/ʧ/ and /ʤ/ share manner and place of articulation and differ in voicing (/ʧ/ is voiceless and /ʤ/ is voiced). So, they are the same sound but for the vibration of the vocal folds. The phoneme /ʧ/ is an old friend of Spanish speakers. It corresponds to the Spanish diagraph ch and it is used in this language in words like chaleco, chica or chorro. Its voiced counterpart, /ʤ/, on the other hand, is not a Spanish phoneme (although it might be produced occasionally as an allophone). This is why it gives much more trouble to Spanish speakers in general.
Let’s start by listening to the contrast between the two:
ʧ (post-alveolar, affricate, voiceless)
Spelling: ch (chair, achieve, touch), tch (watch, catch), t (question, lecture)
This is one of those few happy occasions when the English and the Spanish sound are exactly the same. So, there is no need to worry about it.
Listen to some examples:
China china chat charla chimney chimenea
And here is an example of /ʧ/ produced by a native speaker:
Smoking like a chimney (Rupert Everett, BBC4).
ʤ (post-alveolar, affricate, voiced)
Spelling: j (job, judge), g (ginger, gem), ge (manage), dge (judge), d (soldier), gg (suggest), dj (adjust)
The sound /ʤ/ is not a standard phoneme in Spanish and, consequently, it tends to be more problematic. It is a post-alveolar sound, so the place of articulation is the same as in the fricatives /ʃ, ʒ/. But, unlike these phonemes, /ʧ/and /ʤ/ are affricates, which means that there is a complete blockage of the airflow at the beginning of the sound. In order to achieve this, you have to start by pressing your tongue against the palate.
Many Spanish speakers produce this sound without any trouble, but when someone finds it problematic I like to teach it in three different steps:
- Do the sound /ʃ/
- Make it voiced, so you get /ʒ/
- Without losing that position, press your tongue against the palate and do the sound staccato, that is, short, clipped and strongly started
Now you are able to produce the phoneme /ʤ/ accurately and you can use it to say words like the following:
job judge ginger gem manage soldier suggest adjust
Let’s listen to some native speakers doing the /ʤ/.
Yes, I was travelling in Jamaica (Rupert Everett, BBC4).
It’s a real voyage of discovery and you have to tussle with the director and the playwright, you know, is this playable, is this me? (Jeremy Irons, BBC4).
There’re jokes about the aging process (John Wilson, BBC4).
The advantage of such a long career is experience, but the risk is becoming jaded (Mark Lawson, BBC4).
And here you have more examples where /ʧ/ and /ʤ/ are found in the same sentence.
But somewhere on that journey, under the guidance of the ferryman, you have absorbed something life-changing and extraordinary (Ben Kingsley, BBC4).
For a series of circumstances I never really managed to achieve it (Rupert Everett, BBC4).
The problem many Spanish speakers have is that they tend to get the sounds /ʤ/ and /j/ mixed up. /j/ is the phoneme we use to say the word you, which has nothing to do with the first consonant in job (unfortunately the letter j and the phonemic symbol /j/ mean different things, which is confusing). So, when it comes so saying the word job, which is normally pronounced /ʤɒb/ , many Spanish speakers say /jɒb/ *, which -I’m not going to hide it- sounds awful.
And apart from the strong foreign accent, the trouble is that this mispronunciation can lead to misunderstanding. Let’s take, for instance, the same word, job, badly pronounced as /jɒb/. What the speaker is actually saying in this case is the noun yob, which has a completely different meaning.
Interestingly, the reverse phenomenon exists too, and many Spanish speakers say the pronoun you as /ʤuː/ * instead of /juː/