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Your Ultimate Czech Pronunciation Guide

Knowing how to correctly pronounce words when you learn to speak a new language is crucial for speaking it well. It is no different with Czech. At CzechClass101, we put a lot of emphasis on teaching and demonstrating correct pronunciation, as it is our aim to help you to speak like a native after a while!

According to Dictionary.com, ‘pronunciation’ is: the act or result of producing the sounds of speech, including articulation, stress, and intonation, often with reference to some standard of correctness or acceptability.

Paying attention to your Czech pronunciation not your own essentially means you’re learning to ditch most of your foreign accent. This is very important if you want to be a successful communicator in any language. Getting Czech pronunciation right may seem like a daunting task at the onset, but it need not be!

Download Your FREE Guide to the Czech Alphabet!

If you want to master the Czech language and become fluent, you must learn the Czech alphabet letters first. And you need physical worksheets to practice on.

This eBook is a MUST-HAVE for all Czech learning beginners!

FREE Czech eBook

Download your FREE Czech practice sheets PDF today and learn the Czech language in no time!
This is a must-have guide for absolute beginners

1. Introduction to Czech Pronunciation

Introduction

The great advantage of the Czech language is that, unlike in English, it is pronounced the same way as it is written. However, in order to pronounce all the sounds that the Czech language contains, additional letters with diacritics (small marks above the letter) are used in combination with the Roman alphabet. There are only a few diacritics - háček (hook), čárka (length mark), kroužek(circle) and they change the pronunciation of the letter. They look like this when written: háček (č), čárka (á), kroužek (ů).

Before getting into the Czech sounds, let’s recap the written system quickly just as an introduction to the pronunciation. The Czech alphabet consists of 42 letters out of which 26 are the same as in English, plus 16 additional ones with diacritics. Those are 8 extra vowels (á, é, í, ý, ó, ú/ů, ě) and 8 extra consonants (ž, š, č, ř, ď, ť, ň, plus “ch”). “Ch” in Czech alphabet counts as a single letter and has a special position after “h.” Its pronunciation is different from English.

1) Consonants

The Czech consonants are divided into four categories:

  • hard - (h, ch, k, r, g, d, t, n)
  • soft - (ž, š, č, ř, c, j, ď, ť, ň)
  • ambivalent - (b, f, l, m, p, s, v, z)
  • unusual - (q, w, x). These are nearly exclusively used in foreign words only

This division is important in terms of declension (the way of changing the endings of nouns, pronouns and numerals in Czech) and ways of spelling.

Please note that the pronunciation of (p, t, k) in Czech does not come with an aspiration (a stream of air) like in English.  Consequently, these sounds will have a sharper, more inverted, dryer sound than the usual aspirated p, t, k sounds in English and most other western European languages.

Pronunciation of hard consonants (the effect of rough sound)

  • h is pronounced like [h] in “Hard” (no aspiration)
  • ch is pronounced like [j] in the Spanish name “José”
  • k is pronounced like [k] in “King” (no aspiration)
  • r is pronounced like [r] in “Truck” but more thrilled (the tongue vibrates as the r rolls off the tongue)
  • g is pronounced like [g] in “Grow” (not like in general!)
  • d is pronounced like [d] in “Dog” but a harder sound
  • t is pronounced like [t] in “Table” but a harder “t” sound
  • n is pronounced like [n] in “Norway”

Pronunciation of soft consonants (the effect of a gentle sound)

  • ž is pronounced like in “Version.”
  • š is pronounced like in “Short.”
  • č is pronounced like in “Czech.”
  • ř is pronounced by pressing the tip of the tongue on the palate, while the rest of the tongue is free to vibrate.
  • ď is pronounced like in “Duke” but softer.
  • ť is pronounced like in “Tutor” but softer.
  • ň is pronounced like in “New” but softer.
  • c is pronounced like in “Streets.”
  • j is pronounced like in “Yard.”

To pronounce ď, ť, ň, the tip of the tongue needs to be placed against the back

of the upper gum and above the front teeth. The sound should be similar to d, t, n, but much softer.

Pronunciation of ambivalent consonants

(can be either soft or hard depending on circumstance)

  • B is pronounced like [b] in “Big.”
  • F is pronounced like [f] in “Farm.”
  • L is pronounced like [l] in “Lonely.”
  • M is pronounced like [m] in “Morning.”
  • P is pronounced like [p] in “Push” (no aspiration)
  • S is pronounced like [s] in “Similar.”
  • V/W is pronounced like [v] in “Victim.”
  • Z is pronounced like [z] in “Zoo.”

Pronunciation of unusual consonants

(found in foreign loan words)

  • Q like [q] in “Quick”
  • W like [v] in ”Victim”
  • X like [x] in “Complex”

2) Vowels

Czech has long and short vowels. Long vowels have to be pronounced longer than the short ones and the length must be noticeable. A long vowel is indicated by a long mark (čárka) placed above the letter. It looks like this: á, í, or in case of letter u, there are two types ú with a long mark (čárka) and ů with a small circle (kroužek). Both are pronounced the same.

