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The "R" sound

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Joined: 30 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 30, 2006 10:06 am    Post subject: The "R" sound Reply with quote

I know that some of what I'm asking has been answered elsewhere, but I'm not sure if the Japanese versions of assistance will quite help for me.

I'm working with a Korean woman who learned a lot of English from television to supplement her English she learned when she was in Korea. As a result, she has phenomenal vocabulary considering she's only really been in the country a few years, and rarely makes mistakes. Her informal communication is like that of a native speaker in writing, and we're mostly just working to overcome nerves so she can speak the way she can write (mostly)....

Here's where the problem is. She can't say the R when it's anywhere not at the beginning of the word. We've tried quite a few things that I found on the web, and nothing quite works. She has NO trouble with L (she taught herself that one). The problem I'm seeing is that in words with a schwa sound the "normal strategy" of sort of flexing your tongue but not hitting the roof of your mouth isn't qute working. I can see she appears to be doing the same thing I'm doing, but somehow the sound that comes out isn't right.

We were able to do a "quick fix cheat" on the word "normal" (which she needs a lot because she teaches statistics) and she's now pronouncing it the Spanish way (as in part of "normales") and she's now understandable. This cheat will not work on other words, and is a little weird for long-term use, so we're trying to figure out other options.

I've been looking everywhere for information on getting Koreans who CAN pronounce an initial R and can pronounce an L to be able to pronounce the R in other parts of the word (particularly in what sounds to me like a schwa sound), and coming up empty.

So, I'm turning to the community here. What would you all try next? If it helps, I've got the "midwestern accent" and am located in the midwest. She, however, came here via Texas (but given she watched a lot of television, which tends to "speak Midwestern" I don't think that has much effect).

Thanks in advance.

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Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 174
Location: USA and/or Korea

PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2006 6:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You should probably take another look at the other 'r' and 'er' threads on this board. The advice will transfer pretty well to a Korean student even if it was originally written for Japanese speakers.

If that doesn't help, then write back again with more questions and I'll be happy to do what I can.

Also, what you're describing is really common. The /l/ and the initial /r/ are often easier for Korean speakers than the intervocalic /r/.

Best of luck,
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