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Some suggestions for Polish soft consonants and difficult word pronunciations


Zooey 4 | 8
24 Sep 2014 #1
I am having some difficult with Polish phonology, particularly the soft alveolo-palatal sounds ń, ś, ź, ć, dź. Also, I am having trouble with the letter z and ż in Polish, especially in front of words like: z Francji, w Londynie, etc. I'm often obliged to say jkra for w Krakowieeven when I should pronounce it like fkra. I am having problems because English doesn't have a complex system of soft and hard consonants like Polish, which is part of the Proto-Slavic language family.

Sometimes I think that some consonants are palatalized, but that doesn't appear to be the case in Polish, as it is in Russian.

Now, do you have any tips for speaking these difficult words (tongue twisters for me):

Wziąć

Wziąść

Dopełniacz

Narzędnik

Miejscownik
Joli89 - | 4
28 Sep 2014 #2
This is a good question. I'm looking for information on this subject, too. If you find anything, let me know.
Wulkan - | 3,243
29 Sep 2014 #3
Wziąć

Wziąść

you can skip "Wziąść" it is incorrect form that is commonly used by native Polish speakers. Only "Wziąć" is correct.
Joli89 - | 4
29 Sep 2014 #4
It's difficult for English speakers to speak the last two vowels of wziąć and sound somewhat intelligible to a native Polish speaker, in my not so humble opinion (IMHO).

We are told to speak the Polish vowel "ą" like the English word "on", and we are told that "ć" is closer to the English "ch" in cheese. It's difficult to know what's stressed or how your lips and tongue are supposed to work together to produce the right sound for the right word. Polish sounds like a snake crawling around.
jon357 70 | 19,565
29 Sep 2014 #5
It's difficult for English speakers to speak the last two vowels of wziąć and sound somewhat intelligible to a native Polish speaker

It only takes a little practice to say it perfectly, however it's very possible. The most important thing is not to get stressed by it and to remember that there are sounds in English that Poles almost never get right. Better to pronounce with an accent but speak fluently than pronounce perfectly but say only a little.

We are told to speak the Polish vowel "ą" like the English word "on"

By whom? It's a very different sound. There are some local accents in PL though where it can sound a bit like on or om.

"ć" is closer to the English "ch" in cheese.

Think ch'y. The accent carries an implicit y-ish sound. Think of the Korean city Pyongyang.
gumishu 11 | 5,991
29 Sep 2014 #6
sounds ń, ś, ź, ć, dź.

at least ń should pose little problem - Spanish has it, French has it, Italian has it - think Espańa, chamapgne, cognac - even the word canyon in English has I am being told

ź and dź are the most difficult sounds for foreigners - even fellow Slavs often can't pronounce it

and we era told that "ć" is closer to the English "ch" in cheese.

the English ch sound is somewhere in between of Polish cz and ć the same goes to the English sh sound (and Polish sz, ś)
pam
29 Sep 2014 #7
We are told to speak the Polish vowel "ą" like the English word "on",

I'm not sure whether everyone would agree, but for me the closest sound to the letter ą, is the sound of the french 'en' in enfant for example.

Although if you haven't studied french this is probably not very helpful!
To be honest all you can do is practice. Listen to as much Polish as possible and keep at it.
I wander around the house talking to myself in Polish which sounds a bit mad, but it has paid off. I still struggle with certain words but I'm much better than I was. I couldn't even roll the letter r to start with, it took me about 6 months of non stop practice to get it right.

If I can do it anyone can, so best of luck :)
gumishu 11 | 5,991
29 Sep 2014 #8
I'm not sure whether everyone would agree, but for me the closest sound to the letter ą, is the sound of the french 'en' in enfant for example

well actually ą is the same sound (or almost the same) as French on as in Bon voyage.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,846
29 Sep 2014 #9
isnt that more or less the same gumishu?
Ziemowit 13 | 4,311
29 Sep 2014 #10
well actually ą is the same sound (or almost the same) as French on as in Bon voyage.

While the Polish "ą" is definitely closer to the French "on" than it is to the French "en", it is, however, not the same. This French nasal vowel is much "deeper" than the Polish one, since you start to nasalize the sound "o" at a much earlier stage, almost at the beginning of the sound, while for the Polish vowel the nasalisation phase is shorter and weeker.

