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How To Pronounce The German “R”

How To Pronounce The German “R”

Are you currently learning to speak German, but struggling to correctly pronounce the consonant “R” sound? Read on for some practical hints for how to pronounce this difficult consonant and speak German with a more authentic-sounding accent.

Why Is It So Difficult For English Speakers To Pronounce The German “R”?

When pronouncing “R” in American English, you will find that your tongue naturally rolls slightly. When speaking German, this will not produce the desired sound. It can be difficult to break out of this habit.

Furthermore, unlike in American English, it is expected that you will pronounce every consonant when speaking German. In particular, consonants coming at the end of words must be crisp and clear. It is not acceptable, as is the case in American English, to soften or drop consonant sounds at the end of words.

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Exercises To Try

So, how can you train yourself to pronounce a German “R” correctly? Try these suggestions:

1. Think of the “R” sound as originating from the back of your throat.

Practice gargling with a mouthful of water and note how the sensation feels. This is approximately what you want to replicate (without the water!) when speaking the hard “R” sound. The sound should be generated from the uvular — the dangling piece of soft tissue at the back of the mouth that triggers a gag reflex in most people when touched. Try not to trill the “R” with your tongue (as you might when speaking other languages such as French or Spanish).

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2. Focus on keeping your tongue and jaw relaxed.

Speak a few words out loud in English containing the letter “R,” and you will notice that you are using many of the muscles around your jaw and mouth. This should not be the case when you speak German. Make an effort to relax the muscles and concentrate on generating sounds from your throat instead.

3. Listen carefully to native speakers.

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The best way to learn is from other people who have already mastered a skill you wish to learn, so in this case your best course of action is to spend time with a native German speaker who is willing to correct you when necessary. Ask them to speak a few words with “R” sounds. Repeat them back and listen to their feedback until your pronunciation improves. If this isn’t possible, the next best option is to find recordings of speakers, play them, and then attempt to imitate them. This may be frustrating at first, but over time you can train your muscles to move in new ways as you speak. Do this exercise with a group of other people who are also trying to learn German and you can offer feedback to one another.

Does It Matter If Your Pronunciation Isn’t Perfect?

As a non-native speaker, it isn’t realistic to expect that you will ever speak German with a perfect German accent! As long as you try your best and your grammar and vocabulary is mostly correct, native speakers will understand what you are trying to say. Another factor to remember is that whilst the throat-based or uvular “R” is considered standard German, pronunciation varies by region and within individuals. For example, in some southern areas such as the Stuttgart region, Germans are more likely to roll their “R”s using their tongues than those who were raised in northern regions such as Hamburg and Berlin.

If you are struggling to master the uvular “R,” using a rolling “R” is an acceptable substitute. Whilst native speakers will appreciate your efforts to speaker their language correctly, you are unlikely to encounter problems in making yourself understood if your “R”s aren’t perfect!

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Featured photo credit: AdinaVoicu/Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Jay Hill

Jay writes about communication and happiness on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on August 4, 2020

The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to master the Gentle Art of Saying No:

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1. Value Your Time

Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”

2. Know Your Priorities

Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?

For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.

3. Practice Saying No

Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.

4. Don’t Apologize

A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.

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5. Stop Being Nice

Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets.

Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.

6. Say No to Your Boss

Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no,” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning.

But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.

7. Pre-Empting

It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting,

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“Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”

8. Get Back to You

Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them:

“After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.”

At least you gave it some consideration.

9. Maybe Later

If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say,

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“This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].”

Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.

10. It’s Not You, It’s Me

This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often, the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time.

Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

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Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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