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How to Pronounce Diphthongs and Vowel Combinations in Dutch Posted by on Oct 26, 2011 in Dutch Language, Dutch Vocabulary

If you want to make yourself understood in a foreign language or really sound like a native speaker, then spending some time practising pronunciation is going to be a key factor for you.  In Dutch many of the sounds are quite similar to their English counterparts, although not all, and it is in the diphthongs and vowel combinations that some people really start to get stuck.

To help you out, I have compiled a list of different descriptions on how to pronounce the different diphthongs and vowel combinations you find in Dutch.  Some of the descriptions do seem more like training for the mouth Olympics but this is by no means an exhaustive list, so if none of the descriptions works for you, there are plenty more to be found.

Diphthong/Vowel Combination

Pronunciation

Example

oe

-like oo in tooth-as in book but with your lips more rounded boek (book), hoek (corner), hoe (how)

eu

-like ay in day but with rounded lips-like eu in French feu

-try making the vowel sound in dirt while rounding/pouting your lips tightly

neus (nose), deur (door), leunen (to lean)

ei/ij

-similar to y in my or by but starting with e as in get-a quick combination of eh+ee

-between the English vowel sounds in fate and fight

-in between the English vowel sounds in night and late

schrijven (to write), tijd (time), mei (May)

ui

-a quick combination of short a followed by rounded uu (like ee in meet but with rounded lips)-English vowel sound as in house while tightly pursing your lips and pressing your tongue down huis (house), uit (out), tuin (garden)

uw

-a combination of rounded uu followed by a slight w sound-combination of uu and oe uw (your), duwen (to push), ruw (rough)

ou

-similar to ou in loud or cloud-similar to ow in now

-vowel sound as in shout but start by rounding your lips more with your mouth wide open

koud (cold), oud (old), hout (wood)

aai

-long aa (similar to a in had or sat) followed bi i-combo of aa and ie (as in cheat) saai (dull), baai (bay), naaien (to sew)

eeuw

-long ee (similar to ay in day but clipped), followed by short u or w-combination of ee and oe eeuw (century), sneeuw (snow), schreeuwen (to shout)

ooi

-long oo (similar to o in wrote or oa in boat but clipped), followed by short i-similar to oy in toy

-combination of oo and ie

mooi (beautiful), ooit (ever), nooit (never)

oei

-combination of oe and ie-long oe followed by short i boei (buoy), loeien (to moo), koeien (cows)

ieuw

-long ie followed by short u or w-combination of ie and oe nieuw (new), kieuw (gill), opnieuw (once again)

How do you remember some of the different sounds in Dutch?  Share your tips, tricks and hints in the Facebook group.

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Comments:

  1. Ernie DeVries:

    My son taught me this “rule” about Germanic languages: “When 2 vowels go walking, the send one does the talking.” This is why my last name of deVries is pronounced with a long “e” sound for the 2nd sylable and not an “i” sound.

  2. De Vries:

    Well I’m a 34 year old native Dutch speaker. Vries is not ending with ee.
    Like Fries, niets, iets. All end with ie not ee.