I’ve decided to write this text because I would like to clear something up about Polish phonetics and Polish pronunciation.
Recently, I’ve read something about how difficult it is and how impossible it is to get it.
As a Polish teacher with almost 20 years of experience, I’ve noticed that different sources for Polish language learning and teaching – books, blogs, videos – focus on something which is not a priority in my opinion, and which is not really helpful for you.
First of all, we have to admit that Polish is a Slavic language and it is a consonant language. That’s true.
Depending on the linguist who counted – we have got about 30 – to 37 phonems in Polish. Most of them are consonants. And – what’s even worse – most of them are pronounced in groups, in consonant clusters you usually hate.
However, the most important fact is that we have got only 6 vowels and these vowels are extremely important for Polish pronunciation. And that’s the topic you should be focused on, especially at the beginning of your Polish journey.
The very first reason is that we “eat” our consonants: they are not always very precisely pronounced – unless you are an actor at the Polish National Theatre – which is not your case.
They are also pronounced in different ways in different parts of Poland – that’s how we know where people are from.
The second reason: the Polish accent is fixed. You must stress 99 % of Polish words on the second syllable from the end. Its rhythm is quite, I would say, boring and monotonous, like: robię imprezę, piję wódkę, mam kaca. And we have to pronounce every single vowel here.
Let me remind you of our 6 vowels:
A, O, U, E, Y, I
No short and long forms,
no constricted vowels,
almost no nasal vowels.
A piece of cake!
Once you’ ve learnt 6 sounds and pronounce them appropriately, you may move forward and add 30 consonants, but you can pronounce them less precisely, you can “eat” them sometimes.
For example, if we think about the word
You should split it apart, underline vowels and pronounce them very strongly:
E _ A_A
Add some consonants
szE – rA – szAm
add them all
p.sz.E – p.r.A – szAm
and give it a go!
Forget about consonants!!!
DON’ T EAT VOWELS!
Ps. You might hear Polish “everyday pronunciation”: szE AszAm
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