Most of us SLPs have a pretty good working knowledge of what it takes to produce an R. We know this stuff, and we're pretty good at teaching it to our students.
We know there's a bunched R and a retroflex R.
We know that you've got to move your tongue.
We know that you shouldn't use your jaw or your lips to make R.
We know that R is HARD.
We teach our students all of these things.
But...sometimes the R they are producing is still just. not. quite. right.
Their tongue is in the right place. They're not using their lips or their jaw. They're motivated. They're TRYING (oh, they're trying so, so hard). But sometimes it still feels like these something we're not seeing that's making these R productions sound more like approximations than the real deal.
AND THERE IS.
In my experience, this is often the last hold-out for a great, rhotic R. Students are doing everything right, but they're not tightening their tongue in the right way to create a sound thats more rhotic and less vowel like.
Try it. Put your tongue in the right position and make the R sound. BUT keep your tongue sort of floppy and don't allow yourself to tighten it. Doesn't it sound like a vowel? It does, because it essentially is. We produce vowels by moving the position of our tongue in the mouth, but unlike with consonant - in a vowel, there is no contact between articulators. While yes, some vowels are "tense" and some are "lax" - no vowels force us to push our tongue against anything at all. No matter the shape or position of our tongue, it's sitting somewhere in the space of the oral cavity and being, comparatively speaking, "lazy".
Okay, fine. So what do I do?
I directly teach the concept of tension to my students.
We actually define the word itself, and then we try to create it.
"Who knows what the word 'tension' means?
Yes, it means tightness!
When something is pulled tight, it has tension.
Let's think of some things that have tension.
In order for us to make a good R sound, we have to create tension in our tongue.
We have to make it tight.
If we don't, it's just sitting in our mouth and it might sound like a vowel.
Our tongue is a muscle! It is actually very strong.
Just like how we can flex our biceps or tighten our fists, we can also make our tongue tight.
This is called tension and we need it to make the R sound."
This is quite literally the script I follow.
How do I get them to create tension in their tongue?
My number one tip for creating tension in the tongue is to have the students create full-body tension. We practice clenching all our muscles and making everything really tight and producing the R in this state.
Then, I fade out full-body tension by having them use their hands to pull up on their chair. This creates tension usually just in the arms and shoulders, but somehow signals the "tightness".
You can find a short video on my Facebook page demonstrating this technique here.
Let me start with how Kiwi Speech got its name. I currently live in Pittsburgh, but it took living in a few different states and countries to get here. One of which (and the one that is truly "home"), was New Zealand. When I was first starting my business, I wanted a name that represented who I was, but was also catchy and kid-friendly. A person from New Zealand is colloquially referred to as a "kiwi", hence, Kiwi Speech was born.
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