Czech Pronunciation

                                by David P. Stern


About 70 years have passed since I spoke Czech, and my memory of its is dim. If anything listed below is inaccurate or incorrect, please let me know so it can be corrected. Some guidelines:

    Czech belongs to the family of Slavic languages, as do Russian, Polish and Serbian (Slovakian is very similar to Czech, almost a dialect). Unlike Russian, in which the stressed syllable varies, in Czech it is usually at the beginning of the word. Shift in emphasis or longer vowels may be signaled by sloping lines above them ("acute" vowels like é).

    Vowels (with certain exceptions) are generally pronounced as in German:

    a as in "car"
    e as in "get". There is no "silent e" as in English.
    i as in "hit"
    o as in "lot"
    u as in "put"
    y as very short "i"

Consonants are mostly as in English and German, including H.
Note however that "c" is pronounced "ts", and in words where is followed by "k", both consonants are pronounced separately (NOT as in English "back" or "stick")

"ch" is as in "Loch" in German or Scots.
"j" is always pronounced like "y" in "yellow" or "yarn"
ů is long sound "oo" (soon, noon)
ě is pronounced like a combination of y and (Czech) e, e.g. like the two first letters in "yesterday"

Sibilant consonants (whistling sound) generally have a hook on top:
    š is like "sh" in English (sheep)
    č is pronounced as "tsh" would be in English.
      Thus the country's name might be Čech Republic, but
      in English it is customary to write Czech (an adaptation
      from Polish) to avoid a letter not on English keyboards.
    ž is "zh". A bit like soft "g" in English but
                without a leading sound "d".
    ř is "rzh" (and could in principle be written rž)


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Author and Curator:   Dr. David P. Stern
     Mail to Dr.Stern:   david("at" symbol) .

Last updated 18 May 2009