Join almost 1 million
monthly
readers!

Contact Me

Coaching and Consultation

Language Hacking League!

Join over 50,000 people to get FREE weekly language hacking tips, cool links, site updates & two free chapters of the Language Hacking Guide!

No Spam. Not ever.

Current Mission:


Meeting up with readers face to face to encourage YOU to learn languages!

Previous post:

Next post:

6 easy ways to roll your R

| 91 comments | Category: learning languages, particular languages

The rolled r comes up in so many languages. I’ve heard it in various forms in Czech, Thai, Hungarian, Tagalog and of course in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. And yet it seems to be something that evades native English speakers.

The laziest of them will just give up entirely and use the bullshit excuse of “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. [Despair]You are over 12 years old and your mouth is formed like concrete on being limited to certain sounds for life – all hope is lost!! [/Despair]

Others will just rely entirely on the English ‘r’ as being good enough, which in my opinion is the worst thing you can do.

I have worked hard on my accents at times, but what strikes me immediately when I start any language (even in my first attempt to utter a phrase) is how natives are so amazed at how I’ve got almost “no English accent”! (Despite clearly being foreign) While there are many factors at play here, I know that the biggest one by far is that I don’t sound like a barking dog like some of my anglophone friends do with their Rs.

The English R is really different, so it gives you away immediately when you use it.

So I want to put a stop to this nonsense of English speakers not trying or even saying they can’t. The good news is that it is way easier than you think!! Here are 5 tips:

(Note that here I’m talking about the “Alveolar flap“, as in the Spanish word “caro”, not the trilled ‘r’ as in Roberto, or the French guttural r).

1. Use some ‘butter’

American and other English speakers may be surprised to hear that many of them can already produce a rolled ‘r’ sound!!

When you say the word “butter” quickly, the ‘tt’ sound is produced by flapping your tongue against the roof of your mouth, rather than a normal ‘t’ sound (like tree). USE THIS.

It may not be precisely the same as a rolled ‘r’ (depending on the language and dialect you are aiming for), but it is mountains more convincing than the English ‘r’ at the end of the same word is.

Try changing one letter at a time from ‘butter’ until you have your target word (e.g. caro) – use this sound and you’re work is pretty much done!

2. Make your l sharper

If you want to sound less like an English speaker, the closest (apart from that above, and perhaps d – see below) sound that you might have to the rolled ‘r’ is actually the letter L. I’d recommend you start with this sound and morph it into a rolled r. If you presume it is some alteration of the English r, you’ll have a hell of a lot of work ahead of you.

In fact, the l sound involves placing the top part of your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth, and the rolled r sound involves flapping just the tip there. The sound difference is obvious, but the transition is easier if you start from one and move to the other, making your l sharper.

Until then, actually using ‘l’ might be a good way of practising deprogramming yourself from the English r. “Es muy calo” is better than the English “Es muy caRo”. It’s obviously not a good permanent solution, but a useful stepping stone.

3. Let’s get physical

Think of what is physically happening for the rolled ‘r’ as I’ve tried to explain above. This can be explained in a physiological way if you look into the positions of the tongue in your mouth and visualise where it has to be and what you have to be doing with it.

4. Youtube / Google that R

There are many useful resources online that help explain this sound to you in simple terms.

This wikihow article tries to explain step by step what to physically do with your mouth, and recommends transitioning from a d rather than an l as I’ve suggested.

The same article also outlines several completely different methods (dR, raspberry etc.) to learn to roll (and trill) your R. Try each of these methods and you are bound to find one that works for you!

You may also find doing a Youtube search for “rolling R” or variants to yield some useful results. Having it explained visually as well as audibly can help a lot.

5. Observe others doing it

Promoters of the silent period insist that it’s a great way to not get distracted by your own accent and start on the right foot. Of course I’m very sceptical of this claim, especially since that “start” could be any time from next year to the next ice age.

Please make mistakes NOW and try to say something – you have plenty of time to tidy it up towards something better, and these mistakes will not be burnt into you forever if you are truly willing to learn.

However, by watching videos and listening to natives produce those sounds you will get a better appreciation for that R sound than you ever would from reading articles written by Irish guys, or drowning out others from speaking with your English R. Pay attention to how it really sounds and then try to emulate it.

6. Get help from a human being!

Could you see this one coming?

