Pronouncing the Dutch Alphabet

It would be nice to think that the English and Dutch languages are similar.

In many instances – individual words, phrases, roots – they are indeed related; however it is precisely their differences that make true understanding possible.

This is immediately apparent when any native English speaker confronts the strange and rigid (and seemingly atonal) Dutch alphabet. While some letters sound the same as their English counterparts, others sound like other English letters.

Further, this can lead to confusion when English speakers spell words or names aloud, as I discovered when I had to spell my name out to a Dutch teleworker recently.

Listen to this audio clip of the Dutch ‘alfabet’ being read aloud.

You’ll notice immediately that key vowels are different: “A” is like the English “R”; “E” sounds like the English “A”; and “I” sounds like the English “E”. Thankfully “O” and “U” are reasonably consistent.

Let’s not even get started on the consonants just yet. When the teleworker read my name back to me, it had been garbled. I had become Devid Paetia.

Paging Mr Paetia, Mr D. Paetia …

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