Ive been asked by a loyal reader to give some more information about Swahili Pronunciation prior to our free Swahili course.
The Swahili alphabet is identical to that of English, with the exception of X and Q, which do not exist. Most consonants have almost the same pronunciation as English. The vowels have specific pronunciation rules, which are never broken.
Swahili Vowel Sounds
a … Father
e … Egg
i … Bee
o … Door (be careful not to ‘close’ the o sound at the end, as in low)
u … Loop
Special Swahili Consonant Sounds
The following combination’s of consonants create specific sounds, some identical to the English equivalent.
dh … there (do not confuse with thanks)
th … thanks (do not confuse with there)
sh … shopping
ch … church (never charlatan or chemistry)
ng … jingles (do not confuse with sing)
ng’ … sing (do not confuse with jingles)
Note that whenever m is followed by another consonant, there is no vowel sound between the two letters. Similarly, when pronouncing a word beginning with m, the mouth should be closed to begin with – there should be no vowel sound before the m.
In Swahili, there are no silent letters, and neither do letters change pronunciation depending on spelling, as in English (compare cough and through). Each letter is pronounced individually, the same way every time. This rule is true for vowels as well as consonants.
Note that the consonant combination gh is generally pronounced like g, though technically it is similar to Scottish loch, but voiced.
The emphasis, or accent, is almost always placed on the second-to-last syllable of a word. The exceptions to this rule are extremely rare, and are usually found in words borrowed from other languages, mostly Arabic (for example, maalum).
In the case of doubled vowels or vowel combination’s, each vowel is a syllable in itself and is pronounced separately (for example, the word maalum actually has three syllables, as each ‘a’ is pronounced individually).
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