Episode Transcript

Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 168. Today we are going to practice together the TH sound.

Hey, hey, everyone. What is up and how are you doing? And how is your TH doing, and how is your tongue doing? I hope you’re all doing great because we’re gonna do some workout today – you and me, and your tongue. It always sounds so awkward when I talk about me and people’s tongues, but what can I do? I mean, when it comes to pronunciation – and you know how passionate I am about pronunciation – it involves the tongue. And I’m going to ask you to do some things with your tongue to pronounce certain sounds, like the TH.

I actually have quite a lot of videos about the TH, and I talk a lot about it. Here’s the thing about the TH. On one hand, if you don’t pronounce it with the tongue out and allow air to come out, like /θ/ or /ð/ as in ‘thanks’ or ‘they’, nothing serious is going to happen. Usually, people substitute it with a T, maybe a dental T, like ‘tanks’. And ‘dey’, instead of ‘they’.

Sometimes it’s more of a hard D and T: ‘dey’ and ‘tanks’. And then actually it sounds like different words. And sometimes people substitute it with an S – ‘sanks’, right? And then it starts interrupting with the clarity. Or ‘zey’ instead of ‘they’. And also, sometimes with an F: ‘fanks’.

Now, when you’re listening to it, it actually sounds the closest to a TH. But when you speak with an F instead of a TH, that can also compromise your clarity. But again, like I said at the beginning, not a big deal, and people are used to these substitutions, especially since many dialects in English actually substitute the TH with an F or a V, or a dental T or D. Dental T means that the T is pronounced when the tongue is placed on the teeth and not on the alveolar ridge, which is that bump right behind the teeth.

So anyway. Not a big deal, if you mispronounced the TH. Sometimes it could affect your clarity. So yes, we definitely want to pay attention there. But I believe that the TH is such an important sound to work on: a) because people are aware of it and often get obsessed over it. I used to be that type of person, I used to obsess over the TH and getting it right.

So sometimes, just the sound that sounds okay on you, but makes you feel self-conscious is a sound that you probably want to work on so you don’t feel self-conscious, you don’t feel limited by the sound. Or, you know, unintentionally not choosing certain words with that sound because you don’t like it – your subconscious brain does not like the TH, therefore you don’t choose words with TH, which makes, you know, this experience a lot harder. Anyway, it’s hard to select words, now you have limited your vocabulary even more. Not a good deal, not a good deal. So, if that’s the case, then I think that doing some very efficient exercises and learning it in a simple way can definitely help.

Now, here’s the interesting thing. The TH, even though it might be challenging, is one of the easiest consonant sounds to work on. Because it’s very clear if you’re getting it or not – if you’re getting it right or not. Because it has this very clear physical features that you can just look at yourself in the mirror, or use your finger to feel your tongue coming out, and know if you’re pronouncing it correctly or not.

So, all of that, I’m not going to go into it because there is more that I can say and I’m like tempted to talk about it, but we haven’t really started the episode just yet. This is just the intro. So, I’m not going to go so deeply into it. What I’m going to tell you is this is why I decided to share this lesson with you today about the TH.

In fact, the lesson that I’m going to share with you today is not the regular video lessons that I usually share. Today I’m sharing with you one of the first lessons inside of my program – New Sound. New Sound deals a lot with pronunciation, and simplifying pronunciation and practicing it effectively, and knowing if it’s right for you. And I wanted to share this lesson.

Now, actually, this lesson is also going to be released in a video version. So if you feel like you would like to see it and not just hear it – because it could be helpful, especially when it comes to pronunciation – I’m going to put the link below so you can watch the full video. And actually, in this case, I would actually recommend for you to afterwards go watch it. Because right now you’re probably doing something and you can’t watch a video. So you can practice with me and it’s going to be super effective anyway. But if you feel like you need the visual part and it’s very visual in this video, then click the link and go watch it there.

And in case you’re interested in more lessons and, you know, if you like it and how I teach, then I would also put the link with all the information about my program – New Sound, that is currently open. But you might be hearing this when it’s closed, so you can get on the list. Or, you know, click to see if it’s open right now, and all the other options that this program has to offer.

All right. So I’m not gonna make you wait any longer. Let’s start practicing the TH sound.

Welcome to the TH sound. The TH sound is a sound that is created with the tip of the tongue, as in ‘think’ and ‘they’. A lot of students are very aware of the sound, but at the same time, they feel uncomfortable when using it or they feel that it’s a little too much or fake, or just strange. Because if you don’t have the TH sound in your native language, then it’s going to be strange to speak with the tongue out.

However, if you practice it consistently and the way I’m going to show you in this program, then I guarantee that very soon you’ll be able to make it your own and feel comfortable, and the sound is going to be effortless for you. Because the good thing about the TH is that it’s very clear how to pronounce it and how to use it. So, it’s really all about the muscles and all about developing those new healthy speaking habits.

