Are you planning to visit Lesser Poland soon and have no idea how to pronounce Krakow – the name of the most beautiful city in Poland?
You’re in the right place!
There’s no denying that the Polish language presents a significant cultural barrier to visitors. Try pronouncing names like ‘Gdańsk’ or ‘Szczebrzeszyn,’ and you’ll get the idea. However, Polish is a language and just like every other language; people created it to communicate! That basically means that human beings can learn it. Hopefully…
And just so we are clear: we are not expecting you to recite Polish poems after reading this article. Just…learn how to pronounce Krakow 😉
In this article:
- You will learn how to pronounce Krakow correctly,
- See what’s the deal with all the various spellings you encounter all over the web,
- Get some extra tips to help you master your Polish pronunciation and amaze everyone when exploring Poland.
Table of Contents
Here’s how to pronounce Krakow
First things first,
let’s start with the correct pronunciation of Krakow.
How do the Poles pronounce Krakow?
The International Phonetic Alphabet notation suggests the following pronunciation: [ˈkrakuf]. For English speakers, that means something along the lines of ‘krakoof.’ Try to say it a couple of times, and you’ll see how easy it becomes after some tries.
Fortunately, there exist pronunciation variations for English speakers that are entirely understandable to Polish citizens. Depending on where you come from, there are two different ways to pronounce the name Krakow.
In British English, the right pronunciation is [ˈkrækɒv]. That means that Brits tend to pronounce the last consonant as a ‘v.’ In contrast to British English, Americans tend to pronounce Krakow as [ˈkrɑːkaʊ], getting rid of the final consonants and supplementing it with ‘u.’
Now, all that might look a little too complicated for your taste, but have a look online and you’re bound to encounter these pronunciations of Krakow. Here are two websites you should definitely check out since that include multiple examples of correct pronunciation: Forvo and How to Pronounce.
Now that we got the correct pronunciation of Krakow covered, it’s time to consider the spelling of the city as well. It’s fair to say that the various spellings of Krakow may confuse those who haven’t seen all the variations and affect the way in which they pronounce the city’s name.
Krakow vs. Cracow vs. Kraków
If you did some research before your trip, you probably noticed that the name Krakow comes in several different spellings.
‘Kraków’ is the Polish spelling of the city’s name. See the letter ‘ó’? We pronounce this letter like ‘u,’ but only native speakers of Polish don’t find that confusing. We spend pretty much 3 years or primary school learning when to use ‘ó’ and when to use ‘u’ (just to come to conclusion, that we have 50/50 chance anyway, and we thank technology for autocorrect). Most of the time, ‘ó’ is missing from keyboards other than Polish. That’s why the spelling of Krakow’s name has been simplified to exclude ‘o’ with an accent and changed to a simple ‘o.’
English speakers can choose between two variations of the name spelled with a C or K: Krakow and Cracow.
Which one is more popular?
One glance at Google results leaves no doubt. Type in ‘Cracow,’ and you will get around 7 million results. ‘Krakow’ generates something around 132 million results. Spell it with ‘K’ then – there is no reason not to believe omniscient Google!
But things look quite different for the inhabitants of Krakow. If you check Google again, you will get something like 169,000 hits for ‘Cracovian’ and fewer results for the variation spelled with ‘k.’
Moreover, the trouble with ‘Krakowian’ is that it only sometimes refers to an inhabitant of Krakow – it may also denote an array of elements introduced by a Polish astronomer in the 1920s, or a surname of a guy like Kurt Krakowian, an American actor.
So which spelling should you choose?
In general, ‘Cracow’ tends to be less popular today. Some people claim that letters sent from the UK to ‘Cracow’ are returned to sender because the Polish Postal Service does not recognize the name to mean the beautiful city of Krakow.
But things used to be much different for Krakow.
When Poland was part of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, the name Krakow spelled with a ‘C’ found its way into English books. However, during the second half of the 20th century, the new spelling Krakow became more popular. Major dictionaries and encyclopedias switched their entries to ‘Krakow.’ Still, it’s important to note that Krakow spelled with a ‘C’ has been used in the English language for centuries.
Note: When looking for information about Krakow airport or train station, it’s smarter to use ‘Krakow’ spelling because that’s the spelling that appears in their official names.
And make sure never to mix your spelling and come up with varieties like ‘Kracow,’ ‘Crakow’ or even ‘Krakov’ because you might end up in a completely different town!
Polish your Polish
Daredevils who tried to learn Polish claim, that it’s ridiculously complicated.
Think of it as a challange!
Learn two sentences in Polish and feel like a boss on you vacation in Krakow! You will teach your ignorant friends how to pronounce Krakow.
This post offers an excellent opportunity for giving you some more pointers about the Polish pronunciation before you arrive in Krakow. In general, the web is full of helpful resources you can check out to get a basic understanding of Polish spelling and pronunciation guide.
One fantastic resource is HowtoSpeakPolish.com. The British host Nathan is pretty amazing when it comes to the knowledge of the Polish language. And he is British, so that proves anyone can learn Polish! To see an example of his work, check out this video. He goes through the pros and cons of five easy methods for improving Polish pronunciation.
Another exciting resource for English speakers is this channel by a native Polish speaker Ewelina who teaches the secrets of Polish language in English. Have a look at her channel, and you will find many different lessons that cover the confusing Polish spelling and pronunciation.
Another excellent resource is PolishPod101. The website is rich with all kinds of information about the Polish language, including pronunciation. You will find sections dedicated to the Polish grammar, vocabulary, and dictionaries.
Newbies will find the basics section super helpful for beginning their journey with Polish.
Something for intermediate students
If you’d like to start training your Polish immediately, consider using Italkie. The platform connects you with native Polish speakers for the practice of spoken language on Skype. You can pay your Polish tutors directly and get one-to-one video lessons at very affordable rates. You can also look for a language exchange partner and get your pronunciation lessons free of charge!
How to say Krakow – and more!
Even if the Polish language seems completely inaccessible, this post should make it clear that both the grammar and pronunciation are easily within your reach. With some training and dedication, you will be able to pronounce Polish names perfectly upon your arrival to Krakow. And remember – Polish people love when visitors try to say a few words in Polish! We know that it’s hard! And knowing that even though it’s hard, you are still willing to try makes us all “awwwww” 🙂
Do you have any questions about the Polish language?
Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. We are always happy to help visitors make the most of their time in Poland – and that often means being able to understand Polish beyond on the regular ‘Dzien dobry‘ or ‘dziekuje.’
Or maybe you’re learning Polish at the moment and have some tips you would like to share with our readers?
Share your experience with others in comments to help everyone learn more about the Polish language and culture.