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The "r" sound
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2004 2:07 am    Post subject: The "r" sound Reply with quote

Hi all,

I was reading this webpage: http://www.aacfs.com/10pronunciationtipsforAsianspeakers.htm from another recent post on another thread in this Forum. Among the other things that were written, was this explanation of how to make an "r" sound.

Quote:

To make the “R” sound, push your tongue back.  Curl the tip of your tongue upwards towards the roof of your mouth but do NOT touch the roof of your mouth.

Round your lips and make sure your upper lip is above your front teeth.


It reminded me of some books I've seen in which the tongue position for the "r" sound is very retroflex, with the tip curled back.

It just so happens that when I make an "r" sound, I don't move the tip of my tongue up. It seems that the tongue position I use is one where the back of the tongue is pressed against the upper back teeth and the tongue is bunched toward the back. It seems the bunching is more important than whether the tongue is pointing up or not.

When I help students make an "r" sound, I have had some luck starting from an /i/ sound, and having them pull back their tongue, keeping it against the top teeth. Another possibility for those who have a trilled r is for them to start with that, and then move their tongue back, keeping it against the upper back teeth, until they lose the trill. For Asian speakers, I stress that no matter how great their "r" starts out, if they let their tongue get loose and touch the top of their palate with it, it will sound like an "l".

So how about the rest of you? I'm curious to know what techniques you use to help students with the "r" sound, and also whether your tongue is pointed up, down, or in the middle. (I speak American English, by the way.)

Here's to sticking your finger in your mouth Twisted Evil
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Duncan Powrie



Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 525

PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2004 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your idea about the /i/ seems really good, Lorikeet! The alternative advice (from the book) would seem to increase the risk of producing an allophone (e.g. as you say, an /l/ kind of sound, in the case of Japanese, and even Chinese speakers!), if not pulling something nastily askew in the squidgy basey bitties of the tongue (sorry to get a bit technical there). Cool
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tarzaninchina



Joined: 07 Nov 2004
Posts: 2
Location: Taiyuan, China

PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2004 10:20 am    Post subject: Like a ... Reply with quote

Tell them to snarl like a dog. Works like a charm, especially considering it's similar to the Chinese word for 'two'.
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2004 6:48 pm    Post subject: Re: Like a ... Reply with quote

tarzaninchina wrote:
Tell them to snarl like a dog. Works like a charm, especially considering it's similar to the Chinese word for 'two'.


Mandarin speakers don't have the problems that Cantonese speakers do. (Their dogs don't snarl "yee" Wink ) Not to mention Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean speakers as well.
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Chow



Joined: 30 Jan 2005
Posts: 3
Location: Cheongju

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 5:36 am    Post subject: way off topic but i'm frustrated . . . . Reply with quote

Does anyone know how to register to post on the other discussion forums. I registered here (obviously) but the other pages won't let me sign in . . . .
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Try this thread:

http://www.eslcafe.com/forums/teacher/viewtopic.php?t=579

You have to register separately for each one.
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Chow



Joined: 30 Jan 2005
Posts: 3
Location: Cheongju

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 3:22 pm    Post subject: Many Thanks Reply with quote

That helped (maybe . . . we'll see if I activated it properly).

The problem was - and remains - that there are no "register" buttons on any of the Korean Job Discussion Forums . . . . I tried dozens and couldn't figure out how to sign up.

Apologies for thread-jacking here, but I was getting pretty frustrated. Thanks for posting the link! Smile
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mrandmrsjohnqsmith



Joined: 23 Feb 2005
Posts: 48
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the ideas posted here and would love to see more. I have always been uncomfortable with the curled up tongue thingy, and would like to know where it started. Sorry if I sound biased. I'd like to know as well if there are any native English speakers out there who pronounce their "r" sounds with the curled tongue. I have a suspicion that it's something unique to ESL/EFL. I also pronounce my "r" sounds with the bunched up tongue. It would be nice if we could get a camera in there.
I teach in Japan, and "r" is one of the most frustrating stumbling blocks for English students here. I find the curled-up tongue gives students a weird, unnatural sound, like Jimi Hendrix's guitar or something, and more importantly it makes them work too hard. I do stick my finger in my mouth a lot, but I usually refrain from opening up to give my student's a dentist's-eye view of the inside of my mouth in the bunched-up tongue position. Maybe I need to get over my modesty, but I think that in most cases, it's appreciated. I go for the 3-D approach; I've used everything from my fist to homemade clay models in my attempts to get my idea across, with varying degrees of success. And I stress, as you pointed out, that the tip of the tongue must not touch anything, lest they make an "l." For me, this is another good reason to avoid pointing it around. Some students struggle, pulling too far back and gagging themselves, or forgetting to shape their lips properly. My private lessons can sound pretty funny. "Aaaarrrrr," "Eeeeeww," "Aaaarraaarrrowwrr." I enjoy it when a student is willing to go into the realm of weird noises with me, in search of the elusive phoneme. I've had other students who got it right away, and said that the "bunching" method was much easier for them than the "curl."
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mrandmrsjohnqsmith



