The R-Colored Vowel and How It Can Improve Your Fluency

What’s an R-Colored Vowel?

An R-colored vowel is not a common sound, as it occurs in just about 1% of the world’s languages. American English is one of those languages! R-colored vowels are vowels that are followed by an ‘r’ — pretty simple, right? Not so fast!

The ‘R’ Sound in Other Languages

In some languages, the ‘R’ sound might be different to what we’re used to hearing in American English. For example, the ‘R’ in Portuguese can sometimes make what would be an ‘H’ sound in English. Or, in Japanese, it can make a sound more like an English ‘L.’ Even in Spanish, a language famously known for it’s tricky rolling ‘R,’ can sometimes sound more like a ‘D’ to English speakers.

Mandarin Chinese is also in the 1% of world languages that use the R-colored vowel, a specific ‘R’ sound. Does your native language use this ‘R’ sound? Every language comes with its own set of unique sounds and letters, and that’s what makes them all so special!

Where Can I Learn More About the R-Colored Vowel?

This lesson is brought to us from inside Gabby’s “The English Fluency Formula” E-Book, which is available in an audio and text format (USD $15) as well as an audio-only version (USD $9). You can find the Go Natural English E-Book here!

Gabby wrote this book to help English learners become fluent in English in just 15 minutes per day! This book will help you learn faster, better, and focusing on what you really want to learn, which is speaking and learning for fluent conversational skills.

The E-Book’s chapter on pronunciation has a section dedicated to the ‘R’ sound. If you’re already comfortable speaking and understanding English, you likely know that the ‘R’ sound in American English is very different from other languages (and even other English dialects).

It’s Not an Error, It’s “Errr”!

In a lot of words in English, no matter what the vowel is, that sound becomes “errr.” You form the sound by rounding your lips; your tongue won’t be touching anything, it’s just there, in the middle of your mouth. Try it!

Different words can be confused easily if you are not able to pronounce this sound. For example, the word “hurt” could sound like “hot” and that would surely be a frustrating (and painful) misunderstanding! Here are some more words that use the R-colored vowel sound:

  • Nurse
  • First
  • Turkey
  • Word
  • Dinner
  • World
  • Butter
  • Work

Where Are R-Colored Vowels Used?

People in some regions of the United States pronounce the R-colored vowels more strongly than in other regions. Like with so many other types of words and sounds, what some people pronounce on the West Coast might be different than on the East Coast, in the South, or the Midwest! Here at Go Natural English, we will teach you a standard, or more neutral, version of the R-colored vowels.

Why Are R-Colored Vowels Important?

In Gabby’s video below, she tells us about a time she misunderstood a student, all because of R-colored vowels. Check out her story here to learn more about this sound, and why it is so important to pronounce correctly!

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