These two consonant sounds can be tricky. The difference is in the tongue position – you have to pull the tongue back and up for the R!
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to go over the difference between the [w] and [ɹ] consonants.
A lot of people have problems with the R consonant sound. So what they’ll do is substitute in a W consonant. We don’t want to do that. How are these two sounds the same? For both of these sounds, the lips will round. Ww, ww, wow. Or, for the R, rr, Rachel, Rachel. The tongue position, however, is quite different. For the W consonant, the tongue tip is down here, and the back part of the tongue stretches up, so the tongue stretches this way. Ww, ww, wow. For the R consonant, the back part of the tongue does stretch up, here towards the middle part of the roof of the mouth. The front part of the tongue pulls back. So, with the W, the tongue is stretching. With the R, the tongue is sort of pulling up into itself. So, the front part of the tongue shouldn’t be touching anything. The middle part of the tongue is raising, it’s lifting here towards the roof of the mouth, and it’s touching either the roof of the mouth, or the insides/bottom of teeth here. Rr, rr. So, for the W, stretch. For the R, pull.
Some students can get a solid beginning R sound, but then still have problems in clusters. For example, the word break, break. This will often sound like ‘bweak, bweak’. So the only issue is the tongue position. You have to take just a little bit more time to make sure your tongue is pulling back and up. You might want to hold out the R as you practice, brrrrrrrreak. And feel the contact here to make sure you know that you’re getting the right tongue position. Here’s a list of the R consonant clusters. And remember, the tongue must pull back and up. Feel that point of contact. Practice slowly.
BR, bread. CR, crash. DR, drop. FR, friend. GR, great. PR, price. SCR, screen. SHR, shred. SPR, spring. STR, street. THR, three. TR, tree.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.