The best thing you can do by far is to meet up with a native (or at least over Skype) and ask them nicely to help you with this. Live feedback that is relevant to you and particular problems you are having can do so much more than generic explanations ever can, and it leaves no room for you guessing that maybe you’ve got it.

Even before I got serious about speaking Spanish, one of the first things I did when I had moved to Spain was to have a patient Spanish speaking friend sit down with me and explain to me how to roll my Rs. It was frustrating at first, then I went away to practise, and came back for more adjustments. But that was it!

Thanks to this friend I eliminated the strong English accent from my Spanish immediately. There are of course other aspects of your English accent, but working on them one at a time and especially getting help, will always yield the best results.

Give it a try! Let me know if you were successful, or what approach worked best for you to roll your R in the comments below!

***********************

Enter your email in the top right of the site to subscribe to the Language Hacking League e-mail list for way more tips sent directly to your inbox!

If you enjoyed this post, you will love my TEDx talk! You can get much better details of how I recommend learning a language if you watch it here.

This article was written by

Comments: If you liked this post or have anything to say, please leave a comment! I love reading them :)
Just keep in mind that I’ll delete any rude, trolling, spammy, irrelevant or way off-topic comments. Also, use your REAL name, not a brand or business one, and don’t link to your site in the comments unless it’s relevant to this post.
If you have a general language learning question, please ask it in the forums. Otherwise please use the search tool on the right for any other question not related to this post.

———————————–

  • WC

    It’s funny, I’ve seen a LOT of articles/posts about rolling Rs lately, and I never really stopped to think how different it is than an English R until your post.

    BTW, I think the Japanese R/L is very close to a rolled R. It hits the same spot on the roof of your mouth, but doesn’t do the flutter as much.

    Are there any other languages that use an English R that you know of?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      I see Japanese is included in the wikipedia article I linked to. Good to know for future reference!

      The only other language that uses the english R I know is Portuguese in middle states at the end of syllables. Use in any other way would be obvious signs of a gringo ;)

      • Annette

        The more I study other languages, the more I realize how unusual English really is. Our ‘R’ is a great example of that. It’s funny because English speakers so often think that other languages are strange, but we are in the minority in many ways of how we say things. For example, besides the way we pronounce ‘R’, there are differences in the way we say something like “I’m scared”. In other languages like Italian and German (and I’m told others as well), the literal translation would be “I have fear”.

      • Annette

        The more I study other languages, the more I realize how unusual English really is. Our ‘R’ is a great example of that. It’s funny because English speakers so often think that other languages are strange, but we are in the minority in many ways of how we say things. For example, besides the way we pronounce ‘R’, there are differences in the way we say something like “I’m scared”. In other languages like Italian and German (and I’m told others as well), the literal translation would be “I have fear”.

      • Annette

        The more I study other languages, the more I realize how unusual English really is. Our ‘R’ is a great example of that. It’s funny because English speakers so often think that other languages are strange, but we are in the minority in many ways of how we say things. For example, besides the way we pronounce ‘R’, there are differences in the way we say something like “I’m scared”. In other languages like Italian and German (and I’m told others as well), the literal translation would be “I have fear”.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

          Everything is strange from any given perspective. It’s the same way most Americans I meet seem to be under the impression that they don’t have an accent (in English- compared to me).

          • http://www.towerofconfusion.com Edwin

            Most British think they don’t have any accent either. In fact, most native speakers think only other people have accents.

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

            When logically questioned about it, Americans I have met seem adamant more than anyone else about them having “neutral” English. But yes, everyone feels where they are coming from is the norm.

          • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

            When logically questioned about it, Americans I have met seem adamant more than anyone else about them having “neutral” English. But yes, everyone feels where they are coming from is the norm.

          • http://www.towerofconfusion.com Edwin

            Most British think they don’t have any accent either. In fact, most native speakers think only other people have accents.

          • briannahuber

            A Czech friend of mine was studying abroad at my high school and I asked him if I, as an American from the Pacific Northwest, have an accent. He told me I don’t. He has an accent, so I’m puzzled by how he can tell me I don’t have an accent. I would think he’d have learned British English as a European rather than American English, but perhaps I’m wrong. Do I have what’s considered a “neutral” American accent? As opposed to a Boston, New York, Texan, or Midwestern American accent? I’ve heard Australian people on two occasions say that they think American accents sound cool. So my Czech friend doesn’t hear my accent, but Australian people apparently would? I don’t get it.

