Sunday, September 25, 2005

Cześć! Mam na imię Ben. Mam dwadzieścia jeden lat i jestem Australijczykiem.
Hallo! Ich heiße Ben. Ich bin einundzwanzig Jahre alt und bin australisch.
Hej! Jag heter Ben. Jag är tjugoett år gammal och är australisk
Ciao! Mi chiamo Ben. Ho ventuno anni e sono australiano.
Hi. My name's Ben. I'm twenty one years old and I'm Australian... ok, I'm just showing off.

This blog is first of all for me, so I can see my progress in Polish over time, but if anyone else can benefit from it, that's great. I must of course say, that I don't pretend to be an expert. I can, and probably will get things wrong. I would really appreciate any help in this regard.

On this page, I'm going to be using either X-Sampa to show the phonetics. You can read about it at I'm going to be showing all palatalised consonants with a j linked by an underscore, even if they have special symbols, simply for continuity: [J] -> [n_j], [s\] -> [s_j] etcetera.

The pronunciation of Polish is clearly represented in its spelling. However some polish words are tongue-twisters, and the words are often pronounced in a way that may seem totally random to an English speaker. The Polish city Łódź is pronounced more or less wootch.

A - [a] - between the a in cat and the u in up
Ą - [O~] [Om] [On] [ON] - like an o said through the nose, as the on in French bon. Pronounced simply on before d and t, as om before p and b, or as ong before g and k.
B - [b] - as in English
C - [t_s] - like the z in Mozart or Nazi (like the ts in cats), pronounced as ć when it comes before an i.
Ch - [x] - like the h in hot, but a little bit rougher, approaching the ch sound in loch
Cz - [t_S] - a hard* ch sound as in church
Ć - [t_s_j] - a soft* ch sound as in cheese (also spelt c before an i or ci before another letter)
D - [d] - as in English
Dz - [d_z] - as the ds in gods. Pronounced as before an i.
Dź - [d_z_j] - a soft* j sound as in Jesus. (Spelt dz before an i or dzi before another vowel)
Dż - [d_Z] - a hard* j sound as in jam
E - [E] - like the e in men.
Ę - [E~] [Em] [En] [EN] [E] - a nazalised e, pronounced like em before b or p, like en before t or d, like eng before k or g. At the end of a word it is usual to pronounce it as just an e unless one is deliberately enunciating the word very clearly.
F - [f] - as in English
G - [g] - as in English get (never as in giraffe)
H - [x] - the same sound as ch (see above), spelt just h in foreign words or small words like aha.
I - [i] [_ji] [_j] as the ee in cheep. The letter i softens* the preceding consonant, and when it comes before another vowel, is only present as a softening of the consonant, not as its own vowel sound.
J - [j] - as the y in yellow. The letter j does not soften the preceding consonant.
K - [k] - as in English
L - [l] - as a light, clear l sound, as in light (not a throaty sound like in full)
Ł - [w] - as the English w sound, such as in wind
M - [m] - as in English
N - [n] [N] - as in English. Before a g or a k it may be pronounced as the ng in sing, but many speakers will always pronounce it as a normal n sound
Ń - [n_j] - a soft* n sound, like the ny in canyon, or the ñ in the Spanish mañana. Spelt simply n before an i or ni before another vowel.
O - [O] - quite similar to the o in hot
Ó - [u] - identical sound to the Polish u
P - [p] - as in English
R - [r] - an r rolled on the tip of the tongue
Rz - [Z] - a hard* sound, the same as ż
S - [s] - as in silly (never as in rose), pronounced as ś before an i
Sz - [S] - a hard* sh sound, as in shut
Ś - [s_j] - a soft* sh sound as in she. Spelt simply s before an i or si before another vowel.
T - [t] - as in English
U - [u] - similar to the u in put.
W - [v] - as the v in very
Y - [1] - between the i in bit and the a in ago. Does not soften the preceding consonant.
Z - [z] - as in English. Pronounced like ź before an i
Ź - [z_j] - a soft* zh sound like the s in resume. Simply spelt z before an i or zi before another consonant
Ż - [Z] - a hard* zh sound as the s in measure.

* - the soft and hard sounds are probably the hardest part of Polish pronunciation for an English speaker to master. Soft (or palatalised) sounds are pronounced with a simultaneous y sound in them (a Polish j sound). So ś (or si) is like an s pronounced at the same time as a y - which sounds very much like an English sh. Unfortunately there are also some hard sounds, which sound very similar to some of the soft sounds: cz sz dż ż. These sounds are pronounced with the tip of the tongue slightly curved back a bit, which makes them sound a little bit deeper and harsher than their soft counterparts: ć ś dź ź, which sound quite high pitched and hissy. It may take a while for the brain to work out how to hear the difference between them, however it is best to get into the habit very early on of really exaggerating the differences between them, so that you're brain will divide these up into separate sounds, and then you can correct your accent later. To exaggerate the soft sounds, you can smile, and round your lips for the hard sounds.


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