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P3.1 How to pronounce combinations of Romanian vowels - Part 1

Romanian diphthongs vowels and semivowels

The Romanian language uses extensively the pronunciation of two vowels in one syllable, and less frequent three vowels. Thus it is very important that you recognize the combinations (listening), and then start pronouncing them (speaking).

Since there are 21 combinations, this lesson is divided into three parts:

We strongly advise you to take the time to study them all. Once you will master all the vowel combinations, you will have reached an important threshold on your path of becoming fluent in Romanian.

In this lesson you will learn how to pronounce:

How do you pronounce "ai" in one syllable in Romanian?

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

Romanian traditional musical instrument shaped like friction drum

Buhai

/bu'haj/

Straw

Pai

/paj/

Monkey

Maimuță

/maj.ˈmu.ʦə/

Cornflour

Mălai

/mə'laj/

fourteen (number 14)

paisprezece

/'paj.spre.ze.ʧe/

Sixty (number 60)

Șaizeci

/ʃaj'zeʧʲ/

You have (where "you" refers to a single person)

Tu ai

/tu aj/

How do you pronounce the cluster of vowels "au" in Romanian?

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

Or

Sau

/saw/

[They were] eating

Mâncau

/mɨn'kaw/

They have (where "they" refers to feminine gender nouns e.g. five women)

Ele au

/'je.le aw/

How do you pronounce the diphthong "ău" together in one syllable in Romanian?

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

Lad, Sonny

Flăcău

/flə'kəw/

Big dog

Dulău

/du'ləu/

Bad, mean

Rău

/rəw/

How do you pronounce "âi" in Romanian?

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

dog

câine

/ˈkɨj.ne/

Tomorrow

Mâine

/ˈmɨj.ne/

bread

pâine

/ˈpɨj.ne/

How to pronounce the vowels "â" and "u" combined in Romanian

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

river

râu

/rɨw/

wheat

grâu

/grɨw/

How do you pronounce the vowels "ea" together in Romanian?

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

hill

deal

/de̯al/

fog

ceață

/'t͡ʃe̯at͡sə/

ice

gheață

/'ge̯a.t͡sə/

very hot, burning heat

zăpușea

/zə.pu'ʃe̯a.lə/

mistake

greșea

/gre'ʃe̯a.lə/

the couch

canapeaua

/ka.na'pe̯a.wa/

the mattress

salteaua

/sal'te̯a.wa/

lovage

leuștean

/le.uʃ'te̯an/

glazier

geamgiu

/d͡ʒe̯am'd͡ʒiw/

How do you pronounce the vowels "ei" together in Romanian?

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription
linden or lime

tei

/tej/
lions For your information this is the plural of the Romanian currency, if you want to say 5 RON, then you would say "5 lei".

lei

/lej/

three

trei

/trej/
to Cătălina where "Cătălina" is a Romanian female name. This means that "Cătălinei" is in the Dative case (grammar)

Cătălinei

/cə.tə'li.nej/

"Ei" pronounced as a group of vowels as in the above audio samples can only occur at the end of a word. If an "ei" occurs in the middle of a Romanian word then it is pronounced in hiatus (see our future lesson on hiatus). Thus the above examples are with "ei" at the end of a word.

Vowels "e" and "o" together

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

George

George

/'ʤe̯or.ʤe/

saggy

pleoștit

/ple̯o'ʃtit/
There are only a few Romanian words having the "eo" combination. There a few more in the combination "eoa" that we'll be discussing in a next lesson on the combinations of three vowels (Triphthong)

How to pronounce the vowels "e" and "u" together in Romanian?

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

Lion

Leu

/lew/

Difficult, hard, heavy

Greu

/grew/

Romanian Exercises: How do you pronounce "ai" in one syllable in Romanian?

Question 1 / 64

Listen to the following word/expression.
Choose the word that you hear from the list below


4 comments

Great site! Please keep these lessons coming! Is the vowel combination in "străin" a hiatus? I teach English here in Timișoara, and one of my students thought my pronunciation of "străin" was hilarious.
If you could include audio clips of "iu" and "ău", that would be brilliant.

Hi,
Thank you, I have finalized a new grammar lesson, so I will invest some time in finalizing this lesson including the other combination of vowels (iu and ău and others). Btw you already have in the above lesson geamgiu which includes the combination iu, ău. I'll add more. To answer your question, străin is indeed a hiatus, thus ă and i are pronounced in different syllables (stră-in). Here is the International Phonetic Alphabet notation /strə'in/

All the best

Hi,

I've just added the Romanian diphthongs "iu" and "ău" and their pronunciation (audio) above in the lesson.

I hope it helps studying and learning Romanian pronunciation.

If you have any other remarks, questions, I'd be happy to answer/help.

Thank you very much for posting these so quickly. Sorry, yes geamgiu was already there, but hearing "iu" in more words was really helpful. I think I was getting that one right actually, but I wasn't sure. "ău" is harder though. And thanks for your comments on "străin".

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