The German alphabet contains notable differences when compared to English, but it’s not tremendously complex to learn if you have already been writing or reading using the Roman alphabet. German phonetics is a bit more challenging as it contains different phonemes and special vowels that influence pronunciation and are not represented in many other European languages. Much like the English alphabet, German has 26 standard letters. However, the German alphabet contains one additional character and umlauted forms of three vowels.
The German language, similar to Russian for example, is a phonetic language. In German, most words are pronounced exactly as they are written. You should devote time to learning the sounds that correspond with each German letter in order to pronounce words correctly. This alphabet learning guide is a good way for beginners to learn the basics of the language, which will help in learning how to speak, read and write in German and will also lay the foundations of correct pronunciation. In this article, we will discuss the ways to learn the German alphabet:
Important things to know
- Basic German Characters – Start by learning the basic German alphabet characters and their respective pronunciations. It helps to have a recording of the letters being spoken (slowly) so you can learn them systematically – using the old-as-time ‘Alphabet Song’ technique is a good idea.
- Take help from your tutor – If you have a tutor or tandem partner, have them test you by making you spell out words for them, letter by letter, so they can judge your pronunciation and knowledge of the individual letters. A game could be that you do not tell them what the word is, and they have to write it and figure it out from your given letters.
- Learn to pronounce Ö & Ü in German – The ö umlauted vowel can be pronounced in a variety of different ways and sounds similar to thee in her, the I in bird or the French eu. It’s a bit like a mixture of o and e. The ü is unusual in that it doesn’t have an English equivalent, except for maybe the ‘ui’ sound in ‘suit’, but it is pronounced like the standard u is in French. The best way to understand how umlauted vowels are pronounced is to hear them spoken by native speakers, both as individual letters and parts of words.
- Special features of the German alphabet – In the German alphabet, there is a special feature, namely the ß. It has many colloquial names and often causes difficulties and amazement. Often the spelling with “ss” is chosen in Germany, but it is actually not correct just to replace it.
- Talk to native speakers – talk to native speakers. Not only will they be able to give you pointers about your pronunciation, but you will also be able to listen to their accent and mimic it back to them.
- Immerse in German media – Immersing in German Media means involving music, news clips, movies — whatever you like! The main objective is to hear people talking. If possible, watch or listen with captions to help cement the ideas in your mind.
If you are just starting to learn German, you may feel intimidated, but there is no need. Speechling provides an audio dictionary to help you learn perfect pronunciation. With practice, you will be speaking like a native in no time.