Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The English sounds of L and R

English shares many sounds that are also evident in many other languages. However some languages do not share all the same sounds. Some of the English sounds can seem exotic and hard to pronounce to some. Those whose original language is Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, or one of the other Asian languages often have difficulty with the consonants l and r. Lola runs the railroad to Lollapalooza can be a muddled mess when said by those who struggle with their l's and r's.

The r sound can appear in three places in a word; beginning, middle and end. In British English the r is silent when said at the end or the middle of a word but is pronounced when at the beginning. When an r is at the beginning of a word it is always rhotic (the r sound) as in ruby. In American English the r has a strong rhotic sound in the beginning, middle, and end of a word.

The r sound should not use the tongue. Use the jaw to open your mouth to make the sound. It should begin in the front of the mouth then move to the back while slowly opening. Think of how a dog barks "ruff, ruff, ruff", the r is a gnarling sound that slowly opens. Try imitating the bark of a dog to perfect the r sound. You may feel silly doing this but it can really help you to get your r to sound more natural.

For the L sound try singing using the sound la. Practice it so it comes out naturally. L is a sound that should utilize the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth.

The word gnarl (the g is silent) is a great way to practice using both sounds together. The front of the mouth should open to allow a wide ah sound, which then is slightly closed to make the r, then the tongue rises right at the end to produce the l sound. Try it for yourself out loud.

Once you think you have both sounds down pat, try some sentences that contain both sounds so you can feel the difference between the two and learn to blend them together smoothly and clearly.

Let me have a lick of your lollipop.
The red rover leaped over the hill.
Lola ran the railroad to Lollapalooza.
Rainy days require umbrellas.
Rudolf the red nosed reindeer
Looking through the looking glass.
Rodents lie under rusty roofs.
I like to eat lemon and rhubarb pies.

I hope these help you to pronounce your l's and r's more naturally, don't feel silly when doing them just know that you are making your English better. Go ahead and invent your own examples full of l and r sounds!

Try these tips friends:

Use a mirror when practicing the sounds - it will help ensure your tongue is in the right position and that your mouth is in the right shape.

Record the above sentences when you speak them and then listen back to see where you can improve.