Help me to Roll "R" --the "alveolar trill"

Hello there, I have problem in rolling “R”, the linguistic terminology for this sound is “alveolar trill”. As you know, this is an important sound in Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Italian, basically every major western language. But, unfortunately it doesn’t exist in Chinese pronunciation system. As a native Chinese speaker i feel comfortable only in learning English, Japanese,Korean, those languages that doesn’t need this “alveolar trill” sound. Can’t roll “R” makes me feel frustrated in learning Spanish, Arabic…those languages that i mentioned before. I am curious if you ever encounter the same problem with rolling “R” and I want to know how did you do it. Thanks.

Hmm. In norwegian we also roll the R, both in the same way as in French (special dialect) and a “harsher” version of the R as in spanish. But the french and the spanish are, I find, are quite different in where the tongue is placed in the mouth ( haha, sounds strange but I tried to locate where my tongue is when I say the R in those languages). So you want to learn both ways of saying the R or one of them? Since I think they need separate explanations.

To make the R as in Spanish and norwegian, you need to put the tip of your tongue, and ONLY the tip, at the upper front end of your gum (is it that you call it, the inside of your mouth behind the upper teeth?). the rest of the tongue should bend down, thus only the tip part of the tongue is touching this upper part of inside mouth. The tongue might touch a bit of the back of the upper teeth. Then to say the R the tip of the tongue should “vibrate” fast up and down… Bah, this is so hard to explain in written form. Should make a video and demonstrate it maybe. An idea for a thing I could do in the norwegian lessons maybe =)

The alveolar trill is not present in the French from Paris. It may be a little bit difficult for French to produce this sound.
Italians from the Piedmont region tend to pronounce the “R” similar to the French, that is, with the back/middle of the tongue vibrating instead of the tip, so I suppose they too have difficulties to produce the alveolar trill.
Conversely, I’ve seen many people having difficulties producing the french “R”. So you will likely be frustrated also if you learn French !

Well, the term ‘rolling r’ can mean more than just the alveolar trill. It can be used by some to mean taps as well as various other r-type sounds.

I really have no idea how to ‘help’ you with this directly. The method I used was to get a good practical grounding in phonetics/phonology. That’s something which will be actively discouraged around here because analysis is looked down upon as a tool of some sort of corrupt school system, but I don’t know any other way. Pure listening - doesn’t cut it, no matter how strongly the people say it.

Now, when I pronounce foreign languages, I sound very close to native speakers. (Other than the obvious lack of speed).

I wish I could give you more hints.

Here is something I found on the web.

I think the key is to will yourself to roll the tip of your tongue. The Mandarin “er” sound or 耳朵, 容易,如此 is pronounced with the tongued curled and no contact between the tip of the tongue and roof of the mouth. More or less like the English “r”. However, the Spanish sound requires the tip of the tongue to vibrate.

My advice:

  1. Practice saying “drill” and “trill”. Do it until you can get the tongue to vibrate. Do it many times a day when you are by yourself. Keep telling yourself that there is no reason why you cannot make this sound. You need to want to make this sound. Your confidence and determination are important.

  2. Once a week record yourself reading Spanish. Exaggerate the trilled “r” wherever you can. Remember that an “r” at the beginning of a word or a double “r” gets really trilled. You will start to see progress. You could even post a recording here and have some of our native speakers here at the forum comment on your pronunciation.

Try this link I replaced the %22 with the quote symbols ( " ).

I think it helps to make the trilling work if you use your voice to vibrate the tongue a bit or use your breath. For Spanish, I also practiced a lot with “erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril, rapido rueden los rollos, cargando azucar del ferrocarril” and “tres triste tigres traigan trigo” (At least that’s how I remember it!) It was also pointed out to me when I was starting Spanish that I was using the “d” sound in “todo” like the d in English instead of the “dth” sound in Spanish which made it sound like “toro” since the trilled single “r” sounds a bit like the English “d” as described in the wikiknow article. In any case, people in Mexico still can tell immediately that I’m not a native and I can’t trill at full speed like they do but they seem to appreciate my effort to at least trill my best as opposed to just giving up and sounding completely gringo! Don’t give up, you will get better with practice.

Thanks to all of you. I appreciate your help. I wanna tell you a good news today. It’s kind of surprising and funny. Yesterday, when i was watching a video from Comedy Central. A woman in the show is telling a funny story and she pretend to flirt with a man, acting like a cat, pronouncing a sound that sounds like cat (or tiger, or leopard, or whatever animals will do) will do when they try to threaten others. i can feel her tongue is vibrating when she was doing that, so i try to mimic her, suddenly i feel my tongue becoming less stiff and vibrating for the first time. When i breathe, i feel air coming from throat passing through the roof of my mouth and when it shoots out of my mouth, it makes a vibrating tongue. I know that it’s far from perfect and it sounds awfully to a native speaker, but it’s a big leap for me.
I agree with all of you. It doesn’t matter what kind of method we try to use in learning languages, as long as we keep trying and don’t give up, we will get there.

Good that you progressed a bit with this ericlee! :slight_smile: