SHORT VOWELS: A short guide (get it?)

Nout "holding" the vowels of the Dutch language between his fingers and on the left the title "Short vowels in Dutch"

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 short 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 short vowels correctly, you can find in the video down below!

SHORT VOWELS: PRONUNCIATION

Unlike the long vowels, the standard pronunciation of the short vowels is both in Flemish and in Dutch exactly the same. The sounds of the short vowels vary from the “long” sounds of the vowels of the alphabet. The best thing you can do is to study one word per vowel so that you can easily identify the pronunciation of short vowels in new words. Here’s an exemplary list of five easy, basic words below:

A: kat
E: ben
I: ik
O: kort
U: bus

WRITING SHORT VOWELS: ONLY ONE WAY

Let’s now look at how to write short vowels. Basically, there is only one possibility on how to spell them, irregardless of the composition of the word. The syllable or word will always end in a consonant with one vowel (as is the case for all of the exemplary words in the list above). The composition of said syllable / word would look like this: “(C)VC”. Some examples:

A: kat, man, dan, want, kan, van
katten, mannen, stappen, happen, kammen
E: zeg, vertel, ben, ken
zeggen, vertellen, kennen
I: kip, dik, wil
kippen, dikke, willen
O: stop, kort, klop, knop
stoppen, kloppen, knoppen
U: (*) bus, kus, zus
bussen, kussen, zussen

(*) This sound has one other way of being written: non-emphasized “e”, the “sjwa”:
een, de, het
– werken, leven, zeggen, korte, mannen

One of the cardinal rules in Dutch is that a syllable or word can never end in two letters that are the same, so we split the words in between the two consonants that are the same:

man-nen
zeg-gen
kip-pen
stop-pen
bus-sen

EXERCISES & LINKS

If you want some more exercise material, check out these links:

Apps:
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)

Websites:
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)

Books
In terms of books, check out Nu versta ik je, available in both Dutch and Flemish versions.


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