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Lesson Transcript

Martin: Hi everyone, and welcome back to CzechClass101.com. I’m Martin.
Brandon: And I’m Brandon. This is Pronunciation, lesson 2 - Basic Czech Vowels and Diphthongs. So listeners, did you practice the sounds from lesson one? We hope that you’ve all got a much better idea of Czech consonant sounds.
Martin: And we have more sounds for you in this lesson – the vowel sounds!

Lesson focus

Brandon: In this lesson, we’re going to start with the single vowel sounds. Then in the second part, we’ll introduce the Czech diphthongs, which are sounds created by combining 2 single vowel letters. We highly recommend you use the lesson notes as you listen, to get a better idea of the sounds we’re talking about. Okay. Let’s get started with the single vowels.
Martin: As we learned in Lesson 4 of the “Czech All about” series, there are 13 single vowels, which we can divide into the short vowels a, e, i, y, o, u, ě, and the long vowels á, é, í, ý, ó, ů / ú.
Brandon: Basically, long vowels have to be pronounced longer than the short ones.
Martin: Right. A long vowel is indicated by a long mark called “čárka” that is placed above the letter. For the letter ‘’u’’, there are two types - ú with a long mark “čárka”and ů with a small circle called “kroužek”.
Brandon: Both are pronounced the same, but “ú” with a long mark above the letter appears at the beginning of a word, and “ů” with a small circle above it appears at the end of a word. Please check the lesson notes for specific examples of how their sounds are similar to English. Now, let’s look at the vowels that are familiar to English speakers.
Martin: All right, let’s start with the pronunciation of the short vowels a, e, i/y, o, u, ě.
Brandon: Is it true that just the vowels that look like “O” and “U” sound different to English?
Martin: Yes. “A”, “e”, “i” and “y” are very much the same as in English. But “o” is pronounced like “o” in “omit” and not like “oh”. For example “obloha” meaning “sky”, or “chodit” meaning “to walk”.
Brandon: What about the other one that looks like the English “U”?
Martin: This is “u”, and it’s pronounced like the “u” in “look”, and not like the “u” in “urban”. For example ulice meaning “a street”, or super meaning “superb”.
Brandon: And we also have an “E” with an accent mark on the top. What’s that?
Martin: “ě” is pronounced like the “y+e” in the English “yes” with a small hook above it. For example “pět”...
Brandon: meaning “five”.
Martin: ...or “vědět”, meaning “to know”.
Brandon: Ok, so these were the Czech short vowels. Let’s move onto the long vowels now…..
Martin: Sure. The long vowels are á, é, í/ý, ó and ú/ů.
“A’ ”is pronounced like the “a” in “Father”. An example is “krása” meaning “beauty”, or “pták” meaning “a bird”.
Brandon: And what’s the next one?
Martin: “é” is pronounced like the “e” in “Shed”, but held for longer. An example is “létat” meaning “to fly”.
Brandon: Ok, and next?
Martin: “í” and “ý” are pronounced like the long “double e” in “Cheep”, the sound birds make. For example “jíst” meaning “to eat”, or “zlý” meaning “bad”.
Brandon: And the next one?
Martin: Next is “ó”. It’s pronounced like the “a” in “Fall”. For example, “balón” meaning “balloon”.
Brandon: Ok, and the very last one is..
Martin: It’s the pair of “ú”. which is written with a length mark, and “ů” which is written with a circle.
Brandon: Both of these are pronounced like the “u” sound in “School”.
Martin: Some examples are “úl” meaning “beehive” and “nůž” meaning “a knife”. Both vowels ú with the length mark and ů with the circle are pronounced the same way, even though the spelling is different.
Brandon: I’ve heard that this situation of two different spellings is connected to the history of the Czech language’s development.
Martin: That’s right. In terms of grammar, though, the vowel ú with a length mark is always written at the beginning of the word or after a prefix, while the vowel ů with a circle is always placed in the stem or at the end of the word.
Brandon: So keep that in mind, listeners! That’s all we have for the single vowels. Now let’s continue with the pairs of vowels.
Martin: In Czech, you will often come across these pairs of vowels - i+a, i+e, i+i, i+o and i+u.
Brandon: Let’s go through them one by one. Don’t forget to look at the lesson notes as you listen. We’ll explain how they are pronounced.
Martin: You can see there are not many of them, and they are easy to learn.
Brandon: The sound of a Czech vowel pair is created by pronouncing the first and the second vowel separately, then gradually increasing the speed until you can hear them combined in one sound. Now, Martin will show you how to do this. Please listen carefully.
Martin: All right. Let’s get started.
First, “i” combined with “a”, give us “ia”. i...a...ia.
: It sounds like the “iya” in the word fialka meaning “a violet”.
Brandon: Ok, what’s next?
Martin: Second, “i” combined with “e”, gives us “ie” i...e...ie. It sounds like the “iye” in the word Anglie which means “England”.
Third, a combination of “i” and “i”, gives us “ii” i...i...ii. This sounds like the “iyi” in v Anglii, meaning “in England.”
Fourth is “i” combined with “o”, which gives us “io” i..o...io, which sounds like the “iyo” in the word radio, meaning “radio”.
Brandon: Ok, and what’s our last combination?
Martin: And the fifth and last one is “i” combined with “u”, which gives us “iu” i...u...iu. The sound is “iyu” like in v radiu which means “on the radio.”
Brandon: Ok listeners, are you still with us? We’re almost done!
Martin: Yes! Just a few diphthongs to cover now!
Brandon: Yes, but those are easy, because there are only three!
Martin: Exactly. Czech has only three diphthongs, which are two vowels contained within one syllable. And those are a+u, o+u, and e+u.
Brandon: The method for pronouncing these is the same as the one we learned for the combined vowels. The sound of Czech diphthongs is created by pronouncing the first and the second vowel separately, then gradually increasing the speed until you can hear them combined in one sound.
Martin: All right, let’s get started. Au and Eu
are used with foreign words or words that come from other languages, the so-called loanwords. The pronunciation of “au” is like the English “out”. For example, we say auto
meaning “automobile”,
meaning “audio”,
and aurora
meaning “aurora”.
Brandon: What about the next one?
Martin: The pronunciation of “eu” does not have an equivalent in English, but try to pronounce it using the method we mentioned earlier. Say ‘’e’’ and ‘’u’’ separately and then speed up the pronunciation to join the two letters together. You should get the same sound of the Czech ‘’eu’’.
Brandon: Can you give us an example?
Martin: Sure. The Czechs say, for example, Eutanázie
meaning “Euthanasia”,
and Eukaliptus
meaning “Eucaliptus”.


Martin: Listeners, ever have any Czech language or lesson-related questions?
Brandon: Or maybe you have some feedback for us...
Brandon: Leave us a comment or ask a question on the lessons page!
Martin: It's super simple. Go to CzechClass101.com...
Brandon: ...click on comments,
Martin: ...enter your comment and name,
Brandon: ...and that's it!
Martin: Commenting is a a great way to practice writing and reading in Czech.
Brandon: It helps you learn faster.
Martin: And it helps us get better through your feedback.
Brandon: No excuses.
Martin: Go to CzechClass101.com, and comment now.
Brandon: NOW!
Brandon: Well, that’s all for this lesson. Thank you for listening, everyone, and we’ll see you next time. Bye!
Martin: Ahoj!