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German Alphabet & Pronunciation

Hello everyone,

In this lesson, we will explain the German alphabet and its pronunciation.

To learn the exact pronunciation, there is nothing better than listening to a native speaker.

I strongly suggest you to watch various videos of it.

I recommend you the YouTube channel "Deutsch für euch".

For example:

Listen to the alphabet sounds in this video[edit | edit source]

IPA table[edit | edit source]

Letter A a 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 P p Q q R r S s T t U u V v W w X x Y y Z z
IPA /aː/ /beː/ /t͡seː/ /deː/ /eː/ /ɛf/ /ɡeː/ /haː/ /iː/ /jɔt/; /jeː/ /kaː/ /ɛl/ /ɛm/ /ɛn/ /oː/ /peː/ /kuː/; /kveː/ /ɛʁ/ /ɛs/ /teː/ /uː/ /faʊ̯/ /veː/ /ɪks/ /ˈʏpsilɔn/; /ʏˈpsiːlɔn/ /t͡sɛt/
Letter Ä ä Ö ö Ü ü ẞ ß
IPA /ɛː/ /øː/ /yː/ /ɛsˈt͡sɛt/, /ˈʃaʁfəs ɛs/

Alphabet explained in English sounds[edit | edit source]

The German alphabet contains 26 Letters, as well as four more letters (but for some reason they are not part of the regular alphabet).

I heavily advice you to listen to the sounds in YouTube videos. It's almost impossible to describe them properly. You must get a sense for it yourself. Nevertheless, here comes the four letters which are part of regular words, but aren't part of the alphabet.

It's really hard to describe it in letters, but I'll give it my best try:

A[edit | edit source]

this is like the a in garden. It's way more dark and deeper than the english a.

B[edit | edit source]

sounds like beh

C[edit | edit source]

sounds like tseh

D[edit | edit source]


E[edit | edit source]

an e like in "exit", but a little longer and more open pronounced

F[edit | edit source]

sounds much like the English letter F

G[edit | edit source]

like Gordon

H[edit | edit source]

ha, like the English "huh?" sound, once more more open though

I[edit | edit source]

like in impress or "in", more open

J[edit | edit source]

the letter is called jot, pronounced as yot, the sound itself is y

K[edit | edit source]


L[edit | edit source]


M[edit | edit source]


N[edit | edit source]


O[edit | edit source]

almost like English o, but like the a before, more dark and deeper, it's not a swinging sound, it's pronounced kind of lazy, you don't say oh, but ooo

P[edit | edit source]


Q[edit | edit source]

this has two used sounds, the first is kweh, the other is kuh, the u again a dark sound. Further explanation: The German sound of "Q-Tip" would be Kjuh-Tip, if you skip that j in the middle, you got it

R[edit | edit source]

err, the English R I'd write down phonetic as Rw. For example Richard sounds to German speakers like Rwicharwd. German doesn't have that w-swing, between words it bends more to an A than W. In the beginning its like rr, like a you do a horny sound.

S[edit | edit source]


T[edit | edit source]


U[edit | edit source]

as all the other vowels, it is deep and dark sounding, the German phonetic of the English U would be "juh", you must skip that j sound from the beginning

V[edit | edit source]

fau (au is a dipthong, a double sound, i explain further later)

W[edit | edit source]


X[edit | edit source]

iks (a little bit like eeks, but the i does not equal ee entirely, it's a shorter and harder sound) ===Y üpsilonn / ipsilonn (Ü explanation coming soon)

Z[edit | edit source]


ß[edit | edit source]

this one is like a double s, it does not have a big writing, it only exists in the small form, if you have to write it in big, you do SS instead.

ö[edit | edit source]

if you make an O sound, put your tongue more forward to your lower teeth and sharpen your lips a bit

ü[edit | edit source]

probably the hardest one for English speakers,try it the same way as explained in Ö

ä[edit | edit source]

this comes close to the English a sound, but doesn't swing in voice so much, it's darker, it's almost like if you wondering "eeeehm?" The tongue does not go forward here, but rather a bit upward, not too much though

Now we are coming to Diphthongs and special sounds, which are very important. If two or three certain letters come together, they form a new sound.

Sch[edit | edit source]

is exactly the same like English sh. It is NOT like English "school", but it's like "chin"

Ch[edit | edit source]

this sound doesn't exist in English, it's a throaty one, imagine a cat making it's angry sound, like a cat roar/hiss, not so much pressure on it though

St[edit | edit source]

mostly becomes a spoken sch

ie[edit | edit source]

this only occurs in the middle of a word, never at beginning, it is called the "long i" or sometimes "mute e", so it's basically like a longer pronounced i

Ei[edit | edit source]

sounds a 100% like the English i

Ai[edit | edit source]

again like i

Au[edit | edit source]

is like a ow, like the sound you make if you hurt yourself

Äu[edit | edit source]

is like oi

Eu[edit | edit source]

the same again, oi

ee[edit | edit source]

is a longer stretched German e sound

aa[edit | edit source]

is a longer stretched German a sound

Examples[edit | edit source]

Here are some examples with the English equivalent:

  • Das Haus (the house) sounds like "dass hows"
  • Der Baum (the tree) sounds like "dare bowm"
  • Das Tier (the animal) sounds like "dass teer"
  • Der Mais (the corn) sounds like "dare mice"
  • Das Paar (the pair) sounds like "dass pahr"
  • Der Bär (the bear) sounds like "dare bare" (but the R sound is heavier)
  • Die Straße (the street) sounds like "dee shdrrahseh"
  • Vier (four) sounds like "fear" (but the R comes close to an A, so it could also be described as German fia)

Phonology[edit | edit source]

Vowels[edit | edit source]

Monophthongs[edit | edit source]

Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
short long short long short long short long
Close-mid ɪ ʏ øː (ə) ʊ
Open-mid ɛ (ɛː) œ (ɐ) ɔ
Open a

Diphthongs[edit | edit source]

Ending point
Front Back
Near-close ʊɪ̯
Open-mid ɔʏ̯
Open aɪ̯ aʊ̯

Consonants[edit | edit source]

With around 22 to 26 phonemes, the German consonant system has an average number of consonants in comparison with other languages.

Labial Alveolar Post-


Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive Fortis p t k (ʔ)
Lenis b d ɡ
Affricate Fortis pf ts
Lenis (dʒ)
Fricative Fortis f s ʃ ç (x) h
Lenis v z (ʒ) j
Liquid l r

German Online Virtual Keyboard[edit | edit source]



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