Many Dutch words are similar to English words.
Some look the same, and even sound practically the same:
Some look the same, but sound a little different:
Some sound the same, but look different:
|boat||boot||navio, batel, barco|
And some look different and sound different, but you can still see and hear the similarity:
|I go||ik ga||vou|
|the||de||o / a|
Some sounds are easy, but quite a lot are difficult. For example, we have two kinds of a-sounds, which must be distinguished:
As you see, we distinguish the two a-sounds by writing a single a or a double aa. But to make it more difficult, we do not always do that. This can be seen when we take the plural of both words:
The vowel sounds in taak and taken are the same. But in taken we write it with a single a, because we consider it to be in an open syllable: ta-ken. Syllable a is "open" because it doesn't end with a consonant.
The vowel sounds in tak and takken are the same. In both cases, they are written with a single a. But in takken, the k is doubled, not because there are two of them, but only to keep the syllable "closed" so the a stays "short". We divide the word takken into syllables as tak-ken, and then because the first syllable "tak" ends in the consonant k, we call it a closed syllable, and the a is therefore "short".
Dutch has four sounds that can sound more or less the same as a Brazilian r, but
in Dutch they are very different.
First, listen to the difference between h, g and r in the following three words:
The two examples of the word "roet" have two different kinds of r, but both are equally valid in Dutch.
It is important to distinguish words that start with an h-sound, and those that don't:
|The "character" ij||ij||o "charácter" ij|
(Ei and ij are just two ways to write the same sound)
Next, we'll look at the difference between g and ch. In many cases, there is no difference at all: at the end of a word, or when certain other sounds, such as t, follow. Examples:
The word "licht" (luz) is written with ch for historic reasons, but "ligt" has a letter g because it comes from the verb "liggen" (estar deitado): ik lig = estou deitado, jij ligt = você está deitado, hij ligt = (ele) está deitado, etc.
The word dag (dia) has a g because the plural is dagen (dias). But lach (riso) and ik lach (eu rio) have ch, because the verb is lachen, and it's also we lachen or wij lachen (= rimos), en "zij lachen" or "ze lachen" (= riem).
(The difference between wij and we (both mean "nós") is that wij has more stress. You use it when you want to make it very clear that you don't mean them, but us. Normally, you always use we. Likewise, "ze" and "zij" can both mean "eles/elas", but they can also mean "ela". hij means "ele". But although "ze" and "we" exist, there is no weak form "he"! This is because it would be unpronouncable in Dutch)
In words like lachen and lagen, where ch or g are between vowels, the difference between g and ch can be heard. But many Dutch speakers don't make this distinction very clearly. So as a beginning foreign learner, you can safely ignore it. But it may help if you can already hear that the sounds may be different:
|they laugh||ze lachen||riem|
|they lay||ze lagen||estiveram deitados|
So far, it's already difficult enough. But to make it worse, the sounds can be close to
each other. For example, the g and "g-like" r are often next to each other, where they almost,
but not quite, merge into a single sound:
gras. But it is also allowed to use the other kind of r here:
Two g's can meet: in composite words like weggeven (give away), which is composed of "weg" and "geven". The g of weg has the sound as in "lach" and the g of "geven" is turned into the same voiceless sound, so together, they sound as if they were written as a single ch. But in the word weggegeven (= given away), the third g is different, because it is between vowels.
A g and a h can also meet, where both are pronounced separately. An example is the word weghalen (= take away), composed of weg and halen. Sometimes, they are close, but not right next to each other: gehad (= had), gehaald (taken).