Along with the /m/ sound, /n/ should be learned very early on in your child’s speech development. These two sounds are also similar in that they are both considered vocal sounds, meaning use of the vocal chords is necessary for articulation, and they are both “nasal” speech sounds. During articulation the breath stream travels mostly through the nose.
However, there is one large difference between these two sounds which lies in the area in which the actual sound is produced. Whereas the /m/ sound is classified as bilabial—produced when both lips are pressed together—the /n/ sound is an alveolar sound. This means the sound is produced near the gum line located just above our teeth.
How it’s elicited
Specifically, this sound is made when the top front of the tongue is raised and touches the roof of the mouth. The breath stream should be guided through the nasal passage with the teeth slightly parted and lips open.
How to teach it
Let your child watch the way the different parts of your mouth—the tongue in particular—move when you pronounce the /n/ sound and then encourage him to imitate these movements. Exaggerated movements on either yours or your child’s part can be considered appropriate at first so as to ensure that each element of articulation is being properly performed and/or imitated. However, once the child is comfortable with these movements, a more natural articulation of the sound should be encouraged.
You might even consider sitting in front of a mirror with your child and producing the /n/ sound together so that he can tell whether or not he is making correct oral movements. Visual comparison can be very stimulating and valuable for children of a young age.
Once your child is correctly imitating the sound, try encouraging some contextual use. Make a list of several syllables that begin with the /n/ sound for your child to practice—“na, no, ni, noo.” When your child’s skill level begins to surpass this drill, try switching it up. Start finding syllables that end with the /n/ sound or even combine simple syllables that incorporate /n/ into the middle for him to master.
If you are concerned with your child’s speech or language development, please contact Chicago Speech Therapy by clicking on the “Contact Karen” button on the upper right section of this page. Your online inquiry should be responded to within 30 minutes.
Karen George is a Chicago speech-language pathologist. Karen is a founding member and the current leader of Chicago Speech Therapists Connect, a group of Chicago-area speech-language pathologists. As of Jan 2012, the Chicago Speech Therapists group contained over 400 members. The private pediatric speech therapy practice Karen founded, Chicago Speech Therapy, LLC, provides in-home pediatric speech therapy in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Karen and her team of Chicago speech therapists have a reputation for ultra-effective speech therapy and work with a variety of speech disorders. Karen is the author of several books such as A Parent’s Guide to Speech and Language Milestones, A Parent’s Guide to Articulation, A Parent’s Guide to Speech Delay, A Parent’s Guide to Stuttering Therapy, and A Parent’s Guide to Pediatric Feeding Therapy. She is often asked to speak and has addressed audiences at Children’s Memorial and Northwestern University. Karen is highly referred by many Chicago-area Pediatricians and elite schools.