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An umlaut is two dots over a letter that mark the fact that it has a different pronunciation than without the two dots. The two dots are actually called a trema, but the word umlaut is more commonly understood to mark letters. The vowels in German are marked to show their pronunciation. The trema is also used to indicate dieresis in English, to show that two vowels next to each other are pronounced separately, such as in cooperate and reenter. The use of markings, the two dots, is falling out of favor for this use in English. For more information, check the Wikipedia description. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umlaut