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Nice to meet you all. I have a question about Poland's Accents?


rosebery2 1 | 2
29 Jan 2017 #1
Hi there, I just signed up to the forum and would like to say its is a pleasure to meet you all. I have been learning Polish for around a year or so. I pronounce words and phrases as best I can. I would think I sound good until I would listen to a native speaker say the same word or sentence then I think I don't sound anything like a native. Is speaking like an native an accent problem or a pronunciation problem. I am from Manchester so I do have quite a "strong" Mancunian accent when I speak English however when speaking Polish I focus on NOT speaking in my "own" accent and try to copy the Native accent.

I have been wondering about this for a while now and I hope somebody can shed some light on this subject for me. I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks in advance.
mafketis 29 | 9,871
29 Jan 2017 #2
Witamy cię!

A couple of points.

Do you know about syllable timing versus stress timing? English is stressed timed (stressed vowels are lengthened and unstressed syllables reduced or eliminated) Polish is syllable timed. All unstressed vowels still maintain their basic sound. An example is the way Polish people say the name Clinton (with a clear o sound in the second syllable whereas English speakers say something like "Clintn" with almost no vowel sound.

Polish vowels are mostly 'pure' (they have the same sound throughout the syllable) while most English vowels have glides (they change sound over the course of the syllable).

Compare the English 'no' with the Polish word 'no'. Poles hear the English word as noł while most English speakers can't hear the difference.

Also English p, t and k at the beginning of a syllable are followed by a strong puff of air while Polish p, t and k are not. The way many Anglophones pronounce 'tak' sounds almost like 'cak' to Polish speakers.

Find some recordings of short Polish sentences that you can understand and practice trying to say the sentences at the same time as the recording. Don't repeat, that doens't help, try to say it at the same time.

If you know any other languages that might help, much of what I wrote about vowels and consonants is also true of French, Spanish and Italian.
OP rosebery2 1 | 2
29 Jan 2017 #3
Thank you for the reply. I understand a little more after you explained it like that so thank you. So basically your pronunciation is "key" in Polish and you will not get away with any mistakes like you would in English...by mistakes I mean being "lazy" when pronouncing words or sentences?

Any other help or advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you once again for responding to my query.
NoToForeigners 10 | 1,032
29 Jan 2017 #4
in Polish and you will not get away with any mistakes like you would in English...by mistakes I mean being "lazy" when pronouncing words or sentences?

Indeed. In Polish we pronounce words just how we write them. That makes it only one way of pronounciation so basically you're right. There's very little room to "play around".
OP rosebery2 1 | 2
29 Jan 2017 #5
Thank you kindly for your reply. I really do appreciate the help, it means a lot.
Lyzko 30 | 7,754
29 Jan 2017 #6
English is just the opposite! There are more letters which needn't be there phonetically speaking than a person can shake a stick at:-)

We're full of "silent" vowels, especially, schwa-sounds, and similarly confusing stuff, whereas in Polish, the pronunciation is almost predictably transparent. This is why Poles speaking English often sound so chirpy and mechanical, e.g. "Aj amm f'ramm PolAND..." vs. "I'm fr'm Pol'nd", because it's anethema to Polish to drop final phonemes or not pronounce a sound which is written:-)
Bejma
29 Jan 2017 #7
Regarding consonants - those grouped consonants, and varied consonants like z vs ź vs ż and its equivalent "rz"; or cz vs ć or ci; or dz vs dź (or dzi), vs dż all have very specific pronunciations - and yes, they're subtle differences if English is your primary language. I think of it as your tongue either cupped and low, kept at medium height (an unembellished consonant usually) or pushed up against the roof of your mouth when you pronounce words. In general, a letter with a dash over it (or an "i" after the consonant) is soft - meaning your tongue goes up against the roof of your mouth; with a dot over it (i.e., ż) or, rz, tongue is kept cupped downward. Listen to educated poles (they talk slower and with very proper pronunciation) and you'll catch on to this if you hear it enough. Many of these sounds have no commonly used English counterpart, so hearing it spoken right is very important. In the US, many Polish speakers mispronounce these consonants. It's like hearing fingernails scraped on a blackboard, and I can only imagine what that sounds like to native Polish speakers.

