Want to speak English like an American? Focus on the Letter ‘T.’
Students often approach us with a goal to speak English confidently and/or reduce their accent. They want to speak English like an American. The truth is, this goal takes time, focused practice, and plenty of experience listening to and using English. There are, however, a few expert tips that can go a long way toward improving your pronunciation.
Such is the case with pronouncing the letter ‘T’. Here are some tips for pronouncing this letter like a native speaker to make you feel good speaking English.
The General “T” sound:
Flatten the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your two front teeth. Create a bowl-shaped seal using the sides of your tongue to trap the pocket of air inside your mouth. Release this puff of trapped air by pushing it to the front and then releasing the tip of your tongue from behind your two front teeth, pushing the air forward. This should create a “tuh” sound. Depending on the vowel that comes after this sound, it may sound like “tah,” “teh,” “tee,” “tih,” “toh,” “tuh,” or “too”. This is the basic “T” sound, and it usually occurs at the beginning of a word.
Here are some examples for you to practice:
…Did you Know?
But did you know that native speakers often do not make the standard “T” sound? If you want to speak English confidently, you should be aware of these other sounds “T” can make:
When “T” Changes to “D”
When the letter ‘T’ comes between two vowels, or between a vowel and the letter ‘L’ or ‘R,’ it makes a quick, soft “D” sound. Although in the mouth the “D” sound is formed exactly like the “T” sound, the key difference is that you use your voice for the “D” sound, but you do not use your voice for the “T” sound. You can notice this difference by placing your hand on your throat and practicing each sound: “Duh” and “Tuh”. You should feel vibration in your throat for the letter ‘D,’ but no vibration for the standard “T” sound.
Here are some examples of T’s that are actually pronounced as D’s:
Hint: This is a key difference between the American and British accents!
When “T” stops air behind the teeth.
When “T” comes at the end of a word (and the next word does not begin with a vowel), a native speaker puts his/her tongue right behind the front teeth to form the “T” sound, but simply stops the air without releasing it to make any sound.
Here are some examples of Stop T’s:
When “T” stops air in the throat
Have you ever noticed that Americans seem to sometimes “swallow” the letter ‘T’? This is called a “glottal stop,” and it basically means that the speaker abruptly stops his/her voice in the throat.
Below are some examples of Glottal (throat) Stop T’s:
When “T” simply disappears.
If you thought some of the pronunciations above seemed strange, wait until you hear this one: In some cases, especially when the speaker is talking quickly, the “T” sound disappears entirely. This often happens when the “T” comes right after “N” .
Here are some examples of T’s that are sometimes not heard at all:
Speak like an American native.
If your aim is accent reduction, focusing on your “T” sounds is a great place to start. This will not only help you to feel good speaking English, but will also help to improve your listening skills, since you will be able to recognize words with “T” in them even though you don’t hear the standard “T” sound.
…And there are native speakers of English here on Lingoloop to help you learn to speak English like a pro! Click here to register for a FREE TRIAL CLASS!