Most of the sounds of Klingon show similarities to those of English; but notable exceptions do exist. In many cases, the speaker raises the tongue higher or further back; to produce a Klingon Q, for example, the speaker must pull the tongue as far into the back of the mouth as possible. New speakers may find some of these sounds difficult to produce, especially complex sounds like tlh and especially in context. The next section introduces these sounds in context with some tricky Klingon words; you should master these words before continuing on further with the Klingon language.
Klingon was designed to be a harsh, guttural language, sounding very unfamiliar to English speakers. So you might find the sounds strange and difficult to pronounce; e.g. Q. In Klingon, capital letters are used differently from English; I is never written i and t is never written T. You might think this is pointless; why not write I as i and H as h? After all, there's only one case when a capital letter and a small letter mean different things - Q and q. So? you ask. Why not use x or something for Q?
You're right, that would be more logical - but Klingon was not designed to be logical, it was designed to be as different from English as possible. Klingon is a language for aliens. What looks more alien, tlhingan hol or tlhIngan Hol?
Here are the sounds. If you can't pronounce them all, here's a more detailed page describing the sounds not found in English.
For some consonants, the speaker holds the tongue slightly farther back than in English. As such, the 'd' sounds somewhat heavier, and the 'S' becomes a cross between an English 's' and 'sh'.
The 'H' in Klingon is a raspy English 'h', or like the end sound of the composer Bach, or the Hebrew word l'chaim.
The 'q' sounds similar to a 'k' in English, but with the tongue positioned farther back in the throat.
A 'Q' is a very overdone 'q'. Like a combination of Klingon 'q' and 'H'.
|b||/b/||as English ban|
|ch||/ʧ/||as English church|
|D||/ɖ/||as with the English d; but place the tip of your tongue behind the hard part of the roof of your mouth instead of behind your teeth.|
|e||/ɳ/||as Swedish Vänern (an allophone of the above consonant)|
|gh||/ɣ/||as English g and h at the same time; speak with the tongue pulled back.|
|H||/x/||as Scots loch or the musical composer Bach. Lift the back of your tongue and then force a puff of air out of your throat.|
|j||/ʤ/||as English judge|
|l||/l/||as English lung, never velarized as English gull|
|m||/m/||as English man|
|n||/n/||as English nan|
|ng||/ŋ/||as English ring; never as in angle|
|p||/pʰ/||as English pan, but accompanied by a puff of air not only in word initial positions, but in all positions (aspirated)|
|q||/qʰ/||as Arabic Qur'an, but aspirated - like the English k, but with the tongue further back, and accompanied by a puff of air|
|Q||/q͡χ/||occurs in Nez Percé, Wolof and Kabardian - similar to the above q, but harder and louder. To produce this, place the back of your tongue far back into your mouth; then force the air out harshly.|
|r||/r/||trilled as in Spanish rojo|
|S||/ʂ/||somewhere between the English s and sh. Produce an English sh sound, but with the tongue in the position used for the Klingon D /ɖ/ sound.|
|t||/tʰ/||as English tan, but accompanied by puff of air not only in word initial positions, but in all positions (aspirated)|
|tlh||/t͡ɬ/||as Nahuatl Nahuatl - similar to the English pronunciation of tl, but accompanied by an exhalation. Say an English t while exhaling an l.|
|v||/v/||as English van|
|w||/w/||as English wash|
|y||/j/||as English yes|
|'||/ʔ/||glottal stop, as between the vowels of uh-oh|
Be mindful of the difference between the letters I and l. Klingon is case-sensitive and does not use a lower-case i; as these letters appear similar on many sans-serif fonts, the use of a serif font may make reading a little easier.
|a||/ɑ/||Sounds like "ah" in English; ex: spa (never short like jab).|
|e||/ɛ/||Sounds like "eh" in English; ex: bet.|
|I||/ɪ/||Sounds like a short "i" in English; ex: in. Occasionally takes the "ee" sound, but when this happens it is unknown why.|
|o||/o/||as in mow, or know.|
|u||/u/||Like a long u in English; ex: prune (never short like butt)|