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Articulate: Mumble Wumble

Mumbling is defined as speaking in a quiet or indistinct way. In practice, it is a little more complex but the end result is the same. We cannot understand what is being said. Mumbling can be constant, or situational. For example, I may mumble late in the evening, when extremely tired, much to my husband’s annoyance.

Beyond lack of understanding, people make assumptions about people who mumble. Many of these not based in fact but based in our perception of what the behavior means. So if clarity alone doesn’t inspire you to address any mumbling in your speech, perhaps relational dynamics will.

We’ve talked a lot about recording and getting a good idea of what your speech is doing in a room. If you have done this, you might have identified weak points in your articulation. If not, you can still work on the ‘greatest hits’ to improve your clarity.

Today we will address articulation in the exercise NEY THEI /nɛ:i/ /θɛ:i/.

Audio Example of the Vocal Exercise Above

The /n/ is formed with the blade of the tongue pressing gently into the alveolar ridge (that hard arch immediately behind your top teeth). The tongue releases straight downward like a a tongue (chin) up.

The /θ/, or unvoiced TH sound, requires the tongue to come between the teeth. Releasing by retracting backwards.

The diphthong /ɛ:i/ begins with the tongue in the open /ɛ/ position. Tip of the tongue at the back of the bottom teeth with a slight arch in the tongue, the arch of the tongue becomes more pronounced which will shift the vowel to /i/. On /i/ the arch of the tongue may touch your upper teeth.

Practice this combination with slow repetitions and observe how it shifts your awareness of these sounds in other parts of your speech.


Gina Razón is the Founder and CEO at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service verbal communication studio in Boston’s Back Bay.  She has over two decades of experience as a teacher of voice and speech, is a communication and change facilitator, and is a voraciously curious voice user.  Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker.  For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit

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