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Polish for foreigners

Polish for foreigners

Pronunciation and the alphabet


the Polish alphabet:

a (a)
ą (ą)
b (be)
c (ce)
ć (ć / cie)
d (de)
e (e)
ę (ę)
f (ef)
g (gie)
h (ha)
i (i)
j (jot)
k (ka)
l (el)
ł (eł)
m (em)
n (en)
ń (ń / eń)
o (o)
ó (u)
p (pe)
r (er)
s (es)
ś (ś / eś)
t (te)
u (u)
w (wu)
x (iks)
y (y / igrek)
z (zet)
ź (ź / ziet)
ż (żet)

In Polish there are also digraphs – combination of two letters which have their own sounds:

ch, ci, cz, dz, dzi, dź, dż, ni, si, sz, rz, zi

vowels:
a, e, i, o, ó=u, y

nasal
ą, ę

consonants:
voiced
b, d, g, w, z, ź = zi, ż = rz, dz, dź = dzi, dż
m, n, r, l, ł, j

unvoiced
p, t, k, f, s, ś = si, sz, c, ć = ci, cz, ch = h

Note:
In Polish the stress on the words is fixed and is generally placed on the penultimate syllable: ko-szu-la. In the case of some nouns of foreign origin, the stress is placed on the third syllable from the end: fi-zy-ka.

Rules of pronunciation:
- ś, ź, ć, dź, ń are soft consonants, similar to every consonant followed by i (e.g. bilet – a ticket). To pronounce a soft consonant, you touch the palate with your tongue.
- ą, ę when preceded by consonants w, f, z, s, ż, sz, ź, c, ch, or at the end of a word, are pronounced with a nasal a, e, for example:

wąsy (moustache), idą (they go), wąż (a snake),

mięso (meat), męski (masculine), język (a language, a tongue)
- ą, ę when preceded by consonants l, ł are pronounced as o, e, for example: wziął (he took), objął (he embraced), zaczął (he began), wzięli (they took), objęli (they embraced), zaczęli (they began)
- a, ę when preceded by consonants p, b are pronounced as om, em, for example:

gołąbki (stuffed cabbage leaves), ząb (a tooth), dąb (an oak), zęby (teeth),

przeziębienie (a cold), bębenek (a drum)
- ą, ę when preceded by other consonants are pronounced as on, en, for example:

obowiązki (duties), pączek (a doughnut), kąt (an angle),

pięć (five), dziesięć (ten), okręt (a ship)
- c – is pronounced as ts in tsar, for example: cebula (an onion), widelec (a fork),

cytryna (a lemon)
- ć = ci – is pronounced as chee in cheese (a soft c), for example: ciepły (warm),

pięć (five), ciocia (an aunt)
- cz is pronounced as chea in cheap, for example:

oczy (eyes), czekolada (a chocolate),

cześć (hi, hello)
- dz is pronounced as ds in islands, for example:

do widzenia (goodbye), zwiedzać (to visit), dzwon (a bell), pieniądze (money)
- dź = dzi – is pronounced as soft dz, for example:

poniedziałek (Monday), dzień (a day), chodzić (to go, to walk)
- dż is pronounced as ge in George, for example: dżem (jam), dżungla (a jungle), dżokej (a jockey)
- g is pronounced as g in give, for example:

gołąbki (stuffed cabbage leaves), zegar (a clock), gitara (a guitar),

jogurt (yoghurt)
- h = ch is pronounced as h in history, for example:

hotel (a hotel), chusteczka (a tissue), chirurg (a surgeon)
- j is pronounced as y in yes, for example:

jogurt (a yoghurt), jajko (an egg), ja (I)
- ł is pronounced as w in watch, for example:

szkoła (a school), małpa (a monkey), ławka (a bench)
- ń = ni is pronounced as soft n, for example:

niedziela (Sunday),

pomarańcza (an orange), koń (a horse)
- ó = u is pronounced as oo in book, for example: ucho (an ear), jutro (tomorrow),

truskawka (a strawberry),

ogórek (a cucumber)
- ś = si is pronounced as sh in she (a soft s), for example:

środa (Wednesday),

siedem (seven), wieś (countryside)
- sz is pronounced as sh in dish, for example:

szkoła (a school), szynka (ham), zeszyt (a notebook)
- rz = ż is pronounced as si in vision, for example:

rzeka (a river),

plaża (a beach), brzuch (a stomach)
- w is pronounced as v in velvet, for example:

winogrona (grapes), rower (a bike), woda (water)
- y is pronounced as i in it, for example:

szyja (a neck), ryba (a fish), syn (a son),

wysoki (tall)
- ź = zi is pronounced like a soft s, for example:

jezioro (a lake), źle (wrong), zimno (cold)

Voiced consonants have their voiceless counterparts (see the table), and these are pronounced as voiceless if they are at the end of a word or next to an unvoiced consonant, for example:

b is pronounced as p (

(chleb – a bread)
d is pronounced as t (

(obiad – a dinner)
dz is pronounced as c (wódz – a leader)
dź is pronounced as ć (niedźwiedź – a bear)
dż is pronounced as cz (brydż – bridge)
g is pronounced as k (dźwig – a crane)
rz, ż is pronounced as sz (

(cmentarz – a cemetery)
w is pronounced as f (

(marchew – a carrot)
z is pronounced as s (

(krajobraz – a landscape)
ź is pronounced as ś (gałąź – a branch)

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