Pronouncing "R" Sound
I need a little bit of help. My grad class is studying phonetics and I'm having a little trouble understanding something. Why is it difficult for students to form the "r" and "l" sounds at a young age? Ex "Wyan" for "Ryan" or "wittle" for "little"? I understand that some ESL students, esp. Korean and Japanese, have problems because the sound does not exist in their language. But why is it hard for American students to form? What kind of activities do you have the students do in order to help them correct this?
I don't know if this will answer your question, but each sprinig our speech language therapist teacher screens incoming kindergarteners. She asks them to repeat this sentence. I want the yellow lollipop. The first time they do it most kids form the L sound incorrectly. When she takes out a yellow lollipop and tells them they can have it if they listen very carefully and say the words exactly as she says them, the accuracy improves dramatically. Attention to detail and motivation it appears are part of the formula for improving pronounciation.
Thanks, that helps a little. Kids will do anything for candy! I'm still trying to focus more on the actual formation of the word, why kids have trouble with it, exercises to help form it correctly. But thank you!
I think the "r/w" problem is similar to the problems kids have with learning vowel sounds -- they're just so darned similar! the mouth shape is the same, and what changes is the actual mouth and tongue and throat -- the stuff you can't see. To help with "r", you can feel the difference in your throat as you put your hand to your throat. there's more vibration. I might play a game where they're a motor for a car, and they make the rrrrrr sound, then find ways to connect taht to words.
for "l". try getting them to stick out their tongue. The proper formation (I THINK) is with the tongue just touching the top teeth, but after practicing myself, I can't find a way to say an "l" incorrectly when my tongue is stuck out. Maybe also have them touch their top lip with their tongue.
Once kids have proper pronunciation ability, I would work on differentiating -- showing W pics and L pics and getting them to say the right word, for example (even better, you say the word, have them echo you).
I think these are the most common speech impediments, if you call them that. I have one little guy right now that is adorable, but boy-o he's got some wierd formations, and I can't figure them out. when he says "school", for example, it sounds like "skaole". It's only certain words, and I can't find a pattern yet. But he's six, he's understandable, and I'm not gonna worry about it. maybe it'll work itself out.
Keep the advice coming, this is helping!
I teach 2s and 3s so I have a variety of kids that can say the r/w sounds and those that can't. I don't know if it's just because they're developing at different speeds and levels but I would just keep working at it.
The reason little children have a hard time pronouncing English R it requires curling the tongue back. The linguistics term for the R is called a retroflex approximant. Retroflex means the tongue is curled back and approximant means the R sound is between a vowel and a consonant. Both of these things are hard for little children to get.
The L is hard for children to get because the tongue is touching the tongue in a way where part of the tongue is touching the front of the roof of the mouth (the alveolar ridge) and part of it is letting air pass through, either on one side or both sides. It's hard for children not to obstruct air completely.
Another English sound that is often hard for children to pronounce is the TH sound (which involves letting air pass narrowly between the tongue and the upper front teeth, known as an interdental fricative.) They will often replace it with T (thank you --> tank you) or D (that --> dat) or sometimes even F (death --> deaf) for a while.
I wouldn't worry about it so much. Kids pick these sounds up naturally, from you, their classmates, their parents, etc. The reason the R, L, and TH sounds are hard for children to get are because they are the hardest to articulate, but they come with time. Each language has a few sounds that are always the most difficult for native children and foreign speakers to master, and English is no exception. If a child is still have a hard time with those sounds even long after his/her peers have mastered them, only then I would consider referring the child to a speech pathologist.
Hope I was of help!
That is so cool! What did you study to learn all of this? I want to learn more myself!
I'm a Linguistics major. What I was talking about is the study of phonetics, which is a subfield of linguistics. It's the study of how sounds are made, based on where and how they are articulated in the mouth (or in the case of signed languages, how signs are articulated with the hands, face and body.) Here are some other topics you might find interesting.
Phonology - How sounds (or signs) are organized. (For example why vzglyad would never been an English word but is perfectly acceptable in Russian, whereas tink could be an English word even though it's not.)
Morphology - How parts of words have meaning. (For example, why you can take the world plenty and add -ful to make the word plentiful, but you can't add -ful to the word create to make createful.
Discourse - the organization of language above and beyond the sentence. (For example, why your Uncle Frank introduces a story by giving the punchline up front: "Did I tell you that time when I was mistaken for Elvis?")
Syntax - the organization of words to make up phrases. (For example why you can "Fill the glass with water" but you can't say "Put the glass with water.")
Semantics - How different phrasing is used to give meaning beyond the actual words used. (For example "Close the door" versus "It's kind of chilly in here.")
I'm always up for talking linguistics! If you have any more language questions, feel free to send them my way.
I took basic linguistics courses in university, but am thinking I want to go back and take more now. you must be an excellent teacher -- you make it sound wonderfully useful and relevant and interesting, but all I remember is a quirky prof and some very dry classes.
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