Pronunciation and Sound in Igbo Language

These are the rules that guide pronunciation of Igbo Letters

Consistency of Sounds
The sounds of Igbo letters are consistent. They do not change regardless of the length of word or their position in the word. The exception to this is M and N. When M and N are consonants they have the sounds in Mike and November. When they are pseudo-vowels, they are hummed with closed lips. For example, 'no' is 'mba' and it's pronounced mmmm-ba. 'Life' is 'ndụ', and pronounced nnnn-dụ.

No Silent Letters
There are no silent letters in Igbo language. The sound of every letter must be heard.

No Consecutive Consonants
There can not be two consecutive consonants in written or spoken Igbo (note that digraphs are not two consecutive consonants). Therefore, there must be a vowel after a consonant. This also means that the spelling of a word can not end with a consonants. M is at the end of words like ọdụm - lion, ụbịam - poverty, ikpem - innuendo, m - me/my, but in these cases it is a pseudo-vowel. This is discussed further on the spelling page.

Borrowed Words
When Igbo borrows words from English, it is transformed based on the foregoing rules. For example, doctor - dọkịta, nurse - nọọsụ. If Igbo borrows the word 'grammar', it would become 'gụrama'. However, there is no need to borrow the word 'grammar' as Igbo language already has a word for grammar, that's ụtọasụsụ.

NATO Phonetic Alphabet
Using the NATO phonetic alphabet as a guide. Please note that although C does not exist in Igbo alphabet, the phonic 'Charlie' corresponds to the Igbo letter CH. As mentioned earlier, Igbo letters have dedicated sounds that never change, and that can not be silent. In English, there is change in sound from 'church' to 'character'. If 'character' was an Igbo word, it would begin with K. See the alphabet page.

LetterNATOIgbo – English
AAlfaaka – hand
BBravobịa - come
CHCharliechi – god
DDeltadi – husband
EEchoego – money
FFoxtrotafọ - stomach
GGolfọgụ - fight
GB***egbe - gun
GH***agha - war
GW***ugwu - hill/north
HHotelaha – name
IIndiandidi – patience
***ndịda – south
JJuliettụjọ - fear
KKiloike – strength
KP***ekpere – prayer
KW(Queen)akwa – egg
LLimaụlọ - house/home
MMikeamara – grace
NNovemberna – and
***anụlị - joy
NW***enwe – monkey
NY***enyo – mirror
O(Orange)oroma – orange
Oscarọrụ - work
PPapampị - horn
RRomeoụra – sleep
SSierraisi – head
SH(Shoe)ishi – head
TTangoite – pot
U(Pull)ube – pear
***ụdara – apple
VVictormvọ (mbọ) - comb/nail
WWhiskyiwe - anger
YYankeemyọ - sieve
ZZuluizizi - first

*** There is no equivalent English pronunciation. Please pronounce as follows until you learn from Igbo speakers
GB as B
GH as H
GW as G
Ị as I
KP as P
Ṅ as N
NW as W
NY as Y