Getting started with German 1
Getting started with German 1

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Getting started with German 1

3 German pronunciation

German uses the same alphabet as English and generally you pronounce the words phonetically, so pronouncing every letter of the word as you read along. However, there a few letters that look and sound different:

  • ä, ö and ü (with two dots, called Umlaut in German), for example in München or Köln. Those vowels with Umlaut sound different to a, o, and u. You might have noticed this when listening to the pronunciation of place names, such as Rostock – with o - compared to Köln – with ö.

  • There are also some letter combinations:

    • ei (pronounced like the English letter “i” )

    • ie (pronounced like the English letter “e”) as in the word “Wien” (Vienna)

    • au (pronounced like the English “ou”) as in Augsburg

    • and eu (a bit, but not quite like “oi”) as in Deutschland.

  • There is also the ch- sound which is a little further back in the throat than a “h”. Listen out for that sound in the German name for Munich: München

  • Finally, the letter ß is pronounced like a double s (ss), similar to s, but a little bit sharper.

Activity 4

Here are some more examples of those typical sounds in German. Read the place names below and, in your notebook, write down a word association in your own language that will help you remember how to say the word when you see it written down.


  • eu in Deutschland sounds like ‘oi’ in ‘oil’ or ‘moist’.
  • ü in München
  • ch in München
  • au in Augsburg
  • ö in Köln
  • ur in Hamburg
  • ei in Österreich
  • w in Wien
  • ie in Wien
  • z in Zürich

Activity 5

Now listen to Audio 2 again (repeated below) and try to imitate the pronunciation of the speakers.

Do you know any other German names of people or places? Can you work out how to pronounce them? Record yourself to practise and become more confident.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Audio 2 (repeated)
Skip transcript: Audio 2 (repeated)

Transcript: Audio 2 (repeated)

Bitte hören Sie und sprechen Sie nach.
Rostock →
Insel Rügen →
Berlin →
München →
Augsburg →
Frankfurt →
Köln →
Hamburg →
Wien →
Salzburg →
Innsbruck →
die Schweiz
Zürich →
Bern →
Genf →
End transcript: Audio 2 (repeated)
Audio 2 (repeated)
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