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My tutor is a native American English speaker, and I'm learning pronunciation and accent from him.

I've practiced with him for one and a half hours today to make my J and Z sounds correct.

[I'm also having a trouble with R and L sounds. If R and L is the first consonant of the word - for example, look, room, love, risk - I have no trouble, but, when they come in the middle of the word, for example also, I can't make sounds correctly. I say also like arso. But I will try to ask about this in another post]

To sum up, please tell me how to make J and Z sounds correct. I can make the J sound correct. The problem is that I make J sound even when I should make Z sound.

My tutor told me the tip is to narrow the space between upper lip and lower lip and try to keep my tongue in the middle of my mouth and just in front of the space between two lips and try to pump out the air from the throat.

Still, I'm having a hard time. I really want to master J and Z sounds!

I need your help.

  • What is your native language? – sumelic Jan 27 '16 at 17:11
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    @sumelic Korean. – InfimumMaximum Jan 27 '16 at 17:14
  • The difference between j and z is just like the difference between ch and s. – sumelic Jan 27 '16 at 17:22
  • In my humble opinion, English J (I guess you meant /dʒ/, not /j/ as in "you" /ju/) is close enough to the "j" in 제주도 (Jeju Island) that you wouldn't have a real problem, but I admit I'm not that familiar with Korean phonology. – Damkerng T. Jan 27 '16 at 23:44
  • About L and R: The English R is never produced with the tongue touching some other part of the mouth. It's some postalveolar approximant. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alveolar_and_postalveolar_approximants – Nihilist_Frost Jan 27 '16 at 23:46
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Short answer

To master the /z/ sound, make a long /s/ sound and sing loudly at the same time. It won't sound anything like a J, /dʒ/ at all.


Full answer

The Production of /z/

/z/ is a voiced alveolar fricative. To understand how we make a /z/, we need to think about some different parts of the mouth.

If you look in the mirror you will see a line running down the middle of your tongue (called the mid-saggital line).

If you feel behind your teeth with your tongue, would will feel a little shelf. That's your alveolar ridge. Behind that your mouth suddenly arches upwards to form the roof of your mouth.

To produce a /z/, you have to place the blade of your tongue (that's the bit just behind the very tip) on the alveolar ridge. You create a little furrow or ridge down the mid-saggital line. The rims (sides) of your tongue rest against the inside of your side teeth.

You then force air from your lungs down the narrow channel, this creates friction, or turbulence in the air as the air is forced through this furrow and through the narrow hole created between your tongue and the alveolar ridge. This turbulence causes a hissing noise. While this is happening, your vocal folds (sometimes called your vocal cords) vibrate. This gives the sound pitch which is heard at the same time as the turbulence

It might be helpful at this point to think about how we make the sound /s/.

The production of /s/

To produce a /s/ you have to place the blade of your tongue (that's the bit just behind the very tip) on the alveolar ridge. You create a little furrow or ridge down the mid-saggital line. The rims (sides) of your tongue rest against the inside of your side teeth.

You then force air from your lungs down the narrow channel, this creates friction, or turbulence in the air as the air is forced through this furrow and through the narrow hole created between your tongue and the alveolar ridge. This turbulence causes a hissing noise.

This probably sounds a bit familiar!

How to make a /z/ if you are accidentally making a J sound as in jump, /dʒ/

Now, you will have noticed that to make a /z/ we do exactly the same thing as we do for /s/. There is no difference between the position of your tongue, teeth, or any other part of your mouth at all. The only difference is that when we make a /z/ we have voicing, or vocal fold vibration. This gives the /z/ pitch; we can make a high pitched /z/ or a low pitched /z/. When we make an /s/ we just get a hissing sound. It does not have the same quality of pitch. This is because there is no vibration from the vocal cords.

Because of this, if you can already say /s/ with no problem, you just need to add vocal fold vibration to make a /z/. You need to add pitch. How can you do this? The answer is: you need to sing while you make an /s/. Start making an /s/ and then sing while you are making it. You need to make the /s/ for several seconds. First do it at a high pitch then a low pitch. If you can hear a high or low pitch then you are making a /z/. You can then start practising it at a normal speaking type of pitch.

It is much easier to do this than to try and follow the instructions for making a /z/. If you are making a /dʒ/ sound, the sound in the word jump, then I could give you advice like "move your tongue slightly forward in your mouth towards your front teeth - but don't make a complete closure with your tongue when you start the sound". However, this is very, very difficult to do without anyone to help you. In my experience, singing a note whilst making an /s/ sound is quite easy to do, more effective and more fun.

Hope that's helpful!


References:

You can read about /s/ and /z/ in Gimson's pronunciation of English by Alan Cruttenden, 8th Edition 2014

  • Sing? I guess it's true that you can't sing while holding an unvoiced consonant, but I think your advice here is a bit too vague. Obviously /z/ does sound similar to /dZ/ to the OP, hence the question. – sumelic Jan 27 '16 at 17:13
  • @sumelic I'm not sure that follows. They appear to be using /dʒ/ for /z/. In any case even if they were making a /dz/ for a /z/, so long as they have a normal /s/ in their inventory, this is still the way to go. In my experience it is the quickest and easiest way to solve this problem. Giving detailed descriptions about furrowing your tongue etc is a waste of time. Learners (and everyone else too) can't really feel what they're doing in this respect. However they can nearly all do /s/. A /z/ is just an /s/ with vocal fold vibration (i.e. voicing, i,e, pitch). – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jan 27 '16 at 17:22
  • @sumelic I've been teaching accent reduction and pron for over ten years now. I know from experience that this works. Unlike increasing the distance between your teeth - which I can guarantee won't work at all! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jan 27 '16 at 17:23
  • Oh, I was using xsampa since I'm on my phone. the dZ represents a postalveolar affricate – sumelic Jan 27 '16 at 17:24
  • @Araucaria I just got an idea. Maybe someone told the OP something like "In English, the J sound is DZ," and the confusion ensued. – Damkerng T. Jan 28 '16 at 0:14
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When my children were learning to speak, 's' and 'z' were used pretty interchangeably.

Try substituting 's' for 'z' at first. They're very close sounding - in fact many words ending in '-ise' in British English are spelled '-ize' in American English.

The significant different between the two consonants, however, is the distance between the top and bottom sets of teeth:

  • With the 's' sound, there is a gap between the top and bottom teeth.

  • With the 'z' sound, the teeth are together.

Good luck!

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    It might seem like that, but actually there is only one difference, which is that the /z/ has voiving (vocal fold vibration). The /s/ is voiceless. The placing of the tongue is virtually identical for most speakers. Neither of these sounds use the teeth! :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jan 27 '16 at 17:01

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