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Why Umlauts Are the Best Posted by on Jul 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

Umlauts make German fun! What other languages get their spark from diacritics?

Itchy Feet: Expressive Vowels

I mean really, who doesn’t like umlauts? They’re the best thing about German, and probably the best thing about other languages that use them. They’re like two friendly reminders that this language is different and fun to learn.

I love that about all accent marks and diacritics, I have to say. Coming from English, which doesn’t have any fun letters at all, any variations in other languages is like tasting a daring new spice on an old recipe. I always liked Spanish’s delightfully squiggly ñ, although the áccénts are pretty entertaining as well. Italian features not only the fórward accents but also the bàckward ones, sometimes a bit confusing but still very satisfying to slash atop your letters when writing. French of course has both the infamous ç, which to this day I struggle to write correctly (somehow I always make a demented 5 out of it), and perhaps my favorite diacritic of any language ever, the proudly formal and very high class ô (also î and û) which some sadly say is dying. French doesn’t stop there, though, they’ve also got umlauts over their ïs and ës, neither of which exist in German. And German itself isn’t satisfied with just its chipper umlauts – it also has the enigmatic ß, the letter that looks like a B but ssoundss like two ss’s. It might not actually be a diacritic per se, but it definitely makes me feel like I’m writing some strange and foreign tongue!

What about you? What are your favorite little signs that you’re learning a foreign language?

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About the Author: Malachi Rempen

Malachi Rempen is an American filmmaker, author, photographer, and cartoonist. Born in Switzerland, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he fled Los Angeles after film school and expatted it in France, Morocco, Italy, and now Berlin, Germany, where he lives with his Italian wife and German cat. "Itchy Feet" is his weekly cartoon chronicle of travel, language learning, and life as an expat.


  1. Caro:

    Try learning norwegian! I do and I love their ø which is just more beautiful than our boring german ö. 😉
    Also they have the å (not to be mistaken with our o when hearing and writing) and their lovely æ. Norwegians write the æ in one stroke. HOW do they do that?? It’s impossible! I always squeeze together a single a and e.


  2. Janet:

    I’ve always been fond of Þ (thorn) and ð (eth) in Icelandic and a few other languages.

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