Start pronouncing words more clearly by focusing on pronouncing some of the “tongue tip” sounds firmly and clearly. For this article, we will be concentrating on the consonant sounds t, d, n, and l.
What makes the t, d, n and l sounds so special? These sounds are used very frequently in American English and require some tongue strength to pronounce them clearly. All of these sounds are formed by placing the tip of the tongue just behind the upper front teeth on what is called the “alveolar ridge.” This is the flat part behind your top front teeth. You can feel it if you begin by touching your tongue tip on the back of your upper front teeth and slowly let your tongue move back in your mouth. At the end of the ridge you will feel the roof of your mouth arch upward. In American English, the tongue tip should never touch the back of your upper front teeth. Try to keep it on the ridge about half way back.
If you are not pressing hard enough on the roof of your mouth when you form the t, d, n and l sounds, then many words you say may sound unclear, especially multi-syllabic words. For example, let’s take the word “generally.” If the “n” in the middle of this word is not formed clearly, the word might end up sounding like. “geh-ruh-lee.” Not only does the “n” get omitted, but a syllable sounds like it’s omitted, as well.
Read aloud every day to practice this new tip and record your speech to see how you sound. Are you pronouncing all the sounds in words clearly? Can you hear the t, d, n and l sounds in multi-syllabic words or do they sound unclear? Think about these questions and your answers when you listen to your speech and make adjustments, as needed. Review any words you said that you think were unclear. Chances are they contained one of the tongue tip consonants!
In summary, tongue-tip consonants, such as t, d, n and l occur very frequently in English and make a huge difference in how clearly we speak. If your tongue tip does not press firmly enough on the ridge, words can sound unclear or have a sound or syllable missing. Take your time when you pronounce words, and you will be one step closer to sounding clear and confident!