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Having trouble with r, and h/ĥ?

by kittykmae, October 19, 2005

Messages: 23

Language: English

kittykmae (User's profile) October 19, 2005, 6:36:08 AM

I'm having loads of fun with Esperanto so far--compared to Latin, and its infinite cases and declensions and conjugations and irregularities, this is--wow.  I knew Esperanto was supposed to be easy, but I never dreamed it could be *this* easy.

The only trouble I'm having is pronouncing some of the letters.  I'm mispronouncing the "r"--I'm not sure how to trill it.  Can anyone help explain this to me?

Also, I can barely hear the difference between "h" and "ĥ."  It sounds to me like there's kind of a puff or cough at the beginning of "ĥ," making it kind of harsher, but my attempt at it doesn't seem to make quite the same sound as the guy speaking the example alphabet.  Is there a better way to think about it?  (The explanation page only mentions the word "loch"--unfortunately, I'm American.)

I would really appreciate any help with these ridulo.gif Thank you very much!

trojo (User's profile) October 19, 2005, 6:31:56 PM

The R in Esperanto sounds a bit like the T in the English words "waiter" or "water" or the D in "invader" or "wading" (American pronunciation). Except that the Esperanto R is an "alveolar tap" and that kind of English T or D is an "alveolar flap", so Esperanto R is a somewhat lighter and quicker tap against the ridge just behind your teeth (i.e. the alveolar ridge).

Make sure though, that you pronounce Esperanto T's and D's as full alveolar stops, like the T in "top" and the D in "dump" respectively, even when they fall between two vowels (inotherwords don't give in to American lazy-speech where for example "waiting" and "wading" sound exactly alike) . As long as your Esperantic pronounciation of aro, ado, ato, and alo are clearly distinct, you are doing fine.

You are also allowed to trill an Esperanto R instead of just tapping (like in those old advertisements "R-r-r-ruffles have R-r-r-ridges"), but having listened to many hours of MP3's on its seems hardly anyone actually does that.

The letter Ĥ doesn't really have a corresponding sound in English (though it did in centuries past). It's formed at the same place in the mouth where you form the letter K, but whereas K is a stop, Ĥ is a "fricative" -- you don't quite close off the flow of air, making a kind of frictiony noise (other fricatives formed at other points in the mouth include S, Ŝ, Z, F, V, etc). Ĥ kinda reminds me of the loogey-hawking sound.

kittykmae (User's profile) October 20, 2005, 7:56:17 PM

Thank you ridulo.gif

I'll have to keep practicing the ĥ, I guess.

boy-o (User's profile) October 30, 2005, 5:10:46 AM

if you have ever heard some Usonulacxo making fun of how german sounds to english speakers by making harsh, throat sounds...thats essentially what the sound is.

Although, as with other living languages, esperanto is changing. The "hx" sound in esperanto is slowly being changed to a "k" sound.  For instance, if you listen to the Jxomart kaj Natasxa song "Valso por Amiko", they say 'kimera' but what is written in the lyrics is hximera.

  I'm making a complete guess on this (though it is an educated guess) but I suppose this trend is being promulgated by the asian esperanto movement for the reason of i am unaware of any asian language that has that sound.  So whenever they learn esperanto, they have to learn that sound in addition to the language.  And for an adult, or even a teenager, learning a new sound is near impossible; our brains have already developed the necessary mechanisms to only distinguish the sounds we hear daily.  So when an asian esperantist speaks, unless they make a special effort to use the correct sound, they pronounce k instead of hx.  Not that they're doing it delibrately, mind you.  Its just natural to take the easy way out in speaking (just like how americans pronounce waiting and wading the same, or how 'Is he busy' sounds like 'Izzybizzy').  And no, i'm not putting a blame on anybody either.  I'm just trying to explain why this trend is occuring.  I say again though, this is a complete guess.

Jhoanna (User's profile) November 23, 2005, 7:14:18 PM

I thought I'd put my two cents in and offer some advice on the pronunciation of these two letters: r and ĥ. 

