The sound that ng and ngh make in Vietnamese is by far the hardest sound for Westerners to make. Ng and ngh simply make the last sound in "king" or "running" (as long as you don't make the hard /g/ sound at the end). The problem arises when ng or ngh come at the beginning of a word, as the common family name Nguyễn clearly demonstrates. Here, the speaker has to isolate the /ŋ/ sound, which even many Western dictionaries don't recognize in their pronunciation guides. (Those that do tend to represent it as /ng/.) This lesson will help you to at least pronounce the /ŋ/ sound well enough for a native listener.
In Vietnamese, the common family name Nguyễn is occasionally abbreviated Ng̃ – that is, an "N" and a "g" with a tilde ( ~ ) over it.
Oral exercise 1: Sing-along
For this exercise, follow the directions below. It may be a good idea to repeat each step until you've mastered it:
- Say the English word "sing-along" the way you normally would.
- Take the /s/ sound away from the beginning.
- Replace "along" with the "eah" in "yeah."
- If you can, take the /i/ (long e) sound away from the beginning as well, without making the hard /g/ sound.
- If you can't do that, try to turn the /i/ sound into a quick schwa (/ə/) sound.
- Touch the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
- Be careful not to make the hard /g/ sound afterwards.
Southern Vietnamese pronunciation of the common family name Nguyễn.
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