Polish Pronunciation & Alphabet

Polish can be quite a fun language to learn, but pronunciation of its words are a science, as opposed to English where you can more easily get away with speaking words in different ways due to accents or regional variations. It is important to keep in mind that many Polish sounds are spoken in a short clip, unlike in English where sounds tend to be drawn out.

For English speakers, Polish might be a bit difficult to learn, but it has the compensating virtue of straightforward pronunciation; Polish is quite a phonetic language, and rules for pronunciation almost never have exceptions.

Polish uses the standard Latin alphabet, as English, for the most part, but there are some unique letters formed by placing some diacritical marks, including the kreska (looks similar to accent mark, such as in letters ć, ń, ó, etc.), the strike that goes through the letter ‘l’ to make ‘ł’ and change it to a ‘w’ sound, and the ogonek,or “little tail,” in the letters ‘ą’ & ‘ę’ that cause them to have a pronounced nasal sound.

A a | Ą ą | B b | C c | Ć ć| D d | E e | Ę ę | F f | G g | H h | I i | J j | K k| L l | Ł ł | M m | N n | Ń ń | O o | Ó ó | P p | R r | S s | Ś ś | T t | U u | W w | Y y | Z z | Ź ź | Ż ż

Below are the pronunciation for each letter: first the Polish letter in bold, followed by the English phonetic approximate pronunciation, and finishing with an example and any notes.

A a (ah) – as in the ‘a’ in ‘father’

Ą ą (ohn[g]) – nasal ‘a,’ sometimes sounding more like ‘ohn’ or ‘ohm’ but sometimes like a simple ‘a’

B b (b) – as in the ‘b’ in ‘bear’

C c (ts) – as in the ‘ts’ in ‘hats’

Ć ć (ch) – as in the ‘ch’ in ‘church’

D d (d) – as in the ‘d’ in ‘daughter’

E e (eh) – as in the ‘e’ in ‘deck’

Ę ę (ehn[g]) – nasal ‘e,’ more like ’em’ or ‘en’ but sometimes just like ‘e’

F f (f) – as in the ‘f’ in ‘frank’

G g (g) – as in the ‘g’ in ‘gate’ and sometimes softer and more like a ‘k’ sound

H h (-) silent

I i (ee) – as in the ‘i’ in ‘spaghetti’

J j (y) – as in the ‘y’ in ‘layer’

K k (k) – as in the ‘c’ in ‘constant’ or ‘k’ in ‘kick’

L l (l) – as in the ‘l’ in ‘look’

Ł ł (w) – – as in the ‘w’ in ‘went’

M m (m) – as in the ‘m’ in ‘mouth’

N n (n) – as in the ‘n’ in ‘naughty’

Ń ń (ny) – almost like ‘n’ but with slight flow into ‘y,’ yet not as fully as ‘canyon’

O o (oh) – as in the ‘ou’ in ‘course’ (short, just like that, not drawn out like in English ‘soap’)

Ó ó (ooh) – as in the ‘ou’ in ‘soup’

P p (p) – like the ‘p’ in ‘pie’

R r (r) – typical ‘r’ sound, yet shorter/more abrupt; if at beginning of a word or doubled, the sound is rolled

S s (s) – as in the ‘s’ in ‘stall’

Ś ś (sh) – as in the ‘sh’ in ‘share’

T t (t) – as in the ‘t’ in ‘total’

U u (ooh) – as in the ‘ou’ in ‘soup’

W w (v) – standard ‘v’ sound, sometimes nearly an ‘f’ sound

Y y (ee) – short ‘i’ sound, as in the ‘i’ in ‘kick’ or ‘sting’

Z z (z) – hard ‘z’ sound, as in ‘zebra’

Ź ź (zh) – like the ‘s’ in ‘measure’

Ż ż (zh) – like the ‘s’ in ‘measure’ but perhaps a tad harder

ch – when these two letters are together, it is similar to silent ‘h’ but perhaps slightly more guttural/raspy

cz – same sound as the ‘ć’ (ch)

dz, – like a hard ‘j’ sound as in ‘jury’ each slightly harder than the last

rz – similar to ‘ź’ or ‘ż’

sz – same as ‘ś’

… and when followed by vowels:

ci – same sound as the ‘ć’ (ch)

dzi – same as ‘dź’ or ‘dż’

si – same as ‘ś’

zi – same as ‘ź’ or ‘ż’

ni – same as ‘ń’