A native English speaker may not understand why anyone would want to learn how to pronounce words in an English accent. This is because they develop the accent at an early age. Most of them don’t realise how effortless they pronounce the sound /th/. It is normal for English learners to struggle with the pronunciation of the /th/ sound. Most learners try to replace the sound with sounds they pronounce in their languages.
“Th” in English
The combination of letters t and h (th) is very common in English. It represents two different sounds:
- The voiceless dental fricative /θ/ (thing)
- The voiced dental fricative /ð/ (this
The Voiced /ð/
When you pronounce the isolated /th/ sound, the vocal cords are in action, meaning there will be a vibration. Besides, there is a small buzz sound, so ensure you make the sound while lifting your tongue to touch the front teeth and allow air to pass through. You will make the /D/ sound if no air passes through.
Non-native speakers typically stress the /th/ sound as they learn how to pronounce it. This emphasis or stress removes the importance of other syllables or sounds in words. If you want to stop this habit, ensure you avoid completely touching your teeth with your tongue while pronouncing this sound.
For example, you can try to pronounce the following sounds without making the /th/ sound: something, another, altogether, and without. You will notice that another sounds like ano-er, without like wi-out, and altogether will sound like at,toget-er.
Once you break the habit, you can start reintroducing the tip of your tongue to touch your teeth. This will ensure that you can do the movement gently and swiftly, making it almost impossible to touch your teeth. Practising to move your tongue away from your teeth quickly using a mirror can be the best way to sound better.
Words with the /ð/ sound include:
Voiceless th or /θ/
Sound /θ/ is a stronger sound. To pronounce it, you only need to place the tip of the tongue between your teeth. However, you need to blow air through the mouth and avoid vibrating the vocal cords
Some of these words include:
The similarity between the unvoiced and the voiced /th/ sounds is that you place the tip of the tongue slightly behind the top front teeth. Additionally, your lips should remain relaxed when making both sounds. Alternatively, you can place the tongue between the bottom and top front teeth.
You can use these minimal pairs for practice:
- Voiceless Th: Thorn- torn, Thanks-tanks, Thick-tick
- Voiced Th: Those-toes, These-tease, Then-ten
Book a Private Accent Assessment
With the help of a speech pathologist and communication classes at the pronunciation school, you can easily pronounce the /th/ sound better. The journey to working on your accent begins with an assessment to figure out your pronunciation needs. Book a free assessment today and learn how better we can help you speak like a native English speaker.