Can you read German?

I couldn’t. German words looked quite frightening to me. So, I decided to find some rules how to read German to get rid of my fear once and for all.

Reading rules are a must once you take up a new language. Especially German reading rules, as they are quite simple and steady.

Reading is a key aspect of a language learning: we tend to pick up new vocabulary and grammar structures while enjoying an interesting story. Moreover, we read a lot these days: facebook posts, news, Instagram, not to mention some serious stuff if you fancy reading. And, sometimes a word seems bizarre, but once you read it, it gets easier to split it into several parts and actually understand what it means.

German reading rules turned out to be really simple. Here, I’ll give you the letter combination, transcription, and an example in German (in bold).


German reading rules

ei → /ai/ mein (my), dein (your), nein (no), kein (any)

ie → /i:/ wieder (again)

s → /z/ (before a vowel) sieben (seven)

ch → /h/ ich (I), machen (to do, make), nicht (not)

sch → /ʃ/ schon (already), schreiben (to write)

tsch → /tʃ/ Deutschland (Germany 🙂 )

eu → /oi/ neu (new), neun (nine)

tz → /ts/ sitzen (to sit)

je → /je/ as in ‘yet’ jetzt (now)

ju →/ju/ as in ‘you’ jungen (young)

ja → /jʌ/ as in American pronunciation of ‘yacht’ ja (yes), Jahr (year)

qu → /kw/ Quatsch (nonsense)

sp → /ʃp/ spielen (to play), sprechen (to speak)

st → /ʃt/ stehen (to stand), Stunde (hour)

ck → /kk/ Ecke (corner)

chs → /ks/ wachsen (to grow)

v → /f/ Volk (people)

z → /ts/ zusammen (together), you might remember this word from my previous post 🙂

ö → /oe/ but with your lips in a smile schön (great)

ä → /æ/ Märchen (fairy tale)

ü → /ju/ Züge (trains)

ß → /ss/ Straße (street)


(There is a strange story with this letter ß. It exists, but it is used in a limited number of words. Moreover, sometimes -ss- and -ß- seem to be interchangeable. That’s confusing, I must say. According to Wikipedia:

In standard spelling (since the orthography reform from 1996), it is used only after long vowelsand diphthongs, while ss is written after short vowels

Oh, and one very important thing from Wikipedia as well, “While the letter “ß” has been used in other languages, today it is only used in German. However, it is not used in all German-speaking countries, in particular not in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.[1] German speakers in Germany, Austria, Belgium,[2] Denmark,[3] Luxembourg[4] and South Tyrol, Italy[5]follow the standard rules for ß.”

Now, I see why they are “interchangeable”!!! Yay!

And one more thing:

All nouns in German begin with a capital letter! It might help you while reading 🙂

Congrats!
Now you can read German. Go and get some practice. Don’t worry about not knowing what the words mean. Just read them to practice reading and see if you remember all the rules. Practice is essential to language learning. Trust me here.

Good luck to us in learning German!

P.S. you may take it one step further and actually learn by heart all those German words I mentioned as examples.

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4 thoughts on “Can you read German?

Add yours

    1. I’m glad you find it helpful.
      German has little reading rules compared to English, but those long words.. It’s sometimes difficult to tell where one root ends within the word. On the other hand, I think it will get easier as my vocabulary expands.

      1. Yes, definitely, because you will be able to break them down. What I noticed is that sometimes they speak slower as to separate the concepts in a long word, even if they write it as one.

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