The paired consonants “ch” pose problems for people trying to learn Luxembourgish. For starters, its pronunciation changes depending on the preceding letter or, if it appears at the beginning of a word or other circumstances. To make things worse for English speakers, the resulting sound has, often no English equivalent.
ech – sound
- After i e ä é éi and äi – ch as it appears in ech (I) is pronounced like a soft English “sh” as in:
sichen, Mëllech, erwächen, sécher, hatt mécht, vläicht, héich
(to search, milk, to wake up, sure, she makes, perhaps, high)
- After consonants except the letter s we have as well the ech-sound, as in:
Villchen, duerch, Meedchen, Schnéimännchen (bird, through, girl, snowman)
⇒And then there is Orchester (orchestra), which defies the rule: ch is pronounced like k.
och – sound
- After a, o, u, and au, ch as it appears in Buch (book) is pronounced like the “ch” in Scottish Loch, a sound that’s sometimes compared to the noise made by people when they clear their throat, as in:
Saachen, kachen, Woch, Sprooch, Zuch, Luucht, Bauch, ech brauch
(things, to cook, week, language train, light, belly, I need)
ch – at the beginning of a word
Here the situation gets really muddled. That’s because there are, first of all, words that have their origin in a foreign language and are pronounced as in their original language, such as the French words Chance, Choix, Chômage which are pronounced like the ech-sound.
- Then when ch is followed by the letters r, l and in some cases by the vowels a & o it’s pronounced like k, as in:
Chrëschtdag (Christmas), Chlor (chlorine), Chaos (chaos), choleresch (choleric)
- Then when ch is followed by the vowels e & i it’s generally pronounced like the ech-sound as in
Chimie (chemistry), chic (chic), Chef (chief), chemesch (chemical)
ch – after the letter “s”
If ch appears after s, one has to distinguish between two cases:
1. The sequence sch is part of the same syllable as in schreiwen (to write). In this case sch is a combination of 3 letters representing one single sound and pronounced like this as in:
schreiwen, Schaf, schwätzen, kaschten, Samschdeg, Hierscht (to write, a wardrobe, to speak, to cost, Saturday, autumn)
2. The s ends one syllable and the ch starts the next. This happens, when the diminutive chen is added to a word as in Kleeschen (Saint Nicholas). In this case, the s and ch are pronounced separately (Klees-chen), and the ch is quite silent as in:
Kleeschen, Haischen, Hieschen (Saint Nicholas, small house, small hare)
ch followed by the letter s presents a special case: we have the sequence of letters chs which is always pronounced like an English and Luxembourgish x:
nächst, sechs, Béchs (next, six, tin)
Practice recognizing the different ch-sounds!
Read each word aloud. Then play the audio to verify your pronunciation.
buchen to book
Ochs ox, idiot
Learn the complete Luxembourgish pronunciation with my self-paced online course: Luxembourgish Pronunciation!