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The German Alphabet and Pronunciation

In this article provided by Edvog.com you will learn the German Alphabet and Pronunciation. The examples and tips we provide in this German lesson will make the learning process fast and easy.

The German Alphabet

The German language has an alphabet composed of 30 letters, the same letters found in the English alphabet plus four extra letters: 3 umlauts (Ä ä, Ö ö, Ü ü) and one ligature (ß) called eszett or scharfes S. In the table below you will find the German alphabet and how to pronounce individual German letters.

Letter Pronunciation Letter Pronunciation
A ah Ä ae
B bay C tsay
D day E eh
F ef G geh
H ha I ee
J yot K kah
L ell M em
N en O oh
Ö oe P pay
Q koo R er
S es ß eszett
T tay U oo
Ü ue V fow
W vay X ix
Y eep-see-lon Z tset
German umlaut and eszett (scharfes S)

Umlaut is a diacritic consisting of two dots placed over a letter, the letter is often a vowel. In German we will find only three letters with umlauts (Ä ä, Ö ö, Ü ü) these letters are pronounced different from their non-umlaut form (A a, O o, U u).

ß is exclusively an lower-case letter and there are no words in modern German that start with this letter. ß is found in some common German words, such as: groß (big), weiß (white), die Straße (the street), der Fuß (the foot)… ß sounds exactly like ss. In Switzerland and Liechtenstein eszett (ß) is no longer used because it was replaced permanently by ss.

German Phonetic Alphabet

In the table below you will find the NATO Phonetic Alphabet and the German Phonetic Alphabet, plus pronunciation tips.

NATO Germany Pronunciation
Alfa/Alpha Anton an-ton
Ärger erger
Bravo Berta berta
Charlie Cäsar say-zar
Delta Dora dorah
Echo Emil ee-meel
Foxtrot Friedrich freed-reekh
Golf Gustav goos-taf
Hotel Heinrich heyen-reekh
India Ida ee-dah
Juliet Julius yooliews
Kilo Kaufmann kowf-mann
Lima Ludwig lood-veek
Mike Martha mar-tah
November Nordpol nort-pole
Oscar Otto oh-toh
Ökonom urko-nom
Papa Paula powla
Quebec Quelle qoo-ehleh
Romeo Richard ree-ard
Sierra Siegfried zeek-freed
Eszett estset
Tango Theodor tee-oh-dor
Uniform Ulrich ool-reekh
Übermut iewber-moot
Victor Viktor vik-tor
Whiskey Wilhelm vil-helm
X-Ray Xanthippe ksan-teep-pay
Yankee Ypsilon iewp-see-lohn
Zulu Zeppelin tsep-pay-leen

Some German speaking countries have made slight modifications to the German phonetic alphabet, for instance, Austria and Switzerland have replaced some of the names with more suitable names for their countries and traditions, this changes are made visible by the following table:

Germany Austria Switzerland
Dora Dora Daniel
Kaufmann Konrad Kaiser
Ökonom Österreich Örlikon
Paula Paula Peter
Übermut Übel Übermut
Xanthippe Xaver Xaver
Zeppelin Zürich Zürich
German Pronunciation Guide

Start learning how to pronounce German words and avoid mistakes made by beginners with our basic pronunciation guide. In the table below you will be able to study and learn how to pronounce the individual letters in German words.

Letter Pronunciation
A like the sound ah or like a in art
Ä like the sound eh or like ay in say
B like b in best
C - before i or e, like ts in bits
- otherwise like k in king
D like d in dog
E - like e in bed
- like the sound eh or ay in say
- at the end of a word, like er in master
F the same as in English
G - like g in gold
- at the end of a word, like k in king
H like h in horse
I - like i in fill, never like i in idea
- like ee in see
J like y in yes
K the same as in English
L like l in live
M the same as in English
N the same as in English
O like the sound oh or like o in top
Ö like ur in turn
P like p in pick
Q the same as in English
R the same as in English
S - at the beginning of a word, like z in zoo
- otherwise like s in smile
ß like s in smile
T the same as in English
U like oo in moon
Ü like iew in view
V like f in food
W like v in voice
X like the sound ks
Y the same as ü
Z like ts in bits

Now that you know how to pronounce each German letter, you need to learn when they should be pronounced differently, this is why the following table will be very helpful for you and every person who wants to avoid some pronunciation mistakes made usually by beginners. Some letters in particular combinations change the way the words are pronounced, below you will be able to study how to pronounce letter combinations that do not follow the same patterns learned in the above table.

Letter Pronunciation
AU like ow in how
ÄU like oy in toy
EI like igh in right or like the word eye
EU like oy in toy
IE like ee in see
CH like k in king
SP at the beginning of a word, like shp
ST at the beginning of a word, like sht
SCH like sh in sheep

Important! Because some German sounds are not found in English we have tried to come up with something that sounds similar, for this reason the pronunciation guide from above is simply informational and does not offer any guarantee.

German Alphabet and Pronunciation Facts

A list with some of the most interesting and important facts about the German alphabet & pronunciation:

- there are more than 26 letters in the German alphabet
- the German alphabet has 30 letters
- the four extra letters are 3 umlauts (Ä ä, Ö ö, Ü ü) and one ligature (ß)
- the most commonly used letters in German are e and n
- individual letters have neuter gender: das A, das B, das C...
- there is no English equivalent for the sound ü.

German Alphabet & Pronunciation Q & A

How to spell my name in German? In English to spell Adams you would say A for Alpha, D for Delta, A for Alpha, M for Mike, S for Sierra, the same formula may also work in German if we use wie instead of for and instead of the NATO phonetic alphabet we will use the German phonetic alphabet, e.g: A wie Anton, D wie Dora, A wie Anton, M wie Martha, S wie Siegfried.

How do I type umlauts on an English-language keyboard? In the following table you will find the proper transcription of the German umlauts, if your operating system is Microsoft Windows then you can used the Alt codes found in the third column.

Letter Transcription Alt Code
Ä Ae Alt + 142
ä ae Alt + 132
Ö Oe Alt + 153
ö oe Alt + 148
Ü Ue Alt + 154
ü ue Alt + 129
ß ss Alt + 225

To produce one of the German umlauts from above, in Microsoft Windows, simply hold down Alt and type the appropriate number using the numeric keypad.

Important! Because some German sounds are not found in English we have tried to come up with something that sounds similar, for this reason the pronunciation tips from above are simply informational and does not offer any guarantee.

Learn German Online
English German Dictionary Common Words List A, B, C, D, E
German English Dictionary Common Words List A, B, C, D, E

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