When you read that sentence out loud, does your tongue dance? Can you feel it behind your front teeth, forming the d of dentist, David, Desmond, deadly, smothered? Perfect. Does your tongue dart out quickly to form the /ð/ of smothered, that, mother, with and feathers? It should. Your tongue must move to make the soft English /ð/ sound correctly. If you don’t move it far enough, you end up with a claggy sound that is neither d nor /ð/. To a native speaker of English, you sound like this : If the English /ð/ sound doesn’t exist in your native language, don’t fall into the trap of moving your tongue just a little bit forward from a /d/ position to attempt it. You’ll be replacing every /ð/ with a thick, leaden d sound. You may not notice, but your audience will. Especially if they are native speakers of English. They won’t like it. You can’t avoid the English /ð/ sound. It’s everywhere. The is the most common word in the English language. So do the work to get the sound right. Give your tongue some exercise. There’s a short BBC video demonstrating the /ð/ sound here. For a musical accompaniment to your exercise, here’s Mary Hopkin singing Those Were The Days. You can see her tongue flick out to form the /ð/ of those, they and the. When she sings days, dance, door, dreamed or any other d sound, you won’t see her tongue. Watch: Try repeating tongue twisters to get you in the habit of switching easily from d to /ð/. Tongue twisters help your tongue to develop a muscle memory for the movement. With practice, you will make the /ð/ sound automatically and correctly, when you need it. Try these. Feel your tongue flick in and out. Be a snake :
- Don’t dither! Those ducks deserve their dinner.
- The doctor slathered those dusty hot dogs with mustard.
- Dark dreams smother other devils
- Neither Heather nor her dancing brother soothe their father with their dangerous drugs.
- Smooth drops slithered down the dirty drainpipe.
- Those bothersome adders divided their tails with Mother’s diamonds.
Set your tongue free while you sing. You’ll be setting your audience free to enjoy your voice, instead of worrying about your blocked nose. © Sing Better English, 2014