Rolling your Rs seems impossible until you know how.
... And then it's easy.
When I was studying, most of what I found on the internet was frustrating. A lot of "tips" and "tricks" that didn't help and wasted my time.
But here's the thing:
A rolled R is not an a"Trick"-It is aCapability. Any skill can be learned if you have two things:
- A clear understanding of the goal; (What is a rolled R anyway?)
- A way to break it down into simple steps that are easy to learn.
And that's exactly what we're giving you in this guide: a series of simple steps - each very simple - that will gradually teach you this skill.
It works because it's based on the science of how the R trill actually works.
As a bonus, the awareness you develop as you learn to roll your Rs will help you improve all aspects of your Spanish pronunciation.
For a video version of this guide:
What is a curled R?
Linguists call the rolled R a "trill." It looks like this:
Here's what a trillit is not:
Tongue flapping really, really, really fast!
Instead, a trill of is madePush air past the tongue in such a way that the tongue vibrates.
This is a very important concept. Even if your tongue makes a rat-a-tat sound, it's hardly working — it isrested.
Is that pounding sound coming from your tongue hitting the roof of your mouth?
NO. Tongue flapping is easyinterruptthe sound coming from your vocal cords. Here is the sound of a trill without vocal cord vibration:
Human languages have different types of trills. The rolled R is the most common trill - it's used in Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic and many other languages.
Technically, it's called an "apical-alveolar trill" — because all of the action takes place at the tip ("apex") of the tongue as it approaches the "alveolar ridge" of your mouth.
Can everyone roll their R?
The short answer is:
Sim,Ofcan your R roll!
Assuming your tongue is reasonably normal, you can learn to roll your Rs.
(There is arare medical conditionwhich inhibits tongue mobility. InsomeIn these cases, an alveolar trill may be impossible.)
People are often concerned that their inability to exercise is genetic.1
But the reason people struggle with the trill is simply because it's not obvious how to do it. It all happens behind the scenes, in the mouth, where most of us barely know what our mouthparts are doing.
Even among native speakers, rolled R is typically mastered later than any other sound. And surprisingly, even many native speakers need help before they get it. However, almost everyone does.2
Want to know how many years of practice it will take?
You may have heard of people trying for years before finally getting theirsEurekaTime. There's no reason to take that long.
With the right guidance, no more than a week or two of daily practice is required.
Is it important to roll your R in Spanish?
In a word: yes - although not as important as masteryJust touch R.
You can use the plain Spanish R (instead of the trill) anywhere, as native Spanish speakers recognize that the two sounds are closely related. Indeed, in fast speech they sometimes use an attack where a trill is expected.3So yes, you can get away with it.
But …. You will sound very strange. Also, there are many Spanish words whose meaning changes when you don't roll the R. For example:
- puppy(puppy)vs But(But)
- Auto(Auto)vs Caro(Caro)
- parra(Rank)vs for(for)
- Cerro(hill)vs null(null)
Since it's not that difficult to learn, there's no reason not to do it.
Let's do it!
Suggested exercise order
We teach the rolled R in three classes with seven exercises. Most people won't be able to complete the entire sequence in one sitting.
Expect to spend at least several days studying Lessons 1 and 2 before moving on to Lesson 3.
As with any skill, consistent practice over days and weeks is the key to success. If you get stuck on a particular exercise, take a break. When you come back the next day, you'll likely find that it's magically gotten easier—or at least you'll notice something new that you didn't notice the day before.
This is how every significant skill is learned.
Download complete exercises
Click here to download our PDF filecomplete set of exercisesin a practical form for daily practice.
Lesson 1: Pay attention to the position of your tongue
Would you like to master the apico-alveolar trill?
Know your language. language - know you; you - tongue.
You may be tempted to skip these first few exercises, but don't.all the troubleLearning trills boils down to not being aware of what's going on in your mouth.
Exercise 1: The peanut butter scraping
Imagine you have a spoonful of peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth.
IfToptongue, put it deep in your mouth and scrape forward as if trying to remove the peanut butter.
Move slowly and be careful. Feel your palate shift from soft (back) to hard (front). Feel your tongue running along the ridge behind your teeth (that's the alveolar ridge!) and then along the backs of your upper teeth.
Proceed to the back of the lower teeth and the floor of the mouth. Then reverse direction and let the tip of your tongue form a U in your mouth.
Do the same from side to side, the tip of your tongue caressing the inside of your cheeks and lips.
Exercise 2: The alphabet
Go through the alphabet slowly and say each letter out loud. For each letter, see if you can feel where your tongue is positioned or what the path of movement is. If it touches another part of your mouth, where does it touch?
If you're not sure, examine it with a mirror (and possibly your fingers).
additional credit:Identify the six sounds in English where the tongue approaches the alveolar ridge. The answers are at the bottom of the page.
