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Lesson Transcript

Anna: Hi everyone, I’m Anna.
Becky: And I’m Becky. Welcome back to DanishClass101.com.This is Pronunciation, lesson 2: The Pronunciation of Danish 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 Danish consonant sounds.
Anna: And we have more sounds for you in this lesson - the vowels!

Lesson focus

Becky: In this lesson, we’re going to learn the single vowel sounds to start with. Then we’ll introduce two kinds of Danish 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 are talking about.
Anna: Definitely. Ok, let’s get started with the single vowels.
Becky: As we have learned, there are 9 single vowels, which create 20 different vowel sounds. Like in the previous lesson, we will go through the single letters with different pronunciations to the English one.
Anna: Alright, here we go. In Danish, "e" can be pronounced in up to five different ways. It often sounds like the first "e" in the English word "electric," but the remaining sounds are slightly different.
Becky: Let’s have some examples of the different "e"-sounds.
Anna: Ok. The two "e"’s in the word "egetræ" which means "oak tree" are two examples of how the letter is pronounced. The "e" in the word "egn" meaning "countryside," or "region", is an example of how an "e" can also sound similar to an "a." One last example is the word "eksempel" which coincidentally means "example." The last "e" is pronounced differently from the first two.
Becky: Let’s move on to our next vowel.
Anna: Next we have "i" which is most often pronounced like the "e" in the word "e-mail." It can also sound like the "e"-sounds we just went over.
Becky: Can we have an example?
Anna: Of course! The "i" in the Danish word "kvinde", meaning "woman" sounds more like an "e" than an "i."
Becky: When "i" occurs in the combination -ind, it is pronounced like an "e"-sound.
Anna: Our next vowel "u" is most often pronounced like the "oo" in the word "hooligan." But it can also sound like an "o," for example, in the word "kun" which means "only" or "just." In some words "u" also sounds like the vowel "å" which will be covered in a short while.
Becky: Wow, I can’t believe there are so many variations. At least they resemble each other! What is our next vowel?
Anna: Next up is the vowel "y." Compared to the English "y," the Danish "y" sounds more like the French "u" or u.
Becky: Can you give an example?
Anna: Sure. The Danish "y" is pronounced like the "u" in the French word "duchesse" meaning "duchess," or bygger meaning "to build". But it can also sound like the Danish vowel "ø" like in the word "brew" brygger. Ø, which is the letter o with a slash through it, will be covered now that we are ready to move on to the three unique Danish vowels.
Becky: Now listeners, don’t worry too much about these vowels, because they aren’t difficult to pronounce.
Anna: That’s right. The three vowels are called "æ," - written as "a" and "e" combined; "ø," - which has the slash; and "å." - written as an "a" with a ring or circle above it.
Anna: The first vowel, "æ", sounds like the first "e" in the English word "energy."
Becky: Can you give us a Danish example?
Anna: For example, the word "æsel".
Becky: Which means "donkey."
Anna: In some words, though, "æ" sounds like an "a." For example, the "æ" in the Danish word "værktøj" which means "tool", resembles one of the 5 "a"-sounds.
Becky: Ok.
Anna: Our next Danish vowel is "ø." For this sound we can once again refer to a French word. The "eu" in the French word "deux", meaning "two" is based on the same sound as the Danish letter "ø".
Becky: Can you give some examples with this vowel?
Anna: No problem. For example, the Danish word "øl" which means "beer" is not only one of the most important words to know, but also starts with the letter "ø."
Becky: I’ll try to say that one! "Øl."
Anna: Good job! "Ø" also varies slightly in the pronunciation in certain words. For example, the "ø" in the word "ørn" meaning "eagle" is pronounced differently from the "ø" in "øl." The word "skønhed" which means "beauty" also contains a differently sounding "ø."
Becky: Let’s hear them alongside one another.
Anna: "øl." "Ørn". "skønhed."
Becky: Can you hear the difference? Say them again please Anna.
Anna: "øl." "Ørn". "skønhed."
Anna: Finally, we have the Danish vowel "å." This letter is pronounced like the "o" in the English "over."
Becky: Let’s have a Danish example.
Anna: Sure. For example, "åben" which means "open."
Becky: Like the other Danish vowels, "å" can also differ slightly in pronunciation.
Anna: For example, the "å" in the word "åndedrag" which means "breath" sounds different from the previous one.
Becky: Please check the lesson notes for more examples of how the Danish vowel sounds are similar to English. All right. That’s all we have for the single vowels. Now we’ll continue with the diphthongs, of which there are 13 in total.
Anna: Yes, most single vowels can be combined with another vowel to create a diphthong.
Becky: Let’s look at them one by one. Don’t forget to read along in the lesson notes as you listen. We’ll explain how they are combined with each other first, then how they are pronounced.
Anna: As we mentioned earlier, there are two kinds of diphthongs in Danish. The first kind is diphthongs with "i" as their second component. One of the two diphthongs that make up this kind is "ai," which can be heard in words that contain the letter combinations "aj", "eg", "ej", and "ig".
Becky: Let’s have some examples.
Anna: Sure. An example of "aj" is "maj" meaning "May," "eg" sounds like "leg" meaning "play," , "ej" sounds like "hej" meaning "hi," and finally "ig" sounds like "mig" meaning "me."
Becky: You can clearly hear the diphthong "ai."
Anna: The second diphthong with "i" as the second component is "ɔi" which can be heard in words containing the letter combinations øg and øj.
Becky: Can you give us some more examples?
Anna: Of course. For example, "løg" meaning "onion" and "tøj" meaning "clothes."
Becky: Could you please repeat those words one more time for our listeners?
Anna: "Løg" and "tøj."
Anna: The other kind of Danish diphthongs are those combined with "u" as their second component.
Becky: Make sure to check the lesson notes for examples of words that contain the different combinations.
Anna: That’s right. "i" combined with "v," gives us "iu" like in the word give meaning "to give". "e" combined with "v," gives us "eu" and "ɛu." like in the word leve meaning "to live" "y" combined with "v," gives us "yu." lyve meaning "to lie". "ø" combined with "v," gives us "øu" and "œu." as in øve meaning "to practice". "o" combined with "v," gives us "ɔu." as in love meaning "to promise". "a" combined with "g," gives us "ɑu." as in lagde meaning "to lay". "a" combined with "v," gives us "ɑu" and "au." as in gave meaning "gift". "o" combined with "g," gives us "åu." as in bog meaning "book".
Becky: The sound of a Danish diphthong is created by first pronouncing the first and the second vowel separately then gradually increasing the speed until you can hear them combined in one sound.
Anna: That’s right.
Becky: Phew! Well, that’s all for this lesson. We’ve covered all 13 diphthongs in Danish. Don’t worry if you can’t remember all the letter combinations right away. Take your time with them!
Anna: Right, and please don’t forget to read the accompanying lesson notes carefully, because they provide all the details and examples.
Becky: And if you have any questions or comments, drop by DanishClass101.com. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you again in the next lesson about Danish Tones.


