G.B.C. 17 Pronouncing L and R

This lesson will focus on a very challenging part of English pronunciation, /l/ and /r/. These sounds take time and energy to perfect. If you'd like to study pronunciation more deeply, please try the Pronunciation In Use textbook.


This is our second lesson focusing on pronunciation, and it's about possibly the most common problem point for Asian non-native English speakers. Conquering this will take time and effort, but it means global business communication will be smoother, and you will make a better impression in the GBC test as well as in any other interaction.

Warm Up: 

How do you feel about the L and R sounds? Have you had issues with this in the past?


These are some of the hardest sounds for non-native speakers, and also a key difference between English accents. For instance, in the US, a strong R is preferred, while in the UK, a weaker R is preferred.

  • Americans would say "car", /KAR/
  • British people would say "car", /KAA/

Actually many native English speakers prefer a weak /R/, they say it sounds smoother and more sophisticated. This is good news for non-native English speakers.

We'll look the weak /r/, strong /r/, and /l/:


This is made by putting your tongue up so the tip touches the roof of your mouth near your front teeth. It's a light sound. Try saying this five times:

/La/ is a little light sound.

Strong /r/

This is made by tensing your cheek muscles and keeping your tongue flat (your tongue should not touch the bottom or top of your mouth—similar to the /ee/ sound—but pull it back to make /r/) .

This sound is often found at the start of words, and it's more common in North American English. Try saying this set of words five times. It may take some time to say each work correctly.

Run, ran, red, room, row,

Weak /r/

This sound is often found in the middle or at the end of a word. It's smaller and weaker, and it's not the stress point of the word. Many people make the mistake of stressing /r/ in every word that has the letter r. This is counter-productive because it creates a bad habit of mispronouncing words. Try these words with a variety of weak /r/ sounds.

surprise    /su-P'rais/
perform    /pur-FOrm/
contrast    /KON-trast/
far   /FAar/
bar   /BAar/
fare   /FEer/
bear   /BEer/

Now we will try putting these together.

Say these word sets five times quickly. Your instructor will help with pronunciation

play / pray
lock / rock

That was a very pleasant presentation.

I'd really rather run.


Pronouncing a word in context is more difficult than pronouncing the word by itself. Try answering one of these questions, and pay close attention to how you pronounce /l/ and /r/.

  1. What was an extravagant thing you bought?
  2. What do you think about free trade agreements? What are the pros and cons?
  3. How does entrepreneurship differ in America compared with Japan?