    • Wogger

      “Are there any other languages that use an English R that you know of?”

      I know that I’m replying to a three-year-old post, but if by “English R” you mean a retroflex approximant (common in the USA), this is used in several languages, including Mandarin Chinese, Tamil, and some forms of Greek.

      If you mean an alveolar approximant (used in the USA, England, and Australia, as well as some other places), this exists in Vietnamese, in some forms of Greek, and even in a few Spanish dialects where (believe it or not), it can occasionally take the place of “s”, but not “r”!

  • http://twitter.com/Matt_the_baker Matt B

    Great article Benny thanks. The rolling ‘r’ is something I’m currently trying to master. I wonder if one of your users can suggest a good Russian word (something simple preferably) thats good for practising?

    • Goŝka

      Matt B – maybe разоружать, разрушать? I don’t know what word you consider as ‘good’ and ‘simple’, doesn’t it have to be packed with r’s? I’ve found these words with 2 r’s each :). when I learned to roll my R as a child, they made me recite some teRRible poems like czaRna kRowa w kRopki boRdo gRyzła tRawę kRęcąc moRdą ;) (I’m Polish)

    • Goŝka

      Matt B – maybe разоружать, разрушать? I don’t know what word you consider as ‘good’ and ‘simple’, doesn’t it have to be packed with r’s? I’ve found these words with 2 r’s each :). when I learned to roll my R as a child, they made me recite some teRRible poems like czaRna kRowa w kRopki boRdo gRyzła tRawę kRęcąc moRdą ;) (I’m Polish)

    • Goŝka

      Matt B – maybe разоружать, разрушать? I don’t know what word you consider as ‘good’ and ‘simple’, doesn’t it have to be packed with r’s? I’ve found these words with 2 r’s each :). when I learned to roll my R as a child, they made me recite some teRRible poems like czaRna kRowa w kRopki boRdo gRyzła tRawę kRęcąc moRdą ;) (I’m Polish)

  • Jay

    When i was learning Spanish, the “thrilling r” was probably the hardest thing to get used to, but the rolling r also gave me some problems when proceeded/followed by certain letters.
    For example: i found the word “Madrid” very hard to pronounce correctly, because of the proceding d. However i just kept practicing the word and after a while your mouth/tongue gets the feel of it and you don’t even have to think about it. Like driving a car…

    With the thrilling r I still have a bit of a problem when it’s proceeded by an s (e.g. los rostros / muchas ratas), and when i’m trying to speak fast (not letting a pause drop betweep the words). However i noticed that some Spanish speakers actually just drop the ‘s’ there…

    Best advice i can give: just start using it straight away, and keep using it, always trying to pronounce it correctly. Slowly but surely you’ll improve. Most people just give up out of laziness, so with a little effort you can set yourself apart from 95% of other language learners. Within a couple of days/weeks you can make huge improvements.

  • Jay

    When i was learning Spanish, the “thrilling r” was probably the hardest thing to get used to, but the rolling r also gave me some problems when proceeded/followed by certain letters.
    For example: i found the word “Madrid” very hard to pronounce correctly, because of the proceding d. However i just kept practicing the word and after a while your mouth/tongue gets the feel of it and you don’t even have to think about it. Like driving a car…

    With the thrilling r I still have a bit of a problem when it’s proceeded by an s (e.g. los rostros / muchas ratas), and when i’m trying to speak fast (not letting a pause drop betweep the words). However i noticed that some Spanish speakers actually just drop the ‘s’ there…

    Best advice i can give: just start using it straight away, and keep using it, always trying to pronounce it correctly. Slowly but surely you’ll improve. Most people just give up out of laziness, so with a little effort you can set yourself apart from 95% of other language learners. Within a couple of days/weeks you can make huge improvements.

