Beware of the German Umlaut! A look at some confusing words in German and their English translations


When learning a foreign language, one has to be aware of different symbols in the alphabet and how you should pronounce words where the symbols exist. You can find words with accent-symbols in many romantic languages as well as Hungarian. You can find Os with a line cutting through in Norwegian. You can find small ‘V’s on consonants in the Czech Language. You can find the “laying” S symbols on words with N in them in Spanish (think of El Nino)

In German, we have the Umlaut. Consisting of the two small dots on the vowels, the umlauts are designed to stretch out the mouth a bit horizontally, but without having to lose the quality of the original vowels. The umlauts can be found in vowels A, O and U, hence: Ä, Ö, and Ü. This means with A (Ah), we have Ä (aaah), O (oh) with Ö (orh) and U (you) with Ü (yee).

The trick behind the umlauts is trying to widen the mouth that is otherwise too tall and too stubborn to move. And this is where we have some problems with pronouncing the words in German. In German we have many words whose vowels function with AND without umlauts, BUT the meanings are totally different. Have a look at some examples:




What other words could you add to this list? Add them and comment on the meanings in the comment section below or on the Files’ facebook pages.


In case you have some problems with the umlauts, try some mnemonics at home, first with words with the same vowel with umlaut, like this example:

Die grüne Hühn steht vor der Tür (The green hen is standing in front of the door- all words with Ü)

Then try and build a sentence with the same vowel- but with AND without the Umlaut

Die unglaubliche grüne Hühn ist klug (The unbelieveably green hen is smart)


There are also some videos that look at the umlauts further. Here are a couple examples that are worth watching.

And last, but not least, practice! Practice!! Practice!!!. Make the distinction with the words, use some examples to help. And if you still have some problems, consult a native German who can help you further. He/she will get you in shape with the Umlauts. They are indeed a workout for learning the foreign language. 😉

Viel Glück!

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