The rolled R is also known as the voiced alveolar rolled consonant and is mainly used to pronounce words in Italian, Spanish or Portuguese. Surprisingly, even people whose mother tongue is these languages have a hard time rolling their Rs, and some never even do. If you are a French speaker, you may never have had to roll your R's (R's don't roll in French) and learning this technique isn't always easy.
Method 1 of 3: Learn to place your tongue correctly
Step 1. Make the right movement with your mouth
The French R is obtained by the movement made between the lower lip and the upper teeth. The sound of the rolled R, on the other hand, is obtained by vibrating the tongue against the back of the top teeth, which is a movement very similar to what you would do when pronouncing a T or a D in French.
- Start by pronouncing the letter R, in French, out loud. Pay attention to the way your mouth moves as you say your R. You will notice that your tongue is not touching the back of your teeth and is simply in the middle of your mouth.
- Now pronounce the letters T and D, in French, out loud. Pay attention to the movement of your mouth as you say T and D. You will notice your tongue touching the back of your upper front teeth, almost as if your tongue wants to push them forward.
- The placement of your tongue when pronouncing T and D in French is the same placement you'll need to master to roll your R's. But in addition to touching the back of your upper front teeth, your tongue will also need to vibrate. It’s this vibration that gives this rolling sound.
- In this step, the important thing is to recognize how your mouth and tongue should move to roll your R's. As you step forward and start to actually roll the R's, remember to place your tongue correctly.
Step 2. Switch from D or T sound to rolled R
To begin with, position your mouth and tongue as you have practiced pronouncing the D and T sounds in French. Your tongue will then rest very lightly on the back of your front teeth. Once your mouth is in this position, breathe only through your mouth. Keep your tongue relaxed, so that it can vibrate against your teeth.
- In this step, the secret is to practice making your tongue vibrate. Keeping your tongue relaxed in your mouth, when you breathe out through your mouth, the flow of air from your lungs should vibrate your tongue. If it doesn't vibrate, your tongue may not be relaxed enough.
- This step, like all others, requires practice. To help you complete this step successfully, you could try pronouncing the sounds associated with the letters D and T in French. As you pronounce the D and T sounds, add Rs to the end of the sound you are producing. This will make the drrr and trrr sounds. As you do this and practice vibrating your tongue, breathe out.
- You could also try to pronounce French words starting with D, T, B or P and which have an R in the second letter (ex: Dracula, train, bronze, pré). By training yourself to pronounce words that contain the sounds D, T, B, P, and R, you are actually practicing rolling your R's, because your tongue is in the correct position then. The key will be to make your tongue vibrate when you say the R, so that it is rolled.
Step 3. Pronounce sentences in French
Pronounce French sentences for which your tongue is in the right position. In addition to the trrr and drrr sounds, some French phrases will help you position your tongue correctly to roll the R's. Say the terms "clumsy" or "patir" and you will notice that your tongue is pushing against the back of your front teeth. This is the position your tongue will need to be placed in to roll the R's.
Step 4. Use the “build up - talk down” method
The French words "Bâtir" and "Médire" are similar to words that begin with D, T, B or P and have an R as the second letter. They also force you to place your tongue against the backs of your front teeth, which is the correct position for rolling the R's.
- To pronounce these two words, your tongue is placed against the back of your front teeth when you pronounce the second syllable of the word, that is, when you pronounce the sounds produced by -tir and -dire.
- You can say just one of these words or both. For example, you could say “build, build, slander, slander, slander” over and over again or any combination of these two words.
- Keep repeating these words, faster and faster. The faster you pronounce these words, the more likely you are to make your tongue vibrate. After a while, the syllables -tir and-say of words should take on the vibrating sound of a rolled R.
Step 5. Practice rolling an isolated R
You should now know how to position your tongue to roll an R. You have also practiced the movement by pronouncing French words that require the same tongue movement. You've probably managed to get your tongue to vibrate against the back of your teeth. Now, based on what you've learned, practice saying just the rolled R.
- Taking that step and getting to roll an R could take you weeks of work. Be patient, it’s not easy.
- The key to this step is to be able to produce a rolled R without needing to add extra letters or utter an entire word.
- Once you manage to roll an R successfully, keep practicing over and over again. It should gradually become natural to you and you shouldn't even think about what your mouth is doing when you roll an R.
Method 2 of 3: Practice with tongue twisters
Step 1. Relax your tongue
To produce the sound of the rolled R, your tongue must be relaxed so that it can vibrate freely as you speak. Because you don't usually need to relax your tongue to speak French, you may need to practice for a while before you can successfully roll your R's.
- Say the syllables tiii-diii-va, to relax your tongue.
- Say these syllables over and over again as quickly as you can. Remember to keep your tongue relaxed and supple in your mouth.
- The tongue is a muscle and you may need some practice before you can naturally relax it enough to roll an R.
Step 2. Practice rolling your R's in Spanish words
Many people, including children, are taught this rhyme to learn the correct pronunciation of the letter R in Spanish, which produces the sound of the rolled R. You can use this phrase to practice rolling your Rs, whatever language you want to learn to make this sound for: "el perro de san Roque no tiene rabo, porque Ramón Ramirez se lo ha robado".
- The French translation for this tongue twister is "San Roque's dog has no tail, because Ramon Ramirez stole it from him."
