Dutch Alphabet – Difference between letter V, W, F

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Pronunciation exercise:

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How to pronounce Dutch letters extra pronunciation lesson Dutch dutch alphabet dutch alphabet letter r

Transcript of the lesson:

Hi, this is an extra video – to the Dutch alphabet and pronunciation lesson. In this lesson I will discuss more in detail the letters “v”, “w” and “f”. Especially if the letters in your own language are different of even don’t exist, it might be diffult to hear the difference. I will turn the music down – so you hear better my pronuncation.

First I will pronounce the letters once more: V (2x) W (2x) F (2x)

I now will pronounce a phrase with words that start with these letters, please listen carefully: Wij varen op het water in Frankrijk. Vandaag is het feest in de wereld.

Ok, first of all: the “f” you can distinguish from the others, because it is a voiceless consonant. That means: the vocal cords do not vibrate. Just listen: “f” (2x als sound). So without: mmmm.

The “w” and “v” are voiced consonants, the vocal cords do vibrate. Listen: “v”, “w” (2x als sound).

So compare: Voiceless: f, Voiced: v, w

The “f” is actually just like in English.

The “w” is different from the “v” and “f” because the latter ones are so called labiodental consonants. That means the lower lip contacts the upper teeth, and you press air through. Just try it. “v” “f” (sound). And the “w” doesn’t have that. But the Dutch “w” is a bit different from the English “double u”. I will try to explain the difference. We say “water”. The English say “water”, or US English: “water”. We say “waar”. The English say “where”. Now I will exaggarate even more the difference. The English “double u” is more like “w” (2x sound) “where” “water”. So your lips are making a big gesture. But the Dutch “w” is much more modest. We are a small country and you can hear that in our “w”. As if you want to pronounce the English double u, but then without moving you lips, just like a ventriloquist.

“w” (2x sound) water, waar

Then the “v”. In theory it is close to the English “v”. But our “v” has a little bit less voice. And therefore our “v” is more in the direction of the “f” which is completely voiceless. For examle: English: very, Dutch: veel, Very, veel

Exceptions:

  • If the “v” is at the end of a word, we pronounce it like an “f”. Now actually there are not really words in the Dutch language that end on a “v”, but it may be the matter in case of an abbreviation or a foreign name: for example, we say “tsjechov”, although we write it with a “v”, we say an “f”. Tsjechov.
  • If the “w” is at the end of a word; we pronounce it even more softly, almost like being a part of a vowel; usually preceeded by the letter “u”. Examples: sneeuw, nieuw, nauw. So this “w”-sound actually is almost not really pronounced. You don’t say: nieuw. You say “nieuw”.
  • And to conclude If the “w” at the beginning of a word and is followed by an “r” you pronounce it like a “v”, for example “wraak”, “wreed”, “wroeging”.

So that’s the Theory.

And now the thing that makes everything difficult. And that’s where I get so many questions about. The practice is that with quite some words, the pronunciation of “v” is now much closer to the “f”. And with now, I mean compared to 50 years ago.

For example, you will hear:

  • veertig
  • vijftig
  • spreekvaardigheid

That’s the sound of an “f”, not of a “v”. It’s because of a trend of the last decades, that several voiced consonants like the “v” tend to lose their voice in the spoken language. Probably because life got faster and you it’s just easier to pronounce.

You will notice the difference when you watch old movies from the 50’s and 60’s. By the way in Belgium, it is much less. Maybe because life is more relaxed there. For example: a Dutchman would say: 45. And a Belgian would say 45. Do you hear the difference in the pronuncation of the “v”?

Now what is MY advice, to a starting Dutch learner about this “v” being pronounce close to “f” sometimes. It’s good that you know, but forget about it during your studies. Just try to pronounce, as it in theory should be. That will help you in your writing. If you say “veertig”, it is absolutely not a problem. But if you now try to learn it with a voiceless consonant, and pronounce it like “feertig” – just like the Dutch -, then there is a risk that you will end up making mistakes in writing. So, just keep it simple.

And now, we covered more or less the main issue for English native speakers, but I want to make some special remarks for Dutch learners with another mother tongue.

To Spanish speaking people, I would like to notice that the “v” is not close to the “b”. These are absolutely different sounds, and please be careful that you don’t keep saying the “b” sound to the “v”. (sound)

To Russian speaking people, and maybe to other slavic language speakers. Your “B” is probably exactly between the “v” and “w”. So you need to split up that sound, and remember the difference that I mentioned, that with a “v” your lower lip contacts your upper teeth and air is pressed through. And with the “w” this is not the matter.

To German speaking people, I would say – please pay attention that you do not make an “f” of a “v”. By telling the story of consonants losing there voice, you may think that it won’t a big problem, and that it’s probably like in German. Absolutely not to that extent! And it would be considered even a typical strong german accent. Don’t say: Ik hou Fan jou. Try to avoid that and just say “ik hou van jou”.

And to French speaking people. I give the hint, to keep the “w” modest. It typical for French native speakers, to make the “w” too expressive when speaking Dutch. I hear people from Wallonia say “wij willen water”; it’s like you hear how they suffer with this sound. But it’s not necessary. Keep it modest and easy. Just: wij willen water. As if you almost do not pronounce that letter.

Now, that’s it. I really hope this helps you further. If you think, this video-lesson has valuable information; then I hope you reward it in youtube by pressing the thumbs up, button.

Now your task is to practice. Because that’s the only way to learn the pronunciation well. Your mouth has to get used to making the correct sounds. I made an exercise video that comes with this lesson, about f, v and w, where I pronounce the words, and you need to repeat it.

So, my advice – go to a quiet place, where no one disturbs you and where no one is laughing at you, where you can practice without shame. And you just repeat the words of my exercise. You find the link to that video exercise here.

Of course, also check the other pronunciation videos. And do not forget to subscribe to the learndutch.org youtube channel for weekly new video lessons to learn Dutch.

Transcript of the exercise:

This is an exercise to the lesson about the pronunciation of “v”, “w” and “f” in Dutch. I will read the words, and you need to repeat it outloud. In this exercise it is NOT important to know the meaning of the words. It is only about pronuncation.

Go to a quiet place where no one disturbs you. I start with words, and I finish with short phrases. I will read each word or phrase twice, and after that, you repeat what I said.

Let’s start:

Veel, Vragen, Voor, Vier, Vaas, Van, Vuur, Vast

Waar, Wie, Wat, Woest, Weten, Want, Welke, Wijs

Fiets, Frans, Feest, Fit, Fris, Fatsoen, Foto, Fuif

Vee, Fee, Wee, Varen, Water, Falen, Vaal, Waal

Phrases:

Wat was de fiets mooi ! Vijf Walen wonen in Vlaanderen. Vlamingen eten Friet. Welk water vinden wij warm. Frits is fris als een vis. Veel foto’s van vee. Wij weten welke fuif. Van fietsen word je vrolijk.

And that’s it for today. Thank you for doing the exercise. If you think, this video-lesson has valuable information; then I hope you reward it in youtube by pressing the thumbs up, button. And do not forget to subscribe to the learndutch.org youtube channel for weekly new video lessons to learn Dutch.

And of course, check also our other pronunciation lessons. See you there !