/ʒ/ (zh) Sound Practice

In this lesson, we will practice the least frequent sound in English, /ʒ/. The /ʒ/ phoneme is found in words that have roots in the Romance languages or Latin. Most of the words in this lesson came into English via French (the Anglo-Norman dialect), which was the language spoken by the nobility in England following the Norman conquest in 1066.

If you have ever wondered why there are so many French words in English, it’s because from the 12th-15th century, the administrative language of the royal court in England was French. This is why so many French origin words used in English are terms related to power, politics and the law. It’s also why French origin words in English still carry an air of sophistication and gravitas, unlike Anglo-Saxon origin words, which being the speech of the common man, carried in them no inherent authority.

Learn About French-origin Words in English and do the lesson quiz.

Spelling the /ʒ/ Phoneme

The sound /ʒ/ does not have a specific letter or digraph that is commonly associated with it.

diagraph = two successive letters that represent a single sound, e.g. the letters ch are a common digraph of the /tʃ/ sound: chair, choose, church 

This makes /ʒ/ a difficult sound to learn, as the spelling and pronunciation patterns must be memorised. This lesson is titled (zh) because the /ʒ/ phoneme character does not represent any of the English letters.

Practise /ʒ/ in Example Words

/ʒ/ is a lot more distinct when it is the final consonant position in a word, for example:

massage                                    /ˈmæs.ɑːʒ/

rouge                                         /ruːʒ/

garage                                        /ˈɡær.ɑːʒ/

In contrast, when /ʒ/ is in any position before the final consonant it is more subtle, for example:

decision                                   /dɪˈsɪʒ.ən/

television                                /ˈtel.ɪ.vɪʒ.ən/

treasure                                    /ˈtreʒ.ə/ 

Practice /ʒ/ (zh): Some Examples from the Lesson Recording

aversion: I have an aversion to confusion

division: division of labour

unusual: unusual visuals

leisure: the pleasure of leisure time

rouge: red rouge on top of beige foundation

concierge: tip the concierge

For more examples of /ʒ/, do part two of this lesson HERE.

Extend your Learning

The word ‘garage’ varies in its pronunciation, however, in a posh English accent it is pronounced with a final /ʒ/ sound. Watch the video below to practise your pronunciation of this word:

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