Now, when we talk about the pronunciation of the sounds, we want to take into consideration three elements. The first one is the manner of the sound, then the placement, and then the voicing. So, let’s begin with the placement.

When pronouncing the TH sound, the tip of the tongue comes out and touches the top teeth. This is where the air or voice are blocked. And that’s the place of articulation. So it’s the tip of the tongue and the teeth.

In a second we’re going to talk about common challenges when pronouncing the TH sound. But the most important thing that you need to remember is that the tongue has to be out. And there has to be contact between the tongue and teeth to pronounce the TH sound. ‘think – they’.

When it comes to manner, the TH is a fricative. That means that the sound is not blocked. The air is not blocked. But it’s released gradually. So it’s restricted, right? Think about it. We release air, but the air is restricted because of the contact of the tongue and teeth. So you let it out slowly, almost like blowing out a candle.

It is not a stop sound, it’s not stopped. That would be a T or a D.But it’s released gradually. This is why it’s a little longer than a stop sound, for example, a D. ‘they’ – ’day’. ‘they’ – I can stretch it forever. D, D, ‘day’. It’s a lot shorter. OK? So that’s the idea of a fricative.

And when it comes to voicing, we have two different TH’s. One is the voiceless TH, or as some people call it, the soft TH, where it’s just air coming out between the tongue and teeth. Think. Versus a voiced TH, as in ‘they’. Where it’s both air and sound. The vocal cords are vibrating. And if you put your hands here on your throat, try it. Now let’s release air. Just air. And now add the vocal cords. Just sound. Did you feel the vibrations? Good.

So that is your voice, and it actually changes the sound. So we’re not doing anything different here. But it created a different sound. think – they. Both are spelled with two letters – T and H – TH. But they have two different phonetic symbols. This is the phonetic symbol of the voiceless TH. This is the phonetic symbol – the IPA of the voiced TH.

Now, before we practice it in words, let’s talk about common challenges that you might face when pronouncing this sound. So we’ve already agreed that it’s going to be a little challenging for some people to stick the tongue out, if that sound does not exist in their native language. So, you might be wanting to pull the tongue back as you’re pronouncing the TH. And you may think that the tongue is out, but ultimately, if it’s inside, then this is a sound that you’re going to get.

Did that sound like a TH? Because I blocked the air, it actually sounded more like a T sound than a TH. thought. Now that my tongue is out, the sound is different. Listen again. By the way, I may even stick the tongue out and still get the same quality. That’s because I pressed my tongue against the teeth really strongly, and I did not allow the air to pass.

So, you need to remember two things. If you don’t hear that friction sound of the TH that resembles an S or an F, then your tongue is either inside – right behind the teeth – or outside, but it’s pressed so strongly against the teeth that the air is not coming out. So make sure that the tongue is loose and relaxed.

And one more thing. Think of the body of the tongue, and you want to make sure that it’s down because sometimes people stick the tongue out and the body of the tongue is so high up, that it’s blocking the air inside. And you have no idea why you’re pronouncing a T or a D instead of a TH. ’dey’ instead of ‘they’. So it has to do with what’s happening inside the mouth as well.

Good. Now, another common challenge is that when people are not aware of sticking the tongue out and you may want to create that friction sound. But you’ll keep the tongue inside. ’sink’. And then you’re pronouncing an S sound instead of a TH sound. ‘sink’ instead of ‘think’.

So in that case, you want to make surethat the tip of the tongue comes out. And you can do that by putting your finger right here. And you might want to feel the tongue touching the finger. Or you might want to use a mirror or your phone camera to see the tongue actually coming out. think.

Now, if you’re hearing the quality of the TH and you’re not seeing the tip of the tongue, maybe you’re using your bottom lip to pronounce the TH: as in ’vey’ instead of ’they’, or ‘fink’ instead of ‘think’. And in that case, you might want to hold your bottom lip with your finger for a little bit, making sure that it’s not coming up, and that the tongue is actually coming out. Instead, ‘they’, ‘think’. Right?

It’s all a matter of controlling your tongue and articulation organs, becoming more aware of what your mouth is actually doing. And when you’re in control, then you’re less likely to go back into old habits, which is the pronunciation habits that you’ve developed, like pronouncing an F or an S instead of a TH.

So as you can see, the TH can be substituted with several sounds, like a T or a D. S or a Z – ‘zey’ instead of ‘they; or F or V. It depends on your native language and your speaking habits. But when you become aware of that and you understand what you tend to do, it’s a lot easier to change that and go into the right pronunciation.

Now, I want to remind you that it is possible for you to pronounce the TH. Your tongue is not too short. Your teeth are not too wide. It has nothing to do with the structure of your mouth. You’re able to pronounce the TH. If you find it challenging, it’s only because you’re going back to old pronunciation habits, and to what’s comfortable, and what’s familiar, because that’s how you pronounce sounds in your native language.

