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
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,