German Pronunciation Guide

By Dick Oakes

A a, Ä ä, B b, C c, D d, E e, F f, G g,
H h, I i, J j, K k, L l, M m, N n, O o, Ö ö P p,
Q q, R r, S s, T t, U u, Ü ü, V v,
W w, X x, Y y, Z z

The German alphabet consists of the same 26 characters as in English. There is also the addition of a diacritical mark, the "umlaut." The Gothic or German script (Fraktur) slowly gave way to the Latin script (Antiqua) after Gutenberg invented movable type. After World War II, the use of Fraktur was given up almost entirely. Most German vocabulary is derived from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. Significant minorities of words are derived from Latin and Greek, with a smaller amount from French and English.

German words are generally accented on the first syllable. Exceptions include words of foreign derivation (Changier, Quadrille) and certain unaccented prefixes: "be-," "ent-," ver-," "ge-," are the most typical.

German uses a guttural "r," similar to that used by French; not a growling "r" as in English.

Letters not listed are pronounced approximately as in English.

A, a   - a as in father
Ä, ä   - (short a) a as in about (followed by a long consonant, two consonants, or a doubled consonant)
E, e   - e as in grey; e as in let
I, i   - i as in machine; i as in pin
O, o   - o as in note
Ö, ö   - (short o) o as in north (followed by a long consonant, two consonants, or a doubled consonant)
U, u   - u as in duke
Ü, ü   - (short u) u as in put (followed by a long consonant, two consonants, or a doubled consonant)
b   - p as in tap when in final position
C, c   - c ("ts") as in dance
d   - t as in pat when in final position
g   - k as in black when in final position (except -ig is pronounced -ich)
J, j   - y as in yes (the sound of j in jack is not found in German)
S, s   - z as in zip before vowels; s as in sit in all other positions
V, v   - f as in far (as English v in foreign words only: television)
W, w   - v as in vim
Y, y   - oo as in foot; also ue as in gruel (as English y in foreign words only: gymnasium)
Z, z   - ts as in bits
Ch, ch   - ch as in loch (gutteral kh)
Chs   - x as in box when part of the word stem
Ck   - ck s in block
Ei, ei   - i as in mine
Ie, ie   - ie as in belief
Ss, ss   - ss as in lesson
Sch, sch   - sch as in schottische (always pronounced with rounded lips)
Sp, sp   - shp when in initial position
St, st   - sht when in initial pos
tion   - pronounced tsion
Tz, tz   - tz as in quartz
Gn, gn   - gn as in egnogg
Kn, kn   - kn as in acknowledge
Pf, pf   - pf as in helpful
Ps, ps   - ps as in lopsided
h   - after a consonant is not pronounced; there is no th sound

Copyright © 2011 by Dick Oakes