The letter r is a little difficult to explain in the standpoint of an English speaker because of how Modern English is spoken today; the best way I can describe it is how it is pronounced in a language such as Spanish.  The sound is "trilled," meaning that the tongue touches the back of the teeth, and sounds almost like the letter l (which explains why the Spanish say "arbol" for tree, which came from Latin "arbor", because the sound of their r is so similar to their l).  It may be better described as a cross between the l sound and the American d sound.  Maybe listen to one who speaks Spanish and try to imitate the r sound that you hear.  The r in Esperanto has the same sound as in Spanish. 

As for the letter ĥ, this is a little bit easier for me to explain.  This sound is the same sound as the German "ch" in words like "nicht" or the exclamation "ach!"  This is the sound at the end of the syllable.  I think the reason this sound is hard to pronounce for English speakers is because Esperanto uses the sound at the beginning of syllables.  The only other language I can think of where the ĥ sound occurs at the beginning of a syllable is Greek.  Perhaps practice saying the German words "nicht," "ach!" and any other German word you know that contains "ch" in it because that is the sound you want to reproduce. 

I really hope that this helps at least a little bit.


Franck (User's profile) November 24, 2005, 12:11:43 PM

Dear Jhoanna,

You're right when you explain that the letter "r" is pronounced as in Spanish. I would say that this is the commun pronounciation in esperanto, although the french pronounciation of "r" is also possible.

But your example for the "ĥ" is not correct, for the pronounciation of "nicht" and "ach" (as in "Nacht" (nokto)) in german are not the same, except, perhaps, in some german places where the accent is different. The "ch" in the german "Nacht" is actually the equivalent for the "ĥ". There is no equivalent in esperanto for the german "ch" in "nicht" or in the famous "ich liebe dich", which is as soft and delicate as "Nacht" can sound hard.

The soft sound of "ch" in german occurs when these letters are preceded by the vowel "e", "i", "ä", "ö", "ü".

The hard sound occurs when they are preceded by the vowels "a", "o", "u". This "hard" sound corresponds to the "ĥ".

Please, if any German reads me and disagree, correct my answer !

Anyway, there is no better method to learn pronounciation than listen to and repeat any good example, spoken by good speakers. The technical explanations about how to put the tongue etc is hardly effective.

Be my english not too bad !

Ĝis !

scottish_chic (User's profile) September 14, 2006, 5:15:56 PM

The best way to learn these sounds is to say something with a strong [stereotype] Scottish accent, like Willie out The Simpsons.

Try saying something like 'Ach, the weather is warm and Im stuck beside the loch' (but pronounced 'Auch, the withur iz waurm an Am stuch biside the loch', but with 'ch' pronounced like 'Hx' and strong 'r' sounds.)

However dont ever try it in front of an actual Scottish person lol.

Hope I could help rideto.gif
Caitlín x

el_edu (User's profile) September 14, 2006, 7:32:33 PM

kittykmae:I'll have to keep practicing the ĥ, I guess.
Another idea: Ĥ and K sounds are very similar. K is voiceless velar plosive and Ĥ is voiceless velar fricative. That means that the position of the tongue is the same. Simply try to pronounce a very long KKKKKK... and, maintaining the position of your tongue, blow. The sound is produced by the air passing between the tongue and the soft palate.

Editing... In the wikipedia article you'll find a very useful sound sample. You could even record your own voice and compare.

Good luck! okulumo.gif

RiotNrrd (User's profile) September 15, 2006, 1:58:25 AM

The only other language I can think of where the ĥ sound occurs at the beginning of a syllable is Greek.
The Dutch "g" is pronounced more or less that way, and there are TONS of Dutch words that start with "g". I personally don't speak Dutch, but my mom was from there, so I've heard it spoken quite a bit in my youth.

erinja (User's profile) September 15, 2006, 4:00:58 AM

The only other language I can think of where the ĥ sound occurs at the beginning of a syllable is Greek.
The Dutch "g" is pronounced more or less that way, and there are TONS of Dutch words that start with "g". I personally don't speak Dutch, but my mom was from there, so I've heard it spoken quite a bit in my youth.
Yiddish, Hebrew, and Arabic, too. And I'm assuming many others.

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