You are probably wondering how to pronounce Polish words. This is very difficult, especially if you speak a language which has simple syllables, like Japanese.
Polish spelling is rather regular. It uses nine special characters, and some character pairs to represent sounds not available in the Latin alphabet.
Vowels are pronounced similar to their counterparts in other European languages (and for that matter Japanese), but not those in English.
Stress is generally on the penultimate (second-to-last) syllable.
b d f h k l m n p t z are pronounced as you’d expect them to be. a e i o u are similar to Italian and Spanish vowels.
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|IPA||Comments/Roughly… (polish pronunciation)||Example|
Equivalent to German z in Zeit.
|e||ɛ||Like in met.||(I eat, am eating)|
|g||g||Always hard like in game, never like gene.||(plaster)|
It softens the preceding consonant.
It acts like Polish j in front of another vowel.
|o||ɔ||author or cord.||(good)|
|r||r||Rolled r. Similar to Italian and Spanish rr.||(step)|
|s||s||Always soft like in silk.
It should never be pronounced like a z.
|u||u||tool or soup.||(lips)|
|w||v||Pronounced like v.
Before certain consonants, it may be pronounced as f.
|y||ɨ||Somewhat similar to sit or myth.
It should never be pronounced ee.
Compare the verbs być (to be) and bić (to beat). The first sounds roughly like the English word bitch while the second is like beech.
Special letters are:
Somewhat similar to French or Portuguese on and a little bit like English own.
Before b or p, it is closer to om: Dąbrowski > “Dombrovski”
You may notice: before ł, it is generally pronounced colloquially as o.
|ć||t͡ɕ||Soft tch. Similar to but clearly softer than cz.||
Pronounced rather like en. Before b or p, it is closer to em.
You may notice:
1) when it’s the last letter in a word, or 2) before l or ł
it is generally pronounced colloquially like a regular Polish e, slightly lengthened.
(I can, am able to)
|Ł ł||w||L with stroke was originally a special type of l.
In modern Polish it’s pronounced like an English w like in will.
|ń||ɲ||Pronounced like soft n in onion.
Similar to Spanish ñ and French gn.
|ó||u||Exactly the same as u, like tool or soup.||(to be able to)|
|ś||ɕ||Soft sh. Similar to but clearly softer than sz.||
|ź||ʑ||Soft zh. Similar to but clearly softer than ż and rz.||(wrongly, badly)|
|ż||ʐ||Hard zh. Sounds exactly the same as rz.
Fairly similar to Zhivago and French je suis.
Special letter combos are:
|IPA||Comments/Roughly… (polish pronunciation)||Example|
Exception: Compound words formed by a word ending in a and another starting with u, for example, words beginning with a prefix na or za such as nauczyć and zaufać. In that case, the vowels a and u are pronounced separately.
|ch||x||Same as h.||(choir, chorus)|
|ci||c followed by i is pronounced as a very soft tch just like ć.
Note that if ci is followed directly by another vowel, the i serves only to produce the soft tch sound. Thus, ciastko is pronounced “chastko”, not “chee-astko” or “chyastko”.
|cz||t͡ʂ||Hard tch. Fairly similar to chip.||
|dź||d͡ʑ||Somewhat similar to gene.
Similar to but softer than dż.
(blade of grass)
|dzi||dz followed by i is pronounced just like dź.
Note that if dzi is followed directly by another vowel, the i serves only to produce the dź sound, hence, dziadek (grandfather) could be mispelled “dźadek”.
Compare: (bell, ringing)
|eu||Similar to eł||(Europe)|
|rz||ʐ||Hard zh. Sounds exactly the same as ż.
Fairly similar to Zhivago or French je suis.
May be pronounced sh after k, p, or t.
|si||s followed by i is pronounced as a very soft sh just like ś.
Note that if si is followed directly by another vowel, the i serves only to produce the soft sh sound. Thus, siatka is pronounced “shatka”, not “shee-atka” or “shyatka”.
|sz||ʂ||Hard sh. Fairly similar to ship.||
|zi||z followed by i is pronounced as a very soft zh just like ź.
Note that if zi is followed directly by another vowel, the i serves only to produce the soft zh sound. Thus, ziarno is pronounced “zharno”, not “zhee-arno” or “zhyarno”.
If you don’t know how to pronounce hard/soft pairs, you can use the same form and you will usually be understood.
You may notice something called final devoicing, for example:
chodź (come!) sounds like choć (though), or
final ż sounds more like sz… (już –> yush)
final b –> p
final g –> k
final d –> t
final w –> f
final z –> s
This is not something you need to focus on but you should be aware of it.
 Introduction to Polish sentences
Now you probably want to know how to produce your first Polish sentence.
To do so, you first need to learn how to conjugate a verb.
