Back to Basics – The Polish Alphabet (Alfabet Polski)

Posted on 06. May, 2010 by in Culture, Polish Language, Vocabulary

So today, I think I am going to put a little musical spin on my post. Most of you probably have seen the movie, The Sound of Music. Pretend I am using my best Maria voice (You don’t want to hear me sing live — trust me!)…

“Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with A-B-C…”

That’s right, it’s time to get our alphabet on. The Polish alphabet, alfabet polski, has a total of 32 letters. Broken down, there are 23 consonants (spółgłosek) and nine vowels (samogłosek). The alphabet also includes seven digraphs (dwuznaki), (ch, cz, dz, , , rz, sz), which I will cover in a separate alphabet lesson in the future.

For this post, I am going to cover the letters and their pronunciation below. The pronunciation is the letter or letters underlined after the “sounds like”. Also, I found a site that does a good job with providing audible pronunciation, so if you would like to hear all these, you can listen to them here:

http://www.polish-translators.com/wymowa.html

A sounds like tada
Ą sounds like song (exception is sounds like bomb before the letters ‘b’ or ‘p’ – a nasal vowel)
B sounds like ball
C sounds like Fitz
Ć sounds like child
D sounds like dog
E sounds like bet
Ę sounds like bend (exception is sounds like phlegm before the letters ‘b’ or ‘p’ – a nasal vowel)
F sounds like fan
G sounds like game
H sounds like Loch Ness Monster
I sounds like bee
J sounds like yell
K sounds like kiss
L sounds like lips
Ł sounds like wish
M sounds like mother
N sounds like net
Ń sounds like onion (essentially a ny pronunciation)
O sounds like dot
Ó
sounds like bush
P sounds like peanut
R sounds like red
S sounds like see
Ś sounds like shop
T sounds like tag
U sounds like tool
W sounds like van
Y
sounds like tip
Z
sounds like zoo
Ź
sounds like Zsa Zsa Gabor
Ż
sounds like treasure

So, I don’t circle my sons around me like Maria does the von Trapp children, play my guitar or sing the letters for the boys. But I really wish I could. Seriously. I wish I could sing and play the guitar. But I know songs and music are wonderful tools in helping learn a language. And, in some of my earlier memories of watching cartoons (bajki) in Poland, I remember hearing a song that went through the alphabet. Sadly, the only parts of the song that I remembered were the first line, “Abecadło z Nieba spadło…” and then part of the refrain, “mama tata, mama tata“. Years ago, this would have been difficult to find if you didn’t know a Pole who was familiar with it. However, thanks to the power of Google, those phrases are enough for me to have found the song. I found the song at [ www.sluchaj.to ], which offered a free download. I have played it for my boys in our “lessons”, and it gives me great pleasure to share it with you all. Here is the song:

http://sluchaj.to/mp3/Abecadło_z_Nieba_spadło_Arka_Noego/1-fayolka-1PbdXnChpD8

I am also including the lyrics (tekst piosenki) in case you want to sing along:

1. Abecadło z Nieba spadło
abecadło z Nieba spadło
A-jak Abracham
B-jak Bóg
C-jak cuda
i d-jak duch
E-jak Ewangelia
F-to Fiat
G-jak grzech
i historia na H

Ref.:
abecadło z Nieba spadło
i słowa dwa: mama, tata, mama, tata

2.Abecadlo z Nieba spadło
abecadlo z Nieba spadło
I-to idziemy
J-jak Jezus
K-jak Król
i L-jak lew
Ł-to łaska
M-mama
N-jak Niebo
i opoka na O

Ref.:
Abecadło z Nieba spadło
i słowa dwa: mama, tata, mama, tata
i słowa dwa:mama, tata, mama, tata.

3.
Abecadło z Nieba spadło
abecadło z Nieba spadło
P-jak Piotr
R-jak radość
S-jak słowo
i T-jak tata
U-jak uśmiech
W-jak wiara
XYZ-kończy alfabet

Ref.:
abecadło z Nieba spadło
i słowa dwa: mama, tata, mama, tata.
Abecadło z Nibea spadło
i słowa dwa: mama, tata, mama, tata
i słowa dwa: mama, tata, mama, tata

That’s all for now for the alphabet. As my oldest son would say, “that’s enough talking Polska for today”. Obviously, we haven’t gotten to too many grammar lessons yet. In good time, w odpowiednim czasie.

