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English Pronunciation Pod 71

Saturday Oct 30th 2010

The sound /pr/- as in "problem and approve"
Learn how to pronounce this challenging combination of sounds correctly.


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In this week's podcast, we're going to continue to practice the /r/ sound of English.
We're going to learn how to pronounce /r/ in combination with /p/ as in the words "problem" and "approve."
As we learned in last weeks podcast, the /r/ in English is different than /r/ in most other languages.

I recommend that you listen to podcast 70 before using this one if you haven't already.
Podcast 70 explains in full detail how to pronounce /r/ .

The focus of this week's podcast is:

  • learning how to pronounce the consonant group /pr/ just like a native speaker would
  • Practicing this sound in some key American words and phrases.

Review: 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 position , vocalize (make sound).

Exercise: Listen and repeat : /rə/... /rə/

Pronunciation Tips: Avoid These Common Mistakes.

Remember that the tip and back of your tongue do not touch the roof of your mouth when pronouncing /r/.

In many languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, Turkish and Russian, there is an /r/ sound
in which the tip of the tongue hits the roof of the mouth. It sounds like... /ɽ/.
But this is not the case in English.

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"- /ʁ/. Again, this not the case of the /r/ in English.
The back of your tongue should not rise and make contact
with any part of the roof of your mouth. Keep the back of your tongue relaxed and curl only the front.

If your first language is an Asian language such as Japanese or Korean, there may not be any sound even close to the English /r/.
Or you may have a sound that is somewhere between /r/ and /l/.

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.

Consonant Group /pr/

English has consonant groups. A consonant group is two or more consonants which are pronounced together.
Examples of some consonnat groups are /pr/ as in "price", / θr / as in three, /cl/ as in "class" ,/kr/ as in crowd,
/sp/ as in "sport" and /kw/ as in "quiet"/. There are more.
Today, we are focussing on /pr/ as in the words "prove" or "problem."

How to Pronounce /pr/

1) Put your lips into the position of /p/. Your lips should be completely closed and slightly spread.
I suggest that use a mirror to check your form. Now try saying /p/.

Exercise: Please listen and repeat:

/p/ ... /p/...

Remember that /p/ in English is often apsirated. This means that we release air, a puff of air, when it is on stressed syllable.
You want to let the air pressure build up and then release the air. /p/...

Now that we know how to pronounce /p/, let's look at the second part of the consonant group- the /r/ sound

2) With your lips closed in the position for /p,/ curl your tongue tip in to the /r/ position .The tip is pointing up and back.
Remember, this is the same position as /ɚ/ as we discussed in podcast 66.

Now the trick is to go from /p/ to /r/ smoothly. You want to go from one sound to another directly.
There should be no small vowel in between.

Pronunciation Tip:

I recommend that you begin curling your tongue as soon as your lips begin to close. Set your tongue into position right away.
Your tongue starts curling as you're articulating /p/.
Let's begin by practicing a simple combination /pra/. Remember it's not /ɽa/ or /prʁ/... it's /pra/

Exercise: Listen and repeat /pra/:

/pra/ ... /pra/ ...

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words containing /pr/, paying careful attention to your form:

promise... price... approve... problem... appropriate... pronunciation

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

1.Name your price. (I'll pay whatever you want)

2. Practice what you preach . (do what you tell others to do)

3. No problem !

Mastering the consonant group /pr/ 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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