I have previously written about the different pronunciations of the th in English, see this post. Today, I want to discuss the tricky words smooth and smoothie, which are very often pronounced incorrectly. The main reason is that many non-native speakers feel uncomfortable with the sounds [ð] and [θ]. However, that is not the whole story.
Let’s begin with the correct pronunciation, which is (listen here):
A very common mistake, especially among German speakers, is to use the pronunciation
with the th pronounced like an s. A good example is the following video:
[smu:s] and [smu:si:] are definitely wrong in English, but even the Duden suggests to use the English pronunciation for Smoothie in German.
Another common incorrect pronounciation is
with the th pronounced as [θ] instead of [ð], as in this video
As argued in my previous post, the th is pronounced differently in different English words, and there is no simple rule for a given word. However, in the case of smooth(ie), a good way of remembering the pronunciation is based on the fact that the voiceless [ð] is a much smoother sound than the voiced [θ].
Finally, I am having a hard time even understanding the word smoothie in this video, because the presenter is trying to avoid pronouncing the th completely:
The bottom line is: for a smooth pronunciation, you have to pronounce the th in smooth and smoothie smoothly.