The sound /ŋ/ doesn’t exist in Spanish as a phoneme and is often mispronounced by Spanish speakers of English. However, it is the sound we inadvertently produce it when we say words like banco or vengo (that is, every time we have an n followed by a c or a g), so we are perfectly capable of doing it correctly.


ŋ (velar, nasal, voiced)

Spelling: ng, nc, nk (sing, hanger, uncle, tank)

/ŋ/ is a difficult sound for Spanish speakers. It is not just an n + g, as we tend to do, but something different, a bit subtler. The usual Spanish way of pronouncing this sound is unlikely to lead to misunderstanding, but it gives the speaker a strong foreign accent.

One key difference is that in the phoneme /ŋ/ the tongue doesn’t touch the alveolar ridge (which happens when you utter an /n/). This is a velar sound, so it is produced at the back of your throat by raising the back of your tongue. So, remember: it is crucial that you don’t touch the alveolar ridge with the tip or your tongue as if you were going to do an /n/.

Let me teach you how to produce the /ŋ/ sound in a simple yet effective way. For that, we are going to borrow the name of a famous actor: Ben Kingsley.

First, let’s say it in two clearly differentiated words:

sound_loud_speaker Ben Kingsley

Now let’s link name and surname. In this case, try not to touch the alveolar ridge with the tip of your tongue. Feel how the back of your tongue raises against the soft-palate in preparation for the /k/.

sound_loud_speaker BenKingsley 

Now, do it in the same way, but stop immediately before saying the surname. Like this:

sound_loud_speaker Ben… /beŋ/

This is the sound you have to produce. If you use it with the words sing and singing, this is the result:

sound_loud_speaker  sing   /sɪŋ/     sound_loud_speaker singing     /sɪŋɪŋ/

which is quite different from saying

sound_loud_speaker* /sɪŋg/       sound_loud_speaker* /sɪŋgɪŋg/

Another problem is that Spanish speakers often make the opposite mistake, which is is to produce just an n, without the velar component of the sound. This mostly happens with words ending in ing. Like this:


It’s equally wrong and, although some native speakers do it too, it is generally considered bad pronunciation.


A little bit of help.
Actually, this sound is not so alien to us. We produce it any time we have an n followed by k or g. So, if you want to practice the same exercise we did with Ben Kingsley with Spanish sounds, you can use words like banco, anguila, ancla, angosto…

Just say the first syllable and stop before launching into the second and you’ll get it.

sound_loud_speaker banco          sound_loud_speaker /baŋ/

sound_loud_speaker angosto      sound_loud_speaker /aŋ/


Now, let’s hear some native speakers doing this sound. Look at how smoothly the /ŋ/ is produced.

sound_loud_speaker And I think at this time, when we are seeing the economic collapse (Jeremy Irons, BBC4).

sound_loud_speaker As identical twin gynecologist in David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers (Mark Lawson, BBC4).

sound_loud_speaker Amjad Sabri, one of the countries’ most famous singers, who was gunned down on the streets of Karachi (Samira Ahmed, BBC4).


This is the type of work I do with my students in my one-to-one classes. I make them practise these processes with exercises until they improve their comprehension of native speakers and are capable of speaking like that themselves. If you are interested in my classes, you can contact me here.


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