Say It in Polish

As a Polish-American interested in genealogy, I quickly learned that pronunciation is the key to everything.   How can you properly research a family if you can’t say the language correctly? I realized that there are American English pronunciations of Polish surnames and place names, and then there is the real way it is pronounced in Polish.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things about the Polish language with its “different” letters and consonant combinations, and I can usually figure out how a word is pronounced.  But sometimes…I get stumped.  Just the other day I learned that my great-grandmother was born in a town near Warsaw called Przybyszew.  Przybyszew?  Where do I begin?  I’d like to buy a vowel, Pat!

Fortunately, I discovered an awesome website thanks to Zenon Znamirowski from that allows you to hear Polish words pronounced by Polish speakers!  So, how do you say Przybyszew?  Click on this link to hear it!

The site, Expressivo, is a text to speech program.  To test it out, you can enter up to 200 characters of text here and listen to the results read by several voices: Eric (male US-English), Jennifer (female US-English), Carmen (female Romanian), Jacek (male Polish), or Ewa (female Polish).  To hear Polish names or place names, I highly recommend using the two Polish voices to hear a true Polish pronunciation.

Here are several of my ancestors’ names and the towns they lived in – click the link to hear it in Polish:

Many Americans may have seen these town names in Poland and thought they knew how to pronounce them.  Try it, then click on the link and see if you were correct – you might be surprised!

Łódź Gdańsk Kraków Wrocław Częstochowa Poznań

You can tell that I had a lot of fun “playing” with this site, but other than it being cool to hear your ancestor’s name and hometown properly pronounced, why is it important?  Because knowing the correct pronunciation in an immigrant’s native language can often help you find your ancestor in records that are not spelled correctly, but are written as English-speakers heard the foreign tongue pronounced.  Obviously, this does not only apply to the Polish language, but any language other than American English.

[Submitted for the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy: Tips, Tricks, and Websites]


7 thoughts on “Say It in Polish

  1. Too much fun!!! Now I’m wasting time playing and playing! LOL!

    This is a great site Donna. It’s new to me. Thanks so much for sharing it. I have to admit, in spite of my 3+ years of Polish language classes I still find myself tongue-challenged all too often. This site will really come in handy!

  2. My husband’s surname sounds the same no matter which one is saying it. I’m forever telling people it’s spelled just like it sounds, now I have proof! It was fun playing with some of the other names in his tree which weren’t always as I expected.

  3. I’ve targeted Polish as my next language to learn. Complicating matters are books that say things like pronounce ó like oo in boot and others that say like oo in soot, never like boot.

  4. Great site Donna! I’ve been trying it out for the past hour. It will definitely be of use, especially for Surname Saturday’s and for village names in my Słownik translations.

    Thanks Again!

  5. Hello Donna Pointkouski,

    Co myślę najważniejsze jest to, że jeśli naprawdę nauczyć się języka to kocha jako pierwszy. Twój niekłamany zajęcia na pewno pomoże Ci osiągnąć Twoje osiągnięcia. Żaden język nie jest trudna do wymówienia, jeśli uważasz, że przywiązanie do nich.

  6. Ken, I don’t speak Polish, but Google Translate can probably tell you. Then go to the site in this article and find out how to pronounce the words that it gives you.

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