Letter T

In the speech of most native-speakers of English, the /t/ sound is heavily aspirated. What this means is, in most sentence environments it is pronounced with an audible hiss or spit of air. Say “tattered and torn” to yourself and you will hear the hissing quality of the English /t/ sound. Also, the English /t/ is articulated by pressing the point of the tongue against the ridge of gum behind the upper front teeth (the alveolar ridge). In both these respects, the Indonesian /t/ is different from the English. The Indonesian /t/ is not aspirated. It is a bit like the relatively unaspirated English /t/ in words like “stop” and “stand”. Also, in the speech of most Indonesians, the /t/ sound is articulated by pressing the blade of the tongue against the back of the upper front teeth, almost in the same position as for the English /th/ sound.

So for English learners, the Indonesian /t/ is difficult to pronounce accurately. To help you suppress aspiration when you are saying the Indonesian /t/ you should practise saying words with /t/ in them while holding up a sheet of paper, or a candle, close to your lips. If the sheet of paper vibrates, or the flame flickers, as you are saying the Indonesian /t/ that means your pronunciation of it is too aspirated.

Remember, for the Indonesian /t/: tongue against teethno aspiration.. Try the following words:

/t/ in an initial position

teh telur
taksi tetapi

/t/ in a medial position

satu kotor
roti seratus

/t/ in a consonant cluster

minta berantakan
kantor perpustakaan

In English, when /t/ and /r/ occur one after the other they are pronounced close to the /ch/ sound. You will hear this sound if you say the English words “tree”, “track”, “transistor” etc. When the Indonesian /t/ occurs together with /r/ the /tr/ combination must not be pronounced like /ch/. You must keep the two sounds distinct, and the /r/ component should, of course, be trilled. Try these:

/t/ in combination with a following /r/

truk antri
sastra istri

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