Pronouncing last sounds of words: Why are plurals hard work?Most languages contain the voiceless sound,/s/, however, not all have the voiced partner,/z/. these stop sounds require fine motor control, and are high frequency sounds. This means it is a a ‘thin’ sound, and tends to get left out during speaking , especially in conversation.
Most people are able to produce /s/, without a lisp. When it is a lisp, it is more of a speech disorder, than English barrier. So, firstly, you have to determine if you are able to say /s/ sound, without a lisp.
What is a lisp?
Lisp means you say the /s/ sound, but it doesn’t sound crisp. It has a hint of /th/ in it, rather than /s/ sound. This is caused by the tongue fractioning against the upper tooth ridge. A lisped /s/ sound does not sound like /sh/ either.
Once you have done that, you are halfway there! Your problem might lie in using s/z, if different positions of words, since they are so easy to miss.
During formation of /s,z/, the breath stream has some friction at the end of the sound, and the tongue is resting at the bottom of your mouth.
Not many people would have difficulties saying the /s,z/ sounds, so just be aware that these sounds are articulated clearly when speaking. I often find that speakers who talk too fast or of Asian language descent, tend to leave out plurals when speaking.
When you leave out plural sounds when speaking, your speech sounds grammatically incorrect, even though your grammar is intact. This plays an important role, especially in work presentations and pitches. Hint: Most plurals end in /s/ sound, however are pronounced as /z/.
Most of my clients get stressed about not saying /z/ for plurals. However, my advise to anyone is, as long as you include the /s,z/ sounds on a plural word, you will be fine. It is better to say : The road/s/ were busy, rather that “ The road was busy”.
FIVE simple steps to not lisping!
- Adequate posture of mouth. Adopt SIDEWAYS posture, so that the tongue can have the space to move sideways when speaking.
- Focus on pronouncing /s,z/ after the sound ends. Words that would be tricky include :
- Plurals with : ds, ts ( roads, boats)
- Focus on lengthening when saying the /s,z/ sound, so that you do not leave the word out completely! Eg : SSssspot, sssssky
- If you have troubles saying the /s/ sound, divide the word into 2 : eg: Person ( per-son), rather than ( pers- on). That way you would find it easier to include the /s/ sound.
Lastly challenge yourself! Say a tongue twister and see how it sounds. Start with :
“ She sells seashells on the seashore”