But it's not about the answers, it's about developing your ownTo know.
Lesson 2: Learn to vibrate your tongue and mouth
With the Coiled R, the tip of the tongue vibrates against the alveolar ridge.
But I recommend starting with a lighter tuning - just to get used to how the trills work.
Exercise 3: The lip trill
This first vibration does not affect the tongue at all. It's a lip flutter.
This is the sound we use to say, "Brrr - it's cold!" or the kids use when they want to make an engine noise. I like to start here because everything is visible - not hidden in the mouth. But the mechanism is the same.
Do this exercise even if you can already make this note so that youunderstand the mechanism.
With this trill, your lips almost touch and you direct the airflow between them. Your tongue is relaxed.
Notice how the air comes out with a hissing sound when you fully relax your lips.
Now, as you breathe (and gasp), gently activate your lips so they come together, closing the small gap.
If you close them too hard and too quickly, you simply stop the airflow. But if you close them slowly and gently and relaxed, they start to vibrate!
Here are three experiences to try:
- Do the lip trill bothcomewhichvibrate your vocal cords (make a "mmmm" sound).
- Relax your lips completely and blow out as much air as possible. You will find it impossible NOT to have your lips vibrate. (If not, it's because they're not relaxed.)
- Keeping your lips tight, gradually make the space smaller and smaller without holding your breath completely. What happens?
Exercise 4: Closed tongue trill
I believe inTrill with closed tongueis the simplest and easiest to learn voice trill.
Master that trill and the rolled R is just a small step away.
4.1Start by saying "Shhhhhhhhh." Reassure that person in the library by talking on their cell phone.
4.2Now say it again, but this time break the sound in the middle just by using your tongue.
Can you feel where your tongue is? (If not, you might want to go through Exercises 1 and 2 again.)
Take a moment to find it yourself.
You interrupt the flow of air by pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth.
4.3Try to repeatedly open and close an air gap with your palate using only your tongue. Try both "shhh" and "chhh", one might be easier for you.
Get used to consciously moving your tongue toward and away from the palate.
It is important that youNOMove your jaw or lips as you do this exercise. Use only the tongue to develop conscious control. That's the key.
4.4Now say "shhh" with a lot of air, only this time start closing the gap, but don't go all the way. As with the lip trill, you will find that the vibration begins at a certain point. A relaxed tongue will vibrate earlier and with less effort than a tense tongue.
If it doesn't vibrate, try imagining that you're creating an opening the thickness of a piece of paper. Now blow out a big puff of air, envision that sliver opening - and relax your tongue while holding it in place. Theorvibrate - this is physics. Remember, the three variables to examine are:
- The amount of airflow;
- the air gap;
- How your tongue is relaxed.
Furious! Your tongue vibrates! Although this sounds more like a muted jackhammer than speech, believe it or not, you are now very close to having a usable alveolar trill.
Exercise 5: The alveolar trill
We're finally ready to tackle the trill that makes the rolled R!
It is produced in exactly the same way as the closed trill, except your mouth is more open and only the tip of your tongue comes closer to the roof of your mouth.
It's a bit more demanding because in this position the airflow has to be more precisely focused. How to find it:
5.1Start with a closed trill and keep your mouth open—but don't let the front of your tongue slip out of position. Keep trilling! The back of the tongue naturally goes down with the jaw, but the front should face up.
You're almost there! This is an open mouth trill where you use your tongue blade.
5.2With your mouth wide open, position your tongue as if you're saying "tea." You should feel the tip of your tongue pressed against the alveolar ridge.4
It should only be a small position adjustment from the end of 5.1.
Now activate the vibration as in 5.1. You are now vibrating with the tip of your tongue. If you can't find this trill, go back to 5.1 to remember it. Alternate between 5.1 and 5.2 until you can start comfortably in either position.
5.3Try the main ingredients: amount of air, width of space, degree of relaxation - to develop your control over the trill.
5.4Try doing the alveolar trill both timescomewhichvibrate your vocal cords (make an "uhhhh" sound).
5.5 Bonus Exercise:experiment with moving the point of contact to other places (behind the teeth, further back in the mouth, etc.).
Lesson 3: Incorporate the trill into words
You survived the difficult part!
Even if your pure trill sounds more like robber and robber children, another small step brings your trill into the realm of speech.
Exercise 6: vowel + trill
Start with an open "ah" sound: relax your mouth and throat and let out a nice long "Ahhhhhhh."
Now try alternating "Ahhh" with the trill. Don't bother plugging them in yet, just say "Ahhh", trill, say "Ahhh", etc.
Get used to entering the trill position (from Exercise 5) from your open vowel. If it's difficult, you'll probably need to spend more time on Exercise 5 to master the pure trill.