  • Jay

    When i was learning Spanish, the “thrilling r” was probably the hardest thing to get used to, but the rolling r also gave me some problems when proceeded/followed by certain letters.
    For example: i found the word “Madrid” very hard to pronounce correctly, because of the proceding d. However i just kept practicing the word and after a while your mouth/tongue gets the feel of it and you don’t even have to think about it. Like driving a car…

    With the thrilling r I still have a bit of a problem when it’s proceeded by an s (e.g. los rostros / muchas ratas), and when i’m trying to speak fast (not letting a pause drop betweep the words). However i noticed that some Spanish speakers actually just drop the ‘s’ there…

    Best advice i can give: just start using it straight away, and keep using it, always trying to pronounce it correctly. Slowly but surely you’ll improve. Most people just give up out of laziness, so with a little effort you can set yourself apart from 95% of other language learners. Within a couple of days/weeks you can make huge improvements.

  • Jay

    When i was learning Spanish, the “thrilling r” was probably the hardest thing to get used to, but the rolling r also gave me some problems when proceeded/followed by certain letters.
    For example: i found the word “Madrid” very hard to pronounce correctly, because of the proceding d. However i just kept practicing the word and after a while your mouth/tongue gets the feel of it and you don’t even have to think about it. Like driving a car…

    With the thrilling r I still have a bit of a problem when it’s proceeded by an s (e.g. los rostros / muchas ratas), and when i’m trying to speak fast (not letting a pause drop betweep the words). However i noticed that some Spanish speakers actually just drop the ‘s’ there…

    Best advice i can give: just start using it straight away, and keep using it, always trying to pronounce it correctly. Slowly but surely you’ll improve. Most people just give up out of laziness, so with a little effort you can set yourself apart from 95% of other language learners. Within a couple of days/weeks you can make huge improvements.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      As someone pointed out to me when *I* made the mistake in a recent post, it’s ‘trilling’, not ‘thrilling’ :P

      Practice makes perfect – and not giving in to laziness really does separate people from the lazy lumps!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      As someone pointed out to me when *I* made the mistake in a recent post, it’s ‘trilling’, not ‘thrilling’ :P

      Practice makes perfect – and not giving in to laziness really does separate people from the lazy lumps!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      As someone pointed out to me when *I* made the mistake in a recent post, it’s ‘trilling’, not ‘thrilling’ :P

      Practice makes perfect – and not giving in to laziness really does separate people from the lazy lumps!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      As someone pointed out to me when *I* made the mistake in a recent post, it’s ‘trilling’, not ‘thrilling’ :P

      Practice makes perfect – and not giving in to laziness really does separate people from the lazy lumps!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      As someone pointed out to me when *I* made the mistake in a recent post, it’s ‘trilling’, not ‘thrilling’ :P

      Practice makes perfect – and not giving in to laziness really does separate people from the lazy lumps!

      • http://tlllanguagecoach.blogspot.com/ Aaron G Myers

        It feels pretty “thrilling” to me when I sound more native!

    • Annette

      It certainly does take practice to get the rolling ‘R’. I grew up with it because my family is German (Most German speakers use a uvular ‘R’ but some use a trilled one and my family is among those). I used to roll my ‘R’s all the time when I spoke German at home. When I went to school and started speaking only English, I got out of the habit and pretty much lost the ability. I remember starting to try to do it again after many years and I was frustrated and confused that I couldn’t do it! Well, I just kept practicing and it eventually came back. I think our tongues actually have to develop a muscle memory or something and it becomes easier and easier.

  • http://twitter.com/Rumielf Elf

    I’m not able to trill my R’s (my mom can but apparently I missed out on that genetic trait). The only thing that makes me sad about that is I can’t do a neat flute playing technique called “flutter tonguing (sp?)” I can, however, “flip” an R. At least, that was how my Japanese teacher described it when teaching us how to make that R/L sound. It’s enough that I can usually use the same technique when singing in French or Italian.

    Still wish I could “trill” an R. :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Elf, I find it incredible that even when your own mother can do it, you STILL blame genetics!! Didn’t you read this post? There’s no genetics at play here – you’re precisely the confused kind of person I wrote this article for.

      Please stop listing reasons why you can’t or sighing and wishing you could, just go and do it! This post gives direct and links to many other ways that you can do it. Unless you were born without a tongue, there’s no excuse to blame genetics!!!

  • http://twitter.com/Rumielf Elf

    I’m not able to trill my R’s (my mom can but apparently I missed out on that genetic trait). The only thing that makes me sad about that is I can’t do a neat flute playing technique called “flutter tonguing (sp?)” I can, however, “flip” an R. At least, that was how my Japanese teacher described it when teaching us how to make that R/L sound. It’s enough that I can usually use the same technique when singing in French or Italian.

