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.
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.”
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!