When I first came to Germany in 1999, one of the main struggles I saw and even witnessed myself in learning a foreign language was the way words were pronounced. In particular, words in English that have TH in them happen to be a struggle among Germans and other foreigners whose native language is not English. The classic example I can pull out straight away was the problem pronouncing my last name, Smith. Even though Smith is one of the top three most popular family names in the world (along with Johnson and Brown), non-native people had a lot of difficulties pronouncing my last name. Instead of Smith (where the tongue is nudged behind the lower teeth partially blocking air flow), my last name was pronounced as the following:
Smizzzz, Schmiet, Smit, Schmizz, Smis (like Swiss Miss) and Smif (like Smurf). Funny, isn’t it. 😉 Furthermore, many insisted that my last name should be Schmidt instead of Smith. Sorry to disappoint you, but we have a lot of Schmidt in the US and Canada, plus a beer bearing that name (which comes from my homestate of Minnesota) 🙂 :
To put it bluntly, the name is SMITH! Even more so because we have several words, whose ending is the same as my last name.
Words with TH are indeed the most difficult to pronounce in the English language- just like with the German CH, Z and all the vowels with the two dots on there. This has to do with the fact that we have two different types of TH pronunciation: the voiced (which sounds like a bee buzzing behind your teeth) and the voiceless, which produced a slight steaming sound with the tongue behind your teeth. A video below better explains how the voiced and voiceless TH’es work from a phonetical point of view:
Also important to note from a historian’s perspective that nearly every second word used during the Middle Ages had TH in there, but mostly at the beginning or end of each word, such as doth, hath, thou, cometh, etc. Many of these words over time have been transformed to the ones we use in our modern time, which meant the THes were dropped. Yet even though we’ll find our TH-words in one out of ten sentences, they are there for people to use, even though practicing can be a torture, which brings up this Tongue Twister activity. Consisting of both the video and the sentences to practice, this activity will give you amples of opportunities to work with the TH-words so that you not only know how the TH-words are pronounced but also give you the confidence needed to say them properly.
You could say that producing TH-words is like blacksmithing: you work with it until you have the right form to use. 😉
It is highly recommended to watch the video to see how the TH-words are spoken before practicing. Yet how you implement them in class or practice them in groups or at home individually depends on you, the person who wants to handle this rather difficult part of English phonetics.
So enjoy and may the TH be with you. 🙂
Something in a thirty-acre thermal thicket of thorns and thistles thumped and thundered threatening the three-D thoughts of Matthew the thug- although, theatrically, it was only the thirteen-thousand thistles and thorns through the underneath of his thigh that the thirty-year old thug thought of that morning.
There was a mammoth with the name of Thurman, who thrives in Gotha, Thuringia. The sloth slithers through at three in the morning to slither to Thorn’s thermal threading company in Furth, threading thermalware for thirty thoughtless worthless months for thirty-three Euros a month. Through thirteen months and thirty days, this mammoth threads strings from moths and makes thermal underwear. Thurman is happy.
Three Catholic athletes bathe in clothes in a bathtub. The thirty-somethings thoroughly thought something that’s thick through their teeths. Through their theory they thought about thieves, thugs, theocrats and heart-throbbers that thrive through their three-thousand thirty-three throwaway thermos cloth, and loath thirty times a month.
Thou hath throweth thy health through thy wrath with thy thick thighbone. Theoretically cometh death onto thee though Beth Smith hath saveth thy life through warmth smooth hearth.
The South Path is thin. The North Thruway is thick. Through thousands of thinkers, sleuths, telepaths, sociopaths and youths, badmouthing and thrashing over vermouth for the umpteenth time, is the South Path thick and the North Thruway filthy.
Beth’s with Ruth. Theodore’s with Faith. They’re thinking ethics. They’re thinking theology. They’re thinking myths. They’re thinking with vermouth with a twist.
The Moth is on meth. The moth does math. The moth thaws myths and thus they’re through with this.
There are thousands Smiths on Earth. The twentieth blacksmith with the thirtieth locksmith with the fortieth gunsmith with the fiftieth silversmith with the sixtieth goldsmith with the seventieth tunesmith with the eightieth coppersmith with the ninetieth songsmith with the hundredth whitesmith. Smiths ends with z, while one smith has TH.
Author’s note: These tongue twister stories are homemade, by the way. 😉 Feel free to add more to this list if you have some more. 🙂
ALSO: Check out the other tongue twisters produced by the author for you to use in class or in your personal time. Each one has a video to help you with your pronunciation. Have fun! 🙂