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How to pronounce GIRL

How many words does it take to explain the word GIRL?
When it’s me talking about it, the answer is many.

Don’t blame me! Talk to the person who invented English.
What can I do that this very short word has so many barriers one has to overcome in order to pronounce it smoothly?

Anyway, you better check it out cause there’s a really cool trick there for you.
Watch: how to pronounce GIRL


Hey guys, it’s Hadar. Today we’re going to talk about the word ‘girl’, like many of you have asked me to do that before. So before we begin – because I have a really, really cool trick for you – I want you to go ahead and eliminate any representation of the written word from your brains. So I’m going to wait here for you to do that.

Okay, good. So now that you don’t know how to write this word or you don’t know how it looks, let’s start with a different word. Let’s start with a word ‘bigger’. Go ahead and say that: bigger. Now, to make the R sound, which is the key component in this word, you want to bring the tongue up. Remember that there is no contact between the tongue and the upper palate or the teeth. And you want to around the lips: ‘ur’.

So at the end of the word ‘bigger’, you shift from the /g/ sound to the /r/ directly: ‘bi-g’rr’, g’rr. Right? Cause it’s not ‘bi-gErr’, all right? It’s ‘bi-g’rr’. So what happens is that the back of the tongue goes up to produce the /g/ sound, you block the air in the back with voice. And then as you pronounce the /g/, the tongue goes up to the middle of the mouth, preparing for the /r/ sound, and you round the lips: ‘g’rr’, ‘g’rr’, like when you’re saying ‘great’ or ‘green’. ‘g’rr’, ‘g’rr’.

Now that is the beginning of the word ‘girl’, ‘girl’. Because there is no vowel between the G and the R. It’s like you’re about to say ‘grrreat’ or you’re ending the word ‘bigger’ or ‘sugar’. Okay? So it’s not ‘gerl’. It is definitely not ‘geerl’, there is no ‘i’ there. And we already eliminated the representation of this word from your brain. So you don’t know how it’s spelled, right?

So again, here it’s a G to the R: ‘g’rr’. And then we have the dark L sound – /ɫ/. Now, what is the dark L sound? To make the L, the tip of the tongue goes up to touch the roof of the mouth. But when the L appears at the end of the word, it’s a dark l. So basically, you’re engaging the root of the tongue a lot more. Do you hear that? It’s not ‘girl’ [with light L], it’s ‘girl’ [with dark L].

So, to get that sound quality, I want you to swallow. And make this really caricature-like sound of swallowing your saliva. Did you hear that? So when you do that, you engage the root of the tongue, right? So this is the place where I want you to engage when you make the dark L. /ɫ/, okay? So that’s the dark L.

But it’s not enough. Because before the dark L there is a transitional vowel that leads to the dark L. So after this ‘g’rr’ sound that you now know how to pronounce properly, you shift to an /ɫ/ sound, which is basically like a schwa sound or an ‘u’ as in ‘good’, where the root of the mouth is engaged, like you just did when you swallowed. /ɫ/. And then you bring the tip of the tongue up. And you know what? You don’t even have to bring the tip of the tongue up, if you get that sound quality. /ɫ/.

So listen to it again: ‘girl’. So, don’t try to bring the L immediately after the R. You have to stretch the R and then get to that transitional vowel, and then bring the L sound. So, although there are only three consonants here, okay, like that’s how you should perceive it as three consonants: a G, R, and L, the R is long, and right before the L there is a transitional sound. ‘girl’. It’s a very muffled kinda like dark sound. ‘girl’, ‘girl’. And the L is longer.

“She’s a very nice girl”. “Boys and girls”. Girls. Also, let’s use it in the common phrase ‘girlfriend’, ‘girlfriend’. “I’m going out tonight with a few of my girlfriends”. Girlfriends. Girlfriend. Then, it’s a set phrase, and the word ‘girl’ is a little higher in pitch. Girlfriend.

All right, that’s it. Let me know in the comments below, how’s that going, if it’s easy for you? And if not, think about what part is the most difficult for you and let me know, so I can help you out and tell you what else you need to do.

The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
187. How to pronounce GIRL

Since you haven’t heard from me in two week (I was in at the YouTube space in London last week – I’ll tell you all about it very soon) here’s some new stuff for your weekly practice.

Check out my FB live video where I talk compare two, to and too, heard vs. hurt vs. hard, ‘literally’ and discuss my new online program – ACCENT MAKEOVER ONLINE.

You can also catch my live YouTube session where I talk about the pronunciation of bureaucracy (starting from 3:17) th+r as in through/ three, How to expend your vocabulary, and other fun stuff. Enjoy!

As always, let me know if you have any questions or requests.

Have a lovely week & thank you for watching,

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4 Responses

  1. Hi Hadar,how are you? i am a spanish retiree 68 years old .I sarted learning brithis accent long ago but .changed to american because it is more practical.This particular word girl is much easier to pronounce in brithish way,some others. is the other way arounnnnd.So I ask you: could. I pick the british way for this word?

  2. The transition of the letter R to dark L is not easy for me 🙁 but I won’t give up! I will practice a whole week if necessary.

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