- In Spanish, the R is not rolled every time. It is when the R is the first letter of a word (ex: "Roque" or "rabo") or when there is a double R in the middle of a word (ex: "perro"). When you repeat this phrase, you should only roll some of your R's.
- When there is only one R in the middle of a Spanish word, it does not curl. The sound produced should actually be similar to the dd sound you would make in French. If you need help pronouncing the simple R correctly, watch this video.
- If that helps, start by saying only the words in which the R is rolled.
- Once you can pronounce these words correctly, try to pronounce the full sentence.
- Repeat this phrase over and over again, a little faster each time. You will need to be able to pronounce all the words, including those in which the R is rolled, without having to think about the fact that you are rolling the Rs.
Step 3. Try a tongue twister in Spanish
You can use the following Spanish tongue twister to practice rolling your Rs, whatever language you are learning: “erre con re cigarro, erre con re barril. Rápido corren los carries, cargados de azúcar del railroad”. Start by saying this sentence slowly. Once you can pronounce that tongue twister, repeat it over and over again, faster.
- In French, this tongue twister would translate as "R with R cigar, R with R barrel, the wagons roll quickly, taking the sugar from the train".
- Alternative version 1: "erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril." Rápido corren los carros, detrás del railroad”.
- Alternative version 2: "erre con erre guitarra, erre con erre barril." Mira que rápido ruedan, las ruedas del railroad”.
- In Spanish, the R is not rolled every time. It is when the R is the first letter of a word (ex: "Roque" or "rabo") or when there is a double R in the middle of a word (ex: "perro"). When you say this tongue twister, you won't have to roll all the R's.
- Remember that when there is only one R, in the middle of a Spanish word, it does not roll up. The sound produced should actually be similar to the dd sound you would make in French. If you need help pronouncing the simple R correctly, watch this video.
- As you say this phrase faster and faster, the sound of the rolled R should come naturally to you.
Step 4. Alternate the tongue twisters
To avoid getting bored and to make sure you don't just roll your R's into one word or phrase, try new tongue twisters regularly. This one tells us about three sad tigers: “very sad tigers tragaban trigo in a trigal in very sad trastos. In very sad trastos tragaban trigo very sad tigers”.
- Alternative version 1: "very sad tigers triscaban trigo in a trigal." A tiger, back tigers, tres tigers trigaban in a trigal. ¿Qué tigre trigaba más? Todos trigaban igual?”.
- Alternative version 2: "in very sad trastos de trigo, very sad tigers comen trigo." Comen trigo, very sad tigers, in very sad trastos de trigo”.
- Again, you should only roll the R when it is the first letter of a word ((ex: "Roque" or "rabo") or when there is a double R in the middle of a word (ex: "perro").
- When there is only one R, in the middle of a Spanish word, it does not roll up. The sound produced should actually be similar to the dd sound you would make in French. If you need help pronouncing the simple R correctly, watch this video.
- As you say that tongue twister faster and faster, you should be able to roll your R's naturally.
Method 3 of 3: Borrow French words and sounds
Step 1. Try the Tiger Method
The Tiger method will help you achieve vibrating your tongue, which is essential for rolling R's. This method is as follows.
- Clear your throat. You should produce a sound like ckh. As you clear your throat, switch from ckh sound to grr sound. The secret is to rock your palate.
- Pronounce the letter L or N and pay attention to how your tongue is positioned at the end of the sound. This point will be your alveolar ridge.
- Place your tongue on your alveolar ridge and say the words "pearl" and "blackbird" without removing your tongue from the ridge. Repeat the throat clearing motion to start the word, then turn the vibration into a rolled R.
Step 2. Use the Raspberry method
To learn how to roll the R's, this method uses the sound produced when you make a farting noise with your tongue. The steps are as follows.
- Start by making a farting noise with your tongue.
- Add your voice to this noise. All you have to do is produce sound with your vocal cords.
- As you produce these sounds, open your jaw as much as possible without stopping the noise you are making with your tongue.
- Once you have loosened your jaw, place your tongue on the alveolar ridge, without changing anything else.
- You should now be rolling an R. If not, keep practicing this method until you can roll an R.
Step 3. Try the Vision Dream Method
For this method, you will need to speak very loudly. To do this, settle down somewhere where you will not disturb anyone. Follow the next steps.
- Take a deep breath.
- Say the word "vision". Make the middle sound (the z) last for about 3 or 4 seconds. As you stretch the sound for 3 or 4 seconds, turn up the volume. The last part of the word (the n) should be very short, but you should still turn up the volume. Your voice volume should now be relatively high.
- Add the word "dream". You should allow less than a second between when you finish saying "vision" and the start of the word "dream". The drastic sound of the word "dream" should be the climax of the sentence.
- When you get to the right sound, relax your tongue and keep it flexible. Since you are now speaking very loudly, your breathing should vibrate your tongue. Let that happen (and keep your tongue relaxed).
- If you can do this, the sound produced should be something like dagadaga.
- You may need to do several tries before you can produce a rolled R.
- The sound of the rolled R is not easy to produce. It might not come to you easily. You will likely need to train several times a day for weeks on end so you can roll your Rs without thinking about it. Be patient and persevere.
- In general, the sound of the rolled R is similar in many languages (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, etc.). The key is to get to roll an isolated R. If you are able to produce this sound properly and isolated from any other sound, you will be able to incorporate it into any language.