How to Pronounce the German Z (Pizza Anyone?)
October 1, 2022
The Z in German always makes the same sound. It’s like the “TS” sound heard in the middle of the word “pizza” or at the end of the word “cats.”
The German Z will sound like this:
1. How is the German Z pronounced?
The German Z makes a different sound than in English.
In German, Z is pronounced like the English “TS” sound in the middle of the word “pizza.” You can also think of the ending sound in the word “cats” or “hats.”
Listen for the “TS” sound in these German Z words:
Es ist zwei Uhr
|It is two o'clock|
Er ist zehn Jahre alt
|He is ten years old|
2. Where will I encounter the German Z?
In terms of placement within a word, you will encounter the Z in every position – beginning, middle and end of a word.
See the Z occupying various positions within these example words:
3. Are there any alternate pronunciations of the Z in German?
No! Conveniently, there is only one pronunciation for the German Z. Regardless of where the letter Z occurs within a word, the Z always makes the “TS” sound heard in “pizza” or “cats.”
4. What is the most common Z word in German?
By far, the most common Z word in German is zu.
We use forms of zu in front of destinations, changing the preposition based on the gender of the word that follows.
Along with feminine words, we use the form “zur” for “to the.” Along with masculine and neutral words, we use the form “zum” for “to the.” You can pick up on the mechanics behind this, as you learn more German.
Listen for the “TS” sound used to specify these common destinations:
Ich gehe zur Bank
|I am going to the bank|
Ich gehe zum Laden
|I am going to the store|
Ich gehe zum Restaurant
|I am going to the restaurant|
5. How can I refine my pronunciation of the Z in German?
When it comes to the German Z, you can likely already make the needed TS sound. The key is remembering to associate the German Z with this sound. This connection will solidify as you use more Z words.
- Listen actively: Throughout your day, keep a list of the Z words you hear. Set a time to work with these words, listening to them and mirroring the pronunciation.
- Get productive feedback on your pronunciation: Check out the interactive video pronunciation lessons in Kleo. You can receive feedback on your pronunciation for specific sounds and words, as if you were practicing face-to-face with friends. Feli from Germany even hosts a popular lesson on the letter Z. With her guidance, you can try out many of the Z words we've covered here.
- Practice the Z 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 consistent basis. Fortunately, some of Kleo’s most popular interactive video lessons prominently feature the Z sound. For example, talk about heading to various destinations using forms of "zu." This is a great way to practice speaking German in context, sharpening your pronunciation as you go.