Geek-Out Alert! This post is where the geeks glove come off, as they say. I am about to becoming an unapologetic, unabashed geek about one of my all time favorite topics: the crazy sounds of the world’s languages. As you might imagine the clinical founder of Speech Buddies, a revolutionary, evidence-based tool set for treating speech sound disorders, has a deep interest in phonetics. Phonetics is the branch of the social science of linguistics that studies how sounds are produced, where the tongue is placed, how it moves during speech and how the air flow is shaped. I will come out right now and admit that on down time, when my kids are asleep and I finally have an hour to myself, I will actually listen to clips of speakers of some of the world’s most fascinating and (let’s call them crazy) languages. I wanted to share some of these exquisite examples of the human sound production system and perhaps to spark an interest in you for yet another wonder of nature.
Does your child have trouble saying “fish?” Ask your child to describe the picture above and listen to the “F” sound in the word, “fish.” Do they substitute another sound? Or perhaps they skip it altogether and just say “ish?” For many children, “fish” can be a tricky word to say. F, and its partner in crime, V, are tricky sounds for some children. In speech therapy, we usually check the developmental norms to decide if this sound should be targeted according to the child’s age. We can expect a child to master the F and V sounds around ages four and eight years (respectively). If the child is not saying these sounds, they might benefit from intervention and articulation therapy. They are similar in the placement of your articulators (teeth and lips) but different in the way they are produced. Someone saying an “F” sound is allowing a lot of air to escape around their teeth, while a “V” sound is made by creating vibrations of the vocal cords.
When you use Speech Buddies, your child learns the correct positioning of the tongue for each sound. It provides tactile feedback to improve articulation. But how much do you really know about the mechanics of speech? Sure, the lungs expel air, the tongue moves, and there’s also a larynx in there somewhere, but there’s a lot more to speech production than you might realize. Here’s a quick primer in the production of speech and the parts of the body involved in the process.