1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. Special characters


Special characters

Sometimes the answer choices offers me special characters such as umlauts or the double s character ( I don't know what it's called.) Most of the time it does not. How do I create the special characters. Also, sometimes it lets me use "ss" in place of the special character, but sometimes it considers it an error and I lose health. How do I create that symbol?

April 30, 2018



Since you mention health I assume you are on iOS. You can add keyboards for many languages under Settings > Keyboard > Keyboards and can easily switch between them in the app. You'll notice the standard German keyboard is only slightly different but contains ö, ä, ü, and ß (called Eszett or scharfes (sharp) S).


It depends on what platform you're using to access Duolingo.

I know that on the iPhone you can press and hold the letter key to get a list of various special characters based on that letter.

On a computer you can learn the alt-number codes for the special characters, or use an international keyboard, or use Windows character map to copy and paste the special characters. Usually the browser version should have buttons for the special characters below the text input box during lessons.

What I personally use on my computer if I need the special characters outside of a lesson, is that I keep a text file that has the special characters in it. I then just copy and paste whatever character I need from the text file.

ä ö ü ß

  • 1666

For what this is worth; if you are on a Mac with an English keyboard then you:

Option key+u then vowel you want to put an umlaut over.

Option key+s for the ß.


On a Mac, one simply press the vowel and hold it very briefly. Then available options such as um laut, ß, etc appear - then one selects the option wanted.

  • 1666

sweilan1 - Oh, there certainly is more than one way to skin a cat. I just tried your way and it works. I must never hold down my keys too long because I never saw that before. Now I am going to have to experiment to see which is easiest for me. If you hold the s key down the Eszett appears.


I have to say, love my Mac!

  • 1666

Do you know the best way to get the großes Eszett?


No. I remember a long time ago there was a discussion about the großes Eszett and it was there was no such thing because there is never a real need for one since it could never be at the beginning of a word. But I believe that has changed.

Edit 5-1

Susan, I was trying to make the point for several years that it was not part of official orthography until 2017.


  • 1666

sweilan1 - It is acceptable on road signs z.B. STRASSE vs. STRAẞE

  • 1666

sweilan1 - I was just saying; and trying to add a little to the conversation. I studied a little about the orthography changes in Germany. Very interesting.

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.