Pronouncing "ą" as a sound similar to the French "en" can still be observed in Poland even if it is evidently wrong. It is often heard in the word "włączać/wyłączać" and such wrong pronounciation has recently been picked up by a TV advertissment promoting energy saving in Polish homes. In this ad, professor Bralczyk, a renown linguist, declares: it is not so important whether you pronounce wyłączać [en] or wyłączać [on], the most important is that you should turn the lights off [wyłączać światło]!

The writing of ą - as the a with a mark rather than writing it as the o with a mark has its historical reasons. At the time when Polish diacritical marks were being introduced to writing, this nasal sound was pronounced like the French "en", thus the letter "a" was taken as a basis for writing the sound down. Later the pronounciation changed to its present one [similar to the French "on"], but its written form remained unchanged.
milawi - | 60
29 Sep 2014 #11
1.We pronounce 'ą' and 'ę' as 'om' and 'em' before 'p' and 'b' - trąba (pronounced as tromba), kąpiel (pronounced as kompiel), zęby (zemby)

2.Before d,c,cz and k,g we pronounce 'ą' and 'ę' as 'on' and 'en' - kąty (konty), lądy (londy), ręce (rence), tęcza (tencza), łąka (łonka), ręka (renka) tęgo (tengo)

3.Before ł and l in endings: -ął, -ęła, -ęło, -ęli, -ęły we pronounce 'ą' and 'ę' as 'o' and 'e' - wziął (wzioł), wzięła (wzieła), wzięli (wzieli).

4.In informal language 'ę' at the end of words is pronounced as 'e': idę (ide), pojadę (pojade).
As you can see pronunciation of 'ą' and 'ę' in words does not often correspond with the sounds assigned to them (the way they are pronounced when you spell the alphabet).

5.On the other hand when letters 'om', 'on', 'em', 'en' stand before f,w,s,z,sz,ż,ś,ź,ch we pronounce them as 'ą' and 'ę'- so: we write komfort (but pronounce it kąfort), konserwa (kąserwa), pensja (pęsja).

(source: 'Słowniczek ortograficzny z zasadami pisowni dla uczniów szkoły podstawowej', S.Jodłowski, W. Taszycki).

If you don't have Polish friends to listen to or ask about pronunciation use ivona.com
Joli89 - | 4
30 Sep 2014 #12
My father is French, so the "ą" shouldn't be much of a problem for me. When I listen to Polish, however, I noticed that the stress is not always obvious and could throw you for a loop. I'm having the same problem as the OP, in combining letters because the "z" sounds like a different letter entirely. For example, spotkanie z balladą or w drugim. Polish speakers make it sound effortless.
OP Zooey 4 | 8
30 Sep 2014 #13
Polish phonology has plenty of similarities to French phonology, don't you agree? Polish, and perhaps Czech and Slovakian, too, have nasal vowels that are not found in modern Russian, Ukrainian or Belorussian. Also, there are several French loan words that have made their way into Polish, which concludes that French is much more closer to Polish than was previously admitted.
Wulkan - | 3,243
30 Sep 2014 #14
For what I know only Polish has nasal sounds from the Slavic languages. Eastern Slavic languages (Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian) definitely don't have them, I'm not 100% sure about Czech and Slovakian but I think they don't have them either.
Ziemowit 13 | 4,311
30 Sep 2014 #15
I'm having the same problem as the OP, in combining letters because the "z" sounds like a different letter entirely. For example, spotkanie z balladą or w drugim. Polish speakers make it sound effortless.

The reason for that might be that you try to pronounce them separetly, while you should try to pronounce them as if they were one entity with the word that follows. The French accent is quite different from the Polish; the consonants are in general pronounced in a much more distinct way.

My father is French, so the "ą" shouldn't be much of a problem for me.

I'd say it shouldn't be much of a problem for your father.
Wulkan - | 3,243
30 Sep 2014 #16
I'd say it shouldn't be much of a problem for your father.

maybe she can speak French too
Joli89 - | 4
30 Sep 2014 #17
Polish people know some French. There are plenty of Polish immigrants and French citizens with Polish ethnicity and ancestry from the Napoleon days. In the past, it was France, not England, that wanted an independent Poland, and it was France, not England, that made the FIRST treaty to protect her independence. France is a natural, historical ally to Poland.


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