Many people cannot pronounce the "r" in English. It is a common problem that occurs when children learn to speak (adults can also suffer from this problem). In fact, many speech therapists say that the "r" sound is the most difficult to correct. Because this sound is so important in English, learning how to pronounce it correctly can help prevent other speech-related problems.
Part 1 of 3: Understand how R is articulated
Step 1. Understand that the "r" is not an easy sound to learn
It is considered one of the most difficult sounds to articulate in English and is the last sound that native English speakers learn as children.
- Most children start making a sound like "w" instead of "r", for example "wabbit." They can keep talking in this way for many years and it usually fixes automatically without any intervention.
- In most cases, we should be concerned with the correct pronunciation of the "r" before 6 or 7 years. If there are no other speech-related problems or if you do not suffer from social anxiety, it is best to let it take care of itself.
- Age and intelligibility can be key in determining whether a child needs some kind of external intervention for their language skills. If a three-year-old is not intelligible to completely strangers, that may be a sign that there is a problem. However, if a child is intelligible, but has difficulty pronouncing the "r," it may be within the normal range. By second grade, the child should already be able to pronounce the "r".
Step 2. Know the parts of your mouth that are used to pronounce the "r"
There are three main parts that you have to squeeze and move together to make the correct "r" sound; are as follows:
- The lips: To understand how the lips work when you pronounce the "r", ask someone who can pronounce this sound correctly to say the word "rabbit." What does the mouth do when it is pronouncing the "r"? If the person is saying the word correctly, the mouth forms a small circle. The first component to getting a good pronunciation of the "r" is that the lips are forming a circle.
- The tongue: If you can't make the "r" sound, you may have no idea what your tongue is supposed to do while pronouncing this letter. In fact, the tongue makes a small hill or hump in the mouth and sound waves travel through that hill to pronounce the letter correctly.
- The pharynx: this part of the body refers to the throat. The part of the pharynx associated with the sound of the "r" is in the upper part of the throat. In order to pronounce the "r", the pharynx has to be narrower or tighter.
Step 3. Visit a speech and language pathologist
If you or your child have difficulty pronouncing the "r" and the problem does not resolve on its own, the intervention of a pathologist who specializes in these issues can help prevent future problems related to speech, as well as bullying problems. self-confidence and even spelling problems caused by not being able to pronounce the "r" correctly.
The speech and language pathologist will evaluate all elements of your / your child's speech, including your muscle control, articulation, eating habits, and receptive skills (these have to do with how well a person understands spoken language)
Part 2 of 3: Pronounce the "r" sound
Step 1. Pucker your lips
To correctly pronounce the "r", the lips have to form a small "o".
- This is a very important step in making the "r" sound because you will not be able to pronounce it if your mouth is not forming a circle.
- To help someone else learn to pronounce the "r", have them watch you say a word by making a small "o" with your lips.
Step 2. Make your pharynx narrow
This is a movement that most people do without realizing it, so it can be like a learning curve to recognize where the muscles are and how we should move them.
- To practice this move, gargle with water while saying "ah." Your pharynx will narrow in the same place it should narrow when the "r" is pronounced.
- Another way to learn to narrow the pharynx is to gently bite both ends of the tongue with the molars and press the tongue upwards, as if trying to reach the top of these teeth. Say "eee" while doing that movement with your tongue. This is how it feels when the pharynx tightens.
Step 3. Practice saying "car" every day
English words that end in "r" are easier to pronounce than those that begin with this letter or have them in the middle. So start with a word like "car".
Practice daily, even if you don't pronounce it well. If you have a friend or partner who can help you every day, ask them to say the word to you and then repeat it as if you were in front of a mirror. That way, you can see how the sound is produced and then compare it to what you make
Part 3 of 3: Finding the problem and solving it
Step 1. Make your pharynx stronger
If you have difficulty narrowing your pharynx and that does not allow you to pronounce the "r" well, you may have a weak pharynx that needs to be exercised.
One way to make your pharynx stronger is to gargle water every day. Try to articulate the "ah" sound while gargling the back of your throat. This is a movement similar to the one you need to pronounce the "r"
Step 2. Differentiate sounds while looking at your face
If you have trouble differentiating the "r" sound from other similar sounds (for example "l"), you need to ask a friend to pronounce these letters while you are looking at it through a mirror.
Look at your friend's face as he pronounces the different sounds, and then look at your own face when you are trying to pronounce them. See how the position of your lips moves with each sound
Step 3. Consider using a device to help you with positioning
Since the tongue is behind the barrier of the teeth and cannot be seen while trying to get it into the correct position, in some severe cases where there is incorrect positioning, a tactile stimulus may need to be used to help that the person learns how to move the tongue to pronounce a sound correctly.
A speech and language pathologist can help you determine if the positioning device is best for you. Some examples of these devices manufactured by Speech Buddy are available at www.speechbuddy.com
- These techniques can also help native English speakers who are trying to learn to pronounce the difficult "r" in Czech or the infamous "rz" in Polish. While it is true that English does not have these sounds (many people cannot hear the difference), English speakers can learn to mimic the movements of the mouth.
- Consider using an app that gives you the correct pronunciation of the words, and then you can try to play the same sound. "Sounds of Speech" is a highly rated app. Some researchers at the University of Iowa created it and it is now available on the Apple Download Store.