Pronunciation of 7 short vowels (a, e, i/y, o, u, ě)

  • a is pronounced like [a] in “But.”
  • e is pronounced like [e] in “Met.”
  • i/y is also pronounced like [i] in “Sit.”
  • o is pronounced like [o] in “Omit.”
  • u is pronounced like [u] in “Look.”
  • ě is pronounced like [y+e] in “Yes.”

Pronunciation of 7 long vowels (á, é, í/ý, ó, ú/ů)

  • á is pronounced like [ a ] in “Father”
  • é is pronounced like [ e ] in “Shed,” but longer
  • í/ý is pronounced like  [ i ] in “Cheep.”
  • ó is pronounced like [ o ] in “Fall.”
  • ú/ů is pronounced like [ u ] in “School” but longer

Pronunciation of the Czech vowels soft i / í and hard y / ý are the same in terms of sound.

The vowels ú / ů are also pronounced the same way, although the spelling is different. This form of two different spellings is connected to the history of Czech language development.

In terms of grammar, the vowel ú is always written at the beginning of the word (i.e. úkol = “task”) or after a prefix (i.e. zúročit = “pay interest on something”).

On the other hand, the vowel ů is always placed in the stem of the word (kůže = “skin”) or at the end (domů = (”going home”).

When spelling out individual letters of the Czech alphabet, the sounds are as follow:

a [ á ], b [ bé ], c [ cé ], č [ čé ], d [ dé ], ď [ ďé ], e [ é ], f  [ ef ], g [ gé ], h [ há ], ch [ chá ], i [ í ], y [ ý ],  j [ jé ],  k [ ká ], l [ el ], m [ em ], n [ en ], ň [ eň ], o [ ó ], p [ pé ], q [ qé ], r [ er ], ř [ eř ], s [ es ], š [ eš], t [ té ], [ t´é ], u / ú / ů [ ú ], v [ vé ], w [ dvojité vé ], x  [ iks ], y / ý  [ ypsilon / ý ], z [ zet,], ž [ žet ].

For example:

ČSAD = [čé-es-á-dé] = České autobusové dráhy (”Czech bus lines”)

Diacritical marks are very important and cannot be omitted because they will often change the meaning of the word. If a word is pronounced too short or too long, the meaning becomes different.

Here is an example of what can happen if pronounced incorrectly:

  • byt = “apartment/flat” X být = “to be”
  • žila = “(she) lived” X  žíla = “blood vessel.”

2. Why is Correct Pronunciation in Czech Important?

Correct Pronunciation

Proper pronunciation is important, very important. Some say it’s even more important than getting the grammar perfectly correct! Why would this be?

1) Good Understanding

If communicating with native speakers matters to you when learning Czech, you need to be understood when you talk, and you need to be able to understand the native speakers. After all, without understanding, the purpose of language is null and void! In order to be understood, you need to be able to speak the language in a way that is familiar to native speakers, or at least recognizable by them.

When learning to speak a new language, you will learn that the more you progress the more intricate it becomes! For instance, almost every language has vocabulary that may look the same in writing, but because the words are pronounced differently, they have very different meanings. This means that you may say a word in Czech, and because of a slight change in pronunciation, the meaning of the word changes completely. Understandably, this can make for pretty embarrassing situations! At worst, your mispronounced Czech will sound garbled to a native speaker.

Knowing the nuances of how a word or letter is pronounced will also help you to understand spoken Czech better.

No worries if this feels hard; you’re learning, and with our help at CzechClass101, you will not have a problem with mispronunciation if you follow our advice and examples carefully.

2) Good Communication

Not pronouncing Czech or any other language correctly can lead to a lot of frustration because you’re unable to express what you mean, and you will not be understood correctly. Even if you have total knowledge of Czech grammar, and can write it like a native, not knowing how to speak it properly will only make for very frustrating communication all around.

3) A Good Impression

Even if you’re only a beginner, it is possible to speak any language correctly. This way, you are bound to make a good impression on native speakers, and when you’re more fluent, you will be likely to garner a lot more respect than a fumbling newbie speaker who doesn’t care much for correct pronunciation.

People often have a lot of patience for someone who learns to speak a new language, but native speakers are more likely to address you and engage with you in conversation if you work hard on your accent. This is simply because you’ll be able to understand one another! So, proficiency in pronunciation can mean the difference between having none or plenty of Czech speaking friends. It will also serve you well in the workplace, and make you popular with your Czech speaking managers and employers or employees.

Learning to speak Czech properly is also a sign of respect for not only the language, but also the native speakers and their customs.

3. Secrets to Learning the Correct Czech Pronunciation

Secrets to Learning

1) Use voice recording tools to perfect your pronunciation

CzechClass101 has plenty of resources to help you with your Czech pronunciation, so be sure to make thorough use of our recordings with native Czech speakers. These are available not only to demonstrate to you how you should pronounce Czech vocabulary, but also sentences and dialogues. Watch and listen to these over and over again to train your ear, and watch the teacher’s mouth as she speaks in the video lessons. Then, copy the speech as best you can. Later, you can record yourself to hear if you sound like a native speaker and compare yourself with native speakers. Great for self-motivation.

