How to pronounce words in Igbo

How to pronounce words in Igbo

Welcome back! Today we will be diving into how to pronounce words in Igbo.

Like many of the langauges in Africa, Igbo is a tonal language, which just means that some syllables (parts of words) are pronounced in a high pitch and others in a low pitch.

Not to worry though, Igbo isn’t that complicated, it only has three tones which are called Dò, Rē and Mí.

is the lowest tone (‘ụ̀dáàlà’ in Igbo) and is marked with a downwards-facing accent (`), it shows that a syllable is pronounced in a low pitch.

is the neutral tone (‘ụ̀dàńsụ́dà’ in Igbo) and is marked with a dash (-), it shows that you pronounce a syllable in your normal speaking voice.

is the highest tone (‘ụ̀dàélū’ in Igbo) and is marked with the an upwards-facing accent (´), it shows that a syllable is pronounced in a high pitch.

One way of memorising the 3 tones of Igbo is through the Do Re Mi song from the sound of music.

Note: In Igbo you only see tone marks on top of vowels i.e. a, e, i, o, ọ, u and ụ and sometimes on the letters m and n.

How to pronounce words

I’ve created a simple three step method for beginners to pronounce words in Igbo:

  1. Split the word up into its syllables
  2. Find out which pitch the syllables are in
  3. Pronounce the word

Example 1

How to pronounce the word áká (hand) 

1. Split the word áká into its syllables

Á | ká

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

|

  1. Pronounce the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Example 2

How to pronounce the word ákà (bracelet) 

1. Split the word ákà into its syllables

Á | kà

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

|

  1. Pronounce the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Example 3

How to pronounce the word ákwà (cloth) 

1. Split the word ákwà into its syllables

Á | kwà

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

|

  1. Pronounce the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Example 4

Let us look at how to pronounce the word àkwá (egg) 

1. Split the word àkwá into its syllables

À | kwá

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

|

  1. Pronounce the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Example 5

Let us look at how to pronounce the word ézé (teeth) 

1. Split the word ézé into its syllables

É | zé

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

|

  1. Pronounce the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Example 6

Let us look at how to pronounce the word ézè (king) 

1. Split the word ézè into its syllables

É | zè

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

|

  1. Pronounce the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Example 7

Let us look at how to pronounce the word ísí (head) 

1. Split the word ísí into its syllables of

Í |

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

|

  1. Pronounce the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Example 8

Let us look at how to pronounce the word ísī (to cook) 

1. Split the word ísī into its syllables

Í |

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

|

  1. Pronounce the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Example 9

Let us look at how to pronounce the word ùbé (pear) 

1. Split the word ùbé into its syllables

Ù | bé

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

|

  1. Pronounce the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Example 10

Let us look at how to pronounce the word úbè (spear) 

1. Split the word úbè into its syllables

Ú | bè

  1. Find out which pitch the syllables are in

|

3. Pronounce the word!

Check your pronunciation :

Great job! You have learnt three new things today

  1. How to pronounce the three tones in Igbo 
  2. How to pronounce words using the tones
  3. How to differentiate between words that are similar in spelling

The next Igbo lesson is on Igbo pronouns, see you next lesson!