Step-By-Step Guide: How to PRONOUNCE THE SPANISH “R” Like a Native Speaker

Whether you like reggaetón and perreo or not, or maybe you don’t even know what all that means… if you’re watching this is because regardless of how hard you try, you still can’t say things like: 

Paulísima, te traje un ramo de rosas rojas y… un carro. (Paulísima, I brought you a bouquet of red roses and a car.)

How to PRONOUNCE THE SPANISH "R" Like a Native Speaker 🤩 (Step By Step Guide)

The R is one of the sounds that are most commonly associated with Spanish, although it is used in other languages, like Russian or Italian.

In this article you will learn how to roll your Rs in Spanish. That’s right, you will learn the best tips to roll your R’s como todo un experto (like a true expert)! 

I like to keep things simple. Así que (so), I’m NOT going to talk about cosas como (things like): 

  • alveolar trill
  • directing air over an articulator so that it vibrates
  • place of articulation
  • alveolar ridge 

…even though you might expect these things when reading a piece about rolling your R. 

Seriously, what does that even mean? No, no, we’re going to PRACTICE today. So, once you’re done reading this article, you’ll be rolling those RRRRRs!

1. Things to consider when thinking about how to roll your Rs in Spanish

You can learn it!

Keep in mind that doing this RRR is not a superpower. I’m a native Spanish speaker and I had to learn it. Some native Spanish speakers struggle with it too! 

There’s actually a speech impediment called rhotacism, where the speaker has the inability to produce that sound. But it’s not very common, so chances are… you don’t have that, and even if you do have it, listen: Never lose sight of the goal, that is, being able to communicate in Spanish, no matter what your R sounds like… 

You’re bilingual, okay? Who cares if you’re not absolutely perrrfect? 

Anyway, like I said, the R sound is probably the last sound that children learn how to make.

Erre is not R 

Remember that the Spanish letter R “behaves” differently in English and Spanish.

Even if they share the same symbol, they just don’t sound the same, so, forget about the English R sound.

¡Olvídalo! (Forget about it!)  

If you need a refresher on the Spanish alphabet. Check out Mariana’s video on that very topic.

A. La ERE en español tiene dos sonidos (The Spanish R has two sounds)

A soft one in words like: 

  • Quiero (want(
  • Caro (expensive)
  • Cariño (sweetheart)

To make the soft R sound, think of the way many Americans make a D sound in words like better or butter. That D sound (written as two t’s) in butter or better is quite similar to the soft R in Spanish: ra, re, ri, ro, ru

Remember, think D or double T in an American accent.

Let’s practice with the following phrases:

  • Me parece caro. (I find it expensive.)
  • A comer, beber, bailar y gozar, que el mundo se va acabar. (Let’s eat, drink, dance and enjoy because the world is coming to an end.) 

Stay with me.. It’s important you get this right! 

B. The other sound of R is the trilled one

The other sound is stronger and it’s the one Spanish learners find more difficult.

It appears in words like:

  • rato (a while)
  • risa (laugh/ laughter) 
  • carro (car)

Notice how to get the trilled R: the word must start with a single R or have a double R in the middle. 

2. Tips to learn how to roll your R’s 

Get the feel on your lips first

Miss Terry AK Francis makes a great point when she says that we can start getting the feel of a trill if we do like a horse, like a rrrr with the lips. You can do this, I’m sure!

You’ll feel some air passing through your lips when you do this, and you will notice how this prrr prrr sound can only be achieved if the lips are fairly relaxed. Something similar will happen in your tongue when you rolled your Rs. 

Get your tongue ready

Say better-butter a gazillion times… And do a few repetitions of these sílabas en español

Ra Re Ri Ro Ru 
TRA; TRE, TRI, TRO TRU
DRA DRE DRI DRO DRU 

Now that you know that you are capable of “vibrating” AND you are proficient at the soft R,

how to roll your rs in spanish explained by female teacher

Try the following trick

I know it works because I have seen my students (of all levels) successfully applying it AND Youtube’s own, Elyssa Not Alyssa uses it and has already taught thousands how to R with it. 

Are you ready? ¡No te rajes, eh!

CHUNK ALERT!

¡No te rajes! (literally “don’t crack open”, but we mean “don’t back down”) is a Mexican expression, it’s a chunk! That is, a phrase or word combination that never changes and that makes you sound super natural without having to think about grammar rules! I love this Mexican saying!

Anyway, ¡No te rajes!… because you’re about to learn what you need to know how to RRRR [Disclaimer: watch the video to listen to the examples].

The trick is: You gotta double a soft R sound making a tiny pause between each iteration. So, instead of saying: No te ra jes, No te rajes, we say:

No  TER Ra- HES 

We Say: No- TeR- Ra-Jes, No-TeR-Ra-Jes 

Let’s practice with another beautiful chunk:

¡Qué rico! (So Good!) 

You can use this to express pleasure when you’re eating or when you’re… I don’t know… experimenting other kinds of pleasure!

3. Recap on how to roll your Rs in Spanish

Let’s do a little recap: 

  1. Master the soft R
  2. Break up the double R, like this: Car- ro 

TRY THIS 3 times per day…

Say better butter like an American and then say the following 5 times: 

  • No TeR Ra JeS
  • QueR Rico!

¡Muy bien! Now you are on the right track to RRR as many times as you can! Let me know in the comment section how it went! Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right immediately. 

Acquiring a new language is supposed to be fun! I’m competent in English, but I too struggle because there are so many sounds that we don’t have in my native Spanish. For us, the English R is difficult.

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