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The German Alphabet and Spelling Alphabet

Most of you probably already know the German alphabet. But for cases where somebody might misunderstand you, for example stating your email address to somebody on the telephone, it is good to know the German spelling alphabet (die Buchstabiertafel) as well. That is the alphabet you hear in military jargon, such as (in English) "Alfa Bravo Charlie" for ABC. 

 

Here is a quick review with approximate English pronunciations of the letters of the German alphabet, which consists of the same standard 26 Latin letters as the English alphabet plus ä, ö, ü, and ß. 

 

A = ah; B = bay; C = tsay; D = day; E = ay; F = eff; G = gay; H = hah; I = eeh; J = yot; K = kah; L = ell; M = em; N = en; O = oh; P = pay; Q = koo; R = air; S = es; T = tay; U = ooh; V = fow; W = vay; X = iks; Y = oopsilohn; Z = tset; Ä = like the "e" in melon; Ö = like the "i" in girl; Ü = like the "u" in lure; ß = ess-tset

 

For clarity when spelling your name or an email address on the telephone, it is not a bad idea to learn die Buchstabiertafel too, since letters like B, T, and P can easily get confused. 

 

A = Anton; B = Berta; C = Cäsar; D = Dora; E = Emil; F = Friedrich; G = Gustav; H = Heinrich; I = Ida; J = Julius; K = Kaufmann; L = Ludwig; M = Martha; N = Nordpol; O = Otto; P = Paula; Q = Quelle; R = Richard; S = Samuel; T = Theodor; U = Ulrich; V = Viktor; W = Wilhelm; X = Xanthippe; Y = Ypsilon; Z = Zacharius; Ä = Ärger; Ö = Ökonom; Ü = Übermut; ß = Esszet

 

My name is Miller, and Germans nearly always think I am saying "Müller," so for clarity I often say "Miller mit M und I, also Martha Ida."

 

It helps too, when giving somebody an address or telephone number, to pronounce the number 2 like zwo instead of zwei, because otherwise zwei and drei can be easily confused: 

 

Die Oberfläche von „Kepler vier fünf zwo B“, so der Name des Himmelskörpers…
The surface of "Kepler four five two B," such is the name of the celestial body…
Caption 11, DW-Nachrichten: Erde hat einen „Cousin“

 

Further Learning
Listen to Sissi sing the ABC Song and practice spelling out your name and email address using the German Buchstabiertafel. You can also find other examples of people using zwo for the number 2 on Yabla German.

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