Let’s try “to eat” first ()
|Ja||I am eating.|
|Ty||jesz||You (singular) are eating.|
|On/Ona/Ono||je||He/she/it is eating.|
|My||jemy||We are eating.|
|Wy||jecie||You (plural) are eating.|
|Oni/One||jedzą||They are eating.|
“to see” (widzieć)
|Ty||widzisz||You (singular) see|
|Wy||widzicie||You (plural) see|
“to drink” (pić)
|Ja||piję||I am drinking|
|Ty||pijesz||You (singular) are drinking|
|On/Ona/Ono||pije||He/she/it is drinking|
|My||pijemy||We are drinking|
|Wy||pijecie||You (plural) are drinking|
|Oni/One||piją||They are drinking|
“to do/to make” (robić)
|Ja||robię||I am making|
|Ty||robisz||You (singular) are making|
|On/Ona/Ono||robi||He/she/it is making|
|My||robimy||We are making|
|Wy||robicie||You (plural) are making|
|Oni/One||robią||They are making|
“to read” (czytać)
|Ja||czytam||I am reading|
|Ty||czytasz||You (singular) are reading|
|On/Ona/Ono||czyta||He/she/it is reading|
|My||czytamy||We are reading|
|Wy||czytacie||You (plural) are reading|
|Oni/One||czytają||They are reading|
“to write” (pisać)
|Ja||piszę||I am writing|
|Ty||piszesz||You (singular) are writing|
|On/Ona/Ono||pisze||He/she/it is writing|
|My||piszemy||We are writing|
|Wy||piszecie||You (plural) are writing|
|Oni/One||piszą||They are writing|
“to be” (być)
|Ty||jesteś||You (singular) are|
|Wy||jesteście||You (plural) are|
“to have” (mieć)
|Ty||masz||You (singular) have|
|Wy||macie||You (plural) have|
Some examples of sentances:
- “Piotr pije kawę” – Piotr is drinking coffee.
- “Basia robi kawę” – Basia is making coffee.
- “Piotr czyta książkę” – Piotr is reading a book.
- “Basia pisze książkę” – Basia is writing a book.
- “kawa” – a coffee
- “książka” – a book
- polish pronunciation
- polish pronunciation
Subject pronouns are very rarely used, except in poetry or for strong emphasis.
- “Ja piję kawę” – I am drinking coffee (correct, but not natural)
- “Piję kawę” – I am drinking coffee (better)
- “Ty jesz ciastko” – You are eating a biscuit (correct, but not natural)
- “Jesz ciastko” – You are eating a biscuit (better)
The Polish language uses the same alphabet as English, but there are a few special letters. They have “accent” marks, but are considered as separate letters. Some of the consonants are pronounced differently depending upon where they are used. An example is the voiced-unvoiced consonants. “Parking” would be pronounced “Parkink”
The pronunciation of all the letters is as follows:
A = A as in father
ą = Nasal as the ON in the French BON
B = Same as English, except a final B is unvoiced (sounds like P)
C = as English TS (even when it begins a word)
ć = soft English CH sound
D = Same as English (final unvoiced D sounds like T)
E = as in pet
ę = Nasal, almost like EN in TEN, but, same as e in pet when it is the final letter of a word
F = same as English
G = Always a hard G as in get (final G is unvoiced as K)
H = Same as English
I = as the I in machine
J = as English Y as in yellow
K = as in English
L = as in English
ł = as English W
M = as in English
N = as in English
ń = as in English “NI” in onion
O = as the O in the English word FOR. NEVER pronounced “OH” as in Ohio
ó = as the oo in English FOOT, NOT as as the oo in English BOOT
P = as in English
Q = There is no Q in the Polish alphabet!
R = Roll your R’s like Spanish or Scottish
S = as English soft SSSS, never as Z
ś = soft sh sound
T = as in English
U = same as O/acute, as the oo in English FOOT, NOT as as the oo in English BOOT
V = No V in the Polish alphabet!
W = as English V (final V is unvoiced as F)
X = No X! Only found in foreign words
Y = Always used as a vowel, sounds like the i in IT. NEVER as “eeeee”, NOT even at the end of a word.
Z = as in English
ź = z with accute accent) soft zh like Zhivago
ż = (z with a dot over it) harder zh sound
Now we come to the combinations and dipthongs (polish pronunciation):
CH = Same as H in English
CZ = Hard CH sound as in CHURCH
DZ = as in English “reD Zone”, but….
DZ followed by an I is pronounced as J in “Jeep”, that’s why “Dziekuje” is pronounced “JEN koo yeh”
RZ = Same hard zh as Z/dot (do not pronounce the R)(final RZ is unvoiced as SH)
SZ = Hard SH sound
SZCZ = combination of both as the SHCH in “Fresh cheese”