Why is it difficult to pronounce 'TH' in English?


There are some sounds that are particularly difficult to pronounce in English, but the most typical one is TH pronunciation.

The theme this time is about the pronunciation of TH.

It's a TH sound that you need to say very often when you speak English, but what are some ways you can pronounce it well?

By reading this article

・ Why is TH pronunciation difficult?
・ What is necessary to learn TH pronunciation?
・ What is native muscle exercise?
・What should be done to correct TH pronunciation?

You can understand and so on. It is full of useful contents for those who are worried about learning how to pronounce TH! Please use it as a reference for future pronunciation correction.

Click here for Tomita-sensei's pronunciation commentary video>

There are two ways to pronounce "TH" in English

TH is a phonetic symbol expressed as [θ] or [ð].

The following is a brief explanation of the differences between the two.

・ [Θ]… Unvoiced sound (eg think, thank, birthday, anything)
・ [ð]… Voiced sound (eg this, that, they, with, mother, brother)

In other words, you can judge whether the sound is muddy or not, and whether it is [θ] or [ð].

Why TH is difficult to pronounce

As many of you may have noticed, it is very difficult for Japanese to pronounce TH in the same way as native speakers.

Therefore, in the process of learning English pronunciation, many people feel that they are not good at understanding TH pronunciation.

But why is it difficult to pronounce TH?

The simple reason is that "TH pronunciation requires the tongue to stick out a little".

This "lightly sticking out tongue" movement is not necessary at all for pronouncing Japanese.

Therefore, this movement itself is an unknown area for us Japanese.

Even if I understand in my head that it is good to put out my tongue to pronounce TH, the reason why it does not work when I try to practice it is because my body is not accustomed to the movement.

What is needed to correct the pronunciation of TH?

It's not difficult to know how to pronounce TH.

The only action required to pronounce the TH sound in English is "push your tongue forward a little and let it touch your teeth lightly".

However, the problem is that "even if you know it, you can't really do it".

Even if I try to stick out my tongue, it doesn't move smoothly, and I find it very difficult to pull out and pull it out instantly.

All that is needed to solve this problem is to strengthen the muscles needed to move the tongue in and out.

In other words, what is needed to correct the pronunciation of TH in English is "muscle training".

Discovering Sounds Native Muscle Exercise

Discovering Sounds aims to correct English pronunciation by learning a unique training method, "Native Muscle Exercise".

In native muscle exercise, muscles such as lips, tongue, and throat are trained in various ways.

・ Ducking around the mouth
・ Swinging down the tongue
・Pushing the tongue
・ Kyukkyu tongue

By completing a large number of gymnastics menus, you can effectively train the muscles around your mouth that are necessary for uttering English pronunciation that is not found in Japanese.

Native muscle exercises are not expected to have a dramatic effect once or twice.

However, by repeatedly exercising, you can realize the effect of gradually approaching the native English pronunciation, which was not possible before.

"Tongue Kyukyutsu Gymnastics" that is effective for correcting the pronunciation of TH

Among the native muscle exercises of Discovering Sounds, "Tongue Kyukyutsu Gymnastics" is effective for correcting the pronunciation of TH.

The pronunciation of TH requires the movement of sticking out the tongue, and the muscle of the tongue called "genioglossus" is used at this time.

If you put your three fingers under your chin and stick out or retract your tongue, you will feel a movement or a dent.

That is the "genioglossus".

It is possible to train this muscle pinpoint

"Tongue Kyukyutsu Gymnastics"

That's why.

I will explain here what kind of gymnastics it is.

How to do "Tongue Kyukyu Gymnastics"

  1. Do not stick out your tongue and bite it with your teeth, but lightly pinch it with your lips only.
  2. While sandwiched between the lips, put pressure on the tongue and stick it forward (image of licking something with the tip of the tongue)
  3. Relax your tongue and retract (do not retract everything, return to state 1.)

Let's do the above movements 10 times as one set, 3 to 5 sets a day.

It may seem easy to read in the text, but it's pretty tough to try!

You can feel for yourself how unfamiliar you are with moving it.

Exercise points

・ Keep both ends of the tongue and the corners of the mouth in contact with each other

Keep in mind the above two points.

If you exercise properly with your muscles, you should feel tired and have some pain in the back of your tongue.

You can check the exercise video of "Tongue Kyukyutsu Gymnastics" here.

Until you get used to it, it is recommended to try it together while watching the video.

Once you get used to it to a certain extent, you can continue from there whenever you like.

By increasing the frequency, you will be able to realize the effect quickly.

Let's pronounce TH by applying "Tongue Kyukyutsu Gymnastics"

Now that you are getting used to the muscles of your tongue, let's try to pronounce TH unvoiced sound [θ] by applying "Tongue Kyukyu Gymnastics".

The method is the following 4 steps.

How to pronounce TH unvoiced sound [θ]

  1. Gently open your mouth and stick your tongue out so that it rests on your entire lower front teeth
  2. Lightly pinch the tongue with anything other than the upper four front teeth
  3. Lightly tension the corners of the mouth and bring them into close contact with both sides of the tongue so that air does not leak
  4. Exhale as it is with "Sue"

If you watch this video, it will be easier to get an image of how to pronounce [θ], so please check it out.

Pronunciation of [θ] Three points

When pronouncing [θ], be aware of the following three points.

It's much easier to keep in mind from the beginning than to fix it later.

・ Do not bite your tongue
・ Always keep both ends of your tongue in contact with the inside of the corner of your mouth
・ Be conscious of exhaling straight

In particular, if you completely squeeze your tongue, the sound will become a "tsu" -like sound, so be careful.

Once you hold down the points, all you have to do is practice!


If there are 3 difficult pronunciations in English, TH will definitely be ranked in.

It's certainly a very difficult pronunciation.

However, TH is difficult because it requires a pronunciation method that we Japanese do not usually use.

Then, if you practice hard and get used to the movement around your mouth, you will be able to pronounce more smoothly than it is now!

Discovering Sounds uses a variety of native muscle exercises to train the muscles around the mouth that Japanese do not have, and to raise the pronunciation of English, which Japanese people are not good at, to the native level.

If you want to start English pronunciation correction in earnest or want to know more about Discovering Sounds lessons, please take a trial lesson!

In this article, I introduced "Why is it difficult to pronounce TH in English and how to correct it effectively"!