- It's Called an Umlaut
Ever notice those two dots that sometimes appear over vowels in German words? The umlaut is used to alter the sound of a vowel and to change a word's meaning - sometimes slightly, as in plural form or sometimes more significantly, as in the comparison of an adjective.
- Nouns are Capitalized
When you see half a dozen capital letters in the middle of a German sentence, they're not typos. One of the differences between written English and written German is that German nouns are always capitalized.
- German Pronunciation
German words are pronounced exactly as they are spelled (unlike in English!). You don't ever have to wonder if the "e" at the end of a word is silent, which it sometimes is and sometimes isn't in English. In German it's always pronounced. You'll also be glad to know that the German alphabet consists of the same 26 letters as the English alphabet.
- Stress in German Words
A general rule for determining the stressed syllable in German is this: With words of more than one syllable, the emphasis is usually placed on the first syllable, as in the words, Blei stift , Sch ö n heit and Fra ge .
- Vowels, Vowels and more Vowels!
Three German vowels, "a" "o" and "u" can do a little cross-dressing. They're sometimes written with two dots above them - the versatile German umlaut.
Schon means "already"; sch ö n means "pretty" or "nice."
Ich trage means "I carry" or "I wear"; du tr ä gst means "you carry" or "you wear."
When a vowel takes an umlaut it becomes a modified vowel . In German, vowels and modified vowels can have long vowel sounds, which, as their name suggests, have a drawn out vowel sound (e.g. the o sound in snow ) or shorter vowel sounds, which have a shorter sound (e.g. the o sound in lot ).
Generally, a vowel is long when it is followed by an h as in Mahl ( mahl ). It is also long when it is doubled, as inMeer ( meyR ) and Aal ( ahl ), or when it is followed by a single consonant, as in Wagen ( vah-guhn ). The voweli is made into a long vowel when it is followed by an e . In general, vowels are short when followed by two or more consonants.
New Consonant - ß
In written German you'll also come across a new letter: the consonant ß (pronounced, es-tset ). It's a combination of the letters s and z , and is considered a single consonant. When people can't find the ß key on their word processor, they often write the ß as a double ess ( ss ). In either case, it should be pronounced like ans .