Episode Transcript

Hey, it’s Hadar. Today I’m gonna talk about a tricky transition in American English – the flap T and the R as in the word ‘butter’, ‘greater’ and ‘daughter’.

I’m gonna talk about the two sounds: the flap T and the R, and how to put them together in an effortless and accurate way. So, let’s get started.

Let’s first talk about what is the flap T. The flap T is a unique pronunciation of the T when it appears between two vowels in unstressed syllables.

So, for example, if we take the word ‘notice’: if I pronounce it with the true T how people usually perceive the T to be, it’s going to sound like ‘noʊTice’, ‘noʊTice’, where I bring the tip of the tongue up and then I pronounce the T – ‘noTice’.

But in this situation, when the T is between two vowels and the syllable is not stressed, it’s not the primary stress of the word, then the T changes to D – ‘noʊDice’. You may say that it sounds like a D, but notice that it’s not a real D cuz I don’t say ‘noʊDis’, ‘noʊ Dis’. It’s, let’s say, a very very light D – ‘noʊdɪs’.

What the tongue does is it comes up to touch the upper palate and instead of blocking the air and releasing, it kind of gives the upper palate a high-five – ‘noʊdɪs’, ‘noʊdɪs’. You keep the voice going that’s why it sounds to you like a D, but it’s not really a D. It’s [ɾ]. And for those of you who have sharp ears will notice that it actually sounds more like a Spanish soft R, as in the word ‘pero’.

And if you’ve seen my previous videos about the flap T, you know that I’ve used this example. And I think it’s so easy to understand it like that. Listen: ‘pero’, ‘noʊdɪs’, ‘noʊdɪs’.

So it’s the same sound actually. If you don’t have the [ɾ] sound in your language, then don’t worry about it. Just try to make it a very light D. Okay? So that’s the flap T. Again: ‘noʊdɪs’, ‘actividi’, and ˈbɛdi’.

Now, the flap T appears very often before an R, especially at the end of words. Like in ‘water’ and ‘greater’. Now, here what we want to do is instead of bringing the tongue down after the flap T, you want to pull it in immediately for the American R. For the American R, the tongue pulls back and the sides of the tongue touch the sides of the upper teeth.

Now, if this is the first time that you’re learning about the American R, then maybe you don’t need to work on this transition first cuz it’s going to be a little more challenging. What I recommend is for you to go and master the American R first – and you can watch my video about how to pronounce the R – and then come back here and work on this transition. Otherwise, it’s going to be a little too confusing. Okay? But if you know how to pronounce the R or at least you’re working towards it, then this lesson is definitely for you.

So, from the flap T – ‘whadda’, you pull the tongue in rather quickly until the sides of the tongue touch the sides of the teeth. ˈwɔdər’. Your tongue can be up, can be down. I mean, I recommend for you to keep it up because it’s going to be easier, but remember that what really matters when it comes to the R is what the sides of the tongue do. Okay? It’s how they push against the teeth and the curve that you have in your tongue in the back part of your tongue. Okay?

So, remember that there is no vowel between the flap T and the R. ‘water’, ‘d’rr’, ‘d’rr’. It’s not ‘dare’, ‘wadare, greadare’ – there is no ‘e’ sound. Even though you see the letter E, it’s not an ‘e’, it’s a schwa, right, and the schwa is a reduced vowel. And the R actually takes over the schwa sound. So, basically, it’s just a flap T and the R.

Now, let’s practice the transition a bit more: ‘d’rr, d’rr, d’rr’. Remember that when you want to master the transition in words, phrases, sentences, and free speech, you have to train your tongue to do just the transition smoothly and effortlessly.

So, you want to find yourself doing this – ‘d’r, d’r, d’r’ about 30 to 40 times a day until you master it. And if it’s hard for you to make the flap T – ‘r’r, ‘r’r, and then the transition to the R, then start with a D: d’r, d’r. Train your tongue to go through this transition without adding a vowel in between: d’r, d’r, d’r.

So you can start with a D – d’r, d’r, d’r. When it’s rather easy you can start making the D a little lighter – d’r, d’r, d’r. And then start making it like the flap T – ‘r’r, ‘r’r, ‘r’r. Does that make sense? I hope it does! Let’s put it in words.

‘daughter’, ‘daughter’. You’ll notice that once you do this transition over and over again, then in the words, it’s like easy-peasy. ‘daughter’.

Make sure that the first vowel – the vowel before – is longer. Okay? So you give yourself time to kind of prepare for this transition.

‘daughter’, ‘water’, ‘better’, ‘butter’, ‘greater’, ‘smarter’.

I tricked you here. Try it again. Why was that difficult? ‘smarter’. It was a little different than the previous ones because of the R. There was another R, right? ‘smarter’. So, you need to hear transition from the R to the flap T-R. But you can do it, you can do it. Don’t worry.

So, first of all, remind yourself the transition – ‘d’r, d’r, d’r’, and then say the first part of the word: ‘smar, smar, smar-, der, smar-der’.

Now, if it’s hard for you to do the flap T, that really light tap after an R, it’s okay if it sounds like a D. Okay? ‘smar-d’r’. By the way, the flap T appears between two vowels in unstressed syllables, but also between an R and a vowel in unstressed syllables. This is why it’s still a flap T. Technically, this is an R vowel. So this is why it’s still valid the rule.

So, ‘smar-d’r’. Right? It’s okay if it sounds closer to a D – ‘smar-d’r’, but we’re working on the transition between the T and the R – ‘smar-d’r’, ‘d’r’. Okay? Good.

Now, practice this with me. Let’s start.

Betty bought a bit of butter;

“But,” she said, “this butter’s bitter!

If I put it in my batter,

It will make my batter bitter.”

So she bought some better butter,

better than the bitter butter.

And she put it in her batter,

and it made her batter better.

A lot of flap T’s and R’s here. So, good for you! You can do it over and over again. This is an excellent practice for you to master this flap T and R transition.

Now, if you want to download a practice sheet with words with R and then sentences with R with my audio in it, then come on over to my website, click the link below and grab it. It’s totally free, and what I want you to do is to practice it many many times until you make it your own. Because remember – practice makes better. Why better? Because perfect is overrated!

Anyway, once you grab this practice sheet, I want you to practice it quite a few times. And then you will see how it’s easier for you to pronounce this transition and words that you weren’t able to pronounce before, how it’s easier for you to pronounce them smoothly and accurately. Okay?

And once it happens, I want to hear all about it in the comments below this video.

So, have a wonderful week, I will see you next week in the next video.