Exploring the German letter ß Posted by Sandra Rösner on Oct 12, 2010 in Language
The German language has a letter that does not appear in its alphabet: the letter ß. Because of its shape the letter ß can be easily mistaken for a B. The ß, pronounced Eszett, is a ligature of the initial- and inner-s and the final-s of the German type font, which was used from the 16th century until about 1940.
Unfortunately, the untruth exists that the letter ß does fully correspond to a double-s. It is true that we can spell a word alternatively with a double-s instead of an ß whenever and wherever it is suitable, e.g. in crossword puzzles or when you do not have an ß-key on your keyboard. Nevertheless, you should avoid overusing it because there is a clear rule when a word has to be spelled with an ß and when with a double-s.
The letter ß has a particular function in the German language. Firstly, it represents a sharp s-sound – just like a double-s. And secondly, it indicates that we have to utter a long vowel before the ß, whereas we utter a short vowel before a double-s. Thus, the spelling of a word can affect both the pronunciation and even the meaning of a word.
Here you can find a video in which I give some example words and their correct pronunciation and spelling. I hope you will find it helpful.