I’ll teach you the pronunciation of the v

First of all, I wish you a prosperous 2020!
Have you had a nice New Year’s Eve?
In my hometown Leiden there was a fireworks ban in the city center. As a result, it was slightly quieter than the years before.
I liked that. I think fireworks are great, but noisy!
But you don’t think I want blog about fireworks, do you? 😉 I’m going to talk about the pronunciation of the letter “v” in Dutch.

Different v’s
The letter “v” was used by the Romans to write two sounds: the w and the u.
Even today, the “v” is pronounced like a w in many languages. In some languages ​​the letter “v” does not appear in the alphabet. For example in Polish. But the Polish also pronounce the “v” in loan words as a w: “Viktor” therefore sounds like Wiktor in Polish. In Spanish the “v” sounds like a b, and in German as an f. In short: the letter “v” has many different forms. Let’s see how it is pronounced in Dutch.

First a little bit of fonology
The sounds v, w and f are very similar: with all three, you place your upper teeth on your lower lip. With the f you only blow air out and with the v you blow with voice. (Try it and you’ll understand right away!)
With the w you do not blow, but only release your lower lip. In Dutch this is only true for the “w” at the beginning of a syllable. At the end of a syllable we pronounce the “w” as an u, with round lips. Compare the w in wie (who) and wat (what) with the w in vrouw (woman) and duw (push).

Pronounce the v as an f
In Dutch, the letter “v” is usually pronounced as a short f. In fact: you MUST usually use f. Dutch does not have a voice sound for sounds that are at the end of a syllable. You can also see this in the spelling: we geven (we give) – ik geef (I give); we geloven (we believe) – ik geloof (I believe).
The “v” that comes after a k or a t (or another sharp sound), changes to an f: ‘Wat vind je’ (“What do you think”) is pronounced as [wat fint jə].  That is a fixed rule in Dutch.
In short: do you have difficulty pronouncing the “v”? Simply replace all v’s with f! And don’t be afraid: there are no words with a ‘v’ that change meaning when you pronounce them with an f.

I wish you a fantastic February!