Joined: 23 Feb 2005
Posts: 48
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2005 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Too bad MRI technology is so expensive.
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globaltefl



Joined: 13 Aug 2005
Posts: 7
Location: Chicago, SF Bay Area, Boston

PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2005 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have found the following extremely helpful for the /r/ and /l/ problem:

1. Have the student say 00 as in boot. The lips must be and remain rounded. The tongue will automatically move back in the mouth.
2. Holding that position, have the student say /root/. The tongue will not be able to reach the alveolar ridge and will reflex into the /r/ sound.

Good luck!
Global TEFL
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2005 12:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

globaltefl wrote:
I have found the following extremely helpful for the /r/ and /l/ problem:

1. Have the student say 00 as in boot. The lips must be and remain rounded. The tongue will automatically move back in the mouth.
2. Holding that position, have the student say /root/. The tongue will not be able to reach the alveolar ridge and will reflex into the /r/ sound.

Good luck!
Global TEFL


Hmm. It didn't work for me. I can make an "oo" sound and still have my tongue hit the roof of my mouth to make an "l"ish sound instead of an "r". It will sound like an "l" if any part of the tongue touches the top of the mouth, whether or not it's the alveolar ridge. (Can hit the palate too, I think.)
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globaltefl



Joined: 13 Aug 2005
Posts: 7
Location: Chicago, SF Bay Area, Boston

PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2005 5:40 am    Post subject: r and l Reply with quote

Lorikeet, perhaps your tongue is longer than mine. If I hold the oo sound with lips rounded, there is no way my tongue can hit the palate or my alveolar ridge. Try it with your students and see what happens.

globaltefl
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Architrack



Joined: 04 Dec 2005
Posts: 1
Location: Philippines

PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2005 1:32 pm    Post subject: R problem Reply with quote

Hello to all, im a college student and im 19... and i really need help, i read about tongue positions and im a bit confused Confused . i cant produce a good r, as if when I say the "red", it sounds like "wed". Oh please somebody help me! im desperate! Crying or Very sad ...and my jaw aches because of practicing a good R sound...
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globaltefl



Joined: 13 Aug 2005
Posts: 7
Location: Chicago, SF Bay Area, Boston

PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2005 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi:

Yes, if the tip of your tongue doesn't move up and back it will be a /w/.

Keep saying oo with your lips round and move the tip of your tongue toward the roof of your mouth and don't change it until you are ready to move on to the /e/ sound as in red.

Let me know what happens.

Ron Wink
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that perhaps the acquisition of English /r/ sounds might more naturally follow after the acquisition of sounds that enable it: vowels with lip rounding (not all languages have this, or with the same vowels that English does), /w/, and then /l/ (which in its various manisfestations can be quite phonetically/acoustically similar sounding to /r/).

For examples, if Japanese students are at the stage where they can't produce sounds with very rounded lips, /w/ is a problem, and their own language's /l/or/r/ (a tapped, or flapped, sometimes trilled sound) is systematically confused with English /l/ and /r/ (and sometimes sounds like an English /d/ to an English speaker), are they really ready to start training on English /r/s? So, in other words, I'm arguing for a sequence.

Next, I'm also arguing it's misleading--pedagogically misleading--to teach English /r/ as one sound. Consider its major appearances at the beginning of a word, in the middle of a word, and at the end (in rhotic accents). So compare [r] as in 'run', [r] as in 'correct', and [r] as in 'car' (if you say it, and even if you don't , there might an interesting phonological reason why you don't).

If we stop thinking in unified phonemes (which, I admit, are nice to have for writing systems) we see that phonetically speaking, the /r/ sound is a very confusing one. But in terms of articulation, usually there is that feature of 'retroflexion' of the tongue.

Anyway, I always cover English /l/ sounds first (confusing enough for Japanese learners of English), comparing them with English /d/s.

One does have to wonder how infants can work from multilple examples of incomplete information and work out how to make the sound, but one indicator would be /r/ is , at least in terms of production, often a problem sound for young native speakers. Perhaps in this case, articulation and production doesn't contribute to hearing and perceiving the distinction, or perhaps young native speakers make a place marker substitution, such that their phonology still has a set of /r/ sounds in terms of their function.
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