#46: th+r=difficult sound combination combination
The unvoiced th sound is difficult, the r sound is difficult, together they are even more difficult
Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 46th episode.
I hope you enjoyed last week's video podcast about the long e and short e sounds. I'm going to try to publish the next video podcast in the middle of February.
I also want to apologize that this podcast is late this week. Because the video podcasts were so popular, I used up my bandwidth for January, and I had to push this show back until February, when my bandwidth allocation was reset. That means, if I want to do more than 2 video podcasts every month, that I need to start another campaign for listeners to financially support this show. Anything you purchase from Pronuncian.com, and especially your site subscriptions, are what keep this podcast coming to you every week.
Today's podcast is about a combination of sounds that are especially difficult for many non-native speakers, the unvoiced th sound, followed by an r sound, as in the word three. Three.
Interestingly, it is only the unvoiced th that gets followed by and r sound, never the voiced th, at least never in commonly said words in English.
It isn't surprising that this sound combination is so difficult; the unvoiced th sound or r sound alone cause problems for many non-native speakers. When they occur right next to each other, the level of difficulty is multiplied.
Let's look at how to successfully say this combination by practicing with the word three. Both the unvoiced th and the r sound are continuous consonants, meaning the sounds can be said for a long time, not like a t sound or d sound, which can only be said one time. Let's compare the continuous unvoiced th and r sound to the discontinuous t sound and d sound. I'll say all four sounds in a row. unvoiced th (unvoiced th), r sound (r sound), t sound (t sound), d sound (d sound). Notice how I can hold the th sound and r sound for a long time. (unvoiced th, r sound). Because I can hold those sounds like that, I can also blend them one into the next when they are near each other. (unvoiced th sound plus r sound). Three.
It takes a lot of tongue movement to get from the unvoiced th into the r sound. The unvoiced th happens at the front of our mouth, with our tongue very near the top front teeth. Air gets pushed out the very small opening between our tongue and our teeth and we get this sound (unvoiced th).
The r sound happens at the back of our mouth, with our tongue bunched up near our very back teeth, and, here's the really important part, the tip of our tongue cannot touch anything. It doesn't really matter where the tip of the tongue is, as long as it is not touching any other part of the inside of your mouth. If you touch something, you will create a sound that is similar to the English l sound. You should be saying this sound (r sound).
So, to get from the unvoiced th sound to the r sound, the tongue needs to quickly move from the front of the mouth for the th sound, to lifting the back of the tongue up for the r sound. Listen to the combination (th+r, th+r, th+r). Now you try it. (th+r).
In common English, this sound combination is most likely to occur at the beginning of the word, so let's practice a few words. Repeat after me, if you can.
If you have a Pronuncian subscription, you can find an exercise for the th+r sound combination when you log in and go to the voiced and unvoiced th sound lesson, or the r sound lesson. If you want to remember to practice the exercise again later, click the button that says you would like to review the material further, and it will show up in your account information page. Remember, you can keep track of all the exercises you've practiced that way.
Okay, one more time, let's practice those th+r words. Repeat after me.
One other note about blending continuous consonants, it happens the same whether the sounds are within a single word, or are next to each other, with one sound at the end of one word, and the next sound at the beginning of the next word. This is called linking, and there are specific lessons and exercises for linking continuous consonants, and they have all been recently updated with audio examples. You will need a Pronuncian subscription for access to the additional listening exercises, but the lessons are free. I'll add a link to those lessons on this week's transcripts page.
That's all for today everyone. Remember, you can still always find sound practice and lots of free lessons, as well as the transcripts for this show, at www.pronuncian.com.
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About the ESL/ELL Teacher
Mandy has been teaching ESL, pronunciation and accent reduction since 2005 at Seattle Learning Academy, an English language school in Seattle, Washington, USA. She uses her experience with intermediate to advanced students to create the topics that most affect students living and working in the United States and can help them communicate better and more clearly.