The most important thing to learn first is probably how to pronounce words.

You are not going to have conversations anytime soon, at the beginning is more about looking up words and try to repeat them, it just makes sense to start from how to pronounce those words.

Luckily, it’s very easy.

Polish pronunciation is easy

So, this is how you say girl in Polish: dziewczyna.

Looks crazy, uh? But it’s not! Read on 🙂

Despite how hard it looks, pronouncing Polish words is super-easy. Once you learn the rules, you’ll know how to pronounce any word, and get it more or less right even if you’ve never heard it before.

While in English you have weird exceptions like though/thought/through, or knight/night, in Polish you can learn how letters and certain combination of letters are pronounced, and you’re good to go.

NOTE: this is not about the Polish alphabet, only sounds. You probably don’t really need to know the alphabet right now.

Stress

Stress is almost always on the penultimate (next-to-last) syllable.

Again, this makes it pretty easy to figure out how a word is pronounced.

Vowels

Vowels are pronounced similar to their counterparts in most other European languages, but differently compared to English.

Vowels are always open (or wide), so pretty easy:

A – same as in English

E – always open (as the e in send, met, tent, hen )

I – as the y in yes

O – always open (as the o in cloth, spot, dog)

U – as ou in soup

NOTE:  the Polish alphabet has other vowels, but we’re only talking about sounds here.

 

Sounds

So, if you learn how this single and clusters of letters are pronounced, you can pronounce any word on the Polish dictionary.

You just look for these patters in the word you’re trying to pronounce, and go for it.

 

 

 

IPA Comments/Roughly… Example
a a  Same as English praca (work, job)
brać (to take)
ą ɔn
ɔm
ɔw̃
“Nasal o”, pronounced like on.

Pronounced like om when followed by b or p.

When ą is followed by ł, most Poles will pronounce it as o.

dokąd (To where?)
dotąd (up to now/here)
b Same as English
c ts Like “ts” in “cats” a co więcej (what else? / anything else/more?)
Brodnica (name of town)
ch x Sounds like “ch” in German ‘lachen’, Spanish ‘j’ in ‘Javier’, or (Scottish) ‘Loch Ness’. Most Poles pronounce ch and h identically. chomik (hamster)
brzuch (stomach)
cz Hard tch. Fairly similar to chip. czas (time)
cześć (hi, hello!)
ć Like “ch” in “cheek” ćma (moth)
podnieść (to lift up)
ci- Same as ć, cz
d Same as English
dz dz Like “ds” in “cads”

See “Figuring out all the Zs” at the bottom of the page.

jedzenie (food)
dzwon (bell, ringing)
dzi Same as dź

See “Figuring out all the Zs” at the bottom of the page.

Like “j” in “jeans”

See “Figuring out all the Zs” at the bottom of the page.

więk (sound)
źbło (blade of grass)
Like “j” in “jaw”

See “Figuring out all the Zs” at the bottom of the page.

dojeż (to arrive)
em (jam)
e ɛ Like in met. następnie (next)
jeszcze (still)
ę ɛn
ɛm
ɛw̃
ɛ
“Nasal e” Pronounced like “en”.

Pronounced like em when followed by b or p.

When ę is the last letter of a word, or when followed by l or ł, most Poles will pronounce it like a regular Polish e, slightly lengthened.

chętnie (“gladly”)
ęboki (“deep”)
f Same as English
g g Always hard like in game, never like gene. gips (plaster)
Zgierz (name of town)
h Same as English
i i feet but shorter. ulica (street)
biały (white)
świnia (pig)
j j Like y in yes. jeden (one)
jej (her)
k Same as English
l l Must be a clear L sound. Avoid dark L. l (pain, ache)
żal (sorrow, pity)
Ł ł w Pronounced like an English w as in will. łosoś (salmon)
mgła (fog, mist)
m Same as English
n Same as English
ń ɲ Pronounced like soft n in onion.
Similar to Spanish ñ and French gn.
kwiecień (April)
południe (south, noon)
ni- Same as ń
o ɔ Like author or cord. dobry (good)
blisko (near)
ó u Exactly the same as “u”, like tool or soup. dopóki (until)
móc (to be able to)
góra (mountain, hill)
p Same as English
r r Rolled r.
ɾ is also acceptable.
gorąco (hot)
Wrocław (name of city)
rz ʐ Same as ż

See “Figuring out all the Zs” at the bottom of the page.

rzeka (river)
narzeczona (fiancee)
s s Always soft like in silk.
It is never pronounced as a z.
syn (son)
pis (to write)
sz ʂ Hard sh. Fairly similar to ship. dusza (soul)
nasz (our)
ś ɕ Like “sh” in “sheep” coś (something)
śmiech (laughter)
si- Same as ś  siostra (sister)
t Same as English
u u moose or soup. usta (lips)
cudownie (wonderfully)
w v Pronounced like v.

Before voiceless consonants, it may be pronounced as f.

wyspa (island)
pierwszy (first)
y ɨ Somewhat similar to sit or myth. syn (son)
cytryna (lemon)
z Same as English
zi- Same as ź

See “Figuring out all the Zs” at the bottom of the page.

ź ʑ Like “z” in “azure”

See “Figuring out all the Zs” at the bottom of the page.

źle (wrongly, badly)
październik (October)
ż ʐ Same as rz. Like “s” in “leisure”, and “j” in French “je suis”.

See “Figuring out all the Zs” at the bottom of the page.

żona (wife)
żółty (yellow)

Figuring out all the Zs

The hardest thing to graps with Polish sounds might be all the Zs. One way to figure out how they work is to group them by how they sound.

“s” like in “leisure”

Most “z” are pronounced like Like “s” in “leisure”, and “j” in French “je suis”

  • zi
  • ź
  • ż
  • rz

“j” like in “jeans”

Where you see a “d”, it’s pronounced “j” like in “jeans”, with the exception of “dz”.

  1. dzi

Regular z

“dz” and “z” are pronounced like “z” in English (like “z” in “zoo”).

  • dz
  • z

This might or might not help 🙂


Text: CC https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Polish/Polish_pronunciation (modified)

Sources:
https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Polish/Polish_pronunciation
http://www.skwierzyna.net/sounds.pdf