The “sh” and “ch” sounds are two sounds commonly confused by some English learners, depending on their native language influence. As you’ll see on this chart, in the phonetic alphabet, the sh sound is represented as a /ʃ/ while the ch sound appears as /ʧ/. In fact, you can think of the /ʧ/ as a version of /ʃ/ with a different beginning, as there is a t sound or /t/ to start with.
It is important to remember that both these sounds are unvoiced. Also, be aware that the tongue should not be visible at any time, the jaw is nearly closed, and the lips are relatively close to each other when producing both the “sh” and “ch” sounds.
How to make the “sh” sound: /ʃ/
To create /ʃ/, the “sh” sound, you want to force air between center of the front of the tongue and the back of the tooth ridge. The sides of the blade of the tongue can touch the side teeth, but this is not necessary. Finally, you want to keep the lips slightly tense and forward a little to produce the sound.
This sound is a continuous consonant, meaning that you should be able to continue it for a few seconds with even and smooth pronunciation for the entire duration.
If the /ʃ/ sound is hard for you to make, start by making an /s/ sound, as in see. Next, continue making that sound while you move your lips from that position into a tiny circle, almost like a kiss. This should create a sh sound naturally.
How to make the “ch” sound: /ʧ/
If you have already mastered the /ʤ/ sound, as in jazz, then you’re in luck, as the /ʤ/ sound is the voiced equivalent of the /ʧ/ sound!
This is how you can create this sound: from the /ʤ/ position, release the stopped air through your teeth in an explosive way. In other words, it is similar to when you make the t sound, but your tongue is slightly further back on the top tooth ridge. Next, your tongue quickly moves downwards while you make the remaining /ʃ/ or the “sh” sound. If you put these two steps together, you will make a /ʧ/ sound!
Practice with minimal pairs of the “sh” and “ch” sounds (video)
To get more help with commonly confused consonants in English, check out these articles:
- /v/ vs. /b/ and /w/
- /ʤ/, /ʧ/ and /j/
- /s/ and /z/
- /ʃ/ and /ʧ/
- /ŋ/ sound (vs. /nk/ & /n/) blog link
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