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The American ‘R’

Since I started this video blog a year ago, I’ve received many requests to explain how to pronounce the R sound.

It’s funny, I’ve worked with so many speakers from different countries, and it seems like the R sound is the one sound that gives almost everyone a hard time. Even for those with impeccable R.

Something about this sound that makes people lose confidence and feel unclear.
Well, no more.

In today’s video you’ll get a step by step tutorial on how to pronounce the R sound along with a few “Training wheel” drills that will help you find (and keep) the accurate sound.

How to pronounce the American R:


Hey guys. It’s Hadar and this is The

Accent’s Way – your way to finding clarity,

confidence and freedom in English, and

finally today we are going to talk about

the R, as many of you have requested.

The R sound: one of the more

challenging sounds in American English

because the ‘r’ sound doesn’t exist, I

think, in any language but English. So

let’s learn how to pronounce that ‘r’ sound.

So, in your language, you may substitute

the R sound with a different sound that

is perceived as the R. It could be a

trill ‘r’, it could be an R that is

produced in the throat. Okay? So, what you

need to remember is no matter what you

do currently to pronounce your R, you

need to shift it towards this new,

different sound that is produced with

the tongue and the lips. Now, let me get

more specific to make the R sound the

tongue has to be in the middle of the

mouth. The tip of the tongue should not

be touching anything. So, if you’re used

to making an R like this [trill R] then you feel

the tip of the tongue touching the upper

palate. If you’re used to doing [throat R] in the

back, then the back of the tongue is

touching the uvula or the soft palate.


So there is no true contact when you

make the American R, not in the back

and not in the front part of the tongue – “r”. The only contact you have is here in

the sides of the tongue because the

sides touch the sides of the teeth. Okay?

So the body of the tongue retracts

and the sides of the tongue touch the

insides of the teeth, sort of, the tongue is

sort of pushing the teeth from the

inside. now there’s a lot of tension the

body of the tongue. Think of it like a

fist that you clenched. Okay? It looks the

same whether it’s loose or clenched. Okay?

So that’s what happens inside your

tongue. The tongue curls back,

okay, and pulls back, but you also tense

it up as if you clench your fist – “r”. To

that you add the tension of the lips. So

the lips round, especially when the R

appears at the beginning of words: run run. If you turn the sound off and you look

at my lips, it’s going to sound like I’m

saying “one” and that’s good because it

should sound like “one”, it should look

like “one”, but the tension of the tongue

creates that “r” R sound. So basically

it’s a W sound mixed with this tense “r”.

Okay? I like to think of it as if it’s a

W with a W sound, or a W with an L sound,

without touching the upper palate – “r”.

Let’s try it in a few words:

“run”, “red”. Now if you can hold out the R,

you’re probably doing it right and if

you can’t, if sounds something like

“run”, okay, then you’re

probably going to your natural, neutral

pronunciation. “Red”, “right”. So this is the

strong R, an R that appears at the

beginning of word or before a vowel. Okay?

This is an easier R to make. We’re going

to focus on that today. We’re not going

to talk about R at the end of words,

like ‘car’ or ‘wear’. We’re going to talk

about it in another video. So if you

still find it impossible to make, I’m

going to give you two ways to go about

it. Let’s begin with the L sound “l”. To

make the L the tip of the tongue goes up

to touch the upper palate, right? So as

you pronounce the L and you hold out the

sound – “l” – I want you to pull your tongue

slowly inside. “LLLL-rrrrr” “LLLL-rrrrr”.

Okay? So you pull it in, right, and then

the tongue sits there in the middle. Okay?

So now you’re more aware of what your

tongue is doing and where it’s located.

So you’ve pulled the tongue in to the middle

of the mouth – “LLLLrrrrrr”. And then what’s,

when it’s in the middle, and of course

the tip of the tongue is not touching

anything and you’re able to hold it out,

then I want you to play with the body of

the tongue. It’s like doing those fine

tunings until you reach that perfect

sound – “LLLLrrrrr”. Think of your tongue as one big

piece of chewing gum and you want to

play around with it inside your mouth – “LLLLrrrrrr” –

until you feel that tense quality. As you curl your tongue in the back,

the tip of the tongue is pointing

forward, almost trying to reach the back

part of your mouth, the throat – “LLLLrrrrrrr”. And

once you get that nice strong sound,

you round your lips,

okay, you can put your finger here to

make sure that the lips push forward

and you’re not doing something

funny. Okay? You don’t want to

create tension here. It’s about pushing

the lips forward – “ler” – then you can shift

to the word – “LLLLLLrrrrrrred”. Fnd the sound.

Play around with it in your mouth. “Run”

“right”. Another little tip that you can

think about is think of a dog’s bark. How

does a dog bark? “Ruff”. You hear that?

That’s an R sound – “ruff”. Connect to your

inner animal – “rrrrruff”, “rrrrun”, “red”. Okay?

That’s another way to go about it and

one last tip, instead of starting with an

L sound start with a G sound.

To make the sound, the tongue touches the

upper palate and you hear these

vibrations, so as you pronounce the

‘g’, pull the tongue in. The tongue is

already all the way back there, very

close to the R sound when you pronounce

the G so you pull it in a bit –

and make sure that the sides touch the insides of the teeth,

you can even bite on your tongue. You can like mark it to recognize where the

sides of the tongue are. Sometimes we’re

not even aware of what’s going on there.

So we can bite on your tongue to feel

the size of your tongue “ler” djer”.

Alright, so these are a few options for you

to play around with as you’re trying to

reach that nice strong R sound. Once you

recognize the R sound, hold it out when

you practice it in words and drill it in

many many words, over and over again,

until you get used to the new

pronunciation. It’s okay if you don’t use

it in conversation yet. Use it in

practice and maybe you can read out loud

something making sure that you’re using

all the Rs correctly. Remember to round

your lips and pull the tongue in and as

you read it hold out each R to make sure

that you’re pronouncing it accurately/

Alright, I will release more videos about

the R sound because I have a lot more to

say about it but I think that’s a good

start. So practice it. Please let me know

if you have any more questions and

that’s it. Don’t forget to subscribe, if

you haven’t yet. Thank you for watching

and I will see you next week in the next

video. Bye!

Before you go –
Please share in the comments below the video –
do you have any other tips that can help with pronouncing the R?
What are the most difficult R words for you?

Take care and have a wonderful week,



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