The famous "R" consonant !!

Discussion in 'Grammar & Pronunciation' started by Winter, Sep 24, 2004.

  1. Winter

    Winter Member

    When trying to learn a bit of Czech here and there, I have always had difficulty learning the R consonant, with the hook or hacek over it....most language books say it is a combination of R plus ZH !

    Anyways, I think I am getting better at it....I keep the tip of my tongue to the roof of the mouth to get the proper pronunciaton, to the best of my ability.
    Do any of you non-Czechs have this problem? Any info/help ??

    I also read once that this is the last sound for native Czech kids to learn when growing up....they are "taught" to pronounce it correctly.

    It is a unique sound peculiar to Czech only. One book says pronounce an R with friction!

    Any experiences or insights, anyone. This troublesome consonant is found in so many words! :roll:

    Moc dekuju,

  2. hockeygirl_leafs07

    hockeygirl_leafs07 Active Member

    I'm also interested with this "r" with the hacek over.
    Because one of my favourite defenceman is Karel Pilar with the accent over the R, and we Canadian fans cannot figure how to pronounce it.
    During the games, the commentators say Karel "PEEL-LAASH".
    I've also read that young kids in the CR sometimes do exercises to be able to pronounce correctly. I'm not sure if that's true though.
  3. Eva2

    Eva2 Well-Known Member

    Pronounce RRRR...ZH , RRRR...ZH faster and faster until it becomes a continuous sharp sound. Feel the roll of air where the palate meets your upper teeth.
  4. vrba

    vrba Member

    Almost everyone knows the Czech composer Dvorak -- Dvvorrrzak. Maybe if you remember how you pronounce the r with the hacek saying his name it will help. I'm an American in Ohio, brought up with my Czech grandparents and I have no problem pronouncing words with the letter when I remember my grandparents pronunciation; but reading words I'm not familiar with still throw me. You almost have to put more emphasis on the zh than the r. The r is rolled with the tongue at the roof of your mouth but immediately the zh must come across your back teeth almost in your throat. Sounds weird explaining it, but it works for me. The previous post was a good suggestion to keep rolling the r with the zh very fast. If I can think of an English word that has the same sound, I'll repost.
  5. vrba

    vrba Member

    Karel Pilar -- Probably more like Pee-larrzh, or even Peelaash
  6. Halef

    Halef Well-Known Member

    If you need to hear some reference, visit the Locallingo pronounciation page.

    I also had big trouble with this odd consonant, I couldn't say it correctly till the age of eight or so. And I am a native speaker :)
  7. Winter

    Winter Member


    Thanks everyone for your replies....I will keep all the suggestions in mind.
    Also, the R with the hook/hacek can be either voiced or voiceless depending where it is situated in a word!! Just to make it even more "challenging" for us non-Czechs. :roll:

    for example:

    Voiced R with hooked/hacek: rada, rika, reseni

    Voiceless R with hook/hacek: talir, pekar, tri.

    I am led to believe a voiced R sounds like R plus ZH
    and a voicless R sounds like R plus SH.

    After all this difficulty with "Mr. R", I still find it a little fascinating!
    Once I read that native born Czechs are confused as to why foreigners have problems with this R. I guess in English we have our tough sounds too, with the "TH" and the "W". Our "TH" has too different types of pronunciation....the TH in throw is pronounced differently than the TH in rather!

    Any more comments are welcome!

  8. Joss

    Joss Active Member

    Ah the joys of ř

    I agree with much that has been said. My technique for learning how to pronounce was found accidentally. It did not come as a result of hours of endless humiliation in from of my Czech girlfriend but through the Slivovice technique. After an inordinate number of shots I found my speach somewhat slurred and saying the Zh sound like in the word vision in a sloppy way. We've all heard the fake drunk stage comic laughing through his teeth kind of voice.

    After discussing this the following day I started to try to replicate the drunken Zh which is much the same but the tongue allows more air through when the speach muscles are staggering across the pavement of pronunciation. Also you tend to speak with the teeth more closed. For the English that is, 'Tommy Cooper Style ' All she said was now let your tongue roll with it. Bingo my first ř courtesy of the Slivovice School of language. Tommy Coopers Zh with a roll in it! After that it was practice.

    The problem for the english speaking people of the world doesn't seem to be the saying it but that ant hear ř as a single sound' it is always Zh with R or something like that. It has to be pushed out all together, it is not a sound of two parts.

    My girlfriend's mother struggles with 'th and the' beacuse exactly the same reason. She can't hear it as a sound it is just too soft and her tongue sits too flat in the roof of the mouth. To make a th sound the tip of the tongue must sit on the teeth at the front and allow air to pass over. The effects with my dear girlfirend's mother are similar to the sound that Jabba the Hut makes in his final death throws as he is being choked to death in Return of the Jedi.

