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In this easy-to-use video you’ll learn the 5 tips you need to master the American English “R” sound. Did you know that “R” can be a vowel? Is your tongue tip positioned correctly when you make the “R” sound?
AND if you’ve ever been curious what it’s like to be in class, live, with me as a student…in this video you’ll see me work with students, teaching them in real-time about how to make the “R” sound! It’s a peek inside my online school—Rachel’s English Academy—and I hope you’ll check it out!
If you know anyone who could benefit from working on their American English accent this is a great video to SHARE!
Hey Guys – Exciting video here. We’re going to go over my top 5 tips for the R sound, and you’ll get to see me working with real students as I help them live to get the sound.
Today, I’m going to go over the tips I use when I’m working with students. As you’re actually practicing and getting the R, this is what you’ll want to watch. These tips will help you finally get this really tough sound. Won’t that be fabulous to have a perfect sounding American R? You may have already seen my video on the R, how to, a great video with illustrations and up-close, slow motion views of the mouth. I’ll link to that at the end of this video if you want to see it again.
Watching and mastering all 5 of these tips will make your American R sound amazing. Tips 4 and 5 are critical so make sure to watch all the way through. Here we go!
Tip number one: It’s important to know that there are two different ways that native speakers make the R. So, you may have heard or seen information that was conflicting and been confused. No need – they both work to get the right sound. Here they are. I find my students get a better, more accurate R sound when they use this position: middle part of the tongue lifted, tip pulled back slightly. So even though there are two different ways a native speaker might get this sound, I suggest as a non-native speaker that you use this position. You’ll have a more precise sound.
Tip number two: notice that position. The one I want you to use. The tongue tip is pulled back a bit, it’s not touching the front teeth. However, some of my students pull the tongue tip way too far back. That makes it sound like this, rrrr. It sounds like the R is trapped in my mouth. Rrr, we want this sound. Like the R is shooting out of the mouth, not being held back. If the tongue is pulled too far back, the sound gets stuck in the mouth. A good way to work with this is to purposefully pull your tongue really far back. Rrr, pull it as far back as you can. Rrr– Then pull it forward. Touch the back of your teeth, and then pull it back just a bit, rrrr. Rrr, rr. Just a tiny bit. Sometimes doing it wrong, pulling the tongue tip too far back, can help you find what’s right.
If the tongue tip is pulled too far back, it brings extra tension here, rrrr, at the base of the tongue. We don’t want that. Tip more forward, base of tongue relaxed, sound flowing forward. Rrrr–
Watch me working with a student on this sound. Here, we were working on words with the UR vowel, like in ‘Burma’ and ‘internal’. Urrr, urrr– We talk about forward flow.
When we were talking about the UR vowel just then I was talking about really
releasing the throat here and relaxing the base of the tongue.
But I also sense that it could be that when you’re trying to make the R, the tip of your tongue is pulling too far back and that also makes the sound feel trapped.
So, you know, it’s hard to explain. Does the tongue pull back, yes. Is there such thing as too much, yes. So it’s a delicate balance between having it too far forward, and having it too far back.
This is where our tongue, like, meets our, is attached basically. So, if you think of, I’m gonna say lowering a little bit, lowering and relaxing your neck, uh, uh.
Think of there being a little bit of weight there and that might help
open it up and relax it, and let the sound come out, ur.
That sounded really nice, ur.
Good, and the second time wasn’t quite as good. Your lips didn’t come into quite as much of the correct position, but that was better.
That’s the feeling that we always need is the forward flow. We’re never stopping things.
Notice there I mentioned lip position. I said the lips didn’t come into quite as much of the correct position. The correct position is a little bit flared.
Already so much good stuff and there are 3 more tips coming right up.
Tip #3 is: create a little bit of space between your lip and your gum. Rrrr– Right here. Rr– rr– Watch me explain this to a student.
>> Am I doing it right?
Yeah. It’s just creating a little extra space between your gum up here and the back side of the lip. You’re just… It’s not that it’s not touching. It’s still touching, but it’s just, you’re pulling it away a little bit. It’s like a tiny bird beak.
Okay, I think you should probably think about doing with the bottom lip too. So here as well. You’re just creating a little bit more space. So you’re taking this part of your lip, and this part of your lip, and you’re just like pushing it out a little bit.
>> Yeah that was good. That was good.
>> Err, err, err.
>> That was good.
And that’s sounding really clear.
The first ones were a little bit, like, stuck back, but by bringing that part of your lips just a little bit out, it’s bringing the sound forward and it’s sounding a lot more open and free and a lot more accurate.
One thing to be careful about with the flare is the corners of the lips. They should be relaxed. Rrr. Rrr. They come forward just a bit. Rrr, rr. This is what you want for the R vowel. What? The R vowel? Yes, R can be a consonant or a vowel – we’ll get to that in a second. First I want to add, for a beginning R, the lips do round more, they come into a tighter circle: Right, Rachel, Wrong. Rrrrrr– wrong. A beginning R more rounded than a lip flare. Right.
This brings us to Tip #4: R can be a consonant or a vowel. This is surprising to a lot of people, but when you see this vowel sound, this symbol, it’s the R vowel, and there’s no change in sound between it and the R consonant. So this vowel symbol is always followed by the R consonant symbol, and they are not two different sounds. Do not try to make some sort of vowel and then an R. This is a common mistake. This combination of symbols making one sound, urr–, is in a lot of common words like word, first, hurt, world, girl, birthday, bird, and so on. Word, ww, rrr, dd. Three sounds, not four, because the R vowel and consonant are the same. Ww, rr, dd.
Tip #5: the ending ER sound. Just like with the R vowel-consonant combination in tip 4, two sounds here combine, they become just one sound. That is, the schwa and the R. The schwa sounds like this: uh, and the R sounds like this: RR. So, together, you would think they would be uh, rr, uh, rr, uhrr, uhrr. But they’re not. R takes over the schwa and erases it. We call that a syllabic consonant. So it’s just RR. Rrrr– This ending is very common, let’s look at some words: teacher: teach-rr. Just an R sound at the end. Teacher. Brother. Broth-er. Whisper, whisp-rr. Faster, fast-rr. Faster.
Schwa-R endings are always unstressed syllables, so they’re said quickly and simply. This means your lips might not round or flare at all. Brother, er, er, er. Brother. In these quick syllables, you can see a more relaxed lip position. Here, I’m comparing it with the beginning R in the word ‘right’.
Now, you saw me there working with two students and you might wonder, how can I work with Rachel? I need help too! I teach a live class every month for the students in my Academy. I work with three to five students each time on a wide range of topics, and of course, even if you’re not chosen to work live with me, you can come to the online class and ask questions that I can answer. Visit rachelsenglishacademy.com to learn more about signing up for the Academy.
And now, if want to see the video How to Make the R sound, with up close, slow motion shots of the mouth, click here or in the description below. I’ll also add the link to How to make the UR vowel in the video description.
OK, that wraps up my Top 5 tips for the R Sound! Please let me know in the comments which of the 5 tips was the most important for you and how you’ll be using that tip to improve the way you sound. If you hear a difference in the way you’re sounding, please leave me a comment and describe it for me. That helps me as I teach students going forward!
I hope this helps you! Now work on that R, practice that R! That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.