das deutsche Alphabet – the German Alphabet

In this lesson I teach you how to spell things in German using the German alphabet (das deutsche Alphabet). I also teach you how to ask someone how to spell something.

Master The German Alphabet With Spelling Practice - A1 German Vocabulary

How many letters are there in the German alphabet?

The German alphabet has the same number of letters as the English alphabet, 26. There are also 4 bonus letters; ä, ö, ü and ß. The first three are called “umlauts”. The last one is technically a ligature called “eszett”.

I have included audio clips for each of the letters. You can listen to the whole German alphabet being read out loud via the MP3 below.

das deutsche Alphabet

A

Pronounced like “ah”. This is what your doctor tells you to say when you are supposed to open wide.

B

Pronounced like “beh”. This is like that incredibly dumb English slang word “bae”, but instead of ending with a “Y” sound, you end with your mouth straight as it was at the beginning of the sound.

C

Pronounced like “tseh”. Like “say”, but with a “T” at the beginning and again not that “Y” sound at the end.

D

Pronounced like “deh”. Like “day”, but… you guessed it, no “Y” sound.

E

Pronounced like “eh”. Like the previous three letters, but without the consonant in front.

F

Pronounced like “ef”. It’s literally the same as the English letter.

G

Pronounced like “geh”. This is where it becomes important that you don’t pronounce the letter with the “Y” sound at the end.

H

Pronounced like “ha”. This is the sound that some of you made when I said the last letter.

I

Pronounced like “ih”. Sounds like the English long “E” sound. This also explains why the German long “I” sound is more like the English long “E” sound.

J

Pronounced like “jott”. Like a “yacht”, but instead of pronouncing it like a short “A” in the middle, say it like a German short “O” sound.

K

Pronounced like “kah” Like a person from Boston trying to say “car”.

L

Pronounced like “ell”. It is the exact same in English.

M

Pronounced like “em”. It is the exact same in English.

N

Pronounced like “en”. It is the exact same in English.

O

Pronounced like “oh”. In English we have a tendency to make this sound like it has a “W” at the end, but in German it is a straight “O” sound.

P

Pronounced like “peh” . Like “pay”, but again without the “Y” sound at the end.

Q

Pronounced like “kuh”. This is also the German word for a cow. Think of the word “cool” and then chop off the “L” at the end.

R

Pronounced like “err”. Think of the place where you wave your hands sometimes and sing “AYO”… you know “air”, but in English we barely pronounce the “R” and the same is true here. If you want, you can add a bit of that consonant “R” sound I taught you in the second video.

S

Pronounced like “ess”. It is the exact same as in English.

ß

Pronounced like “eszett”. It is like a combination of the German letters “S” and “Z”, which is why it is “eszett”. It’s pronounced like a sharp ‘s’ and used to indicate that the vowel in front of it is long.

T

Pronounced like “teh”. Like a nickname for someone named Taylor, Tay-Tay, but again without the “Y” sound, teh-teh.

U

Pronounced like “uh”. Like you are standing in amazement at something “oooooo”, but you don’t drag it out as long. uh

V

Pronounced like “fau”. As I mentioned in the consonant pronunciation video, the letter “V” in German is most often pronounced as an “F” sound. This is the reason for the letters name being “fau”. Think of the word “foul”, but lose the “L” at the end.

W

Pronounced like “weh”. Like the expression “oy vey”, but… everyone together now… without the “Y” sound at the end.

X

Pronounced like “iks”. How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop? The “icks” sound at the end of the word “licks” is exactly what you are looking for with this letter. X is in fact just “ks”.

Y

Pronounced like “ypsilon”. When I mess up I usually say “oops”, but if you modify your vowel sound to make it sound more like the German “ü” sound, you end up with “üps”. If I ever open a hair salon in German, I am going to name it “Y”, because it is a salon that makes a lot of mistakes, because I can’t cut hair. It would be the “üps” salon.

Z

Pronounced like “tset”. Think of the “ts” at the end of “hats”. Then simply add “et” to the “ts” and you end up with the letter “Z” in German.

Umlaute

In German Ä, Ö, Ü are referred to as the Umlaute. You can say these letters as “A mit Umlaut”, “O mit Umlaut” and “U mit Umlaut”, but officially they are Ä, Ö and Ü. You should only use the “mit Umlaut” options if you are clarifying what you said, because someone misunderstood you.

Ä

Ö

Ü

Short vs Long Umlaut Sounds

There are short and long umlaut sounds in German, but when reading the letters out, you default to the long vowel sound. This means Ä is pronounced like “eh”, which is very similar to the letter E. Ö is pronounced by putting the outside of your mouth in an O shape and moving your tongue on the inside of your mouth to as if to form an E. This gives you “oe”. The Ü is formed in a similar way, but the outside of your mouth forms like a U. This sound ends up being very similar to the letter I in German.

das deutsche Alphabet-Lied

Just like the English alphabet, there is a song to help young children memorize the letters of the alphabet. You can listen to me sing this song via the embedded MP3 file or the video below.

das deutsche Alphabet-Lied | The German Alphabet Song

A-B-C-D
E-F-G-H
I-J-K
Wunderbar
L-M-N-O-P-Q
R-S-T-U-V-W
X-Y-Z
Das ist nett.

The Tune of the German Alphabet

The tune of the German Alphabet song is the same as “Frère Jacques”, “Bruder Jakob” or “Brother John”. This song has been translated into pretty much every language on earth, but you can see the 3 versions I mentioned below.

Frère Jacques (French)Bruder Jakob (German)Brother John (English)
Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques
Dormez-vous, dormez-vous?
||: Sonnez les matines, :||
Ding ding dong, ding ding dong.
Bruder Jakob, Bruder Jakob,
Schläfst du noch? Schläfst du noch?
||: Hörst du nicht die Glocken? :||
Ding dang dong, ding dang dong.
Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
Brother John, Brother John!
||: Morning bells are ringing :||
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

Additions to the German Alphabet Song

In addition to the usual 26 letters of the alphabet, the German alphabet song adds “Wunderbar” after K and “Das ist nett.” after Z to make it fit the song tune. “Wunderbar” translates as “wonderful” and “Das ist nett.” means “That is nice.”

You could equate this to the addition of “Now I know my ABCs. Next time won’t you sing with me.”

How do You Spell That?

If you need someone to spell something in German, the proper way to ask this is “Wie buchstabieren Sie das?“, which translates as “How do you spell that?” You can also phrase it as “Wie buchstabiert man das?“, which is “How does one spell that?”

Test Your Knowledge of the German Alphabet

Listen to the audio of the following words. Try to think of each letter as I say them. When you are ready to reveal the answer, click on the blurred text to reveal the answer.

Test 1

Taxi

Test 2

Bäcker

Test 3

Hütte

Test 4

Garten

Test 5

Mädchen

Test 6

Flugzeug

Test 7

heiß

Test 8

Yacht

Test 9

jetzt

Test 10

Schlüssel

Test 11

Puzzle

Test 12

Quark

Test 13

Vogel

Test 14

Wasser

Beginner German with Herr Antrim

Herr Antrim’s new e-book “Beginner German with Herr Antrim“ is your guide to having your first conversation in German. Within the e-book, each lesson includes a worksheet and answer key to practice the skills in that lesson. You will also get access to online flashcards and a whole lot more. Find out more about the e-book here. It is also available as a paperback book on Amazon.

Lessons within “Beginner German with Herr Antrim

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