The charts below show the way in which the IPA is used to transcribe the Nguni languages Swazi, Xhosa, and Zulu. For a guide to adding IPA characters to Wikipedia articles, see ((IPA-ss)), ((IPA-xh)), ((IPA-zu)) and Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Pronunciation § Entering IPA characters.

A superscript X marks a sound or spelling found specifically in Xhosa, S in Swazi, and Z specifically in Zulu. Sounds marked * only appear in loanwords.

IPA Orthography English approximation
b bh book
ɓ b bag, but implosive
d d dip
j just
dz dz dads
dv dvs hand valve
f f find
ɡ g give
ɠ kz good, but implosive
h h have
ɦ hh behind
j y yet
k kh can
k back, with glottalization
ks Glottalized bag
kxʼ klz, krx No English equivalent
kʟ̝̊ klz, krx Similar to clinic
l l like
ɬ hl No English equivalent; Welsh llwyd
ɮ dl No English equivalent; Welsh llwyd, but voiced
m m mode
n n night
ŋ ngʼx, ngzs[1] sing
ɲ ny canyon
p ph pin
p lip, with glottalization
r r right, but trilled
s s see
ʃ sh ship
t th tip
t bit, with glottalization
ts ts cats
tf tfs thoughtful
tsʼ ts cats, with glottalization
tʃʼ tsh catch, with glottalization
v v vine
w w wind
x rhx Scottish loch
ɣ grx No English equivalent; Spanish amigo
ʒ zhx pleasure
z z zip
ʔ (ʔ)x Pause in uh-oh!
IPA Orthography
ᵏǀ c
ᵏǀʼ c
ᵏǁ x
ᵏǁʼ x
ᵏǃ q
ᵏǃʼ q
ᶢǀ gc
ᶢǁ gx
ᶢǃ gq
ᵑǀ nc
ᵑǁ nx
ᵑǃ nq
Other symbols
◌̃ nasalisation (placed above consonant)
◌ʰ Aspirated consonant (placed after consonant)
◌ʱ Breathy voice (placed after consonant)
◌ʲ Palatalisation (placed after consonant)
◌̠ Retracted consonant (placed below consonant)
◌̤ / ◌̈ / ◌̥ / ◌̊ slack voice
IPA Orthography English approximation
a[3] a father
ɛ e bed
e e bay
i i beat
ɔ o British English off
o o American English stove
u u RP boot
ː long vowel
Tone mark Tone Bar
á ˦
à ˨
âː ˥˩
ǎ̤ ˨˦
à̤ ˨
a̤᷈ ː ˨˧˨


  1. ^ The velar nasal [ŋ] may be pronounced as [ŋg] in Swazi.
  2. ^ The click consonants do not have any equivalent phoneme in English. The nearest equivalents to English-speakers are the Tut-tut or Tsk! Tsk!, tchick!, and clip-clop! interjections.
  3. ^ /a/ is phonetically realised as an open front unrounded vowel [a] in Swazi, an open central unrounded vowel [ä] in Zulu and an open back unrounded vowel in Xhosa [ɑ].