Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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).

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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!

Advertising

Featured photo credit: AdinaVoicu/Pixabay via pixabay.com

More by this author

Jay Hill

Jay writes about communication and happiness on Lifehack.

30 Ways To Treat Yourself No Matter What Focus On Yourself, Because Most Of The Time No One Really Cares 3 Things To Give Up If You Want To Take Control Of Your Life All You Have to Do to Sleep Better How Social Media Is Making You Feel Bad about Yourself Every Day

Trending in Communication

1 5 Real Relationship Goals You Should Actually Strive Toward 2 When You Learn A Second Language, These 7 Amazing Things Will Happen To You 3 15 Things To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Truly Happy 4 7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language 5 How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

Advertising

1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

Advertising

3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

Advertising

It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

Advertising

Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next