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The German language

The German language

German (Deutsch) is, alongside with English and Dutch, a West Germanic language. It is one of the world's major languages and the most widely spoken first language in the European Union. Around the world, German is spoken by approximately 105 million native speakers and also by about 80 million non-native speakers.
German is spoken is spoken primarily in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the Italian Province of  Bolzano-Bozen, in the East Cantons of Belgium and  in the French Alsace.
Standard German differs regionally, between German-speaking countries, in vocabulary and some instances of pronunciation, even grammar and orthography. Therefore, German is considered a pluricentric language.

Simple rules for reading:
Most of the words in German are pronounced as they are written; the stress usually falls on the first syllable, however, there are numerous exceptions.
The modern German alphabet is a Latin-based alphabet consisting of 26 letters – the same letters that are found in the Basic modern Latin alphabet, as well as 3 umlauts (Ä, Ü, Ö) and on ligature (ß), which is called eszett or scharfes s (sharp s). (please see table).
The German language mainly uses 3 diphthongs:
- ei as in English “why” (Eier, eggs, 43)
- au as in English “now” (Hause, house, 55)
- eu as in English “loin” (Feuer, fire, 38)
Additionally, -ui is used in interjections (e.g. pfui, an exclamation expressing disgust or rejection)

Furthermore, the following letters show a distinctive pronunciation:
- ch:
Ich-Laut [ç] after ä, ai, äu, e, ei, eu, i, ö, ü and consonants.
(Kirche, church, 53)
Ach-Laut [x] (after a, au, o, u).
(Gute Nacht!, Good! Night, 18)

-sch as in English „show“ (Schule, school, 26)
-sp combination of sch+p (Speck, bacon, 43) 
-st combination of sch+t (Stunde, hour, 26)

-h is not pronounced after a long vowel (Uhr, 19)

 

Letter

German Word

Pronounced...

 Meaning

A a

Ampel

like a in father

traffic light

Ä ä

Gäste

like a in care

guests

B b

Bahnhof

like b in bank

train station

C c

Cousin

in most cases pronounced like k,
otherwise combination t+s

cousin

D d

Denkmal

like d in dog

memorial

E e

Entschuldigung

like e in men

sorry

F f

Fluss

like f in fire

river

G g

Geschwister

like g in go

siblings

H h

Haus

like h in house

house

I i

Mittwoch

like i in machine

Wednesday

J j

Brettljause

like y in yes

snack

K k

Krankenhaus

like k in kick

hospital

L l

links

like l in long

left

M m

Mutter

like m in mother

mother

N n

Nacht

like n in north

night

O o

Polizei

like o in boss

police

Ö ö

löschen

rounded vowel (close mid, open mid)

extinguish

P p

Post

like p in post

post

Q q

Quarz

like q in quail

quartz

R r

Ritter

like r in river

knight

S s

Sirene

like s in sun

siren

ß

Straße

same pronunciation as s

street

T t

Tante

like t in town

aunt

U u

Uhr

like oo in food

clock

Ü ü

Brücke

like you in you

bridge

V v

Vater

same pronunciation as f

father

W w

Wein

close to v in verb

wine

X x

Hexe

combination k+s

witch

Y y

Hydrant

same pronunciation as ü

hydrant

Z z

Zeitung

combination t+s
like ts in cats

newspaper