When you were preparing your trip to Wroclaw, you probably came across two names related to this city: Wroclaw and Breslau. In this article, we will explain why the two names are used, and present what the proper Wroclaw pronunciation is. And believe me, even though you may find the way how Wroclaw is pronounced difficult, it is not the hardest city name in Poland to pronounce. If you try to pronounce Gdansk or Szczebrzeszyn, you’ll find Wroclaw pronunciation a piece of cake.
The Polish language has some sounds difficult to pronounce, but generally speaking, it is pronounced as it is written. So, except for some letters colocations, like “rz”, “sz”, “cz”, all the letters are always pronounced in the same way.
Before you learn how to pronounce Wroclaw, let’s explain something that may confuse you: is it Wroclaw, or Breslau?
Why Wroclaw is sometimes called Breslau?
Wroclaw has a long history within Polish borders, but it was also inhabited by Germans from the very beginning. Without a doubt, for centuries the name that was used for the city was “Wroclaw” or some variations: Wrezlaue, Wreczelaw or others. Reportedly, Germans had problems pronouncing “W” in the beginning, so they used “B” instead. So other variations were born, and Breslau was one of them. But still, even though it was used, it was used to refer to the city, it was not the official name.
But in XVIIIth century, after Silesian Wars, the city became part of Prussia, and since 1741 official name of Wroclaw was Königliche Haupt- und Residenzstadt Breslau. Wroclaw’s population gradually was dominated by Germans, and the name Breslau became more and more popular. In 1933, after Nazis took over in Germany, they intended to get rid of all signs of Slavs in Prussia.
Until the end of the Second World War Wroclaw was part of Germany. After the war ended, it was part of the so-called Recovered Territories – area that became part of Poland as a result of Potsdam Conference. Most Germans fled the city or were made to leave, and Polish residents took over the city. And of course, Wroclaw became the official name again.
So, as Wroclaw was once a German city, the name Breslau became part of the German language. Hence, it spread across Europe and is also used by other nationalities. But in Poland, during the communist period, the government wanted to de-Germanize the city. The name Breslau was never used, and anything connecting Wroclaw to Germany was taboo.
Is Wroclaw now more Polish or German?
Although the Germans ruled Wroclaw for 200 years, until the end of the Second World War, they influenced largely the city’s architecture. However, it did not withhold the Russian Army. Russians destroyed the city twice – first when the city was sieged (it was considered to be a stronghold – “Festung Breslau”), and after liberation. Also, shortly after the war, the city was demolished by Polish citizens, as Poland wasn’t sure if the city will belong to Poland, and materials were needed to rebuild Warsaw. Thus, many buildings, even those not completely destroyed, were demolished. There are now not many German-built buildings in Wroclaw.
Now, we are acknowledging the fact, that Germany made part of Wroclaw history, and – despite all the War trauma – contributed to the development of the city. So, although the city council wants to promote Wroclaw as the proper name, we are aware that Wroclaw is known as Breslau in Germany, just like Potsdam is known as Poczdam in Polish.
Do people speak German in Wroclaw today?
As we mentioned earlier, most German citizens left Wroclaw after the war. Therefore there were not many natives speaking German. Many schools teach German as a foreign language, but I wouldn’t expect people in Wroclaw to speak German better than in any large Polish city. They would rather turn to English, which is the most popular foreign language in Poland.
Breslau pronunciation will not be of any use for you in Poland, as this name is not used anymore. Probably some people won’t even associate this name with Wroclaw. However, if for whatever reason you need to learn Breslau pronunciation, as the name has roots in German you should try looking at German (or general pronunciation) sites like this one.
How to pronounce Wroclaw?
First of all, we write it Wrocław, with “ł” letter that doesn’t exist in other languages – that’s why in other languages we write Wroclaw. But don’t worry, you will learn how to pronounce both Polish and International names.
Wroclaw pronunciation – international way
Let’s start with learning how to pronounce Wroclaw in the International way.
W – we pronounce it softly, like v in the English word “vowel”, not like w in the word “wind”
– ro – we pronounce it just like we write it.
c – we pronounce it softly, like “ts” in the word “tsunami”, not like “c” in the word “control”
law – that’s tricky, because you should pronounce it like “love”, not “law”
Now, try it and check if you managed to master Wroclaw pronunciation:
Wroclaw pronunciation – Polish way
How to pronounce Wrocław – the official way?
Well, until “c” it’s all the same. The difference starts at “ł”. In Poland, we pronounce “ł” like “w” in “wave”
What’s left is “aw”. Try to pronounce it like “av” in the word “avocado”
Now connect it all, try to pronounce Wroclaw and check if you did it properly:
How do you pronounce Wroclaw Glowny?
Wroclaw Glowny train station is an important place in Wroclaw. This is the first area you see in Wroclaw if you come here by train, but also the main bus station is nearby. Glowny means “main” in Polish, but how to pronounce Wroclaw Glowny? Here’s the solution:
And if you wish to learn some basic Polish, try registering with italki. You may find professional or community Polish teachers there. It is also a good platform to practice other languages. If you register with this link you will get a $10 credit.