A Guide to Polish - The Polish alphabet
What's the Polish alphabet like?
The Polish alphabet has 33 letters.
You may well have to spell out your name and perhaps your address in Polish. Here is the alphabet and how to pronounce it
Download mp3 - right click and choose 'save target as'
What's significant about the Polish alphabet?
There is no beating around the bush - the pronunciation of the Polish language is a bit on the tricky side. It has all the letters of the English alphabet but there are some special ones that have additional tails, dots or slashes: ą, ę, ć, ł, ń, ś, ż, ź.
The ą and ę are nasal sounds you might have heard in the French language, but they are not related, they are inherent to the Polish language from medieval times and even pre-date the Polish language. The letter ł is not unlike the English w as in William. The letter ń is like a very soft n that precedes an i, as in Niagara, but in Polish it can appear even at the end of a word, such as in koń, horse.
A sibilant language
Here are some groups of letters that you'd never expect to see strung together: ch, cz, rz, sz, szcz.
All of these more difficult sounds are sibilants, sounds that hiss, fizzle, whoosh and whistle. To say it in the language of the linguists: English knows alveolar and palato-alveolar sibilants but Polish has laminal denti-alveolars, palatalized denti-alveolars, flat postalveolars, and alveolo-palatals. That's a great workout for the muscles in your mouth.
If you find them too difficult, you might try to avoid ordering
barszcz czerwony, red borscht, in Polish restaurants. Just ask for bigos, hunter's stew, instead.
Email and website conventions
When giving an email or website address the conventions are:
@ małpa, monkey
. kropka, dot
/ ukośnik, slash
/ myślnik, dash