How would you describe the pronunciation of r to somebody who speaks English as second language?
The pronunciation of [r] is very difficult for some Asians, especially r in the middle of a word such as " murder". Also Germans pronounce [r] completely different with the forms existing in English, also it's different in many other languages. It's a good idea to teach them with Visual aids and graphical content. Also that would be helpful to teach them the differences that will happen in meaning by wrong pronunciation of [r] in some of the words.
To pronounce [r]:
It's good to tell them
(Edit: American English. Sigh. One day I will learn to read the tags.)
'r' is pronounced in a number of different ways in English. Like 'l' there are two basic forms; a short consonant and a longer, more vowel-like "darker" sound. Consider the differences between the two 'r's in "reader" (and similarly the two 'l's in "little").
That depends on where that person comes from. People from some Asian countries for example can seem incapable of pronouncing r in the way that westerners do, but this is simply because it's considered utterly unsophisticated, not because the sound doesn't exist in their language or because they don't know how to do it.
Just imagine if you were told that r should be pronounced by sticking out the tounge and making a loud noise. I imagine that this is what some Asians feel when someone tries to make them pronounce r in English.
So, describing the sound itself should be easy by just playing a sound file. Explaining that the prononciation does not make you seem like a hairy barbarian screaming RRRRRRRRRRR might be more difficult...
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First, by stating that as with learning English generally, there is not one form of the language that all English speakers speak. You should know of this, even before starting to learn. How you pronounce something in English, depends on which form of it you learn. There are two, major forms: American English and the English of the UK. There are also, other, smaller forms, such as Australian English and South African English.
Pronunciation is greatly influenced by accents. Certain English speakers do not pronounce the language in the same way as others.
This applies to the letter r, as well. There is such a thing as rhotic accents. This means, accents in which the letter r is pronounced more strongly, than in non-rhotic accents. It is often said (incorrectly) that the r is not pronounced at all, in non-rhotic accents. This is not so; it is just pronounced gently and in more nuanced ways. This is usually said by people with strong, rhotic accents, such as Americans. The pronunciation of r, as with the rest of the English language, will depend on if you learn an accent and, if so, which accent.
Once you decide, you should look for resources that teach pronunciation in the form of English, that you have decided. For example, if you decided to learn American English, try listening to American films or television programmes. If you learn another form, look for resources that teach pronunciation in that form of English.
In general, r in rhotic accents will be pronounced strongly. In American English, it is normally pronounced harshly. To describe it to someone, for example, someone learning English, you can say that it is pronounced in American English, as harshly as possible.
In general, r in non-rhotic accents will be pronounced gently. It's like the sound when a dentist tells a patients to open their mouth and say "aah". How gently it is pronounced, depends on the position of the letter r, in a word. The r in heart, would be more gentle than the r in rabbit; for example.