Dutch pronunciation is made easier when you consider the fact that the Dutch Alphabet is structured similarly to the English one. That is, it has twenty-six letters and is divided into both vowels and consonants. Therefore, it would be a logical approach to discuss the pronunciation of vowels and then that of consonants. As we do, please keep in mind that another similarity between Dutch and English is that there are always exceptions to these general rules. Still, a few simple points to keep in mind will get you well on the way to pronouncing Dutch words correctly.
Dutch contains the same vowels as English; a, e, i, o, and u. Another similarity between Dutch and English is that these vowels can be pronounced with either “long” or “short” sounds. Also, when these vowels occur in combination, the rules of Dutch pronunciation dictate that those vowels be pronounced as a single sound. Those combinations of vowels that are pronounced as single sounds are known as dipthongs.
For the most part, Dutch consonants are pronounced the same way they are in English. Yet, this is an area in which Dutch pronunciation begins to differ from that of English. One specific example of this type of difference is the fact that the letters “d” and “b” are actually pronounced like the letters “t” and “p” when they occur at the end of a word. Though this is not technically a rule of pronunciation, it is also interesting to note that a Dutch word cannot end in a double consonant. Like most other languages, Dutch borrows words from other languages. Often, these borrowed words don’t follow the rules we’ve outlined. The best way to handle these is simply to memorize every one you come across.
One of the other points to note about Dutch pronunciation is that it uses accent marks. Often, these accent marks are used to distinguish one word from another. They are also used to specify which vowel sounds should receive emphasis. One of the most notable features about Dutch is the use of the dieresis. That’s the two little dots that you see above the vowels sometimes. You see it most often above the letter e, and its basic purpose is to inform a reader that the vowel under it should be pronounced separately. Since two vowels would normally be pronounced as one sound, this is a useful way to distinguish the exceptions to that.