What are diphthongs and how to teach diphthongs


This is the Long I sound as in sky, buy, cry, tie.

The middle and front portion of the tongue is raised and voice is given.  Then the tongue briefly rises in front and the mouth opening is slightly decreased as voice continues.  The tip of the tongue touches lightly behind the lower front teeth.  The first part of the diphthong sound is the longer nucleus and the second part of the diphthong is the shorter glide.   The velopharyngeal port is closed and the mouth is open.


If you refer to my diphthong page listed above….you can click on that link….and find information about all eight diphthongs….although I am not yet completely finished with regard to “how to teach your child to say diphthongs“….I have listed all eight of them.  

I find the Long I diphthong an easy one to rememdiate…in the sense that you are able to provide good visual cues so that your child can “see” how the diphthong is produced.    Remember a diphthong is one syllable that consists of two vowel sounds…so when you produce the long I sound…the first part of the diphthong…the nucleus…is the ah sound…followed by the glide….the Long E sound

As I have indicated on the diphthong page…the children I have worked with typically have difficulty with the glide portion of the diphthong…they are able to produce the nucleus…however delete the glide.  This is especially noted when the word ends with a consonant as in hide.  The child may be able to say HI…producing both the nucleus and the glide portion of the diphthong……however…as soon as there is a consonant at the end of the word….as in HIDE…the glide is deleted.



When I work on this diphthong…I start off with the little one opening her mouth wide…and saying….ahhhhhh.  This usually is pretty easy for her….because she most likely has been to the doctor or dentist…so she should understand what it means to say ahhhhh

Practice making just this sound…and good to use a mirror for visual feedback..this visual feedback is important so that she can see that her mouth is open wide. 

Extra tip: I also have the little ones tap on their throats as they are saying the ahhhh sound….your vocal folds are vibrating….so it makes a pretty cool sound when you tap on your throat…..

Okay….so hold that ahhhhh sound…and now you are going to stretch it into an E sound…the long E sound….

Use the cue below to help your little produce the long E sound.

E…….stretching out the E sound during production.  Use the visual cue that follows to help your little one “see” that the long E sound continues.

Visual/Physical Cue:

One of the ABA teachers I work with called this the “taffy” cue……so imagine that you are holding a piece of taffy between your hands….held together by your pointer fingers and thumbs…..then you are going to pull the taffy apart…..stretching your fingers/hands apart…..the picture above is the best one I could find to give you the visual cue…..remember to start at midline(the middle of your body) with both hands together….only pointer and thumbs touching…..then as you stretch your fingers out….make the E sound…..you should stretch to the length of your shoulders…

After your little one can produce the ahhh sound and the long E…have them practice in syllables such as:






Next practice in syllables that do not end in a consonant such as:

(remember: the consonant indicated below is followed by the LONG I sound)
















Next practice the same words above…but now with an ending consonant…this will definitely make the production of the glide portion of the diphthong more challenging.  I have found that as soon as there is a consonant at the end of the word…the glide is deleted…..so when I practice the word list below…I would be sure to really exaggerate the Long E sound…..then follow by the ending consonant…please post any questions…
















Remember some of the words are nonsense words…it does not matter…the point is to get your little one to go from a consonant….to the diphthong…and then end the word or nonsense word with another consonant.

Now when I work with the two little ones that I see for “diphthong therapy”…..this is the order of “diphthong therapy”


1.Nucleus sound..ah sound only

2. Glide sound….long E sound only

3. Syllables…..ahhh followed by long E

4. C-V words: use list above

5. C-V words in phrases, then short sentences, longer sentences, conversation

6. C-V-C words:  use list above

7. C-V-C words in phrases, then short sentences, longer sentences, conversation

Hope this was helpful…and be sure to read on the diphthong page for more information about diphthongs!


About Kim

My name is Kim Marino and I have been practicing as a licensed speech and language pathologist since 1993. I work on Long Island providing diagnostic evaluations and services to children from birth to age 21. My experience is vast and am proud to say that I work with children that may present with articulation and phonological concerns, oral motor feeding concerns, Down Syndrome feeding, cognitive rehabilitation, auditory processing delays, receptive language delays, cleft palate feeding and sound development and expressive language delays. Most importantly, I am the mother of four amazing children and am happily married to my childhood sweetheart. I feel blessed to have my four children and so lucky to share this journey in life with my husband. I always had it somewhere in my head that I wanted to develop a blog or a website of some sort so that I could provide families with an additional resource....so that parents could help their little ones become a better communicator. And as I was developing this blog....I realized that I also needed to share the stories about my life and my children....and the funny things along the way that help to keep me smiling. Whether you are a working mother or not...finding balance between home, children and life can be a challenge....I hope that my blog helps to bring a smile to your face..and also some tools to help you help your little or big one. I hope you enjoy! Kim
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