunciation: palatal sound (no equivalent in English)
as in: --

examples: die Milch (schock), das Pech (bad luck)
ch after a, o, u and au
pronunciation: approx. ch in Scottish 'loch'
as in: loch

examples: auch (also), das Buch (book)
ck
pronunciation: k
as in: thick

examples: der Schock (schock), der Rock (skirt)
pf
pronunciation: pf (combinded puff-sound)
as in: --

examples: der Pfennig (penny), das Pferd (horse)
ph
pronunciation: f
as in: phantom

examples: der Pharao (pharao), das Alphabet (alphabet)
qu
pronunciation: kv
as in: --

examples: der Quark (quark), die Quittung (receipt)
sch
pronunciation: sh
as in: shadow

examples: der Schatten (shadow), die Schule (school)
sp
pronunciation: shp at the beginning of a word, else sp
as in: --

examples: der Sport (sport), die Sprache (language)
st
pronunciation: sht at the beginning of a word, else st
as in: --

examples: der Sturm (storm), die Straße (street)
th
pronunciation: t
as in: time

examples: der Thron (throne), das Theater (theatre)

Letter sounds in words

In the sections above, we showed you how to pronounce the letters of the alphabet and certain letter combinations in German. Now, we would like to draw your attention to the pronunciation of other letters and letter combinations found within German words. For instance, a d at the end of a German word usually has a hard t sound in German, not the soft d sound of English. That is just one example of the many possible pitfalls found below.

Final b
pronunciation: p
as in: lamp

examples: der Urlaub (holiday), gelb (yellow)
Final d
pronunciation: t
as in: fat

examples: der Freund (friend), der Wald (forest)
Final g
pronunciation: k
as in: steak

examples: die Wohnung (flat), der Tag (day)
Silent h silent only after vowels, else h is pronounced
pronunciation: --
as in: --

examples: gehen (to go), sehen (to stand)
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