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I'm a dutch programmer working in a international team where English is the main language. In my native language I have pretty decent articulation. However, when speaking English I have a lot of trouble using words containing a 'r'. Most of the time I create a 'w' sound instead of pronouncing the 'r'. So words like rabbit will sound like 'wabbit', which makes me feel like I am narrating Tweety in his latest cartoon.

Are the any exercises I can do for better pronouncement of words with a 'r'. Thanks for your help.

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  • Decide which English you want to speak. Pronunciation is not the same everywhere in the English-speaking world.
    – Tristan r
    May 9, 2014 at 21:44
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    It is a bit strange that you, as a Dutchman, should have trouble pronouncing [ɹ], since—as far as I know—the vast majority of Dutch people have this sound natively: it is the r sound found in, for instance, woord, Antwerpen, and in most other cases where you have r + consonant. May 9, 2014 at 22:54
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    @JanusBahsJacquet: The standard accent in the West, yes; the majority, possibly; the vast majority, I would say no. Oh, and ɹ in the coda is indeed in the standard/Western accent; but no accent has it in the onset, so that could add to P. de Raaij's issue. May 10, 2014 at 1:07
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    I advise against listening to Jonathan Ross for rhotic tips.
    – tchrist
    May 10, 2014 at 2:07
  • @Cerb, I thought Leiden had it everywhere? At least I seemed to hear that quite a lot when I was there. I don't think I've ever heard (read: noticed) a Dutch speaker who didn't at least have it in coda before a dental; but then I may just not have heard mostly speakers from the Western areas (plus one from Groningen at least). May 10, 2014 at 7:10

3 Answers 3

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The American English /r/ phoneme is rounded, so there should be some "W" sound.

The problem is likely insufficient retroflexion. Make sure your tonguetip is curled up and back, so that you can touch your hard palate with the bottom of the tonguetip. With your tongue in this position and your lips rounded, say [ə]. In practice, native English speakers don't actually touch anything with their tongue when saying /r/, but the tongue is almost there and that's the position, so you can practice it.

For further phonetics, let me recommend J. C. Catford's helpful little book A Practical Introduction to Phonetics; it's designed for the autodidact and is full of little phonetic experiments you can do.

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    Thanks for your answer. I'm going to take a look at the book you suggested.
    – pderaaij
    May 10, 2014 at 8:46
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You have a case of rhotacism and two methods to correct the issue is described here or google Exercising the Rhotacism in Absence of Pathology

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  • Note for 2016: Link-only answers are now strongly discouraged. This answer gained two upvotes in 2014, but times change.
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 11, 2016 at 7:03
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You would do well to talk to a speech therapist -- I have no idea what exercises there might be. But apparently the r sound as used in most dialects of English is called the "alveolar approximant". If you visit the link for that, you will find that the way r is pronounced in your country's city of Leiden is the way you would probably want to pronounce it in English.

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