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The “ui” Conundrum Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 in Dutch Language

The first time I came to the Netherlands, I was ready to get to know my future country and even more excited to learn Dutch. My significant other picked me up at the airport, and we began our drive to our “home” for the two coming weeks. On the highway, I spotted the first Dutch word I wanted to tackle: UIT. Having mastered the typical cheesy phrase of Ik hou van je (I love you) a couple years back, I ventured into the pronunciation of what would become the biggest language challenge of the year!

-Out.

 My significant other, very patiently, and with the love of a young relationship, corrected my pronunciation: uit.

I tried once more.

-Out.

Significant other repeated slowly and loud: Uit.

-Out.

Significant other pointed out that out and uit were not the same sounds. I had to incorporate the i.

-Out.

After a couple of attempts, I did not manage to say uit to the standards of my Dutch boyfriend (or any other Dutch person, for that matter) even though I heard no difference between his uit and my out. During my stay in Europe those two weeks, I attempted it a couple of times.

-Out.

Back in Mexico, I searched for Dutch classes. I spoke four languages; Dutch couldn’t possibly be complicated for me. I began private lessons with a Dutch man that assured me I would speak Dutch in no time! During our fourth class, we tackled on the sound ui. I was ready to impress him with my great pronunciation.

Repeat after me: ui

 –Ou

Ui

 –Ou

No, it’s not “out” like in English. Its ui.

-Aaoouu

-Try saying E but with your lips in the shape of a U.

-Eeeee

-No, lips as in a U

-Uuuu

We worked on ui for about an hour. Nothing. I was about the throw in the towel, forget my plans to move to the Netherlands and fire my teacher in the process. He sensed my frustration, and changed activities.

To make a long story short, it took 6 months, two teachers, one boyfriend and my determination to not let one diphthong beat me to pronounce ui with consistency. Once I got this sound, I felt on top of a windmill!

 

For those of  you eager to practice the sound ui, I am including two very useful videos. The first one is simple and the second one is for those daring enough to try!

Happy learning!

Vocabulary

Uit– By itself it means from or out but in the context of highways, it is short for uitgang, which means exit or the way out.

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!


Comments:

  1. Lingling:

    the most difficult one for me is the “G” in Dutch. hehehe!

    • Karoly G Molina:

      @Lingling In Limburg, the G is pronounced very soft unlike the Ranstad area (Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam, Den Hague) where they G is very strong and rough so I haven’t had too many problems with it. But the ui…that is another story for me!

  2. Mark:

    I remember my Dutch classes thirty years ago, along with native French and German speakers. We all pronounced ui differently.
    French: euille
    Germans: äu
    English: ou
    I’m sure each of us thought we were closest to the real thing.

  3. Pete:

    How to learn how to pronounce the “ui”? How did you finally manage? It’s impossible!!

    • Karoly G Molina:

      @Pete Pete, it is really hard but I promise you it can be done! Practice! Practice! Practice! Good luck 🙂

  4. knelis:

    The ui is almost exactly as the /eui/ in French “feuille”

    Is that also so hard to learn? #dtv

  5. Daniel:

    My first languages are Friesian and Dutch. My primary language is English though (we immigrated when I was 8). The “ui” diphthong is an interesting one. I think I pick it up it in Northern UK accents – like Scotland. I think the “ui” sound lies somewhere between broad Australian/NZ “ou” and Dutch long “uu” sound. (I’m pretty certain I’ve also heard native English speakers of certain accents say thing like “I live in a massive huus”.)

  6. cathy:

    Pronouncing the ‘ui’ is going to send me to the gekkenhuis. Thanks for those links to add to my rapidly growing collection of ‘ui’.

    • Karoly G Molina:

      @cathy Cathy,
      You will one day conquer ‘ui’. Just be patient with yourself. Good luck 🙂

  7. Dieter:

    I found your page because I was trying to have some friends in Australia pronounce the sound. Now I can see that I could as well give up on the challenge. Over and out.

    • Karoly G Molina:

      @Dieter Dieter, the “ui” is a very hard feat to accomplish but not an impossible one!

  8. Israel:

    I dunno why but I never had problems with the ui (I was, or am, WAY more troubled by rolling r’s in some dutch dialects and other languages). Maybe it was a bi/trilingual upbringing or musicianship that made me sensitive to other sounds. Anyhow I’m sure linguistics helps: anyone with problems should (first stop asking a Dutch to explain it, then) learn the vowel chart and nail the /œy/.

  9. Corinne:

    I am so glad to find someone with the exact same problem! My dutch boyfriend and his parents are starting to despair…

    • Karoly G Molina:

      @Corinne Corinne, the “ui” pronunciation is one that takes time. Don’t despair. Eventually you will get it 🙂

  10. Joseph T. Madawela:

    thank you very much! This was the problem I was having.pronouncing muis is worse than conquering the light speed barrier!