The Ultimate Guide
Wondering how to pronounce German words?
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Part 2 below!
Are you wondering how to say those odd combinations of consonants like CH...
...like, how do you pronounce ich?
Or Dachshund. Not to mention Koch.
And what about SCH, how is that supposed to be pronounced?
If you’re confused about German pronunciation then I have good news for you:
German has rules for that!
It’s easy once you know the rules.
You will soon be able to pronounce any word you see or read.
Want to dive right in? Na, dann los!
What are the vowels in German?
You may have seen vowels with dots on them: Ä Ö Ü.
Like a smiley face in the middle of a word Ü.
You may be wondering how to say dankeschön.
Or Mueller. Is that the same as Müller? (Yes, it is!) Maybe you can just say Muller? (No, you can’t.)
And how do you pronounce words with EI or IE?
Like Wein - is it “whine” or “ween”?
The most important rule is:
All vowels are pronounced the way they are said in the alphabet.
The first letter in the alphabet is A, pronounced aah (like when the doctor says to you, “open wide and say aah”).
When the letter A comes in a word it is pronounced aah, like aber (“aaah-ber”), or Name (“naaah-me”).
Which brings me to the second important point:
Every letter in a word is pronounced.
Even if the word is very long! (Try it with Sehenswürdigkeiten. Go for it.)
A word has awkward combinations of consonants, like Gnom. Never fear. Pronounce every letter, so pronounced the G as well as the nom part.
And the most important:
Pronounce the E at the end of a word.
There’s a huge number of German words that end on an E. And that E is always pronounced.
The best part?
No exceptions. So if you say the E at the end of a word you're winning.
It makes a short sound like you’re starting to say ”Emily” but stop after the initial E.
So the word Name is pronounced “naah-may”. Ish.
For a real demonstration please watch the video below.
Rule 1 E
When you conjugate a verb to go with the pronoun ich it will always end in E. Remember to pronounce it.
Pronunciation Video 1
How to say long German words
How to say an E at the end of a word
How to say words with EI and IE
Video 1 has most important pronunciation rules. And lots of exercises so you can practice.
You can download the accompanying Ultimate Guide to German Pronunciation with all the rules here. It's free.
How to pronounce EI and IE in German
Like Wein, is it “whine” or “ween”?
To be honest, neither. It's actually pronounced “vine”.
A German W is pronounced like an English V. We’ll get more into that later (see below).
For now, I want to show you a trick:
How to easily remember EI and IE in German
The combinations of these two vowels is always pronounced the way the second letter is pronounced in English.
So EI makes the sound I. And IE makes the sound EE.
And more good news:
There are no exceptions to the “EI makes the sound I” rule!
And very very few exceptions to the “IE makes the sound EE” rule. Too few to worry about. So please don’t worry about them.
Now it’s your turn!
Watch the video and practice saying the words from 1:30 onwards.
It’s important to say the words out loud. Challenge yourself to say them before I do in the video.
That way your brain will get used to seeing words with EI and it will become automatic to say them as I.
There are more tips on how to remember EI and IE in the video.
Rule 2: Ei and ie
If you want to quickly and easily get ahead of the competition then here are some insider tips about three consonants that look innocent enough but are not at all pronounced the way you would expect.
These are: V, S, and Z.
A German V is pronounced like an English F.
How would you pronounce the German word viel ? If V sounds like an F and IE like EE
then that means,
viel sounds exactly like the English word “feel”.
Crazy I know, but true.
Take the German for the numbers 4 and 5 : vier and fünf.
There is no difference in how the V in vier is pronounced and the F in fünf.
S and Z are (almost) reversed:
The German S at the beginning of a word sounds like the English Z.
Sommer (meaning, summer) sound like “zommer”
selten (meaning, seldom) sounds like “zelten”.
And a German Z sounds almost like an English S.
German Z is actually a very sharp tsss sound .
Like a hot sizzling sounds. Tsss.
Or like the Z’s are pronounced in the word pizza. Mmmmh lecker.
Can you work out the following?
Whereas selten was pronounced “zelten”, the actual German word zelten (meaning, camping) is pronounced?
This takes some getting used to.
But don't worry.
There's lots of practice in the second video!
Have a go at the exercises in video 2 from 2:34 onwards. You'll soon get the hang of it.
Remember to say the words out loud – we all sound so much better in our heads :-)
To get the very most out of this practice:
Try to say the words before I do in the video.
Rule 3: V
Rule 4: S and Z
Here is the handy summery, part 2. More practice below!
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There are two ways to pronounce a German CH.
neither of them have even a close-ish equivalent in English. Sorry!
1) The first is a long, airy hissing sound.
That is how ich is pronounced.
"ichhhh". (Not "ick.)
(Bonus points if you noticed:
ich is spelled with a small i!)
2) The other way to pronounce CH is a gargling sound.
Watch the video if you'd like to see a demonstration of me gargling :) !
This is how Koch (meaning, cook) and Kuchen (meaning, cake) are pronounced.
More on this sound in the video below.
When to use which sound, I hear you cry?
The airy hissing sound after the vowels E and I. The gargling sound after A, O, and U.
I'll practice this with you in the video below.
This is super easy:
A German SCH sounds like an English SH.
the C is silent.
how would you pronounce the word schade (meaning, shame)?
Yes, it's "shaah-day".
Now you try it:
Pronounce the word schon (meaning already).
We will look at schön (meaning, beautiful) and the difference the Umlaut makes in the last video below.
What about, Porsche?
Bonus points! For
remembering to pronounce the E at the end there!
Loads more examples and practice in the video.
Just three more rules which are all really easy.
German W sounds like an English V.
So put your teeth on your lower lip -
don't bite of course -
then say these words:
Wagen (meaning, car): vaagen.
Wein (meaning, wine): vine.
Bonus points! If you remembered,
EI makes the sound I!
AU sounds like OW.
As in the word OUCH.
Try and say this word:
Bauhaus (as in the art movement).
Yes, it's "bow-how-s" (make the bow rhyme with how).
Let's try this word:
automatisch (meaning, automatic).
You know it's not "oh-to-ma-tic".
If you said, "ow-to-ma-tish" then: super!
EU sounds like OI.
Oi, Europe, I'm talking to you! (Or NOT talking to you, as the case may be...)
Try and say this word:
Euro (our currency).
Yes, it's "oi-ro".
How to pronounce the German Umlaut
That's the vowels with the two dots on them: Ä, Ö, Ü.
There are no real equivalent sounds for them in English. Sorry. Again.
Here is a video for you to practice with.
I show you the sounds and there are exercises and even a game to practice with. Yay!
How to write German Umlauts on an English keyboard
The standard get-around in Germany is simply
to write an E after the vowel that should have the Umlaut.
So Müller becomes Mueller,
dankeschön becomes dankeschoen,
München becomes Muenchen.
At least that bit is easy, right?
If you have mastered these you are a true Meister of the German pronunciation rules!
I’m officially impressed!
Rule 5: CH
Rule 7: W
Rule 6: SCH
Rule 8: AU
Rule 9: EU
Pronunciation Video 2
How to say a German V (like an F)
How to say S at the beginning of a word (like an English Z)
How to say a German Z ("tsss")
You can download the PDF with The Ultimate German Pronunciation Guide here. It's free.
Pronunciation Video 3
How to say
CH like ich
SCH like schon
W like Wagen
AU like Frau
EU like Euro
ST like Wurst
SP like sprechen
Video 3 again has lots of exercises so you can practice.
Rule 10: Ä Ö Ü
Pronunciation Video 4
How to say a German
A and Ä
O and Ö
U and Ü