    Still wish I could “trill” an R. :)

    • Hessel

      don’t worry about it. if you can’t do it naturally it just means that you haven’t learned it from your surroundings. which means your dialect doesn’t contain a rolling R. Why even use a letter that no one uses in day to day speak? (except for your mom maybe)

  • Anonymous

    I’m with Benny on this one here. I think it’s all in our heads, because the more I think about it, the harder it is for me to do it. All this talk about rolling our r’s lately has made me self concious about it. When I am talking with someone in Spanish, the more comfortable I am with the conversation, the easier it is to let the words flow out of my mouth. As soon as I think about “perros corriendo sobre la calle,” it all falls apart. Like Nike, Just Do It.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Irish has a different ‘r’ sound, but it’s not rolled. That’s why I needed a native to talk me through it.
    Good for the Welsh though to have the headstart :)

    • http://corcaighist.blogspot.com Anonymous

      According to Wiki Irish also has the alveolar flap.

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

        Well then this will have to be one of those times I disagree with wikipedia. Perhaps some dialect of Irish does have the alveolar flap, but it is not the standard.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Irish has a different ‘r’ sound, but it’s not rolled. That’s why I needed a native to talk me through it.
    Good for the Welsh though to have the headstart :)

  • http://tlllanguagecoach.blogspot.com/ Aaron G Myers

    Thank you for dispelling the myth that “I can’t roll my rrrr’s” And thanks for not just dispelling the myth, but actually giving people some action steps that they can take to figure it out.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      There are no English ‘r’ sounds in Spanish. I’ve only come across them in Portuguese in special cases.

      • Daniel Chacón Navarro

        Here in Costa Rica we pronounce the ‘r’ (the strong one) as in American English, for example the word ‘rosa’ is pronounced almost as in English, however we do pronounce the flapped ‘r’. It also depends on wich part of Costa Rica, in the caribbean is more common, but it also happens in the central valley.

  • Annette

    I would have to say that I feel the opposite to what the people do who I think you are addressing this post to. I feel totally self-conscious and uncomfortable if I’m saying my ‘R’s in the English way. ‘R’ can certainly be a challenge but it’s really worth it to be able to say it as closely as possible to the version that the language you are speaking uses. Even if you aren’t saying it perfectly at first, at least if it doesn’t sound like an English ‘R’, it sounds a bit better somehow. It’s funny how in English, the English ‘R’ is fine but in pretty much any other language it sounds kind of offensive (to my ear it does, anyway). :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Not really funny, or in any way offensive – it’s just a part of the language. Doesn’t belong at all if you aren’t speaking English – the same way a guttural sound (like European Spanish ‘j’) replacing ‘h’ in English could sound offensive I suppose. Depends on the person – but it’s better to try to sound more native.

  • Aubergine

    If you are referring to the alveolar flap I’m not sure that it’s best to call it “rolled”. In my experience at least “rolled” refers more to trilled alveolar sounds than the flap!

    I’ve studied Japanese which contains the alveolar flap, but never once has someone said it’s rolled. That could just be my own experience, I guess? But to me “rolled” seemed to refer to the trilling (rolling the sound over multiple times…)

    When you’ve said Americans have a “rolled r” sound in butter I always thought it kind of weird trying to imagine a trilled “r” in the middle of “butter”.

    The flap, IMO is quite easy for an English speaker when compared with a trill or some of the back-fricatives. All sounds can be learnt, though, it’s not genetic. If you have an “accent” it’ no different to having a speech impediment like a lisp- you just need to train your mouth to function better. The tongue is just a muscle.

    My Phonetics lecturer could make any sound on the IPA flawlessly and by the end of that subject I was pretty damn close, too. In fact the whole class was pretty close- and we didn’t have a special genetic predisposition. We were a bunch of random undergraduates that might exist in any other class.

    • http://corcaighist.blogspot.com Anonymous

      Yup, acording to Wiki it’s the Alveolar trill that is often referred to as a ‘rolled/rolling R’. The Alveolar flap can also be called a tap.

  • Aubergine

    If you are referring to the alveolar flap I’m not sure that it’s best to call it “rolled”. In my experience at least “rolled” refers more to trilled alveolar sounds than the flap!