2) Practice in front of the mirror.

And see that you’re copying the correct lip and mouth movements.

3) Use our CzechClass101 dictionary!

Use the Czech dictionary provided by CzechClass101 to look up words and listen to the audio pronunciation. This will go a long way towards giving you an idea of how to pronounce a word or letter correctly.

4) Train your ear to the language!

Make an effort to often listen to Czech music and recorded books, and watch plenty of Czech movies and/or TV shows in Czech. This will train your ear to the language, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you pick up the accent. Remember, this is the way we learned to speak when we were young - mostly by listening to the adults talking, and repeating what they say!

5) Practice, practice, practice…

Repetition of the same thing may be boring, but in learning a new language, you’re creating new pathways in your brain. For these to remain and become habitual, you will need to repeat the correct pronunciation often.

6) Make friends with a native Czech speaker.

Don’t be shy to address them in Czech! Ask them to correct you when you make a pronunciation mistake - this is a wonderful way to practice and learn the language first-hand, and also to make new friends.

7) Practice your pronunciation with your Czech teacher!

If you’re a serious student and don’t know where to meet native Czech speakers, consider investing in CzechClass101’s Premium PLUS plan. This means you will have your own native Czech teacher available to practice your pronunciation with, and much more! Send recordings of yourself speaking Czech and get feedback from your Czech teacher.

4. How to Download Your Free Guide to the Czech Alphabet

Download Your FREE Guide to the Czech Alphabet!

If you want to master the Czech language and become fluent, you must learn the Czech alphabet letters first. And you need physical worksheets to practice on.

This eBook is a MUST-HAVE for all Czech learning beginners!

FREE Czech eBook

Download your FREE Czech practice sheets PDF today and learn the Czech language in no time!
This is a must-have guide for absolute beginners

Log in with Your Free Lifetime Account and we’ll give you an instructional Czech PDF that covers the letters of the alphabet, practice worksheets, and a quiz to test yourself with… — absolutely FREE!

3 Reasons to Learn Czech Through PDF Lessons

Let’s now take a closer look at how studying Czech lessons in PDF format can help you reach your dream in up to half the time of normal video or audio lessons!

① Saves Minutes on Your Data Plan

Learning Czech through PDF lessons can dramatically reduce your data use. Once a lesson or tool is downloaded, you can then access it offline via your computer or smartphone any time or place regardless of Internet access. And once you’ve downloaded the Czech lessons in PDF format, you can actually access them faster than logging in and trying to do so via a live site. So not only will learning Czech using PDF lessons save minutes on your data plan—it will save you some significant time as well as the lessons add up!

② Print and Take All Czech Lessons and PDF Tools With You Anywhere

Sometimes, a tiny smartphone screen just isn’t adequate, especially when you are trying to learn something new. The great thing about PDF lessons, tools or files is that they can be quickly printed and taken anywhere after you download them. In fact, printing out Czech lessons in PDF format can actually save you time when compared to going through the material on a smartphone with a small screen—even with the extra printing time!

③ Great Study Tool to Boost Retention and Mastery

Studying video or audio lessons online is a great way to learn a language because students can play and rewind sections as many times as needed until the lesson is mastered. But when you review the same Czech lessons again in PDF format, an incredible thing happens: your retention dramatically improves! Thanks to Time Spaced Repetition, seeing the information again in written format helps reinforce the information in your mind and improves both retention and recall. The benefits of learning Czech using PDF lessons quickly add up to significant time savings for you, your data plan, and your dream of learning a new language!

Why are we giving it away?

Learning to read and write is a must for all beginners. Although you get video lessons on how to write in Czech at CzechClass101, you’ll still need physical worksheets to practice on. That’s why you’re getting this printable tutorial PDFs as a gift.

5. Related Lessons

How to Say Hello in Czech
Do you know how to say hello in Czech? It’s the most basic phrase that you’ll need to say and hear in everyday life. If you don’t know yet, learn 15 ways to say hello and greet others in Czech. Why 15? The more variations you know, the more you can speak and the more fluent you become!
How to Introduce Yourself in Czech
Can you introduce yourself in Czech? Don’t worry! Check out the 10 Czech Lines You Need To Introduce Yourself with this free Review Sheet. From “My name is…“ and “I live in…” down to “My hobbies are…” Just review the 10 lines. It will only take you 2 minutes. Then, introduce yourself in the comment section below!
Czech Alphabet
Learn everything you need to know about the Czech alphabet. At CzechClass101, we introduce you to Czech writing in simple, easy-to-follow steps, and you can ask for advice or help anywhere along the way. It is important to master the Czech alphabet completely from the start.
How to Say Thank You in Czech
Has anyone thanked you today? We will. Thank you for reading this article and learning with us! In fact, today, you’ll learn the many different ways to say “Thank You” in Czech. It’s one of the most important Czech phrases. Check it out and watch the video too to practice your pronunciation.

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