Improve your Dutch pronunciation with Regina Coeli
Many people learning foreign languages would like to sound like native speakers. But even when you have been speaking the new language exclusively for years, you may still end up with a noticeable accent. How can you work on proper pronunciation from the start?
Learn how to pronounce Dutch at Language Institute Regina Coeli
“Sometimes, people who learn a foreign tongue need to develop an ear for a particular sound. If a sound doesn’t exist in your mother tongue, but does in the foreign language, you have to learn to hear it before you can pronounce it”, says Yvonne Tupker, a speech therapist and Dutch language trainer at Regina Coeli.
“To a large extent, your pronunciation in a language determines whether other people can understand you. If you mispronounce sounds, stress the wrong syllable or use illogical intonation, it can be quite a puzzle for your conversation partner to figure out what you mean - even when you use the right words,” Yvonne explains.
Dutch has a number of sounds that are generally new to non-Dutch speakers:
1. G / sch
Many languages do not have the “g” and “sch” sounds of Dutch. As a result, these sounds are often tongue twisters for non-native speakers. For Arabic speakers, though, they are no problem at all, since Arabic also has many guttural sounds.
2. Consonant combinations
In Dutch, consonants are mercilessly pasted together. The word "schrift" (writing, notebook, script), for example, consists of seven letters, only one of which is a vowel. Pronouncing this word properly can seem impossible to some.
In some languages, vowels and consonants alternate continuously, such as in Italian and Japanese, so some people create “ghost vowels” between all those consonants. "Schrift" then becomes “suchurifut”.
Dutch has five vowels that can be pronounced both short and long, and doing so changes the meaning of words. For example: “De appel is rood / rot" (The apple is red / rotten). Or: “De man / maan is groot” (The man / moon is large). It is a minor difference in pronunciation, but a big difference in meaning.
There are also vowel combinations with their own unique sounds, such as "ui", "ooi", "nieuw" (onion, ewe, new). Many people who learn Dutch as a foreign language, wrestle for years with the pronunciation of vowels.
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Use your ears and eyes
Altogether, this means that Dutch can pose quite a few challenges for people who want to learn to speak it.
Yvonne has a good tip for learning correct pronunciation right off the bat: “It’s an advantage that it’s clear to see how you should shape your mouth to create Dutch sounds. If you learn the language from a native speaker, use your ears and eyes when he or she speaks, imitate them and have them correct your pronunciation”.
At Regina Coeli, learning pronunciation is an integral part of every Dutch course for both beginners and advanced learners. Students practice pronunciation with their trainers in private lessons. After all, they have a role model sitting right there with them who is also trained in helping others improve their pronunciation.
In addition, students practice pronunciation in the language laboratory. They listen to native speakers, record themselves, then check and compare their own pronunciation with that of the native speakers.
Speaking Dutch powerfully
Initially, the aim of good pronunciation is to be understood. A beginner does not have to speak without an accent right from the start. Still, at a certain point, an accent can get in your way. Many people find their way to Regina Coeli if they want to become more powerful when speaking Dutch.
“For these people, we often combine refining pronunciation with a specific skill, such as presenting. Coming across powerfully not only has to do with good pronunciation - it also has to do with intonation, word choice, language and the way the voice is used. It’s easy to blend those things in a training programme,” says Yvonne.
If you want to improve your pronunciation in particular or learn to speak Dutch correctly, right from the start, simply contact Regina Coeli to learn about your options.