Unique Traits of 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 do 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 is the only letter that will never be at the beginning of a word.
Click on the following letters to hear them pronounced. (Audio saved as .wav files.)
Das Deutsche Alphabet/ The German Alphabet
Buchstabe/ Letter Aussprache des Buchstabenamens/ Pronunciation of letter name Aussprache des Buchstaben – wie in/ Sound of Letter – as in Beispiele/ Examples A a ah astronaut der Adler (eagle), Januar(January) B b approximate: bay baby der Bruder (brother), aber (but) C c approximate: tsay creative, Celcius (soft c sound in German sounds likets) der Chor, der Christkindlmarkt(south German term for der Weihnachtsmarkt/ Christmas market), Celcius D d approximate: day dollar Dienstag (Tuesday), oder (or) E e approximate: ay elegant essen (to eat), zuerst (first) F f eff effort der Freund (friend), offen (open) G g approximate: gay gorgeous gut (good), gemein (mean) H h haa hammer der Hammer, dieMühle (mill) I i eeh Igor der Igel (porcupine), der Imbiss(snack), sieben (seven) J j yot yellow das Jahr (year), jeder (each) K k kah camel das Kamel, der Kuchen (cake) L l ell love die Leute (people), das Land(land) M m em man der Mann, die Ameise N n en nice nicht (not), die Münze (coin) O o oh oven Ostern (Easter),rot (red) P p approximate: pay party die Polizei (police), der Apfel Q q koo coral das Quadrat (square), die Quelle(source)
Note: All German words start with qu (kw – sound)
R r approximate: er rich der Rücken (the back), der Stern(star) S s es zoo, shine, mouse summen (to hum), schön (pretty, nice), die Maus T t approximate: tay tyrant der Tyrann, acht (eight) U u ooh ou sound in you die Universität (university), derMund (mouth) V v fow father der Vogel (bird), die Nerven(nerves) W w approximate: vay van die Wange (cheek), das Schwein(pig, wieviel (how much) X x ix sounds like kz das Xylofon/ Xylophon, die Hexe(witch)
Note: There are hardly any German words that start with X
Y y uep-si-lohn yellow die Yucca, der Yeti
Note: There are hardly any German words that start with Y.
Z z tset sounds like ts die Zeitung (newspaper), derZigeuner (gypsy)
Umlaut + ß
Aussprache des Buchstaben/ Pronunciation of Letter Beispiele/ Examples ä sounds similar to the e in melon ähnlich (similar), gähnen (to yawn) ö sounds similar to the i in girl Österreich (Austria), der Löwe(lion) ü no equivalent nor approximate sound in English über (over),müde (tired) ß(esszet) double s sound heiß (hot),die Straße (street)
- Learn more specifics of several German letters and their dipthongs in the following articles:
Pronunciation Part 2
Pronunciation Part 3
- Starting to feel comfortable with German pronunciation? Put your pronunciation to the test with these Zungenbrecher (tongue twisters).
- More pronunciation practice with these Alphabet Exercises.