Trilled R starting direction

As a native English speaker, the Spanish trilled RR has always troubled me. Also saying English words such as ‘red’ are tricky for me.

I’m practicing, and can now roll my Rs with a bit of a run up. I can say perro with some concentration.

I want to ask, which direction the first hit should go in. For example, when I say perro, the double R, I find it easiest to start from the back of the mouth and move forward, so the first hit is outwards.

But when I say ‘tren’ I find this outwards direction impossible. I have to sound the ‘t’ then move backwards to start the slight the trill in this word. However, I can only sound the one r in this direction. If I sound the t, then move the tongue back, in order to start the trill outwards like in perro, i get the trill but there is a noticeable gap.

I know it’s a single r, so technically shouldn’t be trilled, but when I listen to spanish speakers, there seems to be a slight trill. I find it physically impossible to start a trill without going to the back first, so my ‘tren’ sounds very english, or very gappy.

Any thoughts, are the directions interchangable? Am I doing this entirely wrong?

Interesting. Although I’ve spoken Spanish for a long time, I’m not a native speaker so you can take my observation with a grain of salt if you like. But…

As far as I can tell, I pronounce the “r” of “tren” and the “rr” of “perro” at the same place - toward the front of my mouth. But it is true that my tongue continues back afterwards so that I can get the “n” for “tren” and drops down and goes a bit forward so that I can finish the “o” sound of “perro”.

Just to clarify, i hit the r and the rr at the same location on the roof of the mouth. But do you start the flapping motion with the tongue moving forwards, or backwards? I mean the very first flap.

That’s decided by the preceding sound. So in “tren” I’ve started at the front for the “t” sound, and then I’m pulling back for the “r”. For “perro” I’m starting further back to make that vowel sound and then moving foreward to hit the roof of my mouth for the “rr”.

Have you tried “perro” and “pero”? I’m trying to analyze them. For “perro” it looks like my tongue is going forward, then lingering at the “rr” spot as I roll.

For “pero” there is one quick tap at the “r” spot as I pull my tongue back.

(Try saying a quick English “d” for that single “r”.)

Great that is super useful advice thanks. Looks like I’m on roughly the right track .I was worried I was picking up a bad habit mixing up the directions.

De nada. Enjoy your language journey.

I can’t trill/roll an “r” to save my life!

Anyone here over 50 who learned to do it from scratch??

I might have to settle for “can be understood by natives”…

Edit: I’m happy with my Japanese pronunciation of so-called “r”, but this came after a lot of exposure and my habit of repeating out loud a lot of what I hear - without thinking about where my tongue was. Then it just “clicked” one day.

I guess I’m hoping that will eventually happen when I take up French…

Try immobilising the jar when your practise by placing a tinge or simillar in between the back teeth. This was my breakthrough. No idea how universal it is

What’s a “tinge”?

Hi Julz, I can now trill an r although at the beginning I was not able to at all. It is not perfect, but now I am onto my third language that uses this sound (Amharic) so I reckoned I had better keep trying. It has taken me 8 years so far, but I am sure I would have made much faster progress if I had practised several times every day.

Sorry - writing on my phone!

I meant place a finger to steady the jaw

No idea why this works but it was instant for me.