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Introduction and alphabet

Introduction and alphabet

It's common to think that learning German is challenging. Asserting that "Surely there is not another language that is so slipshod and systemless, and so slippery and illusive to the grasp," Mark Twain coined the phrase "the horrible German language" in 1880. (Mark Twain, The Tramp, "The dreadful German language") 390–402 in Abroad, 1880 (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1997).

Is this, however, actually the case? The fact that German is a methodical language that adheres to rules is one aspect that makes it particularly helpful for learning. There are numerous strategies to make these principles simpler to grasp, as well as numerous pointers that will aid you in picking up the language.

You'll discover that the language is considerably simpler than you may expect if you approach it step-by-step.

So, let's start with an alphabet first

Das Alphabet – ABC

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z, Ä, Ö, Ü, ß

How to pronounce you can watch here

How many letters are there in the alphabet?

Some claim it contains 26 letters, while others assert it has 29 or even 30. What is the truth? Depends on whether you include the umlauts and the ß as letters, I suppose. If you don't count the ä, ö, ü, and the ß, there are 26. If we include both the ß and the umlauts, we have 30.

The vowels of the German alphabet    

The five letters A, E, I, O and U of the German alphabet are called Vokale (vowels), the other letters are called Konsonanten (consonants) – for example: B, C, D, F, G.

Unique characteristics of the German alphabet

There is a unique characteristic of the German alphabet, known as the ß. It has several slang names and frequently raises questions and astonishments.

In Germany, the spelling with a  "ss" is frequently used, however, it is incorrect to simply replace it.


German spelling differs from English spelling in a few ways. Capitalization is used for nouns. One of the rare languages that use capital letters not just at the beginning of both at the start of sentences and inside of sentences. 

Nouns must always be written in capital letters in German, whether they are at the start of a sentence or not.

Der Mann und die Frau arbeiten jeden Tag am Computer.
The man and the woman work at their computer every day

The umlauts

The umlauts – ä, ö, ü These are very important. They change the pronunciation of a word and, more importantly, its meaning:

Mutter means ‘mother’, but Mütter is the plural form and means ‘mothers’.
Musste means had to, but müsste means ‘should’ or ‘ought to’.

Final word

The 26 letters of the German alphabet include a ligature (ß) and the umlauts,, and Ü. Not only does Germany employ the German alphabet, but so do Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg.

The German word for the first five letters of the alphabet—A, E, I, O, and U—is Vokale (vowels). The same article, das, is attached to each letter of the German alphabet (das A, das B etc.)