Do you have any tricks for teaching people to pronounce clicks? I'm okay with pulmonic and glottalic consonants, but with the velarics I can only seem to do simple, singly articulated dental, postalveolar, and lateral clicks, usually nasalized unless I try really hard. Forget adding a coarticulation like aspiration or voicing. I'm wondering if you have any insight into pedagogical techniques for acquiring such sounds.
Here is how I would teach people to do the Zulu clicks. (Given the font problem, I’ll use the old IPA symbols.)
1. Take the “simple, singly articulated” clicks as the starting point. Make sure that you can produce each of them on its own.
|Zulu c||IPA ʇ||dental||like tut-tut, tsk-tsk|
|Zulu q||IPA ʗ||postalveolar||a single, hollow sound|
|Zulu x||IPA ʖ||lateral||gee-up|
2. Try to become conscious of the fact that while you were making these sounds you had a velar closure, as in the hold phase of k. Say ʇ, and after releasing the tip of the tongue think about the back of the tongue. You should find that it’s in contact with the velum. Likewise for ʗ and ʖ.
3. Now work on that simultaneous velar articulation. Take a word such as English bookcase bʊkkeɪs, with a long (geminated) velar plosive. (If you’re Italian, try secco; if you’re Japanese, sekken せっけん （石鹸）, etc.). Pause halfway through the long k plosive. Make a few clicks as you hold on to the velar closure.
4. Now, repeat the nonsense disyllable ɑkːɑ, first as it is, then with a click in the middle of the velar hold. Start slowly, then speed up. Reduce the duration of the velar hold until it is like an ordinary single k, but with a simultaneous click in the middle.
5. Lose the initial ɑ. Try to repeat kɑ with each of your three clicks. You have produced the Zulu syllables ca ʇa, qa ʗa, xa ʖa.
6. Pronounce the Zulu words cacá ‘be clear’, qaqá ‘undo’, xoxá ‘tell’. (Each is the imperative of a verb. The first syllable is low-pitched, the second high. Vowels in penultimate syllables are long and stressed.) You have now overcome the first hurdle, which is to make clicks in words, in running speech, rather than just in isolation.
7. Next, tackle the aspirated clicks. You have to release the velar k with aspiration. If you can already produce unaspirated k= and aspirated kʰ, this should be straightforward. Practise your three clicks with an aspirated velar release as you finish. You have produced the Zulu syllables cha ʇʰa, qha ʗʰa, xha ʖʰa.
8. Pronounce the Zulu words chachá ‘shell peas’, qhaqhá ‘cut open’, xhoxhá ‘jab’.
9. Next, take the voiced clicks. You have to pronounce these in the middle of a g instead of a k. Practise ɑɡːɑ (compare big girl), adding a click in the middle. Then reduce the length of the ɡ. Keep the voicing going throughout. When you have achieved this with each of the three clicks, you will have produced the Zulu syllables gca gʇa, gqa gʗa, gxa gʖa.
10. Pronounce the Zulu words gcagcá ‘marry’, gqâgqa ‘scatter’, gxugxúma ‘be nervous’. (á = high tone, â = falling tone, unmarked = low.)
11. Next, the nasal (“nasalized”) clicks. (Some people, like Ryan, find these easier than than the plain ones.) They are accompanied not by k or g but by ŋ. Make a long ŋː, then put a click in the middle. (Keep the voicing going). I’m assuming your previous phonetic training has taught you to produce syllable-initial ŋ — just check that you can do ŋa. Add a simultaneous click, and you have produced the Zulu syllables nca ŋʇa, nqa ŋʗa, nxa ŋʖa.
12. Pronounce the Zulu words ncencéza ‘jingle’, nqenqéza ‘ring’, nxenxéza ‘urge on horse’.
13. You know how to make breathy voice (murmur). Make a breathy-voiced ŋ̤. (The subscript-diaeresis diacritic is problematic in this font, so I’ll write this as ŋʱ.) Add a simultaneous click and a following vowel, and you have the Zulu syllables ngca ŋʱʇa, ngqa ŋʱʗa, ngxa ŋʱʖa.
14. Pronounce the Zulu words ngcengcá ‘suckle’, ngqangcqá ‘tremble with rage’, íngxângxa ‘green-striped frog’.
15. You have now learnt all fifteen Zulu clicks: three basic clicks multiplied by five kinds of accompanying velar articulation.
16. Reinforce your knowledge by working through Ladefoged’s examples. If you feel strong, look at this video clip, which purports to make the very similar Xhosa clicks “easy to remember”.
(My examples are all taken from Say it in Zulu by D.C. Rycroft and A.B. Ngcobo, classroom materials made available to me at SOAS, 1976.)