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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to German.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Jenni.
In this lesson you'll learn the basics of German writing.
The German Alphabet
German uses the exact same alphabet as English from A to Z. However, it also uses a special character (ß).
This character is called “sharp S” or scharfes S in German. It isn't considered a distinct letter in German though.
Spaß (= “fun”)
Maß (= “measure”)
Similarly, some additional markers represented by two dots, can appear over three vowels. We call these "Umlaute.”
ä ö ü
The Umlaute are used to signal a vowel combination. They are essentially a combination between the vowel, + the vowel E.
ä – Äpfel (= “apples”) a + e
ö – Öl (= “oil”) o + e
ü – über (=“over”) u + e
They can also be represented as AE, OE, and UE. These are common alternatives that are understood by every German speaker.
Sometimes, German spelling can be a challenge for English learners. There are a few words that are pronounced the same as English, but are however spelled differently. Let's take a look at some of the most common spelling issues.
German uses the same “sh” sound, as in the English "ship.” However, it isn't spelled SH, but SCH in German.
Schuh (= “shoe”)
Schiff (= “ship”)
So whenever you see SCH in German, know that it's pronounced “sh.”
Words beginning with ST or SP, are pronounced with the “sh” sound too. But this only applies to words beginning with ST and SP in German.
Stein (pronounced Schtein) (= “stone”)
Sport (pronounced Schport) (= “sport”)
Remember, this only applies to words beginning with ST and SP.
The letters V, F, and PH, are all pronounced as an F sound in German.
f → laufen (=“to run”)
v → vergessen (“to forget”)
ph → Philosophie (“philosophy”)
Even though they're spelled differently, they're all pronounced with the same “ffff” sound.
Capitalization in German is similar to that of English, but a lot more.
We capitalize at the beginning of each sentence, days of the week, months of the year, names, countries – almost everything that is capitalized in English, is also capitalized in German.
One big difference however, is that German capitalizes ALL nouns.
Compare the following sentence:
Der Hund und die Katze gingen aus dem Haus heraus, den Weg hinunter bis zur Garage.
"The dog and cat went out of the house, down the path to the garage."
Dog, cat, house, path, and garage aren't capitalized in English.
But the equivalent words, Hund, Katze, Haus, Weg and Garage, are capitalized in German because they're all nouns, and all nouns in German are capitalized.
German also capitalizes verbs that are used as nouns. Compare the following:
Das Zuhören, das Sprechen, das Lesen und das Schreiben sind alle entscheidend beim Lernen.
"Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are all important when learning."
Notice how the equivalent words, Zuhören, Sprechen, Lesen, Schreiben, and Lernen are all capitalized. So remember, ALL nouns in German are capitalized!
There is but one exception to the rule! The word for “I” isn't capitalized in German.
Er schenkt mir Rosen, weil ich sie gerne mag.
"He gave me roses because I like them."
Notice how ich isn't capitalized.
All nouns except “I,” are capitalized in German.
Compound Words
A special quirk of German, is the length of words. German words are, on average, longer than English words due to their tendency of forming compound words.
English usually limits compounding to two words, such as "snowman" or "baseball.”
There's no such limit in German however. Take the word for speed limit for example.
If we break it down we'd get...
höchst-, meaning "highest,"
-geschwindigkeits-, meaning "speed,”
and -begrenzung, meaning "limit.”
And just for fun, the longest, officially approved word in German is:
That's a mouthful. OK. Let's recap what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that German uses the exact same alphabet as English.
There are four additional characters in use, although they aren't recognized as distinct letters.
You also learned that there are some tricky consonant and clusters you need to look out for.
You then learned that all nouns except for “I” are capitalized in German.
And finally, there is no limit to how many words you can compound in German.
Umlaute: ä ö ü, and the ß
In the next lesson, you'll be entering German boot camp, where you'll learn some useful beginner phrases to get you speaking German right away!
See you in the next lesson! Bye!


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Sunday at 11:14 PM
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Hallo Hilary,

Thank you for posting.

Please check out our Monthly Review Video series with the newest learning strategies and study tools to help you improve your skills:


You can also check out our Reading Comprehension for Absolute Beginners:


And improve your German vocabulary with our Vocabulary Lists:


Hope this helps! In case of any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.



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