As others above have noted - with very rare exceptions, Polish is pronounced exactly the way it is spelled. If you carefully, phonetically pronounce every letter (or letter combo) you'll sound very native.
Lyzko 30 | 7,754
29 Jan 2017 #8
Nice points, Bejma. Indeed, consonant clusters as well as those nearly half-sounds in "ć", "ń", "ś", and "ź" can drive an Anglophone Polish student to distraction, as the differences between, say, "ź" vs. "rz" can often seem ever so subtle for a non-Pole to grasp:-)

For this reason alone, my first (and still my best) Polish teacher INSISTED from day one of our initial Polish lesson on constant dictations, followed by slightly harder ones until I could practically hear the distinction between "trzy" compared with/as opposed to "czy" etc. Believe me, I never thought I'd get it. Eventually, I did.

However, learning to write "góra" instead of the jarringly incorrect "gura" and the like took many months to master, concomitant though with my acquisition of new vocabulary!
mafketis 29 | 9,871
30 Jan 2017 #9
as the differences between, say, "ź" vs. "rz"

There is no difference in modern Polish, the difference is between ż, rz and ź.

Actually there is a small difference in that rz devoices after a voiceless consonant so the name Zakrzewski is pronounced Zakszewski.
On the other hand ż causes anticapatory voiceing so that także is pronounced tagże.

But morze and może are pronounced the same in modern Polish.
Wulkan - | 3,243
30 Jan 2017 #10
Compare the English 'no' with the Polish word 'no'. Poles hear the English word as noł while most English speakers can't hear the difference.

Of course English speakers can hear the difference.
mafketis 29 | 9,871
30 Jan 2017 #11
uh no we don't.

the Polish vowel in no doesn't exist in American except before (American) r or ł

no = noł
note = nołt
nor = nor

but

not = nat
nought = nat (for many to most speakers)

There is somehting like Polish o in some British varieties but I don't know enough about them.
Wulkan - | 3,243
30 Jan 2017 #12
uh no we don't.

Yes, you can hear the difference between Polish 'no' and English 'no'
Chemikiem
30 Jan 2017 #13
hear the distinction between "trzy" compared with/as opposed to "czy" etc. Believe me, I never thought I'd get it.

Really? I never had a problem with distinguishing between the two, I could hear this right from the start. I had problems with other letter combinations which took time for me to get right.

you can hear the difference between Polish 'no' and English 'no'

Definitely, but it must sound different to Americans.
advice5
30 Jan 2017 #14
There is a difference between ż/rz and ź. Whilst ż/rz are the same sound (which can be written in two different ways - orthography), ź is a completely separate sound.
Lyzko 30 | 7,754
30 Jan 2017 #15
Polish is one of the the Slavic tongues with no long vowel sounds any longer! Therefore, English "no" sounds more like "naww" to a Polish speaker who typically cannot say the gliding dipthong of the English word and for this reason, Poles, much as with Spanish speakers for example, often can't hear (hence enunciate) the difference in English between "pEAce" (pronounced in English pEEss) with a long or closed vowel as contrasted with "****" which in English is a short or open vowel:-)
Wulkan - | 3,243
30 Jan 2017 #16
Poles, much as with Spanish speakers for example, often can't hear (hence enunciate) the difference in English between "pEAce" (pronounced in English pEEss) with a long or closed vowel as contrasted with "****" which in English is a short or open vowel:-)

Poles understand the difference but can have a problem putting it into practice.

Definitely, but it must sound different to Americans.

That's why they hear the difference too.
mafketis 29 | 9,871
30 Jan 2017 #17
a Polish speaker who typically cannot say the gliding dipthong of the English word

of course they can, Polish has glides, but most intro textbooks don't describe English vowels very well so they get frozen bad pronunciations. They probably find it awkward to produce so many glides but that's a separate issue.

Also Polish speakers have problems with are reducing vowels to almost nothing.

I've never understood the problems many have with ship and sheep (for instance). One reason might be that most textbooks described vowels as long and short (which kind of works in British pronunciation) and not tense and lax (what American pronunciation is based on).

ship has a lax vowel and sheep has a tense vowel but Polish doens't do tense lax distinctions wtih vowels (though it plays a part with consonants as soft consonants tend to be more lax than hard ones.
Lyzko 30 | 7,754
30 Jan 2017 #18
Perhaps some can distinguish between those two sounds, but the ability to produce them correctly is another matter entirely:-)
In order to produce a foreign sound, one first must be able to cognitively recognize aka hear it before uttering!

The older we get, after the age of nine or ten usually, the less we retain the ability to reproduce certain sounds or phonemes not native to our mother tongue, hence, the "foreign accent" most non-natives have when speaking a second language.

Although scarcely impossible, only relatively few can sound indistinguishable from a native speaker, at least in regard to pronunciation.


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