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Sampson's avatar

Translation issue: How would the Chinese "Ng" be pronounced in English?

Asked by Sampson (3563points) January 12th, 2010

Here in San Francisco, I’ve seen this on many business signs. And since I was a child watching the show, “Mystery Files of Shelby Woo”, I’ve always wondered how ‘ng’ would be pronounced in English.

I’m pretty sure that was the name of that show… It was on Nickelodeon when I was a kid. I put it in here because the actress that played the eponymous role had a last name of simply, “Ng”.

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14 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

it is the phoneme “engma”, a voiced velar stop.

DominicX's avatar

It’s romanized as Ang, Ing, Eng, and Ong. So, in an English-speaking country, it’s pronounced “ing”. In Chinese, it is pronounced “ng”. Just the “ng” sound without any vowel (as @pdworkin said, engma). It’s not easy to say.

I know a girl whose last name is “Ng”. She pronounces it “ing” and so does everyone else. But in Chinese, there would be no “i”, it would just be “ng”.

Sampson's avatar

@pdworkin To quote Michael Scott, “Explain it to me like I’m an 8 year old.”

dpworkin's avatar

Voicing is when your larynx is engaged, the velar area is in front of the glottis but behind the palette, and a stop means no extension is possible (a p is a stop. You can’t “hold a “p”, the air stops.) Put the top of your tongue on the velar area, let your voicebox vibrate, and stop the airflow. When you continue the airflow nasally, you will be pronouncing an “n”. When you stop the airflow with your tongue on the vellum, you will have pronounced an engma.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

It’s hard to present to one through written words, but the closest I can get to it is “uhng”. I couldn’t load that vimeo video so I can’t comment on it, but if it’s correct, it should sound like “uhng”.

Don’t ever go around pronouncing it like “nuhg”. There was once this American who came over in a competition I recently participated i. He was reading out names and ended up pronounced “Ng” like “nuhg”. My team mates and I couldn’t stop laughing for five minutes.

Of course, that was before we found out that the guy was right behind us

Darwin's avatar

Of course, in Vietnam Ng seems to be pronounced as a W – the common Vietnamese last name of Nguyen is pronounced “Wen.” Dat Nguyen’s sister runs a restaurant near our house, and she says his name as Dat Wen. The restaurant is called Hu Dat because she loves to answer the phone by saying “Hu Dat!”

Jeruba's avatar

Vietnamese coworkers I’ve known with this last name pronounced it as “eng.”

When I hear Vietnamese folks around here say “Nguyen,” it does sound like “Win” or “Wyinn,” but I could swear there’s a little nasal sound in front of it. I think that’s the “ng” part showing up.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

Just a useful bit of information which occurred to me: When you see “Ng” as a surname, there’s a very high chance that the person belongs to the Hokkien or Teochew dialect group.You never encounter the “ng” sound in Mandarin, which is the lingua franca of the Chinese world. Choose to do with this piece of info what you will. =)

Haleth's avatar

@Saturated_Brain That’s true! In Mandarin, you only ever find “ng” at the end of a word. So you might have ang, eng, ing, etc. but you will never find “ng” on its own.

higherground's avatar

Ok hey there !

The surname ‘Ng’ is pronounced just like the sound of ‘ng’ in the word ‘song’


Saturated_Brain's avatar

@higherground Not true. The “ng” sound at the end of “song” is very much at the back of the throat and less distinct, whereas pronouncing it like “uhng” is more in the middle of the mouth and clearer to hear.

higherground's avatar

@Saturated_Brain Oh I’m sorry , just basing it on how most Singaporeans pronounce it (= Because I have a few friends with ‘Ng’ as their surname and that’s how they pronounce it .

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