185: From /ʒ/ to /ʤ/ ('zh' to 'j')

A natural progression through consonant sounds.


Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 185th episode.

Before I begin, let me remind you that you can find the transcripts for this, and all of our episodes by going to www.pronuncian.com/podcast. Also, I'll link to the free lesson associated with this episode from this episode's transcript page.

Two episodes ago, I talked about the sh sound, then in our last episode I told you how the sh sound relates to the zh sound. Today I'm going to continue down this line of related sounds by moving on to the j sound. The j sound is pronounced (j sound) and is the beginning sound of the word jump.

Just like the sh sound and zh sound, the j sound is the same in an American accent or British accent.

I hope you remember that the sh sound and zh sound were fricatives. That means they are created by causing friction in the vocal tract. Also, they're continuous sounds that can be held for a long time. I also explained that the sh sound is unvoiced, meaning the vocal cords don't vibrate during the sound, and the zh sound is voiced, meaning that the vocal cords do vibrate during the sound.

Let's review the zh sound. The zh sound is created with the front of the tongue somewhat flat toward the back of the tooth ridge. The air passes in a flat stream between the front of the tongue and the back of the tooth ridge. It sounds like (zh sound). Say that sound after me: (zh sound). Since the zh sound is a continuous consonant, I can hold it for a long time (held zh sound).

The j sound is similar to the zh sound except that, at the beginning of the sound, my tongue presses against my tooth ridge, completely blocking the air for a short amount of time. Then, when the tongue is released, or is let go from the tooth ridge, the front of the tongue stays really close to the tooth ridge. This causes friction just like the the zh sound. Listen to the j sound (j sound): jump, joy, judge.

When I'm working with students, there are three different problems I hear with people trying to produce a j sound in an American accent.

The error I hear most frequently when producing a j sound is not stopping the air completely at the beginning of the sound. So if we have the word jump, I hear (zh)ump instead. Can you hear the difference: jump, (zh)ump? Again, that was jump, (zh)ump.

For some people, the j sound is easier to pronounce when it's spelled d-g-e, as in the word judge. This is because they see the letter d, which also stops the air, causing a very nice j sound. The part that can be a little confusing is that there is not actually a d sound in the d-g-e spelling; it's only a j sound.

The second problem I hear with the j sound is adding a vowel sound to the end of a word that ends in a j sound. So the word judge gets pronounced judge-y. Sorry native Korean speakers, I'm talking about you. Be especially careful with the j sound at the end of a word.

And finally, the third problem I hear is unvoicing the j sound. Remember how the sh sound and zh sound are an unvoiced/voiced pair? Well, we also have an unvoiced version of the j sound: the ch sound.

Listen to the difference between the j sound, which is voiced, and the ch sound, which is not voiced (j sound, ch sound; j sound ch sound).

Here are a few j sound/ch sound minimal pairs to help you practice the difference. I'll say the pair and leave time for you to practice by repeating after me.

badge, batch
junk, chunk
edge, etch
ridge, rich
lunge, lunch

And, before I end today, here are a few words that are pronounced with the j sound. Again, I'll leave time for you to repeat.


Let me remind you that if you like this kind of listen-and-repeat activity, you can purchase the lists for all of the sounds of English from Pronuncian.com. If you buy the book or ebook, Pronunciation Pages 2, you'll get both the practice word lists and the lessons for each sound's spelling. Or you can just purchase the practice lists which you'll download as a PDF file/MP3 audio combination. This kind of practice is really helpful for achieving a fluent, American accent because it allows you to rebuild that muscle memory.

That's all for today, everyone. This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. SLA is where the world comes to learn. Thanks for listening. Bye-bye.