Wienershnitzel: if you are not German and you live in America, this is probably the only German word that you can say easily with no prior knowledge or skills in the proper pronunciation of the German language. Do not worry; we are not here to judge. Instead, we are going to offer you some helpful tips on everything you have to know about the proper pronunciation of the German language. Fire up the grill, and get some bratwurst going (which originated in 13th century Germany), and get ready for some pronunciation Aufregung!
The German Alphabet
To begin, let’s go over the basic German alphabet and how you would go about pronouncing each of the letters. Whenever you start off with a new language, you should practice pronouncing letters individually and not words, as this will give you a better grasp on the individual letter sounds. In phrase in parenthesis will indicate the sound that each letter makes, and the following word will be an English example of how the letter sounds.
Aa: (ah) Astronaut
Bb: (bay) Barrel
Cc: (tsay) Celsius, center
Dd: (day) Dollar, dawn
Ee: (ay) elegant, end
Ff: (eff) Effort, effective
Gg: (gay) Gorgeous, gape
Hh: (haa) Hammer, hard
Ii: (eeh) Igor
Jj: (yot) Yellow, yell
Kk: (kah) Camel, camera
Ll: (ell) Love
Mm: (em) Man, mare
Nn: (en) Nice, niche
Oo: (oh) Oven, over
Pp: (pay) Party
Qq: (koo) Coral, corporate
Rr: (er) Rich
Ss: (es) zoo, mouse
Tt: (tay) Tyrant, tries
Uu: (ooh) The “ou” sound in you
Vv: (fow) Father, foul
Ww: (vay) Van
X: (xix) Sounds like “kz”
Zz: (tset) Sounds like “ts”
Things To Know About German Letters
Here are some things to things to remember about certain letters in the German alphabet:
- All German words start with that start with a “Qu” have a “kw” sound.
- There are hardly any German words that start with X or Y.
- There are more than 26 letters in the alphabet, because German has, what is called an, “extended Latin alphabet”.
- The extra letters are ä, ö, ü and ß.
- The pronunciation of some of these letters does not even exist within the English language.
- A few German letters are pronounced more from the back of the throat with a glottal-like sound. There are: g, ch, and r. However, you will need to remember that the “r” in Austria the r is trilled.
- The “W” in German makes the same sound that a “V” does in English.
- The “V” in German makes the same sound that the “F” does in English.
- The “S” in German sounds like Z in English a majority of the time; especially when it is placed at the beginning of a word that is immediately followed by a vowel.
- The “ß” in German is the only letter in the German alphabet that you will never see at the beginning of a word.
Important Vowels and Paired Consonants
Now, let’s take a look at some of the pronunciations of some important vowels and paired consonants of the German language. These are known as diphthongs and grouped or paired consonants, respectively.
Diphthongs: Let’s have a look at diphthongs first. Diphthongs are two vowels that seem to mesh together when they are spoken. Therefore, they end up having one final sound or pronunciation.
Ai / er: (eye)
Eu / äu: (oy)
Some examples of diphthong words in German along with their meaning are:
- Bei: near
- Das Ei: egg
- Der Mai: May
- Auch: also
- Aas Auge: eye
- Häuser: houses
- Neu: new
- Bieten: offer
- Nie: never
- Sie: you
Paired Consonants: Next up, we have grouped or paired consonants along with their pronunciations and a short explanation on their sounds. Be aware that none of these are pronounced as they appear in English.
Ch: pronounced with a guttural “ch”, such as “ch” in “loch”.
Pf: (pf). This combination of letters is pronounced quickly and omits a “puff”-like sound.
Sch: (sh). In German, you can split the “sh”, but never the “sch”.
Sp, St, Shp, and Sht: (sch)
Th: (t). When a “t” is involved, the pronunciation always sounds like an English “tay”, and never a “th” as you might think.
Some examples of paired consonants in German along with their meanings are:
- das Buch: book
- auch: also
- die Qual: anguish, torture
- die Quittung: receipt
- Schön: pretty
- die Schule: school
- sprechen: speak
- stehen: stand
Why Should You Learn German?
Now that you know the general pronunciation of certain letters in the German language, we are going to continue to offer you some reasons as to why you should consider picking up this Germanic language.
- Cultural Understanding: By learning German, you will broaden your horizon and be exposed to a different type of language and culture.
- Travel: Knowing the language will definitely make traveling to Germany a bit easier, don’t you think? Don’t leave to get your passports just yet!
- Work and Study: Being able to immerse yourself in a different culture’s work and study ethic is a whole other experience that can benefit you tremendously.
- Feasts! Germans invented Oktoberfest. Need we say more?
- Literature: Germany is packed with some amazing and insightful literature. Have you ever heard of Goethe?
- Because Mark Twain could not learn this, apparently “awful language”! German is actually very similar to English in many ways. What a way to show up on of the greatest writers of all time!
If you thought we were going to stop there, you were wrong. Here are some notable things that most of us known and love that were invented by Germans. We doubt you were aware of these!
- The Easter Bunny
- Ringed Binders
- Chicken Fried Steak!
- Gummi Bears
Sound Like A German
Upon first listen, German might sound a little harsh, but take the time to get used to this guttural-sounding language and keep practicing!