German is the single most important language for classical radio announcers to get right. It's easier than it looks: no letters are silent, the rules are fairly consistent, and some of the more peculiar vowel sounds (the umlauts, in particular) resemble sounds that are familiar from British English. Note that not just proper nouns but ALL nouns are capitalized.
German uses the umlaut to alter the sounds of the vowels a, o and u: ä, ö and ü are distinctly different sounds than their un-umlauted relatives. One occasionally sees them printed in alternative spelling as ae, oe and ue, especially when someone has had trouble figuring out how to print an umlaut. The German alphabet also uses one extra consonant: the letter ß is called "es-tset", and is pronounced like an ordinary English s. One sometimes sees it printed as ss.
As in English, German vowels generally have both long and short variants, and would-be long vowels are often shortened when they precede multiple consonants (e.g. Schmidt = shmit, not shmeet). Likewise, would-be short vowels are lengthened by doubling of the vowel (e.g. Staat = shtaht, Boot = boht, See = zay), or by the letter "h" placed after the vowel (e.g. Mahler = mah-ler, ohne = oh-nuh). Don't ever pronounce ee or oo the English way in a German word. Also take note of the German final e: it's not silent, but it is very short.
|a||ah, short and long a are basically the same|
|ä, ae||somewhere between ay as in "say" and eh, e.g. Götterdämerung = gö-ter-dehm-mer-oong|
|e (long)||ay, as in "say"|
|e (short)||eh, like the e in "bend";|
|e (final)||uh, an unstressed schwa, like the a in "Emma" but shorter (e.g. Alle = ahl-luh ); NEVER pronounce a final e as ay, as you would in Spanish or Italian!|
|i (short)||ih, like the i in "if"|
|o (short)||aw, as in "awe" but slightly rounder, more like the vowel in the British pronunciation of "thought"|
|ö, oe||ö: something like the French "eu" or the British "ur" in the word "burn", e.g. Schoenberg = Schönberg = shön-berg|
|u (long)||oo, as in "root"|
|u (short)||u as in "put" or oo as in "book"|
|ü, ue||ü: like the French u, or something like ee but with rounded lips; e.g. von Bülow = fon büh-loh|
|y||ü, same sound as ü|
These sounds are always the same. Do not confuse ie with ei, unless you want to annoy many people.
|ai, ay||iy, like the word "eye"|
|äu||oy (e.g. Tannhäuser = tahn-hoy-zer )|
|ei, ey||iy, like the word "eye", e.g. Leiden = liy-den, Hermann Prey = hehr-mahn priy|
|ie||ee, e.g. Lieder = lee-der|
|ae, oe, ue||alternate spellings for ä, ö and ü|
|aa, ee, oo||long versions of a, e and o|
All other combinations of vowels are meant to be pronounced as separate syllables (e.g. in Theo Adam, Theo = tay-oh, and Mozarteum = moh-tsar-tay-oom).
Two rules you should know but can get away with not following: r is swallowed at ends of syllables as in British English (it colors the preceding vowel but is not pronounced), and voiced consonants at ends of syllables become voiceless (d becomes t, etc.).
|ch [after a,o,u]||kh, slightly gutteral but not as heavy as you think; can be approximated as k or in some cases h; e.g. Verklärte Nacht = fer-klehr-tuh nahkht|
|ch [after e,i,ä,ö,ü]||sch: similar to both sh and a slightly gutteral h; usually best approximated as sh, e.g. Dichterliebe = disch-ter-lee-buh|
|g||g, almost always hard, as in "goat"; occasionally zh, but only in borrowed French words (e.g. Etage = ay-tah-zhuh)|
|-ig (final)||isch, like "ich" (see ch above); e.g. Ewigkeit = ay-visch-kiyt|
|j||y, e.g. Johann = yo-hahn|
|ng||ng as in "singer", usually NOT like the n-g in "finger": e.g. Nibelungen = nee-buh-lung-en , not nee-buh-luN-Gen!|
|qu||kv, e.g. Konsequent = kon-zeh-kvent|
|r||r: slightly gutteral trill, similar to French (e.g. Die Walküre = dee vahl-kür-uh ), but for most purposes a light American r will do|
|s (normally)||z, e.g. Siegfried = zeeg-freed|
|s (final)||s, e.g. Das Rheingold = dahs riyn-gold|
|ß||s (equivalent to ss; this letter is called "es-tset")|
|sch||sh, always (do not confuse with Italian), e.g. Schubert = shoo-bert|
|sp, st||shp, sht at beginning of a syllable, e.g. Stadt = shtaht, Harfenspieler = harf-en-shpeel-er; otherwise just like English, e.g. beste = best-uh|
|th||t, e.g. Bayreuth = biy-royt ; not like English!|
|v||f, except in some French and English borrowings|
|w (except final -ow)||v, e.g. Volkswagen = folks-vahgen|
|-ow (final)||oh, e.g. Flotow = flaw-toh , von Bülow = fon büh-loh|
The vast majority of German words are stressed on the first syllable. This rule fails most commonly in the following cases: