The /zh/ sound is the sound you hear in the word “measure” or “decision”. It uses the exact same mouth position as the /sh/ sound, but the /zh/ sound is voiced. This means that the /zh/ sound includes the sound produced by vibrating the vocal cords along with the air passing through the mouth. To make the/zh/ sound, pull the corners of your lips together so that your lips pucker in front of your mouth. The middle of the tongue comes up only slightly and barely touches the corners of the top teeth without touching the roof of the mouth. The front of the tongue dips down a tiny bit, but does not touch anything else in the mouth.
This is the hardest sound for children to learn and has the latest range of development. Children often won’t start producing the sound until after they are five years old, and may not master it until after they are eight years old. However, if your child is nearing the end of this range and still has significant trouble with the /zh/ sound, consult with a licensed speech therapist as soon as you can to help make sure your child stays on track. Catching small problems early is a key component of success for speech therapy.
Try these techniques at home with your child to help stimulate better articulation and keep track of your child’s progress:
- Verbal Cues
When practicing a single sound with your child, it is important to repeat the sound clearly and slowly by itself, so your child understands what you are focusing on. This also gives a good example of the sound for him to imitate. Begin with “/zh/, /zh/, /zh/” and have your child repeat the sound as well. If your little one has trouble, try having them start with saying the /sh/ sound and gradually adding voice to it.
- Visual Cues
Like the /sh/ sound, the /zh/ sound puckers your lips like you are getting ready to give a kiss.Practice in a mirror with your little one and encourage them to make their “kissy face” in the mirror while they make the sound. This helps them to understand the way their mouth produces the sound and serves as a way for them to see for themselves if they are doing it correctly.
- Tactile Cues
Another way for your little one to make sure they are making the sound right is for them to feel the vibrations of their vocal cords as they make the voiced /zh/ sound. First, have them place their hand on your neck while you say the sound. They should easily be able to feel the vibrations in your throat. Then have them do the same to their own necks. Kids love discovering this sensation, and it serves as another checkpoint for them to understand how they make thesound.
- Awesome /zh/ Activity
The /zh/ sound often shows up in trickier words in English. Use Worksheet Genius.com to pick several words that your child will be able to recognize or that you can find identifiable pictures for (such as “treasure” or “television”). The website makes it easy to create flash cards, bingo cards, and other fun word games to do out loud with your child to help them practice. As an added bonus, your little one will learn lots of new words!