Friday, March 8, 2013

Spanish pronunciation help - R vs RR

Submitted by Evelyn Musslewhite, Spanish Teacher with The Language School

Our students ask us a lot about the diference between the R sounds in Spanish.  I'm sorry, I just can't roll my R's!

“R” and “RR” letters are a challenge even for native Spanish speakers, so don't feel bad about your pronunciation here!  Moreso, during the couple of weeks that I have been teaching Spanish to native English speakers, I have noticed a challenge with reading the “R” and “RR” and also a pronunciation challenge.  As a consequence, I wanted to share some advice for helping you with your pronunciation.

1. Keep in mind that there are two “R” sounds in Spanish: the single “R” sound and the double
“R” (or “RR”) sound.

4. Keep in mind that the Spanish “R” and “RR” don't share the distinctive "R" sound of English.
Think of them as separate letters entirely.

2. Keep in mind that the single “R” sound is used whenever the single “R” appears in a word. it will take the double R sound when:

  • it's at the beginning of a word
  •  or after an L, N or S, 

3. The “RR” sound is also used to sound the letter combination of rr, which used to be
considered a separate letter of the Spanish alphabet.

5. Remember that the “RR” is a trilled sound formed by a flapping of the tongue against the
front roof of the mouth. Here are a few sounds you cam mimic:

  • Visualize the front of your tongue as a flag flapping in a vigorous breeze.
  • Try purring like a cat. If you've succeeded, you are approximating the “RR” sound.
  • Relax and pretend you're a child making the sound of a revving-up motor. 
  • Pretend it is extremely cold. Now make the sound of exhaling with you lips flapping together. Now do the same thing with your tongue against the roof of your mouth.

Try to say: perro (dog), carro (car), barra (bar, such as one made of metal) and hierro (iron, the

6. Remember that the single “R” is pronounced with a single flap of the tongue against the roof
of mouth.

7. Say these words rapidly as you would if they were English words, and with the accent on the
first syllable: peddo, pahdah, cahdah.

8. Congratulate yourself!  You have pronounced the Spanish words pero (but),
para (for) and cara (face).

See you in class!

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