There are a lot of sounds in English that are so hard to pronounce, particularly if you have a different native language. You may have tried to practice several English sounds effortlessly but occasionally have your tongue tied when pronouncing the “th” sound. Things can get even more difficult when you feel native English speakers misunderstand you.
However, it is not just about how you can pronounce the sound. It is about how you practise and strengthen your jaw muscles over a duration. To help you pronounce the sound better, we will take a closer look at the features of the sound that make it hard to pronounce.
Most Learners don’t Have the Sound in Their Language
Very few languages across the world have the “th” sound. This is even more challenging because English has two “th” sound variants; the voiced and unvoiced “th”. People who have not grown up in areas where the sound is prevalent find it hard, embarrassing, and strange trying to create it.
For instance, Spanish speakers often confuse the sound “s” and “th”, so a word like “something” is pronounced as “thomesing.”
“Th” Requires an Unusual Tongue Positioning
When pronouncing the voiceless “th” sound, the tongue tip passes the upper teeth (dental fricative) and moves outside the mouth slightly. The movement may feel unusual for most non-native English speakers. It may also confuse English speakers since other sounds don’t require moving the tongue outside the mouth.
It is also the only sound that requires passing the tongue tip on the upper teeth. Besides, most accented speakers fail to understand that they don’t have to stick their tongues out too far when making this sound.
The positioning for the voiced sound is the same. However, there is a difference in the voicing. The tongue shouldn’t contact the upper teeth to make the sound. More tongue tension is needed for this sound. It also requires some duration, so to pronounce it better, you need to avoid cutting it short. A common mistake most speakers make is not giving the voiced /th/ a proper flow.
How to Correct Your “th” Sound Pronunciation
If you have finally decided to improve your pronunciation of the “th” sound, it is advisable to take the right approach. You only need to:
- Learn the right positioning of the tongue when making the sound
- Practise as frequently as possible
- Practise the /th/ sound in single words and phrases
Improve Your Pronunciation Today
Are you an accented speaker seeking to pronounce English words better? Pronunciation School provides some of the best resources to help you achieve your goals faster. Book a free accent modification evaluation to discover more about how our public speaking courses can help.