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For an English speaker, Dutch is significantly easier, since it has less inflection (nouns and pronouns changing form for grammatical purposes) and one fewer gender (Dutch has common and neuter; German has masculine, feminine, and neuter).
A great example would be the word "een," which corresponds to German "ein" (m. and n.) and "eine" (f.). The German words can decline (change according to grammatical role) into numerous forms like "einem", "einer", "eines", while Dutch, like English, has lost this feature, except in pronouns. German adjectives also change in a similar manner, while Dutch does this in a way that is much easier for those of us with a background in more analytic (less inflectional) languages like English.
(Native speakers please halp.) Can't "een" and "en" be pronounced the same in certain contexts? "Ik heb een hond." and "brood en boter" -- in these unstressed contexts, in natural speech, that is, are they pronounced differently?
Otherwise, "een" is pronounced like the English indefinite article "an", to my understanding, unless it is stressed as "één", where it becomes more like Ayn. A stressed "en" would be like the "en" in Ben, but I was under the impression that in unstressed locations, it would be reduced to a schwa. Please correct me if I am wrong, bedankt.
No, 'een' and 'en' are always pronounced differently. I found this site, while searching for words with matching sounds: http://www.heardutchhere.net/DutchPronunciation.html#voicelessE. The 'ee' in 'een' is pronounced like the E-voiceless (schwa) and 'en' is pronounced like the E-Short. That's always the case. When comparing 'één' with 'en', the 'éé' is pronounced like the E-long and the 'e' is pronounced like the E-short. For me as a native Dutch speaker I can tell the difference between 'één' en 'en', but I can see that the pronunciation of the words are quite similar for others and may be hard to differentiate. I'd suggest having a look at that website. It offers a variety of Dutch words and their pronunciation, which can help you hear the difference better.
They are pronounced differently in isolation for sure, but that is careful speech, which differs from natural, connected speech. If you look at the examples of "en" in various phrases here: http://forvo.com/search/en/nl/ , you can hear the clear schwa -- just what one would expect from vowel-reduction rules in Dutch phonology.
Perhaps these two words are perceived as sounding different because the roles they each play are so drastically distinct as to make confusion between the two almost impossible for someone with knowledge of the language, rendering perceptual disambiguation a very clear and effortless process.
Oh, quite a find! There is indeed a rare second use for "en" with a different pronunciation: When it's part of an expression borrowed from French, Dutch will indeed use the French pronunciation of "en". In such a case it indeed has a schwa.
But now check the link to the word itself: < https://forvo.com/word/en/#nl >.
No, "een" and "en" can not be pronounced the same under certain circumstances; the "en" never gets a schwa. However, after some syllables, the "en" is much lighter, closer to a schwa, than it is otherwise. For example, if the previous syllable had a schwa itself, the "e" in "en" would not be very pronounced. It never gets to Rock 'n Roll, or Stop-n-Go, but it would probably seem more like a schwa than suggested by the spelling.
Not quite right with the spelling of "een". It's pronounced like the last three letters of "lane" when it means "one", rather than "an". But only when "one" and "an" would both fit, "one" gets the accents: "één".