How do I pronounce gutturals in Hebrew & Arabic?
December 9, 2008 7:51 AM   Subscribe

How do I pronounce the gutturals in Hebrew and Arabic?

American new to Hebrew and Arabic here.

I'm currently learning both Hebrew and Arabic concurrently and struggling with pronunciation of Chet in Hebrew and the two guttural ch sounds in Arabic. That back of the throat guttural ch is just not coming to me.

Google is no help either.

Are there any throat exercises or tricks to teach an Anglophone not used to making these sounds how to pronounce them?
posted by huskerdont to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hocking a loogie, minus the spitting. Soften it just a touch. That's chet.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:03 AM on December 9, 2008

Drink some milk or something similar that thickens your saliva and makes you a little mucuousy before practicing at home. Make sure you're trying to produce the sound using the correct part of your mouth and throat (for Arabic kha, it should be coming from the back of your throat, for ghain, it's a little trickier -- some people say it sounds a bit like a french "r").
posted by proj at 8:19 AM on December 9, 2008

The Arabic ones can have a bit of a range in terms of where "kh" and "gh" are pronounced in the mouth. But they are always at least as far back as a "k" sound. When you make a "k" (or "g"), notice how far back your tongue makes contact with the roof of your mouth (compared to, say, a "t"). Try saying "tuh" and then "kuh", and compare.

For Arabic "kh" or "gh", the sound can be anywhere from the "hocking a loogie" (as Cat Pie Hurts put it) all the way up to where you make the sound for English "k". If you put your tongue in the "k" position, the difference between making a "kh" and making a "k" is analogous to the difference between making a "t" and an "s". The "t" is a quick burst of air. But, if you make a "t" sound, but then just keep holding it (not repeating it, but continuing to push air through), then you are making an "s". Now try to do the same with "k". Make a "k" but keep pushing air through, and you're making a "kh" (in the softer-sounding range of what "kh" can be in Arabic). Now, the difference between "kh" and "gh" is the same as the difference between "s" and "z". Just add your voice while making the "kh" sound.
posted by kosmonaut at 8:41 AM on December 9, 2008

In Arabic, one thing that can help a little is to remember that consonants tend to color the following vowel. The 'h' in the name Muhammad, for example, pulls the following 'a' back in the mouth. When the person you're talking to hears that back 'a', it helps reinforce that the sound before is ح and not ه‍ .
posted by gimonca at 10:10 AM on December 9, 2008

When I pronounce the gutterals, it comes from very far back in my mouth, almost at the point the throat starts. And it is just like the noise people make when they cough up phlegm, but subtler.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:21 PM on December 9, 2008

Try "gargling" without any liquid in your mouth. That's where in your throat the sound will come from (this sound will sound like the gutteral "r").
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 4:44 PM on December 9, 2008

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