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Speech tip: Why is the English /r/ so difficult?

The /r/ sound, as we say it in English, is unlike /r/ in most other languages.  Many languages do have some version of the /r/, but we can easily hear how different the English /r/ sounds.  

In some languages, like Spanish and Italian, it is the tongue tip vibrating on the gum just behind the upper teeth. This is very unlike the /r/ in English.

In languages like French and Hebrew, it’s the back of the tongue touching (or almost touching) the soft palate (the back part of the roof of your mouth.) Here, too, the sound is very different from the /r/ in English. In English, there should be no contact of the back part of the tongue.

Here is the secret to mastering /r/ in English. You should not feel any contact of the tongue with the front, top, or back of your mouth. There is no vibrating noise for the /r/ in English.

We need two positions of the mouth to make the /r/ correctly in English. These positions are shaped at the same time.

The tongue tip curls upward and towards the back of the mouth, but without touching.  The tongue SHAPES the sound, but the tongue itself does not make any noise.  Think:  tongue tip back!

The second thing to remember is that the lips form a square shape, protruding slightly.  Think: lips forward.  Together, think: Tongue tip back.  Lips forward.

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