German is a much more phonetically consistent language than English. This means that German words almost always sound the way they are spelled—with consistent sounds for any given spelling. (e.g., the German ei — as in nein — spelling is always sounded EYE, whereas German ie — as in Sie — always has the ee sound.)
In German, the rare exceptions are usually foreign words from English, French, or other languages.
Any student of German should learn the sounds associated with certain spellings as soon as possible. Knowing them, you should be able to correctly pronounce even German words you have never seen before.
Now that you know how to pronounce the letters of the alphabet in German, let’s talk about some terminology. It is helpful to know, for instance, what diphthongs and paired consonants are.
A diphthong is a combination of two vowels that blend and are sounded together. Instead of being pronounced separately, the two letters have one sound or pronunciation.
An example would be the “au” combination. The diphthong “au” in German always has the sound OW, as in English “ouch”. The “au” is also part of the German word “autsch”, which is pronounced almost the same as “ouch” in English.
Grouped or Paired Consonants in German
While diphthongs are always vowel pairs, German also has many common grouped or paired consonants that have a consistent pronunciation as well.
An example of this would be “st”, a very common combination of the consonants “s” and “t”, found in many German words.
In standard German, the “st” combination at the beginning of a word is always pronounced like “scht” and not like the st found in English “stay” or “stone”. So a German word such as Stein (stone, rock) is pronounced “schtine”, with an initial sch-sound, as in “show”.
German Pronunciation Pitfalls
Once you’ve mastered diphthongs and grouped consonants, the next item to concentrate on is how to pronounce other letters and letter combinations found within German words. For instance, a “d” at the end of a German word usually has a hard “t” sound in German, not the soft “d” sound of English.
You can go back and learn about the German Alphabet and the correct pronunciation of each letter.