    I’ve studied Japanese which contains the alveolar flap, but never once has someone said it’s rolled. That could just be my own experience, I guess? But to me “rolled” seemed to refer to the trilling (rolling the sound over multiple times…)

    When you’ve said Americans have a “rolled r” sound in butter I always thought it kind of weird trying to imagine a trilled “r” in the middle of “butter”.

    The flap, IMO is quite easy for an English speaker when compared with a trill or some of the back-fricatives. All sounds can be learnt, though, it’s not genetic. If you have an “accent” it’ no different to having a speech impediment like a lisp- you just need to train your mouth to function better. The tongue is just a muscle.

    My Phonetics lecturer could make any sound on the IPA flawlessly and by the end of that subject I was pretty damn close, too. In fact the whole class was pretty close- and we didn’t have a special genetic predisposition. We were a bunch of random undergraduates that might exist in any other class.

  • y llanw

    My advice would be to listen to Spanish music and videos and try and pronounce the words exactly like the speakers. If it doesn’t sound good, rewind and try again! I taught myself the rr and j this way.

    • http://corcaighist.blogspot.com Anonymous

      As Benny points out above there are two rhotics in Spanish, the flap and the trill.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Agree, that’s been my experience too… except for the “fact that the language existed for millions of years” part…

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    2 minutes! That’s all it takes really :) That’s great :D

  • http://twitter.com/glampacker Natasha C

    I’ve decided to practice saying butter everyday, I’m trying to learn Spanish from my flatmates and have been struggling. This post has inspired my confidence!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Glad to hear it! Best of luck :)

  • Gosxka

    It’s interesting you write about rolling Rs, as I have something to say about it. My native Polish rolls Rs but I coudn’t pronounce it until I was 7, when children are to be able to do it. So I was going to a speech therapist. The one exercise I remember was: put a little piece of stiff paper (similar to playing card’s paper) on the top of the tongue and putting it out a bit, blow so that the paper falls. When doing it properly, after some practice the move of the tongue that appeared, was fluttering/trilling. Because it’s all matter of releasing/relaxing your tongue, so that only the blow makes it moving.
    Of course, I was to practise over and over again some teRRible poems, like aforementioned ‘czaRna kRowa w kRopki boRdo gRyzła tRawę kRęcąc moRdą’ ;).
    I wouldn’t rely on explaination and training from my family for example, they simply said: ‘look, it’s simple, you have to move it like this’, did their Rs… that was stupid. and I was able only to move my tongue up and down… so their courses were frustrating.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      I also got speech therapy and also had trouble with Rs when growing up (the English one). I think I’ll be writing about this in the next post on Thursday.

      Interesting trick!

      • Gosxka

        correction: however the tongue should be behind the teeth. it can also be blowing to a little paper put on the lower lip. after some browsing the net about speech therapy about Polish language, I can see it’s the only exercise which gives effects. other can make you exercise the tongue to make it stronger, but are inadequate in releasing/relaxing it and making it flutter/trill as it is completely different move (it’s similar to Benny’s favourite advice – if you want to Speak, do Speak, not Read;) )

      • Gosxka

        correction: however the tongue should be behind the teeth. it can also be blowing to a little paper put on the lower lip. after some browsing the net about speech therapy about Polish language, I can see it’s the only exercise which gives effects. other can make you exercise the tongue to make it stronger, but are inadequate in releasing/relaxing it and making it flutter/trill as it is completely different move (it’s similar to Benny’s favourite advice – if you want to Speak, do Speak, not Read;) )

      • Gosxka

        correction: however the tongue should be behind the teeth. it can also be blowing to a little paper put on the lower lip. after some browsing the net about speech therapy about Polish language, I can see it’s the only exercise which gives effects. other can make you exercise the tongue to make it stronger, but are inadequate in releasing/relaxing it and making it flutter/trill as it is completely different move (it’s similar to Benny’s favourite advice – if you want to Speak, do Speak, not Read;) )

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Read a recent post about me needing speech therapy when I was young ;)

    For accent modification, I actually recommend people get singing lessons. I did this intensively with Portuguese and it worked so well that I convinced several Brazilians that I was from Rio!

