Ä Pronunciation Tips (How To Handle A Umlaut Like a Pro)

October 1, 2022

Feli from Germany smiling, next to A umlaut character.

The A umlaut is one of three German vowels that does not exist in the English alphabet. These distinct vowels are called umlauts.

Ä is often considered the simplest umlaut to pronounce, as there is an equivalent sound in English.

Like all German vowels, the A umlaut has a short pronunciation and a long pronunciation. The short pronunciation is like the E in the English word “set.” Lengthen the sound to form the long pronunciation of Ä.

The Ä pronunciations sound like this:

Ä Sound German English

die Äpfel

the apples

der Käfer

the beetle
Click Purple Words to Play

1. What is the A umlaut?

Ä is one of the three German umlauts. These vowels do not exist in the English alphabet.

We have Ö and Ü, as well as the Ä we are discussing here. The two dots change how the vowel is pronounced.

2. Why is the A umlaut important?

The A umlaut contributes to the uniqueness of the German language, as the letter does not exist in English. In addition, the long pronunciation of Ä does not really have a perfect equivalent sound in English. Therefore, the Ä pronunciation contributes to the distinct sound and feeling of German.

Also, umlauts are used in the plural form of many important nouns, so you will use umlauts often. For example, we see the A umlaut in these common plural nouns:

German English

die Äpfel

the apples

die Männer

the men

die Hände

the hands
Smiling German teacher in market holding up two apples.

3. What are the two pronunciations of Ä (short and long)?

Like all German vowels, the A umlaut has both a short and a long pronunciation.

For the short Ä, make the E sound in the English words “set” or “met"

Listen for the short Ä sound in these words:

Example In Context
German English German English

die Äpfel

the apples

Ich kaufe die Äpfel

I buy the apples

die Männer

the men

Die Männer sind hier

The men are here

You will hear that the short Ä actually makes the same sound as the short German E.

Listen for the same sound in these short-Ä and short-E words:

Short-Ä Short-E
German English German English









As for the long pronunciation of Ä, there really is no perfect equivalent sound in English.

For the long A umlaut, start with the short Ä sound and gradually lengthen it

Listen for the long Ä sound in these words:

Example In Context
German English German English

der Käfer

the beetle

Der Käfer ist groß

The beetle is big

die Träne

the tear

Ich sehe eine Träne

I see a tear


to yawn

Wir gähnen

We yawn
Shaggy white and grey dog yawning.

4. How do I know which Ä pronunciation to use?

There are some guidelines for when to use the short vs. long pronunciation for German vowels, including umlauts.

For instance, before a double consonant, use a short umlaut. Listen for the short Ä sound before the double consonant in these words:

German English

die Männer

the men

die Ehemänner

the husbands

On the other hand, before the letter H, use a long umlaut. Listen for the long Ä sound before the letter H in these words:

German English


to yawn

die Zähne

the teeth

With practice, you will develop a feel for what sounds right.

5. Are there any variations in how Ä is pronounced?

Yes! In certain instances, you will hear some German speakers pronounce the long Ä as a long German E. The long German E is another letter without a perfect equivalent sound in English.

We like to say that the long German E is kind of similar to the sound when shrugging your shoulders at something mediocre and saying “ay.”

A common example of this pronunciation variation is the word Mädchen, the German word for girl. You will hear this word pronounced with either the long Ä sound or the long German E sound. You will pick this up, as you start to hear more German.

Young girl peaks out of a tree house.

6. How is the vowel A pronounced (not umlaut)?

So that’s the pronunciation made when the letter A has two dots on top. Now you may be wondering how to pronounce the base vowel A, with no dots over it.

Like all German vowels, the vowel A has both a long pronunciation and a short pronunciation:

  • Long A: The long German A is like the A in the English word “father.”
  • Short A: The short German A is just a really short version of the long German A.

Listen for the two different pronunciations of the base vowel A in these examples:

A Sound German English





7. How can I refine my Ä pronunciation?

You can learn to conquer the German Ä sound with practice.

  1. Listen for German words containing the E sound from the word "set" in English: Each time you hear one, jot down the spelling you believe to be accurate. Reserve a set time to check your work, keeping a running list of short-Ä and short-E words you've encountered.
  2. Listen actively for the long Ä sound: Listen for the long A umlaut used in conversation around you. Try to repeat the word out loud (if the setting permits) or silently to yourself.
  3. Improve with productive feedback: Try the interactive Pronunciation lessons in Kleo, featuring top German experts. In these interactive video lessons, you can learn powerful tips for the toughest sounds. You can receive real-time feedback on your pronunciation, practicing until you get it just right. In one popular lesson, Feli from Germany breaks down the A umlaut like never before. You can even hear her take on the important word Mädchen, meaning girl.
  4. Practice the Ä sound in context: The best way to build muscle memory is by using new sounds in real-life situations. It can be difficult to get this opportunity on a regular basis. Fortunately, some of Kleo’s most popular interactive video lessons feature the Ä sound. For example, join your Kleo friends in a German market, as they show how to build the plural form of words, including die Äpfel. This is a great way to practice speaking German in context.

8. What are other German letters that do not exist in English?

Since the Ä does not exist in English, it is challenging and rewarding to master this letter, especially the long pronunciation. There are three other German letters that do not exist in English.

The U umlaut (Ü) makes the sound like you've smelled something unpleasant. We also have the O umlaut (Ö), where you can pretend you're disgusted by something. Lastly, the ess-tset (ß) is pronounced just like the double-s in English, like in the word “miss.”

Fun, right? You can practice all of these sounds, and more, in Kleo's interactive pronunciation lessons.