In this next part, we will begin using the TH sound within conversational speech.  Before getting to that final step, however, we will be continuing to “climb to the top of the ladder.”

Previously, we learned how to use the TH sound in isolation, in syllables, and within words.  Mastering a sound within spontaneous speech typically requires practice within phrases and sentences.

4) Once the sound is successfully achieved within words, it is important to work on phrases.  A phrase can be thought of as a small grouping of connected words.  For example, “see a thorn.” When practicing, it is typically helpful to use a repeated phrase, replacing only the target word (for example, “see a thumb,” “see a tooth,” etc.).

5) Once you’re comfortable using the TH sound within phrases, you’ll move on to sentences.  It is helpful to grab a magazine, book, or newspaper article for this very important step as you red aloud.  Also, listening closely to your favorite TV show or movie can help in terms of how the TH sound is pronounced in standard American English.

6) This final step requires ongoing practice and is typically the most challenging.  When you’re reading from a book, you are looking at the sounds/words; but when speaking conversationally, words and thoughts flow most clearly.  Using the TH sound in conversation and within a variety of situations is key: over the phone, in a restaurant, and during presentations.

Overall, mastering a sound takes patience and a lot of practice!


Pronouncing the TH Sound (Part 1 of 2)

Hi Everyone!

Today I wanted to cover a topic that frequently comes up even before we get started on actually modifying (or changing) spoken language sounds. I often get asked what an example of a “speech sound” is - or how someone begins to improve it.  I will be reviewing the first 3 (of 6) steps used when working on producing a sound.

When wanting change, it is important to take action

When wanting change, it is important to take action

Personally, I like to not only look at these as individual steps; but also as two separate parts: the first part being the mechanics of how the sound is actually made, and the second part being its practical, everyday use.  These distinct parts are almost like when you first learn a new word in a different language and you are able to define it.  The second part comes in when you still need to learn to use that new word spontaneously within conversation. 

When thinking about different “speech sounds,” it’s easiest to think of it like climbing up a ladder - the bottom of the ladder being just the sound itself, while getting to the top of the ladder, you’re able to use the sound in a variety of contexts (words, sentences, etc.).  Now to get started on the TH sound:

1)   When working on the TH sound in isolation, we are focusing on just the sound, alone.  This sound can be pronounced “th,” as in “think” or “th” as in “this” depending on whether or not the sound requires your voice.  The sound, “th” (voiceless) or “th” (voiced) is made when you put your tongue in-between your teeth while blowing out air.

2)   After the sound is mastered in isolation, you move on to “th” (voiceless) or “th” (voiced) within syllables.  This step requires the TH sound plus a vowel sound (for example the “a” in “apple” or the “e” in “egg”).  Examples of syllables with the voiceless TH sound would be, “eeth,” “thee,” or “eethee.”

Practice and motivation will help you to achieve your communication goals

Practice and motivation will help you to achieve your communication goals

3)   Depending on your success in producing the TH sound and whether it was easiest in the beginning, middle, or end of the syllable combination, the next step would be the TH sound in the beginning, middle, or end of a word as in “thanks,” “bathtub,” or “path.”  Several trials may be required to master this sound within words.  While practicing, you’re also taking the necessary steps to eventually produce it spontaneously, with confidence!

I hope that these tips were useful! Next time, I’ll be discussing the final steps (which is the 2nd part) of mastering a specific sound in spoken language.  Have a great day!

5 Tips to Speak More Clearly

Hi Everyone! My name is Margot Friedman and I am an accent modification specialist.  I am also a speech language pathologist, so basically that means that I cover everything having to do with talking! So today, to start things off, I wanted to discuss 5 tips to speak more clearly.  This could apply to anyone, in any circumstance, whether you find yourself on an important work call, in a social setting with friends, or on the job interview of your dreams.

Tip #1 - Posture

Keeping a proper posture is extremely important when speaking

Keeping a proper posture is extremely important when speaking

Strangely enough, one of the most important things about speaking takes place before actually talking!  When you’re standing or sitting, you want to make sure that you’re upright instead of slouching. While this next part can definitely take practice since it’s not always the most comfortable thing to do naturally, if you’re sitting, you want to make sure that your shoulders are relaxed.  This means that you want your elbows off of tables and also not resting on the arms of your chair since this can push up your shoulders.  Also, it’s best that your feet are placed in front of yourself on the floor…although this isn’t always possible depending on the height of your chair.

Tip #2 - Breathe

Breathing is obviously very important – but how you breathe can also determine how you speak.  The diaphragm is the dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of the rib cage.  Deep, “diaphragmatic breaths” are an effective way of breathing, while shallow “chest breaths” may lead to the feeling of “running out of breath.”  We can even apply this to certain workouts, such as yoga, if you correctly integrate your breathing with the rise and fall of your stomach.

Tip #3 - Pronounce Entire Words

Leaving off word endings or changing the last sound of a word can influence the meaning of your message, whether you’re a native speaker, or currently learning the pronunciation of sounds within Standard American English.  This “sound difference” may be observed at the end of the word if the “unvoiced” sound is expressed in place of the “voiced” sound.  An example of this would be saying, the word: “cap” (with a “p”) in connected speech instead of “cab” (with a “b”).  Initially, slowing down the rate of your speech will help to focus on pronouncing all sounds within words.

Tip #4 - Grammar

For a clear message, be sure to prepare your grammar in advance

For a clear message, be sure to prepare your grammar in advance

When possible, it’s always best to prepare your grammar ahead of time - and this goes for anyone, even if you’ve been speaking English for most (or even all) of your life.  Any time you want to increase the general clarity of your speech, you want to make sure that your phrasing and vocabulary is well thought out and flows as clearly as possible.  This way, the listener is focused on what you’re saying instead of how you’re saying it.

Tip #5 - Repetition

Practice is definitely the most important piece when you’re working hard to improve anything!  It’s no surprise that this also applies to speaking more clearly!  It’s a great strategy to find 10-20 minute blocks throughout your day to review key phrases or read aloud a passage from an article or your favorite book.  Recording yourself is an effective way to track any changes or improvement in your speech clarity!

 …And those are 5 tips to speak more clearly! I hope that you found them to be helpful and something that you can apply to your everyday life however it makes most sense to you! Have a great day!