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How to overcome the difficulties on learning Polish consonants ?

bcbhxdsd 2 | 1
28 Nov 2011 #1
Some sounds that twist our tongues even when we no longer have major issues with grammar and manage to make ourselves understood. Most foreigners never get pronunciation right and they can be spotted immediatly, but that's part of the fun when it comes to learning Polish ,so how do you deal with the difficult Polish consonants? Suggestions?
gumishu 15 | 6,186
28 Nov 2011 #2
if there is a will there is a way

the thing is is it actually worth it to master Polish pronounciation to the point of not sticking out as a foreigner when speaking Polish? - I think it's not worth it most of the time - the reason is: I guess it is possible to perfectly imiatate Polish pronounciations even (if people can perfectly imitate birds and other fauna why not POlish) for an Anglophone but I'm pretty sure it requires loooooots of effort and and imaginative effort at that
boletus 30 | 1,361
28 Nov 2011 #3
how do you deal with the difficult Polish consonants?

This is not by any means a professional advice, but a common sense one:

The attitude
Firstly, do not resist that Poles and the other half of the world pronunce "j" quite differently than English speakers do. Think about all those Jean-Pauls, Johanns, Jans, Juans. So quit asking "Why don't they do that the English way, the better way?" There is no better way, just different way of expressing sounds in writing, there are different rules for doing that.

Secondly, accept that the basic 24 letters of Latin alphabet are not good enough to represent all complex sounds of European languages, including your native English: both vowels and consonants. And that's why two basic methods were invented: diacritic marks, such as acute, grave, breve, caron, ogonek and digraphs producing new sounds. Some languages consistently stick to one way, others use both methods.

As an English native speaker, you should be familiar with loan words with accents: frappé, naïve, soufflé, soupçon, façade , entrée, exposé, résumé, rosé, piñata, jalapeño.

Stop poking fun of Polish being a language without vowels, as English has also quite a few examples of three or more consonant clusters: split, strudel, angsts, twelfths, sixths, bursts, glimpsed. And it also has plenty of digraphs: <sh>ip, di<ph><th><on>gs, le<ng><th>s, lights (li<silent gh>ts), <ch>eese, <ts>ar.

Accept that the digraphs in Polish are made of pairs other than those in English, but yet they strive to represent similar, although not identical sounds:

<sh>ip ==> <sz>yba
<ch>eese ==> <cz>yta
<ts>ar ==> <c>ar
Don't be discouraged by clusters of Polish digraphs <sz><cz>; these are actually present in English as well, as in "fresh cheese", or "push chair".

A transcription method
Do not skip those introductions to Polish pronunciations. Learn at least some basics, like description of palatalization. Yes, some of those seems complex, but what is wrong with this?

a palatalized consonant is one pronounced with a palatal secondary articulation. This means that the consonant is pronounced as if followed very closely by the sound [j] (a palatal approximant, like the sound of "y" in "yellow"). For example, in the Polish word kiedy ("when"), the letters ki represent a palatalized [k], indicated in IPA notation as [kʲ], with a superscript "j". This sound is similar to the combination of "k" and "y" in English "thank you".


You could try using IPA to learn details of Polish pronunciation. The IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) is a tough beast though, invented by British scientists, originally to represent sounds of English, and later adapted to other languages. "Adapted" is a point in question: Slavic-specific sounds are represented by strange glyphs as if IPA committees did not want anybody to learn Slavic pronunciation.

For if the unprintable IPA phonemic value /t ͡ɕ/ supposes to represent (ć, ci) then thank you very much IPA for not helping at all.

If I were you I would rather concentrate on a special transcriptional system, called Slavistic Alphabet (AS). This is quite nicely described in one of the pages of Grzegorz Jagodziński, A Grammar of the Polish Language, [] and specifically here: Transcription systems used in Polish phonetic and phonology, [].

Train your pronunciation
Use one of the several available text to speech tools, which use synthetic voices.
1. lets you listen to single words or short phrases
2. has a range of several Polish synthetic voices. But - unless you buy some of their offer - the free version is also limited to short phrases.

3. You can get for free the Polish synthetic voice "Agata", with no such limits, if you happen to own OS X, 10.7 (Lion)
pawian 223 | 24,583
20 Jul 2022 #4
so how do you deal with the difficult Polish consonants? Suggestions?

Drink half a bottle of Polish vodka and everything will be fine. Simple.
Lyzko 45 | 9,508
21 Jul 2022 #5
On the whole, Polish is actually a far more phonetic language than English ever was!

Consonant clusters were never a problem for me; one sound per cluster and the rest is gravy. For example, "SZ-CZ-E-S-L-I-W-Y" looks like a mouthful, but when broken down, it becomes almost bite size and even digestible.

The chief difficulties which continue to dog me are certain counting quirks, aspectual subtleties, and, of course, the conjugation patterns. The declensions seem somewhat more regular, at least for the feminine.

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