Pronouncing Cebuano

Vowels

Cebuano vowels are similar to the classical European vowels: A,E, I, O, and U.

The sounds of E and I are very similar. In these texts, E rarely appears except in words borrowed from foreign languages.

The sounds of O and U are also similar, though many speakers distinguish them. The letter O is pronounced far forward in the mouth.

Whenever two vowels appear together, there is a glottal stop between them. So the word for Lord, Ginoo, has three syllables: Gin-oh-oh.

There are only a few diphthongs:

  • AW as in English How
  • AY as in English High
  • OY as in English Buoy
  • IW as in English View

Consonants

Most consonants are pronounced as in European languages.

B and V in Cebuano sound like English B or Russian Б

NG is a liquid sound as in the English word singing and does not have a hard G sound unless another G is explicitly added to the word. So Cebuano singit and singgit are pronounced differently. NG can occur at the beginning, middle, or end of a word.

The sound of English SH (Russian Ш) is spelled either SI or SY. So Cebuano impormasyon (information) is pronounced “impormashon.” Loan words conataining the sound of English ZH (Russian Ж) are pronounced SH/Ш.

The sound of English DJ (Russian ДЖ) is spelled DY or DI. So the Spanish word Dios (God), when used in Cebuano, is pronounced “Djos” – “Джос”

The sound of English CH (Russian Ч) is spelled TS or TY. So English Chocolate is Cebuano Tsokolate. However you will hear some speakers pronounce TS as T+S (Russian Ц).

The F sound is not native to Cebuano. Some speakers will pronounce it as P but others can say F. If a word is spelled with an F, you can pronounce the F and you will be understood. However many loan words will appear in Cebuano spelling, So you should pronounce impormasyon (information) as written.

Spanish names containing J are pronounced with a simple H sound as in English, not the sound of Spanish J (Russian X.) Spanish loan words containing B, V, or D have a hard Cebuano B or D sound, not the modern Spanish pronunciation.

Accented syllable

Many words have the accent on the final syllable. But usually the accent is on the second-to-last syllable, and this usually a safe assumption when you see an unfamiliar word.