The vowel system in Dutch is relatively simple and straightforward. With a couple of rules and things to take into account, you’ll be mastering both the pronunciation and spelling of long vowels in a heartbeat. Let this guide take you by the hand and find out for yourself that the rabbit hole doesn’t go as deep as you may think it does. Examples on how to pronounce long vowels correctly, you can find in the video down below!
LONG VOWELS = ALPHABET VOWELS
That’s right, the pronunciation of the long vowels is the same as the pronunciation as the vowels as they appear in the alphabet ( Dutch and Flemish). The best thing you can do is to study one word per vowel so that you can easily identify the pronunciation of long vowels in new words. Here’s an exemplary list below:
Only one important thing to note here:
WRITING LONG VOWELS: A TALE OF TWO RULES
Let’s now look at how to write long vowels. Basically, there are only two possibilities on how to spell them and they very much depend on the composition of the word.
1. (C) VVC
First possibility is a syllable or word that ends in a consonant with duplicated vowels (as is the case for the exemplary words in the list above). The composition of said syllable / word would look like this: “(C)VVC”. Some examples:
A: naam, maan, kaal, haal, taal
E: twee, meer, geen, geel, veel
I: drie, niet, vier, zien, wie (rule doesn’t apply here) (*)
O: droom, groot, dood, oor, ook
U: uur, vuur, muur, buur, duur
(*) the long “i” is always written as “ie” and the letter “i” is, unlike the other vowels, never duplicated.
Second possibility to write a long vowel is a sylable or word that ends in one vowel and one vowel only. The composition of said sylable / word would look like this: “(C)V”. They are most often words like substantives in plural, verbs in infinitive or plural and decleansed adjectives that end in “e”. Some examples:
A: namen, manen, kale, halen, talen
E: leven, stelen, gele, beter, eten
I: gieten, liegen, bieten, bieden, knielen
O: dromen, komen, wonen, hopen, grote
U: uren, vuren, muren, buren, dure
Why these words and sylables are written like this, has to do with one of the most important spelling rules in the Dutch language: You can never end a word or sylable with two letters that are the same.
Dutch wouldn’t be Dutch of course if there wasn’t some kind of wacko exception to the rule, which is the case here too with words that end in “e”. Consider these:
zee, mee, twee, thee, nee, fee
EXERCISES & LINKS
If you want some more exercise material, check out these links:
Uitsprekend (Flemish pronunciation, for free)
Spreek Beter (Dutch pronunciation, 1.99€)
Nederlandse spelling (mostly made for kids who are Dutch native speakers, but could also be practical for adults learning Dutch)
Van Dale NT2 Woordenboek (usable both on the Van Dale app and online, amazing Dutch to simplified Dutch for students dictionary with pronunciation examples of each word in both Flemish and Dutch variation, a bargain for 4.99€ / year!)
Studiebazaar Uitspraakoefeningen (Flemish pronunciation, organized according to vowels, vowel & consonant combinations)
Klankbord (Dutch pronunciation)
Forvo (a free online dictionary where you can hear how regular Flemish & Dutch people would pronounce a word, also available for many, many other languages)
In terms of books, check out Nu versta ik je, available in both Dutch and Flemish versions.