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Impress Your Friends and The Best Reason to Master a Perfect “Th”

Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020

This is Blog #192: Impress Your Friends and The Best Reason To Master a Perfect “Th”

In the preceding Blog #191 on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 I listed the 100 most frequently written words in English from the Oxford English Corpus (OEC)  from 2013 from counting from 2 billion words from texts and similar to the Brown Corpus 1967.

So what does a list like that tell you?  For one, it answers the question– How important is it to pronunce the “th” accurately?

Get this—the most frequently written word and Number 1 in 2 billion words in English texts is  “the”.

Here  are the nine (9)  words with “th” in the top 100 words in English with the numbered rank:

1. the

8.  that

15. with  (American English, “th” has no voice)

21. this

26. they

38. there

39. their

79. think

96. these

Count them – nine (9) or about one tenth of  the 100 most frequently written words in English have a “th”.   Seven (7) of  those nine (9) have a “th” with a voice.

Not only that,  seven (7) of the nine words with a “th” are ranked for children’s reading books as pre-primer, primer and grade 2.    So, when children  in North America and Great Britain are learning to read, they are reading these words frequently.  Just so you know, children learning to read are speaking the words aloud.

Also, a super frequently asked question from people who are speaking English as a second or other language (ESL /ESOL) is this:
How do you know whether the “th” has a voice or no voice?

A BIG part of the answer is this: the little words with “th” and which you see frequently are mostly “th” with a voice: the,  that, this, they, there, their, and these.

There is more.  When children are learning to read English in school, their teachers use the strategy of boot-strapping.  An example of a teacher using boot-strapping is this:  The teacher says to the student:  “You already recognize “the”  and can say that word accurately. Every time you see  these next “th” words which begin with “th”,  do or pronounce the same sound.  So, do the same “th” pronunciation as you do for “th”  for  these words:  “that”, “this”, “they”,“there”, “their”, “these”.

Also, teachers tell children, “You know  the word “with”.  This “th” is pronounced only with air and has no voice.  So you pronounce the same “th” sound you use for “with” for  “think”. And “thank”.  And “through” and “throw.”

The take home message for this blog is this:   If you wonder whether it is worth the effort and work to fully master the “th” sound with a voice and with no voice– do it.  The number of times you will speak words with the English “th” is downright huge.

Below is a brief description of pronouncing “th”:

Positioning of the tongue is the critical and super important feature of “th”.  Push your tongue forward. Minimum  is to push your tongue forward so that it rests between your top front teeth and your bottom front teeth.

Maximum—there is no maximum for work-out practice.  Do work-out practice for home practice.  Push the tongue  out over your lower lip and make the tip of your tongue go down and not up.  This will make the muscles strong that push the tongue forward and down and are slow-twitch muscles.

Make the “th” sound slowly and loudly.   When the “th” has a voice, make the sound from your throat loudly and it is like a hum.   When the “th” has no voice, be especially  sure to use a lot of energy to push a lot of air quickly out of your mouth.

Seeing pronunciation of “th” is often more helpful than reading a written description.   In YouTube.com/ClearTalkMastery  has  several Accent Reduction Tips for “th”:

These are ClearTalkMastery Accent Reduction Tip #63, #46, and # 9 .  All of these Accent Reduction Tips are for “th”, both with no voice and with a voice.

#63 is no voice “th”, “authentic”

#46 voiced “th”  “that”

#9 no voice th “through”, “throw” and voiced “th” though

Do you want a quick, easy way to get lots of practice of the “th”—- say those 9 words 3 to 10 times each day for 21 days. Perfectly. Work-out practice to make your tongue muscles strong. The muscles that push the tongue forward and the tip down. Slow twitch muscles.

Remember, it is not practice makes perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect.

Happy practicing perfect!

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