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  • Accent: America


Hi everybody, Patrick Munoz here today talking about how you can get over a lisp. It all started when I realized that I wanted to be an actor. I discovered this probably in high school but it wasn't until college that I started doing theater and I realized this is fun, this makes me feel fully alive. So after graduating I realized I needed to do some more work on my voice and my speech and my skills and I went to graduate school for acting at Temple University.

In my second year there I was told some news that was a little bit devastating for me. Everything seemed to be going well up to that point. I had been doing the homework, doing the scenes, growing as an actor and one day I was told by my voice and speech coach and by my acting coach that I had what was called an overly sibilant S. There I was, 23 years old and suddenly I had an overly sibilant S. How and why was I just hearing that then? One of my intentions for going to graduate school was because my speech was the one thing that I knew was an obstacle for me. I knew that I talked way too fast and I really wanted to work on that, but the overly sibilant S was something that was new to me.

My acting coach said “Patrick your tongue is just probably too big” and I thought to myself well “What am I supposed to do about that? How can I fix an overly big tongue?” I only have a year and a half left of this school and I thought I was already addressing all those issues that had been an obstacle for me.

Fortunately, I had a wonderful speech coach at the time - Cynthia Blaze. She spent time with me and we really worked on my S sound. There are many different kinds of lisps some involve the S and the Z sounding like a TH sounds so Silly Sally sounds like Thilly Thally. There also lisps that involve the middle of the tongue, the sides of the tongue, but in my case it was an overly sibilant S.

So I was making the S sound in an incorrect way. Now these different kinds of lips can be caused by dental work, by our anatomical setup and many times by the way we've learned to make our sounds, and that's what I love about being a voice and speech coach. Once my clients who are having those kinds of speech difficulties have gone to their dentist or to a speech pathologist or even to the ear nose and throat doctor and gotten a clean bill of health that way, then we can start to work on how they're making these sounds.

Many of my clients who discover they have an overly sibilant S have discovered it because they've been recorded by a high-quality microphone, many of them are voiceover actors, and in that they've heard this slushy sound. The good news is this can be overcome.

You can overcome a sibilant S by the simple acronym FLIP - Focus, Length, Intensity and Pressure. First of all, Focus. You want to make sure that the tip of your tongue is pointing in the direction that makes the clearest S. Some of us point the tip of our tongue down, some up and some towards the middle. It turns out that the middle is what's recommended, however that's not the way that I make my S so I had to discover how to make a clear S even with the tip of my tongue not pointing to the recommended quote-unquote way. Play with the tip of your tongue moving up and down recording yourself and trying to find out what sounds the clearest in terms of the S to you.

Secondly Length if we make an S sound that's very long as in the word Silly Sally. Silly Sally. It's going to start to sound very S-ey, very sibilant, very hissy and that's what we mean by an overly sibilant S - a splashy quality or a hissy sound. Reduce the length of time that you hold on to that S - “Silly Sally” and you'll start to decrease that splashyness and hissy-ness.

Thirdly, Intensity. Often times the tip of our tongue is an underdeveloped muscle. In fact most of the time unless you're a singer or a trained speaker or actor, your muscles are underdeveloped when it comes to voice and speech. One of the key areas is the tip of the tongue. Exercising the tip of the tongue can help you produce the sound more clearly. The way I suggest doing that is practice saying sounds with L in them or D or N or T. Maybe Li Li Li Li Li Li Li, nee nee nee nee nee nee nee, dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee, and t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t. Play with those sounds, really isolate the tip of your tongue doing the work and not your jaw doing the work.

Finally the Pressure. Decrease the pressure on your s sounds. Now it's a bit challenging as you're talking to suddenly have less pressure as you're saying your S but if you do it very slowly working with a short text like “Silly Sally”, you can start to see how reducing that pressure reduces that slushyness and hissy-ness. For instance, “Silly Sally” as opposed to “Silly Sally”.

When I was told all those years ago that I had a tongue that was too large and an overly sibilant S never in my life did I think “Hey, one day I'll start to help other people overcome these issues as well.” That was not my intention at the time. However, as an actor I would always teach voice and speech on the side and suddenly I realized this is where I really feel a sense of helping people. I really feel a sense of growing myself and I feel accomplished. We never know how our lives are going to turn out. We do know that if we do good work, we try our hardest and we are helpful to other people things will always work out. Try working out your voice or speech issues perhaps by recording them and listening to them with intention and seeing “Where am I strong and where can I improve?” By doing this you can overcome any speech issue any difficulty you have in your life.