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Dutch: Pronunciation

Please note: all sound files are in .wav format, and should be opened with Windows Media Player.

b is pronounced as in 'bed'. At the end of a word, however, it is pronounced as in 'pet'.
c is pronounced as in 'seat' when it is followed by e or i.
c is pronounced as in 'cool' when it is followed by a, o, or u.
d is pronounced as in 'dad'. At the end of a word, however, it is pronounced as in 'tear'.
f is pronounced as in 'fear'.
g is pronounced as in the Scottish word loch or as in the name of the German composer Bach. Sometimes, when the word is not of Dutch origin, it may be pronounced as in 'get' or as in 'garage'.
h is pronounced as in 'heat'.
j is pronounced as in 'yawn'. Sometimes, when the word is not of Dutch origin, it may be pronounced as in 'garage' or as in 'jam'.
k is pronounced as in 'cool'.
l is pronounced as in 'lime'.
m is pronounced as in 'mouse'.
n is pronounced as in 'near'.
p is pronounced as in 'pet'.
q is always combined with u (qu) and is pronounced as k+v.
r is pronounced somewhat like the rolling Spanish r, but it is pronounced much more in the throat, rather than in the front.
s is pronounced as in 'sew'.
t is pronounced as in 'top'.
v is pronounced as in 'vowel'. This consonant can never appear at the end of a word.
w is pronounced quite similar as v, but the upper teeth are pressed tightly against the lower lips, so that less air comes out.
x is pronounced as in 'Mexico'.
y is usually pronounced as in ill. Sometimes it might be pronounced as in yes.
z is pronounced as in zelda. This consonant can never appear at the end of a word.

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In addition, take special notice of the following combinations:

ch is pronounced as the Dutch g. In loan-words, however, it micht be pronounced as in ship.
sch is pronounced by pronouncing the s and ch fast after each other.
ph is pronounced as in four.
sj is pronounced as in ship.

Consonants can be written either alone (e.g. b, n, s) or they can be doubled (e.g. bb, nn, ss). The actual sound of the consonant remains the same, as well as the length of pronunciation. However, single and double written consonants influence the pronunciation of the vowels, which precede the consonants. When a consonant is not doubled, the vowel preceding this consonant is usually a long vowel. When the consonant is doubled, the vowel preceding the consonant is usually a short vowel.

Vowels:

The Dutch language contains short vowels and long vowels. Vowels are pronounced short when they are written in single (i.e. a, e, i, o, u) and when the word contains only one syllable or when the vowel is followed by at least two consonants. Furthermore, short vowels are never the last letter in a word. Their pronunciation is described below:

a is pronounced as in 'father'.
e is pronounced as in 'men'. However, when it is unstressed, it is pronounced as 'uh'.
i is pronounced as in 'him'.
o is pronounced as in 'hot'.
u is not a known sound in English. It is somewhat pronounced as in 'her', where the lips are rounded slightly. This sound is identical to the German .

Long vowels are not only pronounced slightly longer than the short ones, but their sound actually changes. Vowels are pronounced long when they are written in double (i.e. aa, ee, oo, or uu) or when the word contains more than one syllable and the vowel is followed by only one consonant, which is not the final character in the word. Last, the vowel is pronounced long when the vowel is the last letter of the word. And exception is the long i, which is always written as ie. The pronunciation of long vowels described below:

aa/a is pronounced as a, but it is pronounced longer and 'lighter'.
ee/e is pronounced as in 'may' when it is not followed by r. When it is followed by r it is pronounced as in 'here'. When it stands at the end of a syllable, it is pronounced as 'uh'.
ie is pronounced as in 'we'.
oo/o is pronounced as in 'no' when it is not followed by r. When it is followed by r it is pronounced as in 'more'.
uu/u is not a known sound in English. This sound is identical to the German . The sound can be produced by pronouncing the short u, but by bringing the tongue and lips even more to front.

Last, there are six vowel-combinations and one consonant/vowel-combination, which truly generate unique sounds. These sounds are characteristic for the Dutch language. It has to be admitted, that for non-natives this needs some practice. Remember that each combination should be pronounced as one single sound:

ai is pronounced as the English word ' I '. It should be pronounced as one sound.
ei is pronounced by pronouncing the sound as it appears in the English word 'man' followed by the Dutch sound ie. It should be pronounced as one single sound.
ij is pronounced exactly in the same way as the Dutch ei-sound.
eu is pronounced by pronouncing the Dutch short u directly followed by the Dutch long uu. However, when this sound is followed by an r, the sound it pronounced as the Dutch short u pronounced twice as long.
oe is pronounced as in the English word who.
ui is pronounced by pronouncing the sound as it appears in the English word 'man' followed by the Dutch long u.
uw is pronounced by pronouncing the Dutch long u followed by the Dutch oe.

In order to indicate, that vowels which appear in combination with other vowels are pronounced separately, a so called trema is used on the final vowel of the combination. The trema are two dots ( ) which are written above the vowel. Thus whereas ie is pronounced as one sound, i is pronounced by pronouncing each vowel separately (i.e. i+e).

Sometimes an accent ( ) is written on top of the e (). This usually appears on words of foreign origin, and indicates, that the vowel in question is stressed.

When a small accent between a vowel and a consonant appears ( ' ), the vowel preceding the accent is pronounced long. It is a grammatical construction, which indicates the plural of a word.

<< Dutch: Home Phrase Guide >>

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