Learn how to pronounce a very challenging word: Girl! Learn how the make the R and the Dark L together. The SHAPE, or intonation, of the voice is very important. It will help you make these sounds naturally.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to go over the pronunciation of the word ‘girl’.
This is a really tough word, and I get a lot of requests for it. Like other difficult words, world, and curl, for example, it’s hard because it has an R followed by a dark L. So let’s go sound by sound and figure out how to say this word.
First, this is a one syllable word and it’s a content word, so it will be stressed and have a vocal shape like this. Uhhh. Try that, just on ‘uh’, uhhh. In this word in particular, because of the Dark L, focusing on the shape of the voice will help your pronunciation. Uh, uh.
We start with the G consonant, gg. Make the G by lifting the back of the tongue to the soft palate, gg, and engage the voice, gg, gg. Girr-. Now we have the UR vowel followed by R. Two symbols in IPA, but just one sound. The R sound. Grr, gr. So it’s just like a GR consonant cluster, like in ‘great’, or ‘grow’. Grr, grr. To move from G to R, the front and back of the tongue move at the same time. The back of the tongue was here and the tip was here for the G: gg. Gr. To make the R we release the back of the tongue, and at the same time we pull the tip of the tongue up. It doesn’t touch anything. If you want to focus on something, focus on the tip of the tongue. Think of it as doing this. So now the middle part touches the roof of the mouth lightly, rrr, rr, back here. And you should be able to hold that sound out, grr.
Let’s practice just those first sounds with the right shape: grrrr. So the pitch of the voice needs to go down. Grr. Ok, now the Dark L. First, how does it fit into the shape? Your voice is coming down in pitch. The Dark L should just fit into that line. It’s also going to come down in pitch. And, because it’s at the end of the curve, some of the energy of the voice is gone. Listen to just the dark L, uhl [3x].
How to make it. The tongue can be in two different positions. It can either come back down, so it’s touching the back of the bottom front teeth. Or, the tongue tip can come up to the roof of the mouth. The middle part is no longer touching the roof of the mouth. It’s also down. The part that really matters is the back of the tongue. It shifts back, uhl, uhl. It’s still low. Uhl, uhl. Because of the back part of the tongue, we get this strange, dark sound, uhl. Does it feel strange? That’s okay. If it’s new to you, it should definitely feel strange. If you only pay attention to the front part of the tongue, what the tip is doing, you can never get the right sound for the Dark L. Focus on the back.
Let’s just try transitioning from the R to the Dark L. Rrrlll. Rrrlll. And now the whole word, but do it slowly. And use your hand, it can’t hurt. Girl, girl, girl.
There it is, you’ve got it. Practice it slowly, with your hand, lots of times. Practice it in sentences. This is a tough word, and you’re going to get really good at it if you practice.
Now let’s look at it up close in and slow motion.
Can you tell that the tongue has started to pull back and up here? It’s not forward.
For the L, I flip my tongue tip to the roof of the mouth. And then back down at the end of the word.
Let’s watch that again.
If there’s a word or phrase you’d like help pronouncing, please put it in the comments below.
Also, I’m very excited to tell you that my book is now on sale. If you liked this video, there’s a lot more to learn about American English pronunciation, and my book will help you step by step. You can get it by clicking here, or in the description below.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.