Anna: Vi ses snart!
Becky: Bye!


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Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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Hello Listeners! Which Danish diphthong is the most difficult to pronounce for you? 

Team DanishClass101.com
Tuesday at 05:00 AM
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Hi Erica,

Thank you so much for commenting and giving us some feedback.

We really appreciate it.

As for the diphthong combinations you mentioned, you are absolutely right. The "v" does kind of sound more like a "u" sound. Or perhaps like the "middle part" of the English "Ew!"

Hvis du har brug for en demonstration af udtalelsen af nogle af de andre vokaler, kan vi måske finde ud af noget i forbindelse med din private undervisning. Du er velkommen til at sende mig en liste med ord, som du gerne vil have udtalt, så du kan høre forskellen på vokalerne.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

Mange tak!


Team DanishClass101.com

Saturday at 12:16 PM
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I have trouble with many of the diphthong combinations involving "v"—"iv," "ev," "av," etc. I have trouble hearing them when native Danish speakers pronounce them. I still am not sure if there is a "v" (consonant) sound after the vowel sound, or if what I'm hearing is an emphasized "u" sound with the lips close together.

I loved the part of this lesson where Anna pronounced "øl," "ørn," and "skønhed" one after the other a couple of times to give the listener a chance to hear the distinctions between the ways she was saying "ø." I wish that there had been a similar demonstration for some of the other vowels. I could have really used that for the five "e"s, for example. As with the previous lesson, I really wish there was an additional audio track pronouncing the words listed in the lesson notes, especially the ones that don't appear in the regular lesson.

Thanks for the lessons, as always!