Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Nick: Hello, everyone! Welcome back to the Pronunciation Series, lesson 4 - Voiced and Unvoiced Polish Consonants and Why Does It Matter?!
Beata: Hello, Beata here.
Nick: Are you getting the hang of Polish pronunciation? Starting to feel more confident? This time we are going to look at some rules that will help you put Polish sounds together.
Beata: You already know how to produce every possible sound in Polish. Now it's time to put your knowledge into practice and start reading entire words.
Nick: From what I know, every letter represents the same sound no matter what the position it has in the word. There's even this Polish saying "Czytaj, jak jest napisane," which translates to "Read as it's written."
Beata: Well, I have to say that in most cases, this saying is accurate; however, there are some situations in which letters, especially consonants, will change their pronunciation.
Nick: Before we will be able to show you some examples, we have to introduce one very important distinction within the phonetic system of the Polish language. What is it?
Beata: We will divide all the Polish consonants into voiced and unvoiced consonants.
Nick: Please follow your lesson notes while listening.
Beata: I'm going to give you pairs of consonants with the first one being voiced and the latter unvoiced. After each pair, Nick will tell you its English equivalents.
Nick: Sounds like a plan.
Beata:"-b," "-p"
Nick: "-b" vs. "-p"
Beata: "-w," "-f"
Nick: "-w" vs. "-f"
Beata: "-d," "-t"
Nick: "-d" vs. "-t"
Beata: "-z," "-s"
Nick: "-z" vs. "-s"
Beata: "-dz," "-c"
Nick: "-dz" vs. "-c"
Beata: "-ż"/"-rz," "-sz"
Nick: "-z" with a dot/"-rz" vs."-sz"
Beata: "-dż," "-cz"
Nick: "-dz" with a dot vs. "-cz"
Beata: "-ź," "-ś"
Nick: "-z" with an acute mark vs. "-s" with an acute mark
Beata: "-dź," "-ć"
Nick: "-dz" with an acute mark vs. "-c" with an acute mark
Beata: "-g," "-k"
Nick: "-g" vs. "-k"
Beata: unvoiced "-ch"/"-h"
Nick: only unvoiced "-ch"/"-h," no voiced counterpart
Beata: "-m," "-n," "-r," "-l," "-ł," "-j"
Nick: voiced "-m," "-n," "-r," "-l," "-l" with the slash, and "-j," no unvoiced counterparts
Nick: So what's this distinction voiced vs. unvoiced all about?
Beata: This distinction is based on the vocal cords. If the vocal cords are together, the air stream can't pass freely and it has to force its way through, causing the vocal cords to vibrate. These will be the voiced sounds.
Nick: If the vocal cords are apart, the airflow can move without any obstructions, producing in this manner unvoiced sounds.
Beata: Knowing which consonants are voiced and which ones are not will help you better understand Polish pronunciation. In the examples below, you'll see how neighboring consonants can influence each other, either within a word, at the end of a word, or at the boundary of words.
Nick: Okay, let's introduce the first rule.
Beata: Every voiced consonant appearing before an unvoiced one is pronounced as unvoiced. For example "wtedy"
Nick: "then"
Beata: is read [ftedy.]
Nick: Since "-w," which is voiced, appears in front of the unvoiced "-t," "-w" becomes unvoiced and pronounced like "-f" [ftedy].
Beata: Another example would be in the word "dziadka," read [dziatka].
Nick: Since a voiced "-d" occurs in front of a voiced "-k," it's pronounced like [t].
Beata: The same process will take place at the boundary of words. For instance, "naród polski"
Nick: "Polish nation"
Beata: Is read [narót polski]. The unvoiced "-p" from "polski" changed the voiced "-d" from "naród" to an unvoiced "-t."
Nick: So, rule number one is that every voiced consonant that's before an unvoiced one is pronounced as unvoiced.
Beata: Very good.
Nick: Now let's go to rule number two.
