My tiuj sound like my tioj :(
Hello everyone. I'm dusting off my Esperanto. The sounds are starting to flow again, but I'm having trouble with tiuj sounding like tioj when I speak at a normal pace. The -uj sound has always been a little tough for me, but I think this case is a bit important.
I'm not sure if my anecdote would help but here's how I do not confuse -uj with -oj.
I'm a native Chinese speaker. I started acquiring English when I could barely speak Chinese (so like 1.8-lingual-ish lol). I learned the -uj sound from Chinese words like dui (correct/queue/pile, etc.). The sound -oj does not exist in mandarin Chinese or my family's dialect and I learned it from English words like coin and spheroid.
So, basically, to me the sounds -uj and -oj (per se) are from two distinct systems and there is no way I can get them messed up. Kinda like how people do not mess up the Spanish r with the English r if they speak both languages.
Edit: Later on, I learned words/acronyms like GUI (graphical user interface) but still, -uj is not a common sound in English and I can totally see your struggle.
You need to focus on having clear vowels "u" and "o" in these words.
If you say "tiu", and at the end change your mouth shape to "i", but don't say "i", you'll have the correct pronunciation. The word isn't ti-u-i, but ti-u-j.
Textbooks for English speakers often clarify that "oj" sounds like "oy" in "boy". The "sounds like" is important--that doesn't mean "is the same as".
In US English, "boy" is often "bo-i". In Esperanto, "oj" doesn't have the full vowel sound of "i". It's primarily a change in mouth position after "o".
Ti-u-i is three syllables. Ti-uj is two syllables.
Your mouth just needs some practice - we English speakers tend to be pretty lazy with the way we form sounds.
Try opening your mouth wide and forming a rounded shape with your lips when you say tioj. Almost like a yawn. When you say "tiuj", try stretching your mouth in a tight smile with the lips very tight. Your teeth should be almost touching.
Exaggerate these movements as much as possible until you can distinguish the sounds. Once you've done lots of practice like this, you can relax and stop worrying about your mouth, the distinction should come naturally :)
Also - slow down! You don't need to say these sounds fast. This is the biggest mistake people make when they try to learn sounds from a new language. Try saying the words as slowly as possible. Aim for accuracy, not speed. Over time, when you feel confident that you're distinguishing them, you can speed them up.