25: The 'ng' sound /ŋ/ (as in song) pronunciation

Learn about the ng sound (as in 'song'), the first of three nasal sounds in English pronunciation.


Hello listeners of the world, and welcome to this week's Seattle Learning Academy American English Pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy and this is podcast number 25. When I was writing today's show, I realized that I've been doing these podcasts for over 6 months now. It certainly doesn't feel like it's been that long. I also can't believe I'm not even close to running out of topics to talk about each week. I am curious how long many of you have been listening to this show. If you've been listening for a few months now, send me an email. Tell me where you're from, how long you've been speaking English, and what you're favorite topics have been. You can also tell me anything particular to your language and any topics you've been hoping to hear about.

Let's get right to today's show. Today I'm going to talk about an often-mispronounced sound, the ng sound. The ng sound is the final sound in the word ring, and sound like this: (ng sound). N+G is a digraph, just like th and sh and ch, and a few others in English. The ng sound is one sound that gets spelled with the combination of two letters. Letter-combination sounds are called digraphs.

The ng sound happens by pressing the back of our tongue to our soft palate. We haven't talked much about the soft palate yet. If you can, take the tip of your tongue and roll it as far back toward your throat as you can. See if you can feel where the bony part of the top of your mouth becomes soft. That soft area at the top of your mouth, very near your throat, is called the soft palate. So, to create the ng sound, press the back of the tongue against the soft palate, and, here's the weird part, let the air leave through your nose. That's right, the ng sound comes out our nose. Listen to me create this sound. (ng sound)

Sounds that come out of our nose are called nasal sounds, and we have three of them in English: the ng sound, the n sound, and the m sound. We'll talk about the n sound and m sound next week.

The way that I hear the ng sound mispronounced is by adding a g sound to the end of the sound. The ng sound typically does not include a g sound, even though there is a g spelled there. The ng sound, sounds like this: (ng sound), not like this: (ng sound+g sound). Listen again. The ng sound sounds like this: (ng sound), not like this: (ng sound+g sound).

Let's practice some verbs that end in -ng, then add the -ing ending to the word as if the verb is in the continuous tense. If you can, please repeat after me. You should not be saying the g sound at all during these words because the -ing verb ending never has a g sound added to it. Listen carefully, and repeat.




Now, not to make things confusing, but there are words where a g sound is also pronounced in a word. Just like so many other things dealing with English pronunciation, the only way to know for sure is to listen to native speakers or check your dictionary.

Here are some words that do have a g sound following the ng sound. Repeat after me if you can.




I also want to bring your attention to the -ink spelling, as in the word drink. In the -ink spelling, the i sounds like a short i, and the k sounds like a k sound, just as you'd expect. The n in that spelling is the ng sound. So the -ink spelling sounds like (-ink) short i, ng sound, k sound.

Here are some words with the -ink spelling. Repeat after me if you can.




One final note about the ng sound, it never occurs in English at the beginning of the word. Many non-English names, and I'm thinking of Vietnamese names in particular, begin with an ng spelling. Americans become terribly confused when they see a name begin with the ng spelling and we'll do all kinds of strange things when we try to pronounce it. If you have a name that begins with an ng spelling and have had native English speakers try to pronounce it, send me an email and let me know what we've done to the pronunciation of your name. And, let me know if we should be just saying the ng sound as we would at the end of a word. If so, that is one way to help an American say your name, tell us that the first sound of your name is the same as the last sound of the word being, or any other -ing word. It may help. But I'm not exactly sure that is even correct. So, let me know. I'm very curious.

One quick promotional note: There is a lesson about the ng sound in the Pronunciation Pages: Sounds of American English eBook, and practice for the ng sound in the middle and at the end of the word as part of the MP3 audio downloads. You can buy the book for $25US, the MP3 files for $10US, or both of them together for $30US. You can buy these items from anywhere in the world. All proceeds from those sales goes directly to supporting my creation of this podcast and content for Pronuncian.com. There are purchasing links from each transcript page online.

Transcripts for this show and links to free online listening and pronunciation practice for the ng sound can be found at www.pronuncian.com. If you want to email me, I can be reached at email at podcast@p-r-o-n-u-n-c-i-a-n.com.

Thanks for listening everyone.

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