If you’re working on your American English accent you KNOW how tough the R sound can be! In this accent training lesson you’ll master the R sound, partly by contrasting with the L sound. The subtleties of accent training can seem infinite! But don’t worry, I’ve been teaching accent training for many years and this video will really help you nail that R sound and make you feel more confident and smooth while speaking English.
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The American R is a truly unique sound, and one of the hardest sounds for non-native speakers to get. But also, mastering the American R is one of the best things you can do to sound natural speaking English. You just need to learn the basics of the mouth position and train the sound over and over. Your ear will get it. Today, we’re learning about the sound, we’re training with up close, slow motion footage of a TON of R-words, and we’re comparing it with L, a sound that some language groups mix up with R. Be sure to download my Sounds of American English cheat sheet, it’s free, it’s an illustrated reference guide for you for the sounds of American English, including the phonetic symbols you need to know. Link here and in the video description.
To start, let’s take the word ‘race’. It’s a beginning R, look at how much lips round for this. I mean, they almost completely close! So there’s a lot of lip rounding for a beginning R. Right now, round your lips and try to match this sound. I’m going to hold it out. You hold it out as well, as long as you can. Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
It helps to approach learning a sound two ways: first, just try to match the sound with your ears. Second, think about the mouth position and try to do it. This is what my tongue looks like on the inside my mouth. The tip has pulled back and up a little bit. Some people make it by flipping the tip up instead of pulling the tip up a little bit. They might get a sound that sounds pretty good, but also sometimes they get a sound that sounds kind of hollow, rrrr,rrr. We want rrrr, a more focused sound. See that my jaw hardly drops for this sound. Rrrr. If you’re dropping your jaw a lot, rrr, that’s a sign it’s not the right sound. A lot of my students make this sound as a flap, [flap]. If they’re from India, if their native language is Spanish or Arabic. That’s not a sound you can hold out, [flap]. But the American R, you can hold out, rrrr. And actually, you should hold it out when practicing it and finding it. That does really help.
Now we’ll look at a couple of words, up close and in slow motion, where the R is not the first sound. The lips round less, so you get to see inside the mouth a little bit more. And I want to take a quick second to shout out this member of my Rachel’s Superstars in my YouTube membership. He has been asking for more of this zoomed up footage for years, so yungwest00, this one’s for you. By the way, do you see this pink badge next to his name? That means he’s one of my supporting members here on YouTube, click join to learn more, but my Rachel’s Circle and Rachel’s Superstars supporters help make this channel possible, get badges to make their comments stand out, and the top level gets exclusive audio lessons each month. So huge thanks to you guys again, and click join on Youtube to learn more.
This is the word ‘anchor’. Ends with schwa-R. See how my tongue tip pulls back and up. See how my lips are still flared, but they don’t come into the tight circle that they do for a beginning R. This lip position is more relaxed.
This is the word ‘branch’. My lips have just parted for the B, and now you’re seeing the R. This is the underside of my tongue because the tip is pulled back and up. There is so much jaw drop because I’m moving into the position for the AA vowel. You’ll see my tongue tip come forward again for that vowel.
So for the R, tongue tip pulls back and up, but it’s still in the front half of the mouth. The lips flare, and if it’s a beginning R, they really do make a tight circle.
L, on the other hand, is very different. And it really looks different too. We just saw ‘branch’. Now this is ‘blanch’. You probably know branch, like the branch on a tree. The word ‘blanch’ is used in cooking. It’s when you cook something for a short time and then try to cool it down quickly so it stops cooking. Like with vegetables, you cook them in boiling water for a period, then you put them into ice water. Blanch. The L. The lips are totally relaxed, and the tongue tip is at the roof of the mouth. What you’re seeing here of the tongue is still the underside of the tongue. But you can tell the tip of the tongue is behind my front top front teeth. Not further back like it is for for the R. This is an illustration of what the tongue looks like in the mouth. This is the Light L. We actually have two different positions that you’ll see natives do for this, the other one, the tongue tip comes through the teeth so it looks like the TH, llll, and the tongue tip presses up on the front teeth here, LLLllike. We’re going to watch a whole bunch of words comparing R and L, in various places in the word, so you might see both positions. Tongue tip behind the teeth, LLL, and tongue tip coming out of a teeth, LLL. To be honest, I have no idea which one I’m doing most of the time. It’s just not something I think about, just like you don’t think about making the sounds of your native language.
So, comparing BRANCH and BLANCH, comparing the R and the L. We saw how the ending R is different from the beginning R and that the lips are more relaxed. An L at the beginning of a word is also different from the L at the end of a word. To get all the details, check out this complete video on the L. Just know that the first one is a light L, that’s the one we’ve studied already here. The one at the end of a work is a dark L, and that has a dark sound we make at the back of the tongue pressing down and back a bit, uul, uhl. So for this dark sound, you don’t need your tongue tip. It usually just stays down, Uul, uhl. And that’s crazy for my students. They are so used to thinking L, lift tongue tip. But not for the Dark L.
It’s harder to see the tongue position for the Dark L because the part of the tongue making the sound is at the back but let’s take a look at the word ‘candle’. Ends in an L, that’s a dark L. I’m going to take you through the D sound and we’ll pause it. Ok, here’s the D, and the next sound is the Dark L. Behind the teeth, right here, you’ll see the tongue tip come down. It’s not up for the Dark L.
Candle, llll, llll, Dark L made with the tongue tip down. Back of the tongue doing the work
Ok, so you’ve learned about the position, now we’ll study up close in slow motion. I’m going to be saying the word, you say it with me. Tr it out. At first, there will be a bunch of minimal pairs, R vs. L like branch, blanch. Then there’s a list of several tricky words with an R and an L. Each time, you’ll hear and see it first in slow motion, then at regular pace.
Folks, we went deep on R and R vs. L. I love to be thorough in my teaching. If you think you want to learn more about the American accent and train your American voice, check out my collection of online courses to help you reach your spoken English goals at RachelsEnglishAcademy.com. Keep your learning going now with this video, and don’t forget to subscribe with notifications on on Youtube and follow my page on Facebook. I love being your English teacher and accent coach. That’s it and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.