German Vowels

Welcome to this free German lesson on vowels.

A, E, I, O and U are called vowels.

Vowels in German are pronounced differently according to whether the vowel is short or long. A vowel is short when it's followed by a consonant cluster, otherwise it's long. It’s a bit different from English, where the vowelin the English word cat is short whereas thein farmer is long.

In the following example a short vowel will be listed like a and a long vowel like a_.

Let's check out this free lesson on German vowels!

How to pronounce German Vowels

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Vowel SoundApproximate English SoundGerman Example
acutkalt (cold)
a_harmsagen (to say)
ebeltGeld (money)
e_needRegen (rain)
ihitInsel (island)
i_meetIgel (hedgehog)
ogotoffen (open)
o_noteBoot (boat)
ufootrund (round)
u_moonrufen (to call)

Like in English, German vowels are pronounced with a pure sound when they are stressed, but they tend to glide towards the "schwa" sound when they are not. Take Regen for example: the first -e- is stressed, so it's a pure sound, but the second -e- is pronounced with a "closer" sound.

German vowels A, O and U can also carry an umlaut, which is represented by two dots: Ä, Ö, Ü. The umlaut changes the way these vowels are pronounced.

Ä - eh

Ö - as the "i" in "girl"

Ü - as the "oo" in "moon"
Ä has the same sound of "e", so it should be easy to pronounce. Ö, however, does not exist in English and can only be approximated to the nearest sound, which can be found in words such as girl. Ü, finally, is like the French u: pronounce a long ee sound, as in meet, then round your lips. There you have the German Ü!

Now let's see a few example words.

Spät - Late
Österreich - Austria
Zurück - Back

In German there are also two special vowels, y and j. J is pronounced like the English y, and the German y is pronounced like ü. Confusing? These examples will help.

Die Jacke - The jacket
Typisch - Typical

Diphthongs

Now let's see diphtongs. Diphthongs are two vowels together. Instead of pronouncing each one separately you blend them together.

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Diphthong Approximate English Sound German Example
au noun Haus (house)
äu boy Häuser (houses)
eu boy Teufel (devil)
ei eye Ei (egg)
ie free Liebe (love)

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