  • http://twitter.com/joshandallo Josh Andallo

    It’s interesting that you say Tagalog has rolling Rs, because I actually don’t hear that, even though our language was indeed influenced by a lot of Spanish.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Not sure what you call what you do with r’s, but that’s definitely rolling to me. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a Spanish influence (the same way having an ‘m’ doesn’t have to be Spanish influence).

  • http://twitter.com/RubyA_79 R.A.

    This is one of the single most useful posts I’ve read. I want to learn Spanish and Dutch, but find that my Rs get in the way (so to speak, hehe). Could you do a post on the Dutch ‘G’? I remember trying to learn this, and was discussing/practising this with someone who then went: ‘You know what? I HHGGGRRGHive up!’

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      The Dutch ‘g’ strikes me as the guttural sound, right? This isn’t THAT hard to emulate for English speakers – but I’m sure there are good guides online explaining it :)

    • Hessel

      you know that sound people make before they spit on the ground?
      like ”GGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHH…. tf!* (sounds really nasty I know)

      but that’s how you make the hard G.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eduardo-Valdéz/100002401823984 Eduardo Valdéz

    Hola amigos, here is my video Tutorial about -Rolling Roll R RR R’s Alveolar Trill Pronunciation-

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9mMvuRGKY8

    Requeterrecontrarica Saludos de México. Y arrrrriba !!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eduardo-Valdéz/100002401823984 Eduardo Valdéz

    Hola amigos, here is my video Tutorial about -Rolling Roll R RR R’s Alveolar Trill Pronunciation-

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9mMvuRGKY8

    Requeterrecontrarica Saludos de México. Y arrrrriba !!!!

  • Slawomir

    Probably comparable to the American-Norwegian accent, hehe.

  • Slawomir

    Probably comparable to the American-Norwegian accent, hehe.

  • Slawomir

    Probably comparable to the American-Norwegian accent, hehe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Firinci-Michael/1322354961 Firinci Michael

    Are you pronouncing “butter” with a British or an American accent?

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      As I said in the article, I’m talking about the American pronunciation of butter.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EUH6BM6RVF5N6OWCAKBXREXXWA Juliann

    Wow,really helpful. Thank you.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Wow, that’s amazing!! Great job :)

  • Chase

    helpful thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sean.w.oleson Sean Wholesome Oleson

    Wow, step two worked for me, on the spot. I was working on the Dutch word “verliezen”, started with rolling my “L”, said, “Lerliezen” a few times and slowly changed it to that V; and now i’ve got it. A little example. Very useful post.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      That’s fantastic! :) Good work!

  • Hessel

    when I hear an American use a ”rolling R” it sounds super FAKE & TRY-HARD. American Anglophones just need to accept that their language doesn’t contain a rolling R. you guys have a ”round R”. don’t try to sound like someone you’re not, it’s super lame!

    • taylorm.c2010@yahoo.com

      Well the whole point of an American learning to use a rolling R is to speak a DIFFERENT language (Or in my case sing in one). That’d be the same as someone who doesn’t speek English trying to learn to use a “round R”. It’s not “super lame”, it’s learning a different language.

  • steinhauershawn

    I am learning a little bit Esperanto just for the sake of it. This language is sorta a Germanic-romance language which uses rolled/trilled “R’s. I can roll my R’s now but I just don’t like doing it cause I think it is the most annoying sound in non-English languages.

  • Colin Bodayle

    Is there an article on the French guttural ‘r’ anyone would recommend?

  • Margaret Swift

    And there have been studies that prove genetics don’t play a role, actually. People rely a lot on ‘studies’ that have been made, when honestly it’s just a crutch that one can disprove with a single counterexample. Most of those ‘studies’ are cases of ‘correlation does NOT equal causation.’

    • Holly Keenan

      I know two people who grew up native speakers of languages that have a trilled R (Russian and Spanish) whose mouths were physically not formed properly to pronounce the trill. They went to intensive speech therapy, and after a year of still not being able to trill, they had surgery to correct the problem. They can now trill their Rs. They had some genetic trait that made their tongue too short, or the hard palette of their mouths not formed properly, I’m not sure which. But because of this trait, they were physically not capable of trilling an R until after surgery.

      I imagine there are probably plenty of English speakers (and other languages) who physically can’t pronounce the trill but don’t even know it because their language doesn’t have a trill.

