We continue our series of videos on the American English Pronunciation. Today, Sean of the American English Academy returns to a hard-to-read English alphabet letter for many non-English speakers: the R sound. In this video, he gives you ideas for exercises to repeat at home, as well as many tips to pronounce sound R correctly. Let’s get started!

How to pronounce the /R/ sound | American English Pronunciation

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How to pronounce the /R/ sound | American English Pronunciation (Video)

How to pronounce the /R/ sound | American English Pronunciation (Transcript)

Hi! Today we’re talking about the “r” sound and this can be one of the most challenging sounds for speakers of any language, but especially Asian languages.  And this sound is slightly different in the British accent compared to the  American accent.

In the American accent our “r” sound involves more a closed clenched mouth, especially when it comes at the end of a word. So let’s go over some examples would be: Run, Rap, Ripe, Roam. These are words with an R at the  beginning and I want you to feel in your mouth as you practice these sounds, the shape of your tongue.

Start to gain an awareness of your tongue and what it is doing on the inside of your mouth. The tongue should be shaped; if you notice my hand, it should be curling on the sides and the sides should be reaching up and touching the area of the gums where your gums meet your teeth. So it’s not quite the roof or the top of your mouth.  It’s more of the sides of the top of your  mouth where your teeth meet your gums. The sides of your tongue are curling up and  touching there. So there’s a real curl and everything is clenched down: R. I say it reminds me of a dog growling “R”. Or maybe when an R is at the beginning of a word it might remind you of a dog barking: “ruff ruff”. So think of that burst of air when a dog is barking and  practice the word: “run run”. So a dog  growling “r” and then a dog barking “run”.

And let’s practice a minimal pair. A minimal pair is just two words that are different by only one sound. In Asian languages, it’s common to mistaken R for an L sound. So we are going to compare “row” with “low”. So with the R sound the sides of the tongue are curling and touching the gum ridge near the teeth, and with the L sound the tongue is coming up, touching right behind the teeth and coming down. So Row and Low, Row and Low.

Ok, so this is a challenging sound but be patient with yourself. There are micro muscles, tiny little muscles in your tongue in your mouth and you need to practice to strengthen those muscles. So it may not be a sound that you immediately get perfect like a native speaker right away. But over time and over practice, repeating these words and recording your  voice and listening to yourself and making those adjustments, you’ll get  closer and closer to the sound of a  native speaker. Now it’s your turn to practice. Thank you for watching!