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Polish pronunciation

Hi guys!

I'm really struggling with Polish pronunciation. The examples for the pronunciation of consonants just don't seem to add up to me:

  1. dź niedźwiedź jeans [ʥ] ::::::::::
  2. dż dżem jam [d͡ʐ] / [ʤ]

To me, the 'j' in "jeans" and "jam" sound exactly the same... Maybe there is a minute difference in that the mouth position changes due to the different vowels that come after the 'j'?

I have the same situation here:

  1. ś cześć sheep [ɕ] ::::::::::
  2. sz proszę ship [ʂ] / [ʃ]

I just can't see how they justify different IPA symbols.

Can anyone help me out here? Any help would be appreciated! (Sorry for the weird layout; I've tried to edit it but it doesn't seem to register spaces!)

April 13, 2016



I'm suspicious of that example, as I have no idea how the "sh" of English "sheep" and "ship" are different in any way.

I'm not entirely sure if my method is correct, but I've been learning Polish for a while and I've been told I have good pronunciation.

I pronounce the "ś," "ć," and "ź" sounds (along with their digraphic counterparts "si," "ci" and "zi") as in (American) English "sheep," "cheap" and "pleasure." Likewise, "dź" (just "ź" with an alveolar stop before it) as in "jeep."

However, with the "hard" sounds ("sz," "cz," "ż/rz"), you want to curl your tongue slightly so that the tip creates friction against the alveolar ridge. No other part of your tongue should be touching your palate. If you do it right, when saying "sz" there might be a slight whistling sound as the air passes over the tip of your tongue through your teeth. If you listen to a Polish person say "czas," for example, and then "ciasteczka," the first word sounds more like the tongue tip punching the alveolar ridge, almost like a 't' sound with friction, while the second is gentler. With sounds like "dż" or its voiceless counterpart "trz," you do the same thing but press your tongue against the ridge and release the stop.

Now, if only I could hear the difference between the initial sounds of "chyba" and "hałas"!


Now, if only I could hear the difference between the initial sounds of "chyba" and "hałas"!

Actually, there is no difference. There used to be difference but it practically disappeared and most people pronounce "h" and "ch" in the same way.


You, sir (or madam), deserve a lingot simply for teaching my body to do something it had never done before: I had no idea I could make a whistling noise like that! I got way more excited than I should have...

Have a second lingot for helping me with my pronunciation so effectively!

Thank you! :)


Nice, I'm glad I could help! No worries, I felt similarly when I discovered it, trying over and over again to pronounce "trzy" correctly. Phonology is really a kind of exercise; ear, mind and muscles all need to cooperate, and sometimes it takes a surprising amount of effort to successfully make a sound some other culture figured was simple enough to feature in a common numeral!


Funny thing that "some other culture" would find properly pronouncing that same numeral in English rather challenging. We can probably achieve understandable pronunciation easily, but perfecting it… especially with those "th"s and a much wider set of vowels is really hard to us.


Yeah. It always sounds like free or tree when I say it :P


@LICA98: It generally shouldn't (I've heard Londoners might pronounce it with an "f" though). Anyway, this is the closest thing if you can't pronounce the real "th". Better this than nothing.


some people in Kraków say cz and trz exactly the same.

My last name starts with "cz", and I learned to always say "Cz....; with ce-zet" when somebody (in Kraków) asks for my name


Maybe this can help:

dź - plea-(d)s-ure (softer, fluid)

dż - gem (harder, more abrupt)

ś - softer, less audible sh

sz - harder, more audible sh, almost fricative (shred)


This is how I'd go about it


The thing is, neither dż nor dź are exactly the English j.

You pronounce j in jeans with your tongue touching upper teeth (or upper alveolar ridge), right? To pronounce dż you also have to touch the alveolar ridge with your tongue, but only with the tip of it.

Now try to say dż but with your tongue touching lower teeth (while tongue lying flat). That's dź.

Ofc this differentiation works for all these weird Polish letters (sz-ś, cz-ć and so on).


Thank God for my linguistics course at University! That, coupled with your response, has helped me make more sense of this :) Thank you and have a lingot!


There is a part in history, when Spanish arrived to Mexico and as they couldn't spell or pronounce letter X, they wrote down MeJico. As for them sounded the same (or the most similar possible). I am just interpreting polish and other languages in a different way, still understanding the grammar and speaking differences. Is the way is better for me to learn and faster. But each of us could stick 100% to the "rules". Nie??


In niedźwiedź is like niedshwiedsh, and dżem d is mute, is only like (gem), haha im just listening to my polish wife.


>d is mute

That's actually not how Polish orthography works. Just like you would never say that in English "th" the letter "h" is silent, Polish „dż” is a single sound. Basically the only kinda silent-ish letter in normal Polish words is „c” in „ch”.


well there is ł in jabłko, and ć in dziewięćdziesiąt. But those are rare exceptions.

And I can't believe English native speakers would have much trouble with two letters one sound- they have th, sh, ch, oo, ee


that's how you interpret it, maybe you are polish, i am mexican so for me is different way to see how is better to pronounce your words.


But are you sure you are not making it harder?

Is making your own rules easier than following ones that exist? if you decide that sz, cz, rz, dz, dź, dż, have one letter silent, but other creates different sound then normally,?

I as a Polish speaker know that letter "s" is this sound, but if you mix sz and si it means "s" can be three sounds.

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