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Saturday Aug 1st, 2009
English Pronunciation Podcast 46-
How to Distinguish Between the Consonants /s/ and /ʃ/
: This podcast improves your pronunciation by teaching you how to pronounce /s/ and /ʃ/ distinctly and correctly.


In this week's podcast, we're going to learn how to pronounce the consonants /s/ and /ʃ/ distinctly and correctly.

Learning to hear and say the difference between /s/ as in "Sue" and /ʃ/ as in "shoe", will make your pronunciation more accurate and will make your accent sound more like a native speaker's.

Depending on what your first language is, you may find it difficult to pronounce and distinguish between these sounds.

More specifically, if your first language is Japanese, Korean, Chinese, or Vietnamese, you may be confusing these two sounds.

But it's important for everybody to learn the distinction between these two sounds/. No matter what your first ;language is you may be confusing these sounds. Even Americans sometimes confusethese two sounds and it's considered rather uneducated sounding.

In podcasts #41 and #45 we learned how to pronounce /s/ and /ʃ/ correctly and in full detail.

I recommend that you listen to those podcasts before listening to this one, if you haven't already.

The focus of this week's podcast is:

  • Learning how to hear and say the difference between /s/ and /ʃ/ , like a native speaker.
  • Practicing the difference between these two sounds in a special training exercises.

How to Pronounce /s/ :

So let's begin by reviewing how to pronounce the sound /s/.

Tongue: Point the tip of your tongue forward to the gum ridge (bump on the roof of your mouth) Do not touch the ridge. The sides of the tongue should gently touch the side teeth. Create a small hole for the air to flow through.
Exhale and feel the air flow over the center of your tongue.

lips: spread slightly.

Exercise: Please listen and repeat /s/:

/s/ ... /s/

The Difference Between /s/ and /ʃ/

/s/ and /ʃ/ are both voiceless consonants. This means that we do not use our vocal folds , our voice, when producing the sounds. The sound is created by how the air flow is manipulated by our tongue.


But the difference between /s/ and /ʃ/ is created by how we position the tip of our tongue for each sound.

When we produce /s/ our tongue tip must be more forward than when we produce /ʃ/.

When we produce /ʃ/ the tongue tip curls back.

The sides of the tongue are in the same the same position for /s/ and /ʃ/

The level of tension in our togue is higher for /s/ than for /ʃ/.


For /s/ our lips are spread for /s/ but for /ʃ/ our lips are protruded- pushed outward.

The main difference between these consonants is that for /s/ we push our tongue tip more forward and for /ʃ/ we curl the tongue tip back creating a larger hole for the air to pass through. That's why /s/ has higher pitched sound than /ʃ/. The smaller the hole the higher the pitch.

Think of a balloon . Remember playing with balloons as children and we used to let the air escape from a small hole in the balloon, and how the tighteryou squeezed, the higher the pitch. The same principle holds true for /s/- when we push our tongue tip forward, the pitch gets higher. When we pull our tongue tip back slightly, the air pasage gets larger, lowering the pitch and creating the sound /ʃ/.


Alternate between / s/ and /ʃ/. Pay careful attention to the form of your tongue tip.
Think: forward- /s/, back -/ʃ/. Please listen and repeat.

/s/ ... /ʃ/ ... /s/ ... /ʃ/

Now let's try the same exercise, alternating between /s/ and /ʃ/ except without interuption. Go directly from /s/ to /ʃ/.

s/ /ʃ/ ... /s/ /ʃ/

Distinguishing Between /s/ and /ʃ/:

Now that we've learned how to pronounce /s/ and /ʃ/ correctly, let's work on further developing a clear distinction between these sounds.
So we're going to do a special training exercise to help you develop a clear distinction between /s/ and /ʃ/.

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following pair of words.
The words are exactly the same except that the first contains the consonant /s/ and the second contains the consonant /ʃ/.
Listen and repeat, paying careful attention to the differences in tongue tip position..

/s/             /

sip           ship

see          she

sue         shoe

classes       clashes

sock          shock

peace        peas

lease        leash  

Mastering the distinction between /s/ and /ʃ/   is an important part of learning to speak English clearly and correctly. To the ears of an American, these two sounds are completely different and distinct .

Learning these sounds is one more important step toward speaking English with a standard American accent.

The best way to learn a new a sound is to practice it slowly.
The" secret " to speaking English clearly and quickly is practicing slowly and accurately. Learning to speak English with a standard American accent is gradual process, but if you work at it regularly and practice as often as you can, you're going to improve!

The Right Training Tools for Better Pronunciation:

It's important to have right training tools in order to improve your accent.

That's why I recommend that you check it out my English Pronunciation Course in mp3 format- Best Accent Training mp3s!

No matter what your first language is, Best Accent Training has the lessons you need for speaking English clearly and correctly.

Best Accent Training mp3s contains all the sounds of English with step by step instructions and practice exercises.
You'll learn how to pronunce the sound of English just like a native speaker and then practice it in words and common expressions and idioms that Americans use all the time.

You'll also get all the vowels of English, all the consonants, syllable stress lessons, intonation lessons and connected speech!
Every lesson comes with a complete transcript (pdf) so you can read along if you want.

Best of all, Best Accent Training is a fast and easy download that you can put on your mp3 player and take with you wherever you go!
I specially designed it for that purpose!

Download Best Accent Training today and practice your pronunciation wherever and whenever you want to!

Any questions, comments or suggestions ? Contact us at:  contact@englishpronunciationpod.com

Thank you and see you next time!


After practicing with Best Accent Training daily,
I can say that my English communication has improved 100%. "

- Domingo Ponce Rodriguez- - Marketing Manager USA (Spain)

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