Ask any non Dutch person what the Dutch language sounds like and I bet most of the answers will be something like: hhhggggrrrrrrr.
The truth is that this is the most typical Dutch sound: this guttural hhhhhhhggggggrrrrrrr. Not all Dutch words contain it, of course, but sometimes it happens that one sentence holds an agglomeration of such growling sounds, to such an extent that you can’t believe you are hearing a human language, as it very much resembles the language spoken by aliens in some movies.
This sound is the way the letter “g” is being pronounced in Dutch (I guess it is a surprise, as you expected it to be the letter “h”, right?), which sounds like an English “h”, but combined with a sort of “g” and pronounced from the depth of your throat, after the uvula and the tonsils, the deeper, the better.
When I learned Dutch, my luck was that I happen to live in the South of the Netherlands, in the province Brabant, which has a favourable characteristic regarding this sound: here we are blessed with a “zachte G”, meaning a ” soft G”, so that the guttural growling is much more moderate than in the rest of the country and this is why I think that I pronounce the sound quite easily and well.
This luck doesn’t solve everything about this tricky letter. When the word starts with “gr…”, like “grijs” (“grey”), the growling becomes more serious, try pronouncing a guttural “h+g” followed by “r” – it’s like starting an engine, isn’t it? But this isn’t everything, there are also other combinations, even more killing: an example is the word “graag” (meaning “with pleasure” or “willingly”) which on top of things ends also with a “g” – give it a shot, what do you think? Do you already feel partially Dutch?
What I find most difficult is the combination, in the same word, of a “g” with a “h” like in “gehaald” or “hygiëne”. In such cases my Romanian organs fail tragically, so that my”h” starts to sound like a “g” and the other way around, in any case not as it should. Passing from a difficult sound (“g”) to a regular one (“h” which is being pronounced absolutely normally, just as in the English “hotel”), but still resembling the first one, makes me reach my limit and is proof of my not (ever) being Dutch.
I think you got the hang of it, so I’ll give you a few more words and combinations to practice:
Graag gedaan = You’re welcome
Goedemorgen (“oe” is pronounced “oo”, like in “good”) = Good morning
Gehoor = hearing.
Recommendation: after reading and pronouncing the words, take a Strepsils or a teaspoon of honey 🙂