Podcast intro:

Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 400. And today we’re going to talk about words that end with RORR, like error and horror and terror.

Hey everyone, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. I don’t know how episode 400 has snuck up on me. I’ve noticed that we’re getting towards episode 400, but all of a sudden here I am recording the intro for episode 400. And I’m like, wow, 400 episodes is a lot.

I remember when I first started recording my podcast, that was in 2020, at the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic, yes. And I remember listening to other podcasters recording their 400th episode or 300th episode, and that seemed to me so much. And here we are, episode 400. So, it’s cool. And I just want to thank you for being a part of this journey.

Now I want to talk about pronunciation, which is the topic of today’s episode. And we’re going to talk about a pronunciation pattern that causes a lot of challenges for non native speakers because of how the sounds are organized and because the R is involved. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Now, I want to take this moment to remind you that this work that we’re doing – refining pronunciation, talking about nuances in pronunciation, practicing pronunciation – is important not because mispronouncing it is a bad thing. It’s just something that could potentially get in your way, get in your way in sounding clear and being understood.

But more than that, I feel like there are certain pronunciation patterns that actually scare people, and they avoid them. They avoid pronouncing words like ‘error’ or ‘horror’. Because they are unsure how to pronounce it, they don’t want to put a lot of effort into pronouncing it because that’s what ends up happening with certain sounds.

And the more issues we have around sounds or patterns or words, we kind of like add weight to this task of speaking. And we don’t want that. We want to kind of like let go of everything that gets in your way. Cause anyway, you have a lot to deal with when speaking a second language. So why worry about those things that could be solved with just a little bit of clarity, and a little bit of practice? Which is really what we’re doing here.

So use this opportunity to just gain some clarity around patterns that could be challenging. And if it’s not challenging for you, just think of it as a good warmup or good pronunciation practice, like just practicing a tongue twister. But if it has been challenging for you – words like error, terror, horror – this is a good opportunity to figure out why it was difficult and how to change that.

All right. So let’s go ahead and listen to episode 400.

Video transcript:

Hey everyone. Today we are going to address a very scary spelling pattern, and that is the RORR, like in the word ‘horror’ or ‘terror’. No wonder that such horrific words have such horrific pronunciation. But don’t worry, we are here to simplify it and make it easy on you.

So a lot of you may agree with me that sometimes it’s hard to pronounce words with R if you don’t have the American R in your first language. And, especially when you have words with several R’s, that can get scary. But there is a shortcut that you can take when you say words with this spelling pattern.

Let’s begin with the word ‘error’. First, let’s break it down. We start with an E sound and then an R – ER. Then the O sound is actually a schwa sound. It’s not ER-ROR, there is no O, it’s ER-R’R. ER-R’R. So basically, you have an R-schwa-R. Schwa is a very neutral vowel sound – uh. But when there is an R right after, they merge. And basically, it sounds like this – /ər/. Just like in the words finder, or actor, or better. It’s just /ər/.

But how do you pronounce this after an R? EH-R’R. So technically, you pronounce the R, you relax everything a little bit, and then you pronounce the R again. R’R. EH-R’R. Error. Error.

However, when this word is pronounced quickly, which is most of the time, then what happens is that this transition becomes almost seamless, and it sounds like the R is just one long R. Listen. ERR. ERR. It’s not ER – that’s just one R. ER.

Let’s practice it in a sentence. We’ve found an error on the first page. We’ve found an error on the first page. Error.

“There is an error in the eighth decimal place.”

“There is an error in the phone system.”

“There is an error in the preliminary draft.”

The next word is ‘mirror’. Mirror. Same thing. You start with MI, and then it’s an R-schwa-R. It’s not MIROR, but MI – relaxed /ɪ/, MIR’R. So R-schwa-R – R’R. It has to be quick – R’R. And when you say it quickly, the entire word, it just sounds like a long R – MIR’R. MIR’R. ‘I took a long look in the mirror’. ‘I took a long look in the mirror’. Mirror. ‘I bought a new mirror for my bedroom’. Mirror.

“They gave you a mirror so you could watch yourself sleep.”

“I need a mirror.”

“Practice these words in front of the mirror.”

The next word is ‘terror’. Terror. Terror. Terror. Same thing: it’s not TER, it’s not TE-ROR. It’s just TER’R. TER’R. ‘There was a terror attack at the airport’. Terror. Terror. ‘She was filled with terror and screamed out loud’. Terror.

“See them in terror.”

“Howling with terror.”

“And my thoughts were filled with terror.”

The final word, and probably the one my students hate the most, is ‘horror’. Horror. ‘I went to see a horror movie’. Now, here we have two possible pronunciations. I’m going to start with a more common one. And that is an H sound, then the OR as in ‘for’ – HOR, HOR, and then R’R – HOR’R. HOR’R.

The thing about this OR sound is that a lot of people tend to raise the tongue too quickly, and then it sounds something like this – HER, and then it’s even less clear. So, try to keep your tongue down as you pronounce the O sound – HOR’R. HOR’R. HOR’R.

Some people will pronounce it with an open A sound – HA, and then R’R: HAR’R. Do whatever is easier for you. Both are valid, as long as you sound clear. Clarity is more important than accuracy. Remember that. HAR’R or HOR’R. ‘Horror movie’. ‘I hated that horror movie’. ‘Oh, the horror!’ ‘The horror of this pronunciation’. Horror.

“You want to see a real horror show? You should see my garage.”

“You ever do horror films?”

“It’s a horror show, right?”

All right, that’s it. Now, if you want to improve your pronunciation and get better at pronouncing words that are tricky for you, the best remedy for that is just to say it out loud. Don’t be afraid, repeat it again and again and again until what comes out of your mouth is similar to what you hear. So repeat it again and again with this video, say it in the sentences, and even come up with your own sentences to make it a good vocabulary practice as well.

All right. I hope this helped you clarify some tricky pronunciation challenges. If you’d like more tips, then definitely come follow me on Instagram or TikTok, or check out my website at hadarshemesh.com where you can find a ton of free resources for you to speak English with clarity, confidence, and freedom. And of course, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Now remember, even though I teach pronunciation, the most important thing is to speak with confidence and clarity, and to be proud of just speaking English, even if you make mistakes. There’s nothing wrong about making mistakes, that’s the only way to learn. So speak up, learn from your mistakes, and enjoy the process.

Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day, and I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.