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English Pronunciation Pod 70

Saturday Oct 16 2010
The consonant /r/ -
How to pronounce this important consonant sound of English:
Make your accent sound more American by learning how to pronounce this common sound of English.


In this week's podcast, we're going to learn how to pronounce an important consonant sound of Englsh- / r/, as in the words "rock" and "right".

Although many languages around the world have a sound similar to /r/ and even the letter <r>,
the way we pronounce it in English is quite different.
The English /r/ sound does not exist in most other languages and is therefore one of the most difficult sounds for English students to pronounce.

If you want to speak English with a standard American accent or British accent, it's important to learn how to pronounce this sound.

The focus of this week's podcast is:

  • Learning how to pronounce the consonant sound /r/.
  • Practicing this sound in some key American words, phrases and idioms.

How to Pronounce /r/ :

Tongue: Start with your tongue in a neutral, relaxed postion.Curl your tongue tip backwards so that
it points at the roof of your mouth.
Do not touch the roof of your mouth with your tongue tip.
When you finish, Feel the back sides of your tongue gently touching your back inner gums.
Once you're in this curled postion , vocalize.

Lips :relaxed or slight ly forward (either is fine)

It's important to note that the tip and back of your tongue do not touch the roof of your mouth.
In this way the consonant /r/ in English is very different than the /r/ in other languages as will soon be explained..

Now let's trying practicing /r/ with some vowels of English.

Exercise: Please listen and repeat /r/ paying careful attention to the postion of your tongue:

/ra/ ... /ri/... /reI/ ... / roʊ/ ... /ru/

As you can see, some combinations such as / roʊ/ and /ru/ are often more difficult.

Pronunciation Tips:

Remember that the tip and back of your tongue do not touch the roof of your mouth. In this way the consonant /r/ in
English is very different than the /r/ in other languages.

In many languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic and Russian, there is an an /r/ sound
in which the tip of the tongue hits the roof of the mouth. It sounds like.... It's often called a" trilled r" or a "rolling /r/"

Let's listen to the difference between a "trilled r" and an English /r/

trilled /r/ .. .English /r/

Still other languages have an /r/ which uses the back of the tongue . In languages such as French, Hebrew, German, and Arabic we have
the /r/ sometimes called the "guttural r" . Again this not the case of the /r/ in English.The back of your tongue should not rise and make contact
with the roof of your mouth. Keep the back of your tongue relaxed and curl only the front.

Let's listen to the difference between a "guttural r" and an English /r/ :

"guturral r" .... English /r/

If your first language is an Asian language such as Japanees or Korean, there may not be any sound even close to the English /r/.
In any case, whatever your first language is, just remember that the /r/ in English involves a curling of the front of your tongue with
no contact with the roof of your mouth.

The Similarity Between /r/ and /ɚ/:

At this point, you may have noticed that the tongue position for the consonant /r/ is the same position as the vowel /ɚ/ as in
the words "sir and "early" (see podcast #66).
Both sounds require you to curl your tongue tip.
However, there is a difference between the consonant and vowel forms of these sounds.
The difference is that for the vowel /ɚ/, we curl and vocalize simultaneously, at the same time.
But when I use the consonant /r/ in a word like "rock", first I get into the curl position then I vocalize.

The important thing here is to remember that if you can say /r/ like in rock then you can say /ɚ/ like "sir". And if you can say /ɚ/ in sir,
then can say /r/ in "rock."
They are both the same tongue curl position. So whichever sound is your strength, you can use it to correct your weakness.
For more work with the vowel sound /ɚ/ see podcast #66, 67 and also Best Accent Training mp3s.

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words containing /r/ paying careful attention to form:

rock ... right ... wrong ... wrap ... rich ... arrange ... surround ..

Exercise: Please listen and repeat the following American expressions containing /r/.

1.You're my rock. (person I can always depend on)

2. You can't go wrong with that. (always the right choice)

3. Let's wrap it up. (finish what we're doing)

Mastering /r/ takes time and practice.

But the key to mastering this sound is slow repetitive practice on a daily basis. You have to repeat and repeat until you develop what's known
as muscle memory- the ability to do something automatically, without thinking.
Accent reduction is a lot like physical activities such as sports, dancing or playing an instrument. You have to first do it slowly and correctly
in order to do it quickly and correctly.

In other words, you need training!

The Right Training Tools for Better Pronunciation:

If you want more practice exercises like the one in this podcast and are interested in learning all of the the sounds of English,
I recommend that you try my full English pronunciation course in mp3-Best Accent Training mp3s!

No matter what your first language is, Best Accent Training has the lessons you need
for speaking English clearly and correctly.

All the sounds of English in one course!

Best Accent Training mp3s contains all the sounds of English with step by step instructions and practice exercises.
You'll get all the vowels of English, all the consonants, syllable stress lessons, intonation lessons and connected speech!

Best of all, Best Accent Training is a fast and easy download that you can put on your mp3 player and take with you wherever you go!

I specifically designed it for that purpose.

Any questions, comments or suggestions ? Contact us at:   contact@englishpronunciationpod.com

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Thank you and see you next time!


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- Domingo Ponce Rodriguez- - Marketing Manager USA (Spain)

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