German Pronounciation Guide

Compiled and edited by Bonnie Yelverton

Vowels

Vowels are generally pronounced long if they are followed by a single consonant or an h. Sometimes there is no rule, especially before st: Trost, Christ (long), Lust (short).

Accent is generally on the first syllable, so that final syllables are usually very weak.
One big exception to the accent rule is a group of very common prefixes: be [ba] ge [ga] er emp ent ver zer, which are unaccented. (gegében [gagayban], Geburt [gaboohrt]

Umlaut (sound change) is the term for two dots over vowels:
ä = [e]
ö = the vowel sound in "girl"
ü = the vowel in "yew" (or the sound you say when you see something disgusting) or French u. Try saying "oo" and thinking "i"

vowel

long

short

exceptions

a

áh

Tage, achte

Vater

ah

Alle, Saft, Schatz

(It’s hard to hear difference, just length.)

ä

ay

täglich

eh

Hält, gefällst

e

den, wehret

Leben, Seele

Steht, wer

Welt, wenn

Mensch

Herrlich

des (short)

in final syllable, usually short a [uh] : tobe = tóba

prefixes: gamácht, gagében, bastellt

i

ee

Ihm, Ihr

Ich
(it)

im, ist, nicht

Christ, dir (long)

o

oh

Lob, Sohn, tod(t)

awe

(short)

Gott, soll,
Wonne

Hort, komm, Stolz

Trost (long)

ö

i in girl

böse

e in her

Göttlich,
Hölle

u

oo in

fool

zu, nur durch,

oo in book

Wundert Lust, und, um

ü

French u

Stürme

ooi

Sünden drückt

Diphthongs (two vowels together)

au

ow"how"

Auge, auf, Frau, lauter, außer

äu

oy "boy"

Äuglein, Freude, Fräulein, Bräutigam, euch

eu

ei

eye (note: the English name of the second vowel)

Leide, Seite, -keit, -heit

ie

ee (note: the English name of the second vowel)

Sieg, lieben, betrieben, viel

Consonents

Most consonants are (more or less) as in English.
All consonants that end a word (or syllable), however, are pronounced voiceless.

"r" in German is usually spoken gutterally, but sung trilled with the tongue, in particular at the beginning and double at the of end of words: Rache, Herr.
"r" is much weaker with another consonant: sterblich or as a single r at the end of a word: lieber

consonant

pronunciation

examples

b

Final: p

ob, Abgrund

d

Final: t

Grund, seid, tod, Heiland, Kind

g

Final: k
(but ich)

weg [wek], selig [k] or [ich], Gerechtigkeit [ich],
otherwise g: derselbige

s

z, but final: s

Saft, Seele, Sohn, Satan, so, sei, derselbige
but: das, es, anders, Gottes, ans

ß

ss

außer, daß, muß

z

ts

Zier, Herz, zwar [tsvar], Zukker

st, sp

scht, schp but final: st, sp

Steht, sterblich
but: sonst, ist, Geist

w

v

Welt, wundert, Wonne, wer

v

f

Verdammliches, vor, verstummen, viel

sch

sh — with rounded mouth

Schatz, Mensch, Fleisch

ch, ig

after front vowels, i, e, ü, before r

Palatal, smiling (sound comes through teeth at side)
ich, nicht, fürchten, verdammlich, durch, gleich, sichrer, Gerechtigkeit

After back vowels, a, o, u

Gutteral, at back of mouth:
kracht, Macht, Drachen, Rachen, Nacht

ng

ng — never ng-g

/TD>

Sing-en

Bonnie Yelverton, November 2000

Last Modified Wednesday, October 8, 2008