Slovak Alphabet

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Few words about the alphabet

The Slovak alphabet is called “abeceda”. It is very similar to the English alphabet. We do not use Cyrillic letters (as is done in places like Russia or Bulgaria), but instead use the same Roman characters used in America. The major difference is that the letters can be extended with accent marks. This is done to indicate pronunciation. Compared to English, reading Slovak words is extremely easy! Each letter has a unique sound associated with it, and you sound out words by simply adding the sounds together.

There are 4 types of accent marks, but 99% of time you will encounter only two of them: mäkčeň (the “softener”, caron) and dĺžeň (the “lengthener”, acute mark). The other two accent marks are dvojbodka (umlaut) and vokáň (“uo”-er, circumflex). So what are these? Mäkčeň is used to soften the sound of a consonant. We do not have any soft vowels. For instance, the letter “s” is pronounced as in “sleep”. But, if you add mäkčeň, you end up with “š”. This letter is pronounced as in “sheep”. Mäkčeň typically looks like a small “v” that’s added to the top of the letter, but there are three exceptions: “d”, “l” and “t”. In these letters, mäkčeň looks like a little vertical line. This was done for styling purposes. Since these letters are already pretty tall, adding a sign above them would make them stick out from the other letters in a sentence.

Dĺžeň is used to extend the length of the letter. It looks like a small diagonal line. This mark generally applies only to vowels, but there are two consonants that can be made longer: “l” and “r”. In the word dĺžeň, the letter “l” is extended. So for instance, the letter “a” is pronounced as in “cup”. But, if you make it into “á”, you end up with the aaah sound, kind of like in “father”.

The two remaining accent marks are very rare. They each apply to only a single letter. In the case of dvojbodka, it is “ä”. This letter is supposed to be pronounced very much like the “æ” sound common in English (“cat”). However, this sound is slowly turning into the letter “e”, as in “bet”. Vokáň is used only with the letter “o” to make “ô”. This sound is similar to “whoa”.

And finally few more notes. You will notice that we have few extra characters. These are “dz” and “ch”. These two sounds are pretty difficult to describe, so I’ll just add an audio file at some later date. We also have two “i” letters: “i” and “y”. These are both pronounced the same way, as in American “e”. The difference is that “i” is called the soft “i”, while “y” is the hard “i”. We have various spelling rules as to when which should be used (for instance “y” is used after hard consonants, such as “k”). School teachers love examining students on these rules, very much to the students’ dislike. But these rules don’t matter if you just want to read the words. But one rule that does matter is that “i” following “d”, “t”, “n”, or “l”, softens the consonant. So “ni” is pronounced as if spelled “ňi”. And finally, the combination “ie” is a diphthong, pronounced as in “yet”.

The Slovak alphabet

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a, á, ä (A, Á, Ä)
b (B)
c, č (C, Č)
d, ď (D, Ď)
dz, dž (DZ, DŽ)
e, é (E, É)
f (F)
g (G)
h (H)
ch (CH)
i, í (I, Í)
j (J)
k (K)
l, ĺ, ľ (L, Ĺ, Ľ)
m (M)
n, ň (N, Ň)
o, ó, ô (O, Ó, Ô)
p (P)
q (Q)
r, ŕ (R, Ŕ)
s, š (S, Š)
t, ť (T, Ť)
u, ú (U,Ú)
v (V)
w (W)
x (X)
y, ý (Y, Ý)
z, ž (Z, Ž)

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