    Anyway all I can suggest is lubricate the mouth and speach centres of the brain thouroughly with a clear spirit and keep trying!
  9. iluvuma1

    iluvuma1 Well-Known Member

    In teaching my native Czech friend English pronunciation, he is having a horrible time with "th" and "v". I myself had a hysterically funny moment with him over the weekend watching Dirty Dancing with him... (He remembers watching in in CR and learned all the dances/lyrics years ago- even though at the time he had no idea what they meant) He started singing along with "I've had the time of my life" and it got to the part where it says "let your body lose control" The rolled "r" of control just sounded so funny to me I started giggling. But trying to repeat how he said "control" was impossible, so I made a mental note to not laugh when he has trouble with his pronunciation- its a two way street.
  10. Winter

    Winter Member


    who is Tommy Cooper ?? :?:
    I have never heard of him or hear him speak....I am from Canada, so I guess he must be a British celebrity ??

  11. Joss

    Joss Active Member

    Sorry , showing both my nationality and age with the Tommy Cooper thing. English Comedian from 1970's - was very famous here and one of those very distinctive voices that people were copying 20 years later.
  12. ronnisim

    ronnisim Member

    I read recently that many native Czechs will be disappointed if a foreigner pronounces the ř correctly. The article went on to say that there is a segment of the Czech population that never learns to say it correctly, including the President.
    It's like President Bush not being able to say nuclear correctly :lol:
  13. Winter

    Winter Member

    Yes, I agree.....if a "foreigner" (for lack of a better word) speaks a foreign language too well, it is a bit of a put-off to the locals. I don't know why this is.
    Imagine the president of CR not pronouncing this R correctly....that would be like Bush or Blair not being able to pronounce the "th" sound....maybe pronouncing it like a "d" instead! Funny.
  14. ronnisim

    ronnisim Member

    My post may have been a bit unclear, the truth is that President Bush really doesn't pronounce the word "nuclear" correctly. It's correctly pronounced "nu-clee-er, but he says nu-cu-lar. :D
    And Bush is in charge of our nuclear stockpile! :cry: maybe it's not so funny after all.
  15. Harry

    Harry Active Member

    There is an unfortunate speech impediment where one cannot pronounce the R at all and it becomes a W. The Brits may recall our dear Roy Jenkins (Member of Parliament) many years ago who declaimed publicly that "there was a certain rancour in The House" (of Parliament). Naturally, everyone wanted to know which particular wanker he was referring to! Alas we never found out but presumed there were many. Does this impediment have similar consequences in Czech?
    I mean this in a lighthearted vein, please no offence intended.
  16. ronnisim

    ronnisim Member

    I don't know about a similar speech impediment among the Czechs, I'm from the USA, but if I remeber, I'll ask my Czech friend when she gets back on-line.
    Here in the U.S. we have a famous news woman, who has interviewed many powerful world leaders, and has this speech impediment. Her name is Barbra Walters.
    We have a comedy show called "Saturdaynight Live" that years ago had a recurring bit called "Babwa Wawa" in which the comedian spoofing Barbra Walters would have to say many "r'" words, and of course mispronounce them all.
  17. ronnisim

    ronnisim Member

    I forgot to say that I found your post to be hilarious :lol: , with the wanker in the house.
    It reminds me of Monty Python's "Life of Brian", where Caesar had this speech impediment, and he was asking the crowd which prisoner they would like weweased (released). They kept giving him "r" names just to hear him mispronounce them. "wewease bwian!" :lol:
  18. Harry

    Harry Active Member

    Ah, The Life of Bwian; I',m glad to see it's not only us Brits who chance our arm in the name of humour.
    Now this may be the subject of a separate topic but I need to share this particular experience. I was in the Czech Republic last month and happened to be purchasing some items in a local branch of Interspar. Whilst wandering through the store I came upon the book section and was confronted by a promotional gondola full of the latest adventures of one Harry Potter. Whilst I'm not an avid fan I am acquainted with the author and was dumbfounded to see her name writ large as J.K. Rowlingova !!!
    Well, that was me too... rolling over in the aisle!
    I was so non-plussed I forgot to take a digital snap of this priceless gem, but I'm sure someone else can. All was explained to me later over dinner as we mused over the likes of Celine Dionova, Cameron Diazova etc. I just look forward to some celeb called Shirley Falling being publicised in the Republic...
  19. ronnisim

    ronnisim Member

    :lol: Also, Carol Bent, Nadine Push, Mia Back etc.
  20. Halef

    Halef Well-Known Member

    Sometimes it is funny, when the translator makes a mistake such as "Alice Cooperová" or "Dana Ashbrooková" :)

    You can see Czech covers of Harry Potter on Vltava webstore (for example).

    And MPFC is quite popular in the Czech republic, the Czech TV airs them sometimes and they can be seen in club cinemas quite often.
    "Crucifixion?" "Yes." "Good. Out of the door, line on the left, one cross each."

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