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Help With Pronouncing "s" Sounds

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Got a question about Student Finance? Ask the experts this week on TSR! 14-09-2014
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    I've always had trouble pronouncing "s" sounds. I never noticed it myself but people tell me I sort hiss when I pronounce it. I've been bullied somewhat (not like PROPER drop-out-of-school type bullying though) over the years and I was hoping some of you could help me with it.

    WHENEVER I say the letter "s", it sounds like "f" to everyone else. Like EVERY.SINGLE.TIME people confuse it with "s". For example, I was spelling my name out to someone over the phone a few days ago and everytime I said "s" he goes "f?" and I'm just sitting there thinking "what the hell?".

    Does anyone know what I can do to stop the hissing sound? Where exactly do you place your tongue when you pronounce your "s"s? Here's a link to what I sound like:

    http://media.putfile.com/sPronunciation

    Any help appreciated.
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    It just sounds to me like you have a mild lisp.

    When I pronounce "s", my teeth are together, my tongue is slightly rolled, so that the sides of my tongue run along the hard ridge around the inside of my mouth but the front of the tongue doesn't quite touch the front of my palate. However, the bottom of my tongue does run along the floor of my mouth and 'up' my bottom teeth a bit. I know (from being able to do a good lisp impression) that the problem is often that your tongue is too tense and the tip of your tongue touches your bottom teeth, but doesn't quite run along them - result being that the sound is made by air rushing between your tongue and the hard ridge at the front of your mouth, rather than between your teeth.
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    Try holding your teeth together and keeping your tongue inside your mouth when you pronounce "s". What about going to see a speech therapist? If its really bothering you go to your GP, you may be able to get some help on the NHS. If not have a look in your local yellow pages. Should be someone who could help you.

    To be honest, the file sounds fine to me.
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    Both s and f are known as fricatives, which mean they're produced by putting two parts of the mouth close to one another and forcing air though the gap. This results in a vibration, which causes the sound. To produce an f sound, you use your bottom lip and front teeth to make the gap, whereas to make an s you use the blade of your tongue (the bit just below the tip) and the bump in the roof of your mouth just above your teeth. (known as the alveolar ridge) It sounds like you might have your tongue slightly too close to your teeth when you make the s sound - try moving it a little bit back, and see what happens.

    That said, I could distinguish easily between s and f in your sound file.
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    (Original post by Supergrunch)
    That said, I could distinguish easily between s and f in your sound file.
    Yep, same. Though the s wasn't an s, it was definitely lisped.
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    Your toungue should be behind your teeth when pronouncing "s".

    Press the sides of your tongue against the upper teeth (bicuspids & molars) and press the tip upwards into the roof of your mouth (there is a small raised region of gum where you should press it against). Then blow air from right behind the tip of your tongue so it forces it downards making a hissing noise. If you can whistle then you're already 90% of the way there.

    You have either got your tongue too far ahead (not behind teeth) or you are not putting pressure on your tongue with teeth (at the same time, don't bite it off ).

    It'll take maybe 5 minutes with a decent friend to learn how to pronounce correctly, honestly.
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    Oh yes: I wouldn't worry about people not being able to tell the difference over the phone - s and f are two of the highest frequency sounds in speech, and phones cut out high frequencies. This means that s and f are almost always indistinguishable on the phone - just say "s for sugar" or whatever.
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    I've got a bit of trouble pronouncing 'f' and 'th' actually. Can't say fairer than that.
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    I had that problem when I was little, best bit of advice i ever got was- say a (little) t and stretch it, like ttttt
    • Thread Starter
    #1

    (Original post by generalebriety)
    It just sounds to me like you have a mild lisp.

    When I pronounce "s", my teeth are together, my tongue is slightly rolled, so that the sides of my tongue run along the hard ridge around the inside of my mouth but the front of the tongue doesn't quite touch the front of my palate. However, the bottom of my tongue does run along the floor of my mouth and 'up' my bottom teeth a bit. I know (from being able to do a good lisp impression) that the problem is often that your tongue is too tense and the tip of your tongue touches your bottom teeth, but doesn't quite run along them - result being that the sound is made by air rushing between your tongue and the hard ridge at the front of your mouth, rather than between your teeth.
    Do you mean your tongue touch the floor of your mouth, go up your bottom incisors, with the tip touching the bit just above your top incisors? My tongue isn't long enough to do that (mainly the touching the floor of the mouth bit).

    I've recorded myself again when attempting the following:

    1) The tip of my tongue just above my top incisors (front teeth)
    2) Side tongue lined up against my molars (back teeth)
    3) Teeth closed

    http://media.putfile.com/sPronunciation2

    I can still hear the hissing + I sound (more) ******ed.

    (Original post by Supergrunch)
    That said, I could distinguish easily between s and f in your sound file.
    I think people can distinguish between them, but if I say just "s" they'll confuse it with "f"

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