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A little bit about
letters and sounds

Æ - Ø - Å

People are always confusing "letters" with "sounds" and it really muddies the waters.  The IPA can sometimes help with this problem.


I've put the symbols used in the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) below to differentiate the sounds that occur in different words.  Even if you don't know the symbols, you can see which words have the same sounds and which ones have different sounds in them.


The slashes / / always indicate that the symbols between them are from the IPA and represent one (and only one!) sound. This means the IPA does not use symbols that have 2 or more sounds.  In spelling, a "c" might sound like the /k/ in "catch" or the /s/ in "center."  See how that works?  So to write the word "calm," the IPA shows you /kalm/, but "celcius" is /sɛlsiəs/.  Below, the letters are in red and the IPA symbols are shown between slashes.

If an IPA vowel symbol is followed by a colon (:), it means that it is a long vowel.  The underlined letters are the ones that represent the IPA sound on the left.

  Click the blue arrow to hear the word  


/ɛ/  englænder      sekretær            (Englishman, secretary)

/ɛ:/ lærer        (teacher)                   


/ø/  København     øl     børn     søster      (Copenhagen, beer, children, sister)

/ø:/ Jørgen       Køge     (man's name - cognate of "George," name of city south of Copenhagen)

/œ/ tømrer        (carpenter)


/ʌ/   nå      så         (oh/well, so) 

/ə/   også        (also)

/ɔː/  både        (both)

/ɒː/  går          (walk(s)/go(es))

/ɒ/    år           (year/years)

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