Ready to Roll – How to roll your r’s like a pro
Whether you’re learning Spanish or already know how to speak the language, rolling your r’s is one of the milestones that will help you go from good to great! Some words, like carro and caro (car and expensive) require the speaker to roll their r’s correctly in order to distinguish one from the other.
So, how do you do it? Some people seem to be able to roll them right off the bat without a hitch, but, if you’re like me, it will take some practice. Don’t worry! We have some pro tips that will cut your practice time by a considerable amount.
When Should You Even Roll Your R’s in the First Place?
In Spanish, there are two different ways to pronounce the letter known as Soft r and Rolled r. So, the answer to this question is simple: you see two r’s, you roll your tongue. There are, however, two exceptions to this rule. You also roll your r if you see it at the beginning or end of any word, like reloj (clock) or nadar (swim), for example.
When you find a single r in the middle of any word, you’ll be using the soft ‘r’ sound.
A Quick Tip to Pronounce the Soft R
Say the word “better”. The placement of your tongue at the beginning of the second syllable “tter” is the place where you should place your tongue when pronouncing a soft r. A great way to practice this is to grab a Spanish word like crea (to create) and alternate between the two: better, crea, better, crea, and so forth.
How to Roll Your R’s
A common misconception that I’ve seen when it comes to rolling your r’s is that you have to actively move your tongue in order to do it. In reality, you have mastered the soft r, now it’s time to roll out! This exercise is a fairly simple one. Grab a word with a double ‘r,’ like corren (they run), and separate it right between the r’s. Below are some examples.
- Cor | ren
- Bar | ren
- Ar | riba
Then, say each section individually, briefly pausing in between. Practice this over and over until your tongue naturally rolls!
But what if the ‘r’ is at the beginning of the word? You can’t separate the r’s if there’s only one! I remember during my time living in Wisconsin as an exchange student, my host sister would try to pronounce my name (Rafael) correctly by rolling the r at the beginning. She was having a really hard time until she came with this funny and useful way to practice: She would add a ‘d’ before the r in order to give her a head start with the roll. We still joke about the time she would call me ‘Drafael’ constantly until she got it right (she still calls me Drafael as a joke, though). Below is a list of words that will help you practice with this technique. Remember to add a ‘d’ at the beginning!
Another great way to practice that is widely used in language learning is tongue twisters. Check out our article about tongue twisters to learn more about this method, or check out our instruction video to learn more about the topic. The key component to rolling your r’s is patience. A great opportunity to practice your r’s is during downtimes like driving a car or taking a shower. Make use of these little moments and remember to be patient, you’ll have better pronunciation before you know it!
Get confident, get talking!
Now that you have the tools necessary to be able to speak like a native, all you need to do is get out there and practice! If you need more practice, or if you’re more of an auditory learner, check out our video on YouTube about rolling your R’s.
For more tips on how to roll your R’s, check out our video!