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PhiNotPi's avatar

How would I learn to be able to roll my R's?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12161 points ) January 19th, 2012

This question is somewhat related to an earlier question regarding the ability to flutter tongue. Now it seems like I am most likely physically capable of flutter tonguing, but I just don’t know how. I have changed the topic to rolling R’s because it is the same motion, but in a context with which more people are familiar.

This question is relatively simple. I can’t roll R’s to save my life. I am not currently in a situation where it is important to be able to do this, but the whole “I don’t know how to do something I should be capable of” idea has annoyed me / temporarily grabbed my attention. So, how could I go about learning this on my own?

Also, I am unable to roll my tongue into a tube shape (also described as a taco shape) or into a clover. I do not know how relevant these abilities are. These are known to be somewhat genetic. Even though the ability to roll R’s may not be genetic, I do not know how much of an effect a lack of these abilities has on the time it takes to learn to roll my R’s.

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26 Answers

Kandy's avatar

Well, I do know that for some people saying “Butter” very quickly for a while will help your tongue get used to the movement. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s worth a shot!

Hain_roo's avatar

I think you have something there with the inability to roll your tongue into a tube. I can, and had no problem with the rolling R’s in Spanish class. My brother, however- cannot do the tube or roll his R’s as much as he tried.

mangeons's avatar

@Hain_roo I can roll my tongue, but not roll my Rs (sadly). So I’m not sure that they are related.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@mangeons I have heard that some people need practice even if they are have the correct genes. Part of it is becoming aware of the muscles in your tongue.

Hain_roo's avatar

My Spanish teacher taught us to say a continuous Ahhhh, and bring the tongue up to the front roof of the mouth to block the Ah and push air through it, so it vibrates. Try it?

PhiNotPi's avatar

@Hain_roo That kind of works to create a vibration, but not really any sort of R sound. I guess that is the point where the instant results end and the weeks of practice take over.

Hain_roo's avatar

@PhiNotPi Worked for me and many classmates.

Hain_roo's avatar

@PhiNotPi Can you do the full roll or the half? Might matter..(not sure)
My brother can half roll (one side)

Jeruba's avatar

Practice. And it does take a certain amount of spit.

It’s a different technique if you want a tonguetip trilled R or one of those throaty Edith Piaf sounds.

PhiNotPi's avatar

@Hain_roo I would also like to ask exactly how the “ahhhh” is pronounced. You may not initially realize it, but there are different ways to pronounce a general ahhh sound with different locations of the jaw and tongue.

Also, what do you define as a full or half roll? Notice I said ”a vibration,” to show that progress was minimal besides just that.

@Jeruba I was looking for the tonguetip rolled R, but if you have any advice for any other type of rolled R, I guess I am also interested.

Hain_roo's avatar

Ahh more like the ohh flike ‘song’.

Hain_roo's avatar

Half roll is when you can only roll half of the tongue over on itself as opposed to making a tube shape with both sides, and my earlier reply was for mangeons. sorry- new to this site!

mangeons's avatar

@Hain_roo I can roll it all the way!

Hain_roo's avatar

@mangeons Did you try what I suggested? Not one time, several times. Ahhh like “aww, poor kitty” w/o the w sound :P

mangeons's avatar

@Hain_roo I did try, and it didn’t do too much haha. I guess it just takes practice!

Sunny2's avatar

To learn, I kind of gargled in the front of my mouth, then practiced rhuh sounds getting the sounds further and further forward. I often can get the rolled r when I sing. But I sing with a group, so if it isn’t perfect, it doesn’t matter too much. Some people can’t do it at all. And I’m getting better and better at it.

Nullo's avatar

Pretend that you’re 5 and must provide the sound effects for a toy truck. Worked for me, though I started learning while I still had Legos, so pretending wasn’t much of a stretch.

JLeslie's avatar

The tongue trills on the front of the roof of your mouth, sort of just behind your teeth, but not touching your teeth, that would be too far forward. Then you breath out to create the vibration. If you google how to trill r you probably get all sorts of links.

Blueroses's avatar

I had a drama speech coach who taught this technique for getting the feel of the rolled R. It can be somewhat messy, so do it over the sink.

Take a small sip of water into your mouth and holding your head slightly tipped back, try to hold the water inside your mouth with the tip of your tongue while you say “ring”, “rather”, “proper”, “drama”, etc.

LostInParadise's avatar

Once you learn how to roll your r sound, the next step is to master trilling. I can roll my r to say the Spanish rojo more or less correctly. I can’t, however, say perro. Anyone have any tips on trilling?

JLeslie's avatar

@LostInParadise I thought roll and trill are used synonomously? What is the difference to you? Some countries pronounce words beginning in r with a trill (which I think is actually considered the “rule”) and some countries don’t. My husband is Mexican and he does not trill the R at the beginning of a word. Spanish single r generally is just short of a d sound, almost, sort of, especially when in the middle of a word. Oy, so hard to explain in writing. Double r is trilled, although in some countries they don’t trill. My ex’s family was from Ecuador, and they didn’t, they pronounced double r more like a soft j sound. Probably considered more of a dialect I guess.

Anyway, one tip is to make sure you have plenty of air in your lungs when speaking a word which contains a trill, because the breathing out is a big part of being able to trill, assuming your tongue is in the right place.

picante's avatar

I, too, cannot trill R’s, and I was a Spanish major in college, so this was a HUGE issue for me. I can roll my tougue into the “taco” shape as described. I’ve tried many techniques (many are mentioned above).

The closest I can get to the proper trilled R is to repeatedly, slowly pronouce “burrito.” I think the shape of the lips/tongue for the deep tone makes something fall into place. And there seems to be more air passing across the tongue while pronouncing “burrito” slowly. But as @LostInParadise points out, I can’t apply this technique to “perro,” which seems to sit much higher in the mouth.

LostInParadise's avatar

@JLeslie , I think you are right. I had thought that a roll was a single trill, which is how I think of the single r sound in Spanish. I did a Google search and found this and this, which agrees with what you said.

JessK's avatar

Try to hold the end of your tongue completely loose but held up onto the tips of your bottom teeth and breathe out as hard as you possibly can.

JLeslie's avatar

@LostInParadise The links were interesting. Honestly, it is really hard to say the letters correctly just from the description though. You have to hear it spoken. Same with the b and v in Spanish, which in some countries sound exactly the same. No matter what they are generally like. Soft b sound where the lips don’t quite meet, while in English the B and V are more distinct. English in general is a language that tends to be more choppy and enunciate every part of a word.

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