Resources for Learning German (Group to Assemble 14 June on Google+ – All are welcome)

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 Tyrannacht (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.
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Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

2 thoughts on “Resources for Learning German (Group to Assemble 14 June on Google+ – All are welcome)

  1. Only in some parts of Austria is the R trilled, and also in much of the South of Germany(Bavaria). I’m pretty sure it’s trilled in SalzbuhIn Hochdeutsch (Standard German), the standard greeting is Guten Tag, but in much of Southern Germany and Austria they say Grüß Gott which means God Bless, due to it’s majority Catholic population. Saying Gruess Gott in Koeln for example may give you odd looks at the minimum, or a sharp “Guten Tag!” as a reproof.
    In Tyrol and Steiermark (where the Governator was born) it’s definitely gargled like French, Hebrew and standard German. In both Graz, and Vienna (Wien) since they are big cities, you’ll find every possible combination, but still I’ve heard only Hochdeutsch. States (das Bundesland / die Bundeslander) that border other nations (Italy or Slovenia for example) will usually trill the R.

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