How to improve your pronunciation of one of the most challenging English sounds: /th/
The English syllable “th” has two distinct pronunciations which many English learners tend to forget. “Th” can either be voiced (with vocal chord vibration) or voiceless (without vocal chord vibration). The easiest way to tell the difference is to put your fingers on your throat and see if you can feel vibrations.
The unvoiced “th” sound is made without using vocal cords. This sound is common in most words that begin with “th.” “Think,” “third,” and “thank” all start with the unvoiced “th”.
In the voiced “th,” English speakers use their vocal cords while they make the “th” sound. This is heard in nearly all structure words (words whose purpose is mostly grammatical) in English that begin with “th.” Structure words that begin with the voiced “th” sound include “the,” “those,” “that,” “this,” “than,” and others.
With the exception of being voiced or unvoiced, the voiced /ð/ and unvoiced /θ/ are nearly identical; the tip of the tongue is placed behind the top front teeth. The friction occurs between the tip of the tongue and the top front teeth. The lips are kept relaxed during the production of both ‘th sounds’.
Voiced /th/ /ð/
| Is it this, that, those, these, and there or for when that I eat this? |
Whether the weather is cold, whether the weather is hot, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather.
There is my brother from another mother.
Unvoiced /th/ /θ/
| Three thin panthers in the bathroom.|
I thought a thought but the thought I thought wasn’t the thought I thought I thought if the thought I thought I thought had been the thought I thought, wouldn’t have thought so much.
Aunt Beth has thick cheeks, thin lips, three teeth, and thin mouth
|They thankfully think this thing is the best thing that they can throw the three times they need to throw a thing.|
Do you hear the difference between the two /th/ sounds? Try these tongue twisters for yourself and let me know if you were successful in reproducing the correct /th/ sounds.