The J, CH and Y Sounds

For learners of English, the j, ch and y sounds can prove challenging to pronounce and distinguish, depending on one’s native language.  Let’s take a look at how the sounds are different.  Keep in mind that in the phonetic alphabet, the j sound appears as/ʤ/, the ch sound is /ʧ/ and the y sound is/j/

To produce the /ʤ/ sound, first press your tongue on the roof of your mouth to stop the airflow between your tongue and the ridge behind your teeth. Then release your tongue slightly to push the air through a narrow gap. This sound is voiced, which means that you vibrate your vocal cords to make the sound.


To produce the /ʧ/, follow the same mouth position as the /ʤ/. In this case, however, do not produce a vibration with your vocal cords.  This sound is voiceless.  


To produce the /j/ or “y” sound, raise the middle part of the tongue against the centre of your palate without touching it. Open your mouth to produce the “y” sound and the vowel that follows it.  

Tip: The /j/ It’s similar to a short /i/ or /ɪ/ quickly followed by a vowel, however your tongue will be closer to the roof of your mouth than when producing the /i/ or /ɪ/. 

Tip for Spanish speakers:

This sound is often problematic for Spanish speakers, but it’s essentially the same sound that you hear at the beginning of hielo, hiato or iónico.

Practice with these minimal pairs of the J, CH and Y Sounds : 

/ʧ/              /ʤ/             /j/

Cello           jello           yellow 

Cherry       Jerry          Yari  

Che            Jay              Yay 

Ciao           Jowl           Yow 

Chet          Jet              Yet 

Chi            Gee             Yee 

Cho           Joe              Yo! 

Chew        Jew             You 

Cheer       Jeer            Year

Choke      Joke           Yoke 

Need help?

To learn more about commonly confused consonant sounds, check out the following articles: 

To learn more about English pronunciation and practice it in conversation, join SpeakUp, a dynamic program that engages you in authentic conversations on relevant topics and provides you with feedback from a professional and experienced English teacher.  The first week is free for you to try it out!  


Anita Collins

Anita Collins

Anita is a long-time English teacher and language enthusiast from Canada, currently living in the multilingual city of Montreal. She majored in linguistics, dabbled in translation, and has been teaching students from all over the world for over a decade. She now spends each morning trying to balance her two loves: planning the next trip and spoiling her beagle. The rest of her day she spends on curriculum design and language classes, with the beagle underfoot.
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