In this lesson, we will practice advanced vocabulary with tricky spellings that include the letter ‘r’. The first section includes words with silent ‘r’ in which no /r/ sound is pronounced. After the first section, most of the words include an /r/ sound that is pronounced. English Jade subscribers should follow along with the lesson PDF to see the spelling and IPA transcription of each example word.
Pronunciation Note on /r/
The /r/ sound as represented by the letter ‘r’ is a sound that many non-native speakers of English struggle to get right. This is either because /r/ doesn’t exist in speaker’s native language, e.g. Japanese and some dialects of Chinese, or because /r/ is pronounced differently in the speaker’s native language.
To give an example, Spanish speakers of English often mispronounce the /r/ sound. This is because in Spanish the /r/ sound is trilled. When pronouncing a trilled /r/ the tongue rolls against the alveolar ridge multiple times which vibrates the sound of the /r/. A trilled /r/ sounds sexy in English, but in terms of pronunciation it is incorrect.
Another variation in the pronunciation of /r/ is the flapped /r/ which is found in most Scottish dialects and South African English. The flapped /r/ is close to the trilled /r/ in that it is pronounced by making contact with the alveolar ridge. However, the flapped /r/ only makes contact with the ridge once as it glides past it. Here is an example of me speaking the Elvish language with a flapped /r/: ‘“Ennyn Durin Aran Moria.’
And finally, In Standard British English we have what’s called a ‘Standard English R’. In linguistics, it is called the postalveolar approximant. When making this /r/ sound the tongue tip gets very close to the alveolar ridge but it does not vibrate against it. You can still hear vibrations coming from the vocal chords but it is nothing like the strength of vibrations in the trilled /r/ in Spanish.
All that’s rather technical. The best way to get to grips with /r/ is to listen closely and then practice. So here we go!
Practice the Pronunciation of silent /r/
fibre: figs are high in fibre
lustre: the lustre of Royal Worcester
meagre: a meagre diet of gruel
Practice /r/ words with tricky spellings
wraith: the nine ring wraiths
wreak: one day I will wreak my revenge
rhinoceros: God only knows the rhinoceros’ nose
catarrh: phlegm and catarrh, aargh!
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