How to Teach Proper Pronunciation: The Sounds of English (R vs L) (S vs TH)

perfect pronunciation sounds of english
/R/ vs /L/ and /TH/ vs /S/ are some of the most complicated sounds in the English language. Practice perfect pronunciation and sounds of English by learning the anatomy of your mouth.
Last Updated: May 22, 2018

How To Pronounce the Sounds of English

If you are an ESL student, English pronunciation is often difficult to master.

This is because in some languages (especially in Asia), sounds like /TH/ and /R/ simply don’t exist.

A lot of my students have found it helpful to know exactly where to place their tongue and teeth before they learn the sounds of English.

These diagrams will certainly help you improve English pronunciation. But first, let’s examine the anatomy of the mouth.

The Anatomy of Your Mouth

When speaking in English, it’s helpful to know how native speakers use their mouth. Whether your using adjectives/adverbs or putting together sentences with transition words, you’ll use a wide range of sounds of English.

In the diagram below, it displays some of the most common features of a mouth.

anatomy mouth

If you’re just starting out, you may suprisingly make use of some parts of your mouth you haven’t used before.

For example, certain sounds of English use tongue, teeth and the roof of your mouth. This can be very foreign for ESL students and often requires a closer look.

/TH/ sound

For the /TH/ sound, your tip of the tongue goes in between your teeth.
th sound

/S/ sound

When you use the /S/ sound, your tongue goes behind your teeth and teeth go together.
s sound

/L/ sound

For the /L/ sound, your tip of the tongue goes on the roof of your mouth.
l sound

/R/ sound

When you use the /R/ sound, your tip of the tongue does not go on the roof of your mouth.
r sound

/B/ sound

For the /B/ sound, your lips are together and snap with a small puff of air coming out of your mouth.
b sound

/W/ sound

Similar to the /B/ sound, your lips should be full and round. But your lips don't really touch and curls out as shown in the diagram.
w sound

/V/ sound

For the /V/ sound, your top teeth touch your bottom lips when saying the sound.
v sound

/Z/ sound

When you use the /Z/ sound, the tip of your tongue is close to the roof of your mouth without actually touching it.
z sound

Well, there you have it. These are some of the toughest sounds to pronounce in the English language.

English Pronunciation

For ESL students, English pronunciation needs time and practice to master. With this in mind, you learn these concepts in the zone of proximal development.

These diagrams displayed the anatomy of the mouth for some of the most difficult English pronunciation.

What other English sounds of English would you like to see here? What English pronunciation is troublesome for you?

Please let us know with a comment below.

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