  • Margaret Swift

    I definitely agree with this article! Genetics seems like a silly excuse, to think about it. I can do a pretty darn good French ‘r’ while the rest of my family cannot; conversely, I’m the only one who can’t do a Spanish ‘rrrrr’ sound (or, also, that ‘machine gun’ sound that some people make). I followed one of your links and I’m already improving–the ‘DRRRRacula’ thing worked best for me. Thanks so much for the help–I’ve been trying FOREVER to get the sound right!

    • Wogger

      ” Genetics seems like a silly excuse, to think about it.”

      Not as silly as you would think.

      Speech therapists, language teachers, and even orthodontists and physicians are often woefully ignorant of PHYSICAL constraints that can make it difficult for people to produce certain sounds.

      Genetic traits such as ankyloglossia, mandibular retrognathism, crowding of the mandibular incisors, and other such physical deformations can make it simply impossible to produce certain consonants.

      With severe ankyloglossia, the tongue simply does not have the proper motility to “loosen up” for an alveolar trill–it may not even be able to reliably contact the alveolar ridge.

      With a significantly retrognathic mandible, the jaw must be rapidly thrusted forward to produce many consonants.

      And with crowded or bent back mandibular incisors, the tongue can be “held back” from rapid movement.

      If someone is having trouble learning a consonant, obviously they first should listen to it and practice, practice, practice. But if they “just can’t” do it, it’s time to take a look into the mouth and consider if something physical (and yes, likely genetically-based) may be creating an undue difficulty.

  • Nancy

    Hi Benny, thanks so much for this article. l’m now living in Italy for 1year and i never knew that i could have problems pronucing the R until i started studying the italian language, many italians don’t understand me especially when i use the R words and it’s difficult cause i never knew that it was because of my english accent.

  • Nicole

    The R has stumped me in French for a decade and now icelandic. The mouth position instructions result in only speaking, barely from the throat in a weird choked way. I’ve had language tutors give up on my pronounciation. What is the problem?! Am I lazy? I would like to hear more about speech therapy techniques.

  • Amet

    this is useful, but i have no trouble with the single r, it’s the trills i can’t seem to get.

  • Eltneg

    I realize that you wrote this three years ago, but I still need to write this: THIS HELPED ME SO MUCH! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

  • Songs Seller

    No actually what is above makes far more sense then what you assume Americans assume.

    Plenty of Americans recognize accents because we have multiple different “state” accents I doubt anyone in America wouldn’t recognize a Texas or spanish-english accent. Actually just about every single state has a identifiable accent, people who think Americans are somehow to stupid to recognize their own accents are idiots. When I go to Boston they proudly use there accent and certainly know they have an accent.

    I don’t think I’ve heard an American say they don’t have an accent you just mistake them recognizing others accents as assuming that they think they don’t have one. If they assumed otherwise there would be no “American English” on the front of dictionaries, in contrast every Spanish country I’ve been to seems to believe they are the dominant and “correct” Spanish speakers. The French mock the accents of French Canadians and will even deny that it’s French. There’s plenty of ignorance elsewhere and America is only a small part of it in the glob as l spectrum.

  • Xavier Vowles

    One way to speak the multiple languages which require the rolled ‘r’ sound is to speak only in lipograms, that is, to simply try to avoid using words that have the rolled ‘r’. Unless the sound is extremely common, of course, where your speech patterns may sound completely bizzare if you avoid using 9/10ths of the most common words.
    Obviously, the methods listed here are better, though.

  • cactusjoe

    A kid in my host family in Nicaragua showed me how the tongue was placed. I also looked on the net. French alos does this. I am please to report that in addition to learnng the subjunctive tense his time, I can now trill my r. Perro is my favourite word

  • Jaime

    People with ankyloglossia or tongue-tie will have a difficult time
    rolling their r’s because of the flesh connecting the underside of their
    tongue and the floor of their mouth. I just had mine surgically removed
    and now I can make the drrrr and trrrr sound. The surgery should have
    been done back when I was an infant but now that I am in my mid-20′s, I
    have to reprogram my brain to make the trill. Thanks to this article, I
    might be able to do so easily.

  • weisefading

    me too, i have an almost perfect accent in whatever language i speak and make all sounds like a native except that rolled r

  • Diane

    Did not help. I have been trying to do this for 40 years, and still cannot. Does a short tongue make it harder? Mine is very short…cannot stick it out of my mouth. :(