OK? So it’s just a matter of gaining control over your tongue, over your articulation organs, becoming aware and being patient. And doing it again and again and again and doing it slowly, until you hear what you’re looking for. So now that you know how to pronounce the TH, let’s move on to practicing it in words, phrases, minimal pairs, and sentences.

OK, so let’s begin with words. We’re going to start with words with voiceless TH. Stick the tongue out, make sure the air passes. And prolong the sound, do it with me.

Thanks. Thank you. Thanks.

Theory. What a great theory. Theory. It’s only in theory.

Stick the tongue out. Feel the air passing. If you hear ‘teory’, then you want to relax the tongue. Stick it out a bit more: theory.

Now, that might be confusing with a Z sound in the middle. And yes, it’s a Z sound, even though it’s spelled with an S. So, if you feel that you’re saying something like ‘southend’, like switching the sounds, so concentrate on the TH first. Hold it out, ’thaw’ – long ‘aw’ sound, ’thaw’ and then bring the tongue in for the Z sound: ‘z’nd’ – ’thaw-zn’d’. thousand. Let’s review the words. Very good.

Now, moving on to voiced TH. Feel the vibrations.

Now, you may see that it’s spelled the same, and you might be asking yourself, how would I know if it’s a voiceless or a voiced TH? So wait with that thought. I’ll answer it in a little bit.

the car. The people. The tongue comes out. You hear the vibrations. Now, with this word in particular, sometimes you can cheat and put the tongue on the back of the teeth. When you hold it out, you may even feel tickles here. If you don’t, maybe the air is blocked somewhere, so you want to see why. the car, the people, the chair.

‘this’ – a voiced TH, an ‘i’ sound, and an S. ‘this’. ‘this’, right? We don’t want to hear ‘dis’ or ‘zis’. this. Now, having said that, again, if you pronounce it more like a D sound, because it’s a function word, it’s no big deal. But for the sake of practice. Right? It’s not about mastering it every time you speak English. No, it’s just for the sake of practice to train your tongue to get to the right placement, in all the words.

After that, we’ll learn where we can do all these shortcuts, because this is not as important as ‘father’, or at least the TH in these words. Can you hear the difference between the two? These. We begin with a voiced TH. But here we have high ‘ee’ sound. ‘These’ – ending with a Z sound. this – these.

Now let’s continue with phrases. Now, this is where it gets interesting, because this is an opportunity to see how we transition from the TH to other sounds and vice versa.

‘Let me think about it’. So the ‘let me’ – we can reduce it to ‘lemme’. ‘Lemme think about it’.

‘Let’s do this thing’. Say it again. Let’s do this thing. What’s the challenging part? Where do you get stuck? Probably the transition between the S and the TH, right? ‘Let’s do this thing’. So make sure you bring the tongue in for the S and then you push it out for the TH – ‘this-thing’. Right? And you want to make sure that the tongue doesn’t stop in the middle and stops the air as well. ‘This thing’. Make sure it’s very smooth.

Let’s move into sentences. ‘They need to think about the earth more’. Notice that here the ’the’is pronounced as ’thee’ – ‘thee earth’. That’s because there is a vowel right after. When there is a vowel, we want to say the word ’the’ with an ‘ee’ sound, so it’s easier to connect: ‘thee-earth’. When it’s a consonant, then we reduce it: the car, the plane. ‘They need to think about the earth more’.

Now let’s practice minimal pairs: similar words that the only thing that is different is that one sound – a TH and another sound. For example, day – they. So a lot of people might substitute the voiced TH with a D sound. So we want to look into those pairs to, again, develop awareness and to remind the brain that these are two different sounds: day – they.

Let’s do it again. ‘day’ – ‘they’. And when you practice minimal pairs, make sure to always say the words first and then the sentence. ‘They had a great day today’. ‘They had a great day today’. ‘sink – think’. ‘I think the ship is about to sink’.

OK. That’s it for now. Massage your jaw a little bit. Do a lip trill. Take a deep breath in, breathe out. You did a fantastic job.

All right, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope your tongue is not hurting right now. If it is, go do some lip trills and tongue trills. And, I actually recommend listening to it again and doing it again, because the more you listen and you practice, especially the practice part, the better it is. And then you make it your own.

And again, if you want to hear more about how I can help you improve your pronunciation, make it simple, make it easy, own the sounds. And that just sounds, but also intonation, rhythm, stress – all of that good stuff that help you get your message across, be heard and feel confident – then I’m going to put the link below to New Sound, my program. As I’m releasing this episode, it is still open, but we’re going to close doors really soon. So, if you’re interested about when we open doors again, then click the link and get on the wait list.

All right, my friends, enjoy. Don’t forget to practice. And I’ll see you or speak to you in the next episode. Bye.