Beata: Rule number two says that unvoiced consonants that appear before voiced ones are pronounced as voiced. For example, the word "także"
Nick: "also"
Beata: Is pronounced [tagże] because the voiced "-z" with a dot makes an unvoiced "-k" sounds like [g].
Nick: The same rule will apply at the boundary of words.
Beata: For instance…"jak dobrze"
Nick: "how well"
Beata: is read [jag dobrze]. Since an unvoiced "-k" appears in front of a voiced "-d," it's pronounced as a voiced "-g."
Nick: You have to remember, however, that there's one exception to this rule. It applies to consonants "-w" and "-rz" (not "-z" with the dot, only "-rz").
Beata: The consonants "-w" ("-w") and "-rz" ("-rz") are pronounced as unvoiced both before and after an unvoiced consonant. For example, in the word "wpaść"
Nick: "to fall in"
Beata: the "-w" appears before an unvoiced consonant and is pronounced as an unvoiced "-f," [fpaść]. In another example, "ćwiczenie"
Nick: meaning "exercise"
Beata: the "-w" occurs after an unvoiced consonant and is still pronounced as an unvoiced "-f," [ćficzenie].
Nick: You will find out soon that there are many exceptions in the Polish language, so I'm not surprised that we are seeing them already. (laugh)
Beata: There are many exceptions in Polish, but let's be honest, a rule wouldn't be a rule if not for those exceptions, right? (laugh)
Nick: I think we're ready for the next rule, then.
Beata: The last rule is that at the end of a word, or if there's a longer pause, every voiced consonant becomes unvoiced. For example, "kod"
Nick: meaning "code"
Beata: is read as [kot] with the consonant "-t" at the end instead of "-d." The word "lew"
Nick: "lion"
Beata: is pronounced as [lef] with the letter "-f" at the end in place of the "-w."
Nick: Before we conclude today's lesson, we would like to help you with the pronunciation of some consonant clusters that may be troubling for you.
Beata: Let's help you with the pronunciation of some Polish numbers. In all of the numbers below, we will omit the letter "-c" with an acute mark, in Polish "-ć." Please repeat after me…"pięćdziesiąt."
Nick: "fifty"
Beata: It's not "pięĆdziesiąt," but [piędziesiąt]. Then we have "sześćdziesiąt"
Nick: "sixty"
Beata: Not "sześĆdziesiąt," but [sześdziesiąt]. Next, "dziewięćdziesiąt"
Nick: "ninety"
Beata: and "sześćset"
Nick: "six hundred."
Nick: I'm not surprised you don't pronounce the letter "-ć" in those numbers; they are already real tongue twisters. It's not that it makes them a lot of easier, but it's always something. Any other tips on your end?
Beata: In spoken language, the letter "-ł" (it's an "-l" with a slash) that appears between two consonants or at the end of a word after another consonant is not pronounced. For example, the word "jabłko" is pronounced [japko]. Since "-ł" appears between two consonants, there's no need to pronounce it.
Nick: Any example for the letter "-ł" occurring at the end of the word after another consonant? I feel like this rule is quite long. It calls for an example.
Beata: Sure. For example, the word "mógł." "-Ł" appears here at the end of the word after the consonant "-g," so in such an instance, we will pronounce it [mók].
Nick: I see. Beata told me that she has one more rule to cover and we're done, so let's listen to it.
Beata: Also in spoken language, the consonants "-t" and "-w" that appear between two consonants are not pronounced. For instance, "chrzestny"
Nick: "godfather"
Beata: Is pronounced [chrzesny]. There is no [t] sound in it. "Pierwszy" becomes [pierszy] without a "-w."
Nick: All right, well, that ends today's lesson. We hope you'll find those tips useful when trying to master Polish pronunciation.
Beata: You don't have to memorize all those rules. We just want you to be aware of them. Let us know if you have any questions at PolishPod101.com!
Nick: See you next time.