Here we continue with the interesting /n/ sound in English. If you missed our first post about /n/ you can check out the Blog ‘When /n/ becomes /m/’.
In English, /n/ can also change to a /ŋ/ sound. As a reminder, the /ŋ/ sound you can find in words like ‘thing’, ‘sing’, ‘ring’. For speakers from Vietnam, it sounds similar to ‘ng-’ like in ‘nguyen’ and ‘-nh’ in ‘minh’. You can listen to the audio below to help you:
So how does it change? Again, this depends on what sound comes after /n/. Let’s have a look below:
- ten cups – “teng cups” /teŋkʌps/
- nine cars – “ning cars” /naɪŋkɑ:z/
- increase – “ingcrease” /ɪŋkri:s/
- brown gates – “browng gates” /braʊŋgeɪts/
- green grapes – “greeng grapes” /gri:ŋgeɪts/
With examples 1 – 3 we can see that the /k/ sound (usually represented by the letter ‘c’ in English) comes after /n/. With examples 4 – 5 we can see that the /g/ sound (usually represented by the letter ‘g’ in English) comes after /n/. You can listen to the audio below to help you:
As a result, we can say that when /k/ and /g/ follow /n/, /n/ becomes a /ŋ/. The reason for this is that it is usually easier for your mouth to move from /ŋ/ to /k/ and /g/ then to move from /n/ to /k/ and /g/. This is because they all use a similar part of your mouth (the back of your tongue). Give it a try. Say ‘ten cups’ /tenkʌps/ repeatedly and then say ‘teng cups’ / teŋkʌps/ repeatedly. Which is easier?
Why is this useful for teaching?
The examples above relate to features of ‘connected speech’ in English. This will help your students speak more fluently if they are able to move more easily between different words. It will also help your students understand English more effectively if they are aware that English letters can have different sounds and may change depending on what letters come after it.
If you do not use it, then it is okay! If your students say ‘ten cups’ with a /n/ sound instead of a /ŋ/ sound then don’t worry about it. Remember these are just some interesting pronunciation points about English. If you use it, great, if not, then don’t worry!
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