German Language Blog

Tricky German Pronunciation Part 1 (With Audio) Posted by on Aug 8, 2018 in Language

Guten Tag! This is part 1 of a requested post. Following my posts ‘German Words You Don’t Want To Mix Up’ parts 1 and 2, a lot of people were interested in a post with audio clips of words and sounds that look similar, but are very different. Sometimes in German, when we mispronounce a word, we end up unintentionally saying a completely different world altogether – and some of those mix-ups can be quite funny and/or embarrassing! This first post will focus on words using the Umlaut, while the second will focus on other aspects of pronunciation. I will use the examples given in my posts German Words You Don’t Want To Mix Up and German Words You Definitely Don’t Want To Mix Up!, along with a few others, so you can hear how the similar words sound, and how to pronounce them yourselves.

Image via Pixabay.

The Umlaut

Words are commonly mispronounced when Umlauts are involved, mainly because language learners are unsure of how to pronounce the Umlaut. What they don’t realise is that a lot of words change their meanings when the Umlaut is either removed or added.

What’s an Umlaut?

Umlauts are the two dots that appear over the letters a, o, and u in German. These characters – ä, ö, ü – are letters in their own right, pronounced differently to the regular a, o and u. There are already some great posts about the Umlaut on this blog, so if you’d like an introduction to it first, please read this post and this one. But if you’re cool with the Umlaut and want to get straight into pronunciation, read on!

Here is the first example from my previous post. It shows how adding, or removing, an Umlaut can change a word completely.

Schwul (gay) vs. Schwül (humid)

Listen to the difference:


Image via Pixabay.

Umlauts are also often used to make a word plural. Getting the pronunciation right here, therefore, is important for communicating whether there is one or more of something.

der Vogel (bird) – dieVögel (birds)

der Apfel (apple) – die Äpfel (apples)

Listen to the difference:


Umlaut + another vowel

The character ä sometimes preceeds the letter u in German. The resulting sound is similar to the ‘eu’ in ‘Freude’ or ‘neu’ (or the English ‘oi’ in ‘noise’). Again, this is often used when making words with the combination ‘au’ plural. Here are some examples:

die Maus (mouse) – die Mäuse (mice)

das Haus (house) – die Häuser (houses)

Listen to the difference:


I hope this has been helpful, but I also hope that you can also see the funny side to it! Mistakes are a natural part of language learning, so if you ever do muddle any of these words up I hope it will not put you off trying again. In part 2, I will cover the German ‘ch’ sound, amongst others. Are there any letter combinations you are struggling to pronounce? If you find this type of post useful, let me know and leave any suggestions you might have for similar, future posts.

Bis bald!


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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


  1. Kelly:

    A very good lesson! Love the audible pronunciations, especially for when the umlaut precedes a “u”. Vielen Dank!

    • Constanze:

      @Kelly Glad to hear it, Kelly! Hope your language learning is going well. 🙂

  2. sac:

    I have problems with the ending pronunciation. Any thoughts or guidelines?

    • Constanze:

      @sac Hi Sac, I am presuming you mean the last example in my post, which was the ‘au’ vs. ‘äu’ sound (correct me if I’m wrong).
      I will use the example words Maus (mouse) and Mäuse (mice).
      The ‘au’ in Maus is pronounced the same as in the English ‘mouse’.
      The ‘äu’ sound, however, is pronounced like the English ‘oi’ – like in the word ‘noise’.
      I hope that helps!

  3. Rafael Gerardo Magaña Santos:

    I have found This page, very useful, and very helpful as far as learning and pronouncing properly new languages it concerns. Thank You in advance and congratulations to the team.