Types and Pronunciation of German Umlauts
A short guide to the pronunciation of the German Ä, Ö, and Ü you can find below
Umlauted vowels in German, and any language which uses them, have distinct pronunciations from the non-umlauted ones.
How do you pronounce Ä in German?
The ä umlauted character is pronounced like the ‘ai’ sound in air, kind of like a mixture of a and e.
How do you pronounce Ö in German?
The ö umlauted vowel can be pronounced in a variety of different ways and sounds similar to the e in her, the i in bird, or the French eu. It’s a bit like a mixture of o and e.
How do you pronounce Ü in German?
The ü is unusual in that it doesn’t have an English equivalent, except for maybe the ‘ui’ sound in ‘suit’, but it is pronounced like the standard u is in French.
The best way to understand how umlauted vowels are pronounced is to hear them spoken by native speakers, both as individual letters and parts of words. Online tools and digital German dictionaries can offer demonstrative pronunciation guides, such as Rocket Languages.
It’s good to know that in German, there are two types of Umlaut sounds: the long and the short. Which one to use is dictated by the letters surrounding the umlauted vowel; if it is followed by a double consonant, it will generally be the short form, such as in Stück or Öffnung. To pronounce a long umlauted letter, you simply "hold" the sound longer than for the short version. The short form is a sharper, faster sound.
Here is a table that explains more about how to pronounce these unique characters:
||As in English
||Ranging between <ɛ> and <ə>
||Like ‘ai’ sound in ‘air’
||Like the ‘er’ sound in ‘her’
||Like the ‘ui’ sound in ‘suit’ or ‘ooh’ with pursed lips