Do następnego czytania…

11 Responses to “Back to Basics – The Polish Alphabet (Alfabet Polski)”

  1. Pete 6 May 2010 at 7:16 am #

    Isn’t ‘Ó’ effectively the same sound as ‘U’ (as in they both sound like ‘oo’ in ‘tool’)?

  2. Katarzyna 6 May 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    A very good question Pete! And this also effectively applies to letters and some of the digraphs I mentioned, i.e. ch and h. Pronunciation in words is never really the problem with these letters. Deciding which one to use properly, well, that’s another story. I have struggled with these, and I will definitely be blogging about this topic, as it definitely deserves its own spotlight.

    Dziękuję for reading — stay tuned :)

  3. AnnaI 9 May 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    “Abraham” – single “h” not “ch”:
    http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham

    And “alfabet polski” not “alfabet Polski” – sorry to be a stickler for ortografia, but this shows an important difference between how some adjectives are spelled in English vs Polish.

    Thanks for sharing this, I’ve never heard this song. Ever. I’m only familiar with Tuwim’s version “Abecadło z pieca spadło”:

    Abecadło z pieca spadło,
    O ziemię się hukło,
    Rozsypało się po kątach,
    Strasznie się potłukło:
    I – zgubiło kropeczkę,
    H – złamało kładeczkę,
    B – zbiło sobie brzuszki,
    A – zwichnęło nóżki,
    O – jak balon pękło,
    aż się P przelękło.
    T – daszek zgubiło,
    L – do U wskoczyło,
    S – się wyprostowało,
    R – prawą nogę złamało,
    W – stanęło do góry dnem
    i udaje, że jest M.

    Good luck with the blog! :)

  4. AnnaI 10 May 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    And please be consistent with “L” and “Ł” – as I’m sure you know, those are two different letters. I understand that most likely you don’t have a Polish keyboard, but unfortunately, when writing/typing in Polish, proper spelling is very important (one “L” instead of “Ł”can change the meaning of the word completely: laska and łaska come to mind) – especially when you’re teaching others about the language.
    OK, enough of my lectures.

  5. Katarzyna 10 May 2010 at 2:38 pm #

    Anna,

    Thanks for the tips. For the Abracham, however, those lyrics are copied exactly as they are on that website, so as I am quoting from source, I am not going to make any changes.

    Regarding the “L” and “Ł”, can you tell me where you caught that? I was looking through and I thought I had most of them? Please advise.

    Thanks for reading!

  6. Angel 11 May 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    Thank you so much for writing about Polish Grammar ans pronunciation. But I have just one question–what does Zsa Zsa (Gabor) sound like?

  7. Katarzyna 11 May 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    It’s a zh like sound. Like the word Asia. Zsa Zsa seems to be so popular (she’s always in teh crosswords ;) I thought she would be a good example.

    Thanks for reading!

  8. warmi 18 May 2010 at 11:25 am #

    “Isn’t ‘Ó’ effectively the same sound as ‘U’ (as in they both sound like ‘oo’ in ‘tool’)?”

    It is … same goes for ‘ch’ vs ‘h’.

    There is no audible difference … in fact, this is a major source of pain and anguish for young kids learning how to spell… hell, for some of them it becomes a lifelong habit :-)

    Just hit google looking for “charcerz” and you will find “them” …
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=charcerz&aq=f&aqi=g-s1g1g-s1&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

  9. Paul 22 July 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    Hello, my family is all Polish. I can read, speak, write, and translate the language. However, I have always wondered when the letter “V” is used…in every day conversation. Can you help me out?

  10. Katarzyna 22 July 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    The v doesn’t really exist in the Polish alphabet. The English sound is made by the letter w; i.e. vodka is wódka. The only time I have seen the v come through in Polish is in foreign surnames and foreign words. However, in many cases, the Polish will change the v to the w accordingly if not a formal word.

  11. Kevin G. 30 January 2011 at 12:01 am #

    Hey, thanks for sharing that. But we’re just starting out in Polish, could you translate the words of the song?


Leave a Reply