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Readers Respond: Learning To Pronounce the Spanish RR

Responses: 34

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From the article: Pronouncing the RR
If you try pronouncing the RR of Spanish like you do in English, not only will you be wrong, you'll also mark yourself as someone who doesn't care about trying to pronounce correctly. Although the RR of Spanish is different than what you're used to, it isn't all that difficult, and millions of native English speakers have mastered it. If you're one of those, please offer your explanation to others so they can learn as well.

Advice from a flautist

As a flute player, I want to add that it requires using more air behind the tongue than people realize. Without that burst of air, you can do the soft R but not the RR nor the slightly trilled single R depending on its position in a word. Keep the tongue way forward in general for Spanish. English speakers talk with the tongue in the back of the mouth, especially Americans. In fact, a more subtle pronunciation issue involves the D's and L's, which actually have the tongue between the teeth to sound authentic. This is particularly true of the L at the end of words. It's called a palatalized L, which is identical to a Russian L, oddly enough. Back to Spanish, I recently studied it but heard my mother speak it fluently to others while growing up. I had an ear for the accent as a result, but have always been fascinated by how we produce sounds in speech, and from teaching flute, have had to learn to articulate how to physically do things I previously did without a thought. I hope my ideas help.
—Guest Tiggerflute

Use some "butter"

I found this is the easiest way to do it. You don't literally need butter; just try to say the word a few times as fast as you can. Eventually, if you do it right (don't open your mouth too much), you will soon be able to roll your R's.
—Guest rrrrrr

Reminds me of my grandmother

My grandmother used to snore while sleeping, uttering the indecipherable sound GRRRR. When I read any Spanish word with the alphabets RR, I think of my grandmother and, voila, I speak the word correctly. Also being Indian, the languages Tamil and Telugu have alphabets with RR. Since I know both languages it is not a problem for me. Practice and practice alone continuously and it will be easy for you.
—Guest K.S.Sundaram

William Tell Overture

I always thought I am short-tongued or just cannot pronounce rr, not just for Spanish and Italian but also Tamil where I came from in southeast Asia. I was looking at this post and everyone's helpful ideas, and i was practicing all of your suggestions but suddenly tried out something else on my own, and i think it is getting me there. Ten minutes later after continuous practicing, it actually got much better. It's the tune from horse racing, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7O91GDWGPU, go to 0:34 seconds, and do "trrtrrtrr-tt-tt" according to the speed of the music. I kept going "trrtrrtrr-tt-tt" over and over again and the "rr" seems better. Try it out!
—Guest Katrina

Cars and guns

Little kids sometimes make these sounds when imitating a machine gun and some do it when making car noises. Just put your tongue on the alveolar ridge (you can Google it; it's behind the teeth) and blow. At first don't worry about only doing it short. Do it long like machine gun. Then just work on controlling it where you only do it for a moment, like 3 trills.
—Guest Josh

Try hard

I tried hard and now I can do it! Try hard (instead of hardly trying).
—Guest Roger

Tea for you

This is helpful advice I had for pronouncing the Spanish r. Say "pot of tea," but rapidly. Close equivalent to "para ti."
—Guest Marge Manke

Not too stiff

I couldn't roll my rr's at all at first. Then I just flicked my tongue when saying "perro" it was an almost roll. I did that and said as many words as I knew with the rr. Eventually I got it. Don't make your tongue too stiff, keep it flat against your top teeth kind of and bend the tip so it's between the bumps on the roof of your mouth and your teeth. Then you practice as often as you can. Keep your tongue relaxed. When it's too stiff, it's much harder to roll your rr's. It'll be hard at first, but you'll notice yourself getting better with time. Good luck!
—Guest RRRR

That sound

All American kids make the "scary" sound. Uhohohohohoooo. That should get you started.
—Guest Andy

Don't smile and try to roll!

If you're at the point where sometimes you can roll your rr's and other times you can't, but cannot figure out why. Here are some things I noticed as I practiced: 1) Certain sounds before and after the rr put your mouth/lips in positions where you can't roll an r. You have to close your mouth! As you get better, you'll be able to get your mouth in the correct position faster and the sounds will merge more. 2) If you're laughing or smiling your lips are turned up and your mouth is open, so you won't be able to roll! 3) Do not make an English r sound, it also puts your mouth in the wrong position. Hope this helps!
—Guest Nicole

Don't give up

I started practicing the RR over a year ago and am still on websites looking for tips. Even so, I'm sure it's simply a matter of practice. Like all walks of life, some people are lucky and some have to work hard!
—Guest J

If I can do it, so can you

I learned Arabic some years ago, and gave up trying to trill the "rr" sound -- I thought I was "genetically" unable as I have some degree of tongue-tie. However, I am so motivated with Spanish that I gave it extra attention. I like the advice someone else gave, try it out somewhere when you aren't going to feel overheard, because there is definitely a need to really expel more air than you are used to, to make the trill. I too used practice words -- "carro," "burro," "corre," "aburrido" and I'm still jotting them doen to practice. It suddenly happened one day when I was in the car, and it's improving every day. I was ecstatic the first time I realized I'd succeeded. Definitely worth it for that natural "high." :)
—Guest sally

How to pronounce your Spanish r's

No need to tape-record examples. Instead, log on to http://www.oddcast.com/home/demos/tts/tts_example.php and feed in the sample sentences. You can even vary the dialects.
—FulhamFC

Sing!

When I was first learning Italian it was REALLY hard to trill the r's . . . but singing along with Berlitz' Rush Hour Italian (they've got it in Spanish, too!) really helped. It was just easier to transfer from song to speech after singing many times.
—Guest PatG

How to pronounce your Spanish r's

Tape-record a native Spanish speaker saying these phrases: Roberto y Enrique paseaban alrededor de la reja. Querian entregar el recado, pero la cosa estaba tan enredada que optaron por esperar una hora más. No estaban enterado de que estaba enterrado el rico que había residido en ese barrio de Roma. Ere on ere cigarro, ere con ere barril, rápido corren los carros cargdos de azúcar del ferrocarril. Listen to the recording over and over and saying the phrases over and over.
—Chanute
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