Now try to eliminate the pause between "Ahhh" and the trill:
Without breaking the vowel, just close your mouth slightly and move your tongue into position. Use the vowel airflow to introduce the trill: "Ahhhhrrrrr." You may actually find this easier than stopping midway, as the vowel begins its airflow for you.
Practice:Try using all five Spanish vowels:/a/ + Trill, /e/ + Trill, /i/ + Trill, /o/ + Trill, /u/ + Trill.
You'll see that some are a bit more difficult! This is normal and is great for practicing.
The pronunciation trainerSupercoco-Appyou can record yourself and immediately compare it with a native speaker. Super helpful!
Exercise 7: consonant + vowel + trill
Once you're comfortable with Exercise 6, it's an easy step to your first real words. Try saying the following words and rolling the last R:
- march(to damage)
For a challenge, try these:
- one(on the)
Congratulations! You can roll your R's!!!
Click to tweet: Damn, I just learned how to roll your Rs! https://www.supercocoapp.com/post/how-to-roll-your-rs
Trill exercises for advanced users
Believe it or not, there's more. Click here to download a PDF of ourscomplete set of exercises, including advanced exercises to help you solve common problems that are causing your trill to sound non-native.
When to use the trill
A. The trill is mandatory when you see the double "rr".This only occurs in the middle of words likepuppyeAuto; The trill is important so that the word is not confused with its tap counterpart (e.g.But,Caro).
B. The trill is obligatory when a word starts with "r".(For example.,Rot,queen)
C. The trill is obligatory when a single "r" follows an "n", "l" or "s",as inoneorHenrique.
D. The trill is optional at the end of syllables and words(For example.,porta,march).
tongue twister in Spanish
Once you're comfortable rolling your Rs, take it to the next level by practicing some Spanish tongue twisters. To get the maximum benefit, remember and try to work at high speed.
Here are four of our favorites:
- (Simply)Rosa Rosales cut a rose. How red is Rosa Rosales' rose!
Rosa Rosales cut a rose. How red is Rosa Rosales' rose!Bildnachweis: Spanish.cl
- (Stand)Rosa Rizo prays in Russian, Rosa Rizo prays in Russian.
Rosa Rizo prays in Russian, Rosa Rizo prays in Russian.Bildnachweis: Spanish.cl
- (Impossible)A drunken mouse stole a bouquet of red roses; Her tail tangled and rolled from pink to pink.
A drunken mouse stole a bouquet of red roses; the tail wrapped around him and rolled from pink to pink.Photo credit: pequeocio.com
- (Nonsense)The bitch found a pear, but the bitch doesn't eat pears; instead the bitch bitch, but not found to eat the pear that left the bitch.
Translate yourself!Bildnachweis: Spanish.cl
Now that you know how trills work and have increased your awareness of the mouth and tongue, it will be much easier to add other trills to your linguistic repertoire. Although the alveolar trill is the most common, the world's languages use at least four types of trills:
- Alveolar:You just learned that. Tongues vary in exact position, from just behind the teeth to behind the alveolar ridge.
- together:This is further back in the throat caused by the narrowing of the space between the back of the tongue and the tongue.Uvula. It occurs in many European languages (including French, German, Dutch, Portuguese), although it is usually just one of several interchangeable sounds.
English speakers often do this inadvertently when trying the alveolar trill.
- Bilabial:This is the lip trill you learned above. It is used in several lesser-known languages around the world.
- epiglottic(pharyngeal): This trill is further back than the uvular trill. It can be found in many languages including Arabic and Hebrew.
Answers to exercise 6 challenge
Here are the six English sounds where the tongue approaches the alveolar ridge:
- /T/:the tip of the tongue touches the crest, briefly blocks the air and then lets go;
- /D/:same as /t/, but asynchronizedif;
- /S/:the tongue tip and/or tongue blade approaches the alveolar ridge and restricts airflow
- /z/:same as /s/, but asynchronizedif;
- /N/:The tip of the tongue presses against the alveolar ridge, impeding airflow
- /EU/:the tip or blade of the jaw presses against the alveolar ridge (note: some English speakers may feel this further back in the mouth)
 Probably because of the widespread myth - now debunked - thatThe ability to roll your tongue is genetic.
 Vihman, M.N. (1996)phonological development, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.
 Lewis, AM (2003)Coarticulatory effects in the production of the Spanish trillemProceedings of the 2003 Texas Linguistics Society Konferenz, eds. Augustine Agwuele, Willis Warren and Sang-Hoon Park, 116-127. Somerville, MA: Projeto Cascadilla Proceedings.
 Be careful if you're not a native English speaker - your /t/ might be placed somewhere else!
How to Roll Your Rs: The Complete Exercises
Download the full exercises, including advanced techniques, to help you sound more like a native speaker.