‘wedding’ and ‘wetting’. Yeah, it sounds exactly the same. Hey, there, it’s Hadar, and this is the Accent’s Way. Today we’re going to talk about the T’s and the D’s when they’re in the middle of the word between vowels, and answer the question, “Why, why do they sound so similar?” The answer is they sound similar because it’s absolutely the same sound. Yes. The T in ‘writing a book’ and the D in ‘riding a motorcycle’ is exactly the same sound.
Before we talk about why is that, let’s talk about how to pronounce it. The difference between T’s and D’s and this unique [ɾ] sound is that the T’s and the D’s block the air, so there is a little pause there. And then the air is released with this puff. The tongue goes up to touch the roof of the mouth, and then the air is building up and then you release it. That’s the T, it’s just air coming out.
The D is absolutely the same with voice, so the vocal chords are also vibrating. The tip of the tongue goes up and you release it, and that’s the D. That’s the D at the beginning of a word, as in ‘day’.
That’s the T at the beginning of a word as ‘time’. But when it’s in the middle of the word between two vowels, those two sounds behave completely different. The way I think about it is that English has this constant fluency, there’s constant move and flow. And when there are two vowels that are really close together, you don’t want to block them, you don’t want to stop in the middle.
Now, T’s and D’s block the air. And what happens when there are these two vowels is that if you block the air, it takes a lot of effort. So, instead of bringing the tongue up to block the air, you’re suggesting that there is a sound there that blocks the air. So instead of saying ‘riDing’, you just bring the tongue to touch really lightly – ‘riding’.
What does it sound like to you? [ɾ], [ɾ], ‘ri[ɾ]ing’. It’s not ‘riDing’. And right now I’m thinking of a D, as in ‘riding a motorcycle’. But I’m also thinking of the T because it’s exactly the same pronunciation. I’ll talk about that in a sec.
So again, going back to the pronunciation of the D in the middle of the word between two vowels. You bring the tongue up, but you just slightly touch the upper palate. You’re suggesting that there is a D there – ‘riding’. Think of making it super soft, super sweet, super light – ‘rai-ding’.
President [pre-z’-d’nt]. I’m not saying ‘presiDent’. ‘President’. Bidding. To bid, bidding. Right? It doesn’t sound like a D really. And for some of you, it may even sound like a ‘r’, like an R, in different languages, like Spanish, for example.
If we think of the word ‘pero’, ‘pero’. Not ‘perro’, right? See, I know how to make those two R’s. No, the short are in Spanish – ‘pero’. This R also exists in Russian and Arabic and Korean. Okay. So, this really light tap, not a long trill, not rrr, but this really light tap is exactly that D sound between two vowels in the middle of the word, when it’s unstressed. Bidding. President.
Now, what happens with the T is that the tongue is doing exactly the same thing. And instead of stopping your voice for a T, cause that’s usually the case – Betty or hotter – you want to bring the tongue up to suggest that there is a consonant there, but also you want to keep your voice going. Here’s the thing, the vowels are voiced anyway, so don’t stop the vibration of the vocal chords. That creates this fluency and flow.
So, instead of saying Betty, I say Bedy. Or hotter [haa-d‘r]. Or even if it’s between two words, like ‘about it’ [abu-dit], and ‘it is’ [i-diz]. So, ‘wedding’, as in ‘I have a wedding to go to’ and ‘wetting’ – ‘I’m wetting the floor right now’ – they should sound the same. Because the T and the D between two vowels in unstressed syllables – okay, I’ll talk about that in a sec – in unstressed syllables turn into the same sound, this really light [ɾ] sound. We can think of it as if it’s a really light D. And it’s not a ‘t’ sound, we don’t hear this ‘t-t’. It’s a [ɾ]. ‘wedding’ [we-ding] and ‘wetting’ [we-ding]. Yeah, it sounds exactly the same.
Now, if we think of the word ‘atomic’, the T here is between two vowels, but I can not make it a flap T, I cannot say ‘adomic’. It just doesn’t sound right, no one says that. You should trust your intuition here. So, it’s not ‘adomic’ because the ‘to’ is the primary stress. Not only that it’s not a flat T, it’s actually a strong aspirated T with a little H after: ‘at[h]omic’. It has a little H, it’s strong, I want to celebrate this T. It’s the beginning of a strong syllable. I don’t want to reduce it, I don’t want to skip over it like I do with ‘Betty’ or ‘activity’. Okay?
So, first of all, try to make this sound, try it in simple words, like ‘Betty’ and ‘get it’. And then make sure that this is the sound that you’re making both for those T’s, but also for your D’s. So your D’s are not so heavy when they’re in the middle of words. For example, ‘gooD evening’. No, it’s this really light D – ‘good evening’. ‘Good-d-d-d’. I know it’s mind blowing. ‘d-d-d‘. Good evening.
Now, a lot of you may be doing that anyway without thinking about it. So, that’s fantastic, good for you. Let me know if you’re doing it and you haven’t even noticed that you are doing it. But if you’re not doing it, let me know if you’re able to do that just listening to my explanation.
Same thing with the T’s. Are you pronouncing the flap T? And if so, are you pronouncing them in all the right positions? Or are there words that are more difficult? I’ve noticed with my students that sometimes when they’re longer words like ‘productivity’, then because it’s a long word and we invest a lot of energy in saying these words, we tend to forget those flap T’s and we make them as a regular T – ‘productiviTy’. Okay. So, I don’t know, think about it.
Now, if you want to practice it, I have a list of words and phrases and minimal pairs with the T’s and the D’s, and an audio of me saying them, so you can listen to it and repeat it. So you can come on over to my website and get it straight to your email. Just click on the link below or the card right here somewhere, and you can start practicing.
Remember, the more you do it, the better it gets. You need to develop muscle memory. So it’s all about repetition until you make it your own. And you can make it your own. You just need to know what to do. And remember, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s the only way to learn. Speak up and practice.
Have a wonderful week, and I will see you next week in the next video.