Languages have different sounds. Even languages that use the Latin alphabet sometimes need special characters to express special sounds.
Special sounds in German are the umlauts ä, Ä, ö, Ö, ü, Ü.
1. Umlauts At The Beginning Of Words
Only a few words begin with an umlaut. These words have no separate section in the dictionary as is the case with some special characters in Danish. German nouns beginning with an umlaut often are plural forms of nouns that start with A, O, or U in the singular.
der Apfel – die Äpfel
der Ofen – die Öfen
Sometimes the nouns are diminutives, made up by adding the suffixes -chen or -lein.
der Affe – das Äffchen (der kleine Affe)
die Uhr – das Ührchen (die kleine Uhr)
Plural forms of nouns usually have no entry of their own in German dictionaries. Typically the plural is included in the entry for the singular.
Apfel, der; -s, Äpfel
Tip: When you cannot find a noun beginning with an umlaut in your German dictionary, see if you can find the entry under A, O or U.
2. Umlauts And Their Neighbours
Only a few words begin with an umlaut. You can find them in dictionaries or alphabetical lists among related words without the umlaut.
In the alphabetical list above, the noun Apfel-Chip could be placed between the entries Apfelbaum and Äpfelchen: Apfel-b, Apfel-c, Äpfelchen.
3. No Umlauts On The Keyboard
If there are no umlauts on your computer keyboard you can replace the umlauts: ä – ae, ö – oe, ü – ue.
It is good practice to replace umlauts in international emails because many email programmes cannot display them properly.