Try this experiment...

Think about how you make an ‘r’ sound when you speak English. Say the word red. Now say it again, slowly. Close your eyes and say it again, slowly, this time really paying attention to the way your tongue moves inside your mouth. Do it one more time with your eyes closed, except this time don’t even make any sound—just do the action. What did you notice?

 

·      Did your tongue tip curl up towards your gum ridge, the roof of your mouth, or your front teeth when you made the ‘r’ sound?

·      Did your tongue tip make contact with your gum ridge, the roof of your mouth, or your front teeth?

·      Did the back of your tongue pull backwards and down?

·      Did the sides of your tongue make contact with your upper side teeth?

·      What overall shape did your tongue feel like it was making on the ‘r’ sound? How would you describe it?

 

Finally, how close do you think your ‘r’ sound—however you make it—is to a native-speaker Amercan English ‘r’ sound? Listen to this clip and compare it directly:

 

audio clip

 

If you think your ‘r’ sound isn’t a match—or even just not quite—listen to the clip again a few times. Listen with your vocal tract. Listen to it silently a few times, seeing if you can mirror the physical action that’s producing the sound, without worrying about the sound itself. (It sounds unlikely, but it’s possible to do this!) Is the action different than what you normally do, even slightly? Using this action, make the sound again yourself. Is it different?