https://www.duolingo.com/tpajor17

The pronunciation of the letter ‘S’

Hey Dutch speakers (& fellow learners),

I’ve tried to Google on this a lot, but haven’t found adequate answer.

To me, the way Dutch people pronounce ‘S’, doesn’t sound like a clean ‘S’, like, say, English speakers do. It rather sounds like an ‘sh’ compound. However, when one of my Dutch friends once tried to teach me how to pronounce a word (don’t remember which) with an ‘s’ in it, it sounded like an ‘sh’ to me, so I went and tried to pronounce the same way. Then she said that’s not an ‘sh’. Now I’m confused as to how to pronounce the letter? Could anyone please explain this interesting ‘phenomenon’ to me? It’s driving me crazy, because I hear the same thing when I click the ‘audio’ button at a sentence. >.<

Thanks for reading!

1 month ago

10 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/xMerrie
Mod
  • 25
  • 20
  • 18
  • 17
  • 11
  • 11
  • 11
  • 6

According to Wikipedia, the Dutch 's' is pronounced as /s/ (which is the same as the English s). But note: "In the Netherlands, /s/ and /z/ may have only mid-to-low pitched friction, and for many Netherlandic speakers, they are retracted. In Belgium, they are more similar to English /s, z/." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_phonology)

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Klgregonis
  • 25
  • 24
  • 24
  • 22
  • 22
  • 22
  • 17
  • 17
  • 17
  • 17
  • 16
  • 15
  • 15
  • 14
  • 12
  • 4
  • 4
  • 1154

Which basically says that the s sound in the Netherlands is often close to the sh sound in English, but not quite. So what English speakers are hearing is that tiny difference. To Dutch speakers, the two sounds are the same, so they don't really know what you're talking about.

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/weerwater
  • 23
  • 12
  • 7
  • 269

I do remember confess, that at (the end of) some parties I am able to get such an 'sh'- sound with every -s or s'- word too.
But seriously: Yes, in Dutch we do indeed produce this sound with our diminutives of words ending with -s like meisje, flesje, blousje, kastje(!), wasje, bosje, kusje etc. Other than this 'sj' -combination, I cannot confirm using an 'sh' pronunciation.

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Pinsch3
  • 20
  • 223

I hear this sometimes only tiny little "sh"-sound, too, and I find it so charming, that I spend quite some time practicing how to produce it. It's a totally lovable little speciality in the Dutch language, I think. ;-)))

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/tpajor17

Yeah. To be honest, that’s what gives them away when speaking in English, so I know they’re Dutch. :p

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RubenDansk

It may sometimes sound a bit like the Z, but is is really a S

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wiorka

Yeah noticed the same. But when I tried to get to the bottom of it and pronounced a random word twice, with 's' and soft 'sh', my Dutch interlocutor couldn't hear the difference.

Also the level of sh-ness depends on the person speaking, especially in English. I got used to it and keep a straight face when we're talking about 'sitting at home' and 'city'.

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ernst557459

/s/ or /sh/ or something in between depends on the speaker's dialect. In Amsterdamish you may hear a very strong /sh/ sound, like the KLM captain on a recent flight to Schiphol: Sho, ❤❤❤❤ down and relax in your sheats :)

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EdNed2
  • 19
  • 13
  • 10
  • 4
  • 3

Dat was dus een uitzondering. Of ie was Duits.

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/tpajor17

Yes, I’ve heard that! Also, a Dutch person once said something like, “We’re gonna sit in the kitchen”, but the “s” in “sit” sounded like “sh”. :p

Anyway, this is a very interesting thing, especially that not every speaker seems to hear it when they speak.

1 month ago
Learn Dutch in just 5 minutes a day. For free.