This consonant is probably the hardest sound in American English! You’ll get a better idea of how to make this sound by looking at the tongue position in illustrations and studying up close, slow motion speech.
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In this American English pronunciation video,we’re going to learn how to make the R consonant sound. This is truly one of the hardest sounds in American English.
Before I go into how to make it, I want to talk about how not to make it. In many languages, the R is made by bouncing the front part of the tongue against the roof of the mouth.
In American English, this sound is the T or D between vowels. But it’s quite different from the American R.
Rrrr— You can’t hold out rra– rra–
But you should be able to hold out the American R.
This consonant is voiced. There are two ways to make this sound. In the first way, the front part of the tongue pulls back and up, like this.
The tongue can be stretched so it’s long and skinny. Or it can be pulled into itself so it’s fatter and thicker. And that’s what we want here.
We’re making the tongue fatter and thicker so it’s not as long. The back doesn’t move. This is happening in front. The middle part of the tongue lifts up towards the roof of the mouth.
You can touch the sides of the tongue to the sides of the roof of the mouth here or to the inside or bottom of the side teeth here.
The front part of the tongue is hanging in the middle of the mouth not touching anything.
This sound is forward and focused because of the position of the lips. The corners come in, pushing the lips away from the face.
This lip position will be a little more relaxed when the R comes at the end of the syllable. We’ll compare this way on the left, with the other way to make an R on the right.
The R can also be made by flipping the tongue tip up. The lips flare the same way.
Some native speakers make the R one way, and some, the other.
Native speakers get the correct sound no matter the mouth position.
But I found that non-native speakers often drop the jaw too much in this second method. And it makes the sound hollow. RR–
The jaw doesn’t need to drop very much for this sound. Rr– So keep these in mind as you work on one of these two methods.
Here’s the R sound on its own, not part of a word. You can see the lips flare.
Think of creating a little space on the inside of your lips and your teeth. Notice how little jaw drop there is.
We don’t need to drop the jaw to pull the tongue back and up.
The word ‘rest’.
When the R is at the beginning of a word, we tend to make the lips a tight circle.
Again, little jaw drop as the middle of the tongue lifts to the roof of the mouth. The word ‘proud’.
When R is in a beginning consonant cluster, the lips may not be as tight as in the beginning R. The word ‘mother’, at the end of the syllable,
the lip position for the R is definitely more relaxed than the beginning R.
But the lips still flare. Here, we compare the lip position of the beginning R in ‘rest’ above, to the ending R in ‘mother’ below.
The ending R lip position is much more relaxed.
Thinking about the lip position will help you make a better R sound.
As you work on this consonant, practice very slowly. Thinking about all 3 things at once. Very little jaw drop, the tongue position, and the lip position.
Remember, you can hold out this sound.
So that’s how you want to practice it.
Hold it out for 5 or 10 seconds.
Hold it out as long as you can.
When you practice it in a word, do the same.
The R sound
Example words. Repeat with me.
Read. Rr– Read.
Great. Rr– Great.
Try. Rr– Try.
Later. Rr– Later.
Right. Rr– Right.
Other. Rr– Other.