American English /z/ Sound for Korean Speakers


This video tutorial is about the American English /z/ sound for native Korean speakers.  The /z/ sound does not exist in Korean, so it is sometimes replaced with the /ʤ/ sound. /ʤ/ is the the symbol for the "j" sound, like the first sound in "joke." Let’s briefly jump into these two symbols and sounds, and then do some practice.

International Phonetic Alphabet Symbols (IPA)

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is a set of symbols to represent sounds in the world’s languages, and is essential because we cannot rely on spelling letters to know what sound it represents.  For this tutorial, there are two symbols important to recognize, as you do not need to know all the symbols.

/z/ represents this sound “zzzzzzz” as in zoo” or “busy.”  Note how this sound /z/ is represented with an “s” letter in busy, but the sound is the IPA /z/

/ʤ/ is the sound “j” as in the first and last sound in “judge” and the first sound in “joke”

/z/ does not exist in Korean phonology, and it can sometimes be replaced with /ʤ/ in English by native Korean speakers, so let's talk about how /z/ is made.

How is the /z/ Sound Made?

/z/ in linguistics is called a “voiced alveolar fricative.”  You do not need to memorize this term, but let’s break it down, as it give us information as to how the sound is made.  Let’s start with the term “alveolar” (I will go back to voicing). Place your tongue right behind your teeth, and then run it along the roof of your mouth.  Feel how there is a “ridge” or “bump” right behind your teeth before the roof of your mouth feels higher. This bump is called the “alveolar ridge.” The /z/ sound is alveolar, so your tongue is placed on this ridge, just behind the teeth but not touching the teeth.

For the purposes of this tutorial, “fricative” means continuous airflow coming out of the mouth.   So when you make the /z/, feel the continuous airflow out of the mouth.

Going back to the term “voiced.”  Place your hand on your neck region as we make this /z/ together.  “Zzzzz.” You should feel a light “buzzing” in your neck region, and this means that your vocal cords are vibrating.

Practice Exercise 1: Word Pairs

Let’s practice some word pairs, what is called “minimal pairs.”  Minimal pairs are word pairs that differ only in one sound, the sound that we are working on.  These word pairs are words that differ only in the /ʤ/ sound and /z/ sound. These two words should sound different.  If the word pairs sound the same, it may be that you are replacing the /z/ with the /ʤ/ sound. You don’t have a trained accent professional to give you feedback, but increase your awareness with these 4 word pairs:

/ʤ/ /z/

page pays

wage ways or weighs

range rains

jealous zealous

Practice Exercise 2: Sentences

Exercise 2 is to practice these 3 phrases following my model as a native speaker. These 3 phrases all have the /z/ sound, so be aware of your pronunciation of this sound, and that it is not being replaced with /ʤ/ or another sound:

The doctor recommends taking zinc

The zucchini grows after summer rains

The zebra lives in the jungle


I hope that this tutorial was helpful for you, the accent student, in increasing your awareness of the /z/  sound in American English. Since each speaker is an individual, you may be pronouncing the sound correctly, or you may need extra support from a professional accent teacher.  These tutorials are designed to empower the accent student, to increase the awareness of your own pronunciation and sound trends. It is recommended that you consult an accent coach about your own personal pronunciation patterns and accent goals.  Also, accent coaches with with students on promoting the pronunciation of sounds from words to longer sentences and conversation.

For more information about accent coaching or to schedule a free online 15 minute consultation, please send me an e-mail to

Enjoy speaking English with confidence and your language journey!

Leann Rhoades, M.S. CCC-SLP

Accent Coach/ Speech Language Pathologist

All About Accents



10 views0 comments