One of the most difficult to conquer Spanish sounds that native English–and other language–speakers must master is the rr sound. This sound is called the alveolar trill or unofficially, a “rolling r”. Note that I refer to the rr sound. The rules require that the rr trill sound in Spanish is sometimes applied to the single Spanish r consonant (ere) as well.
Usually, r sounds similar to the dd in ladder, except a bit softer. Never pronounce the Spanish r like the English r in run. As mentioned above, in specific cases a single r will form the rolling r sound exactly like the Spanish rr consonant. The rules for the rolling r sound are as follows:
- r in an initial position and after n, l or s is a rolling r
- rr in the middle of a word–the Spanish rr consonant (erre)–is a rolling r
Now, once you have the rules memorized, you’ll have to learn how to form the sound itself. To do this, place the tip of the tongue behind and above the upper front teeth (alveolar ridge–figure 1) and vibrate with escaping air pressure from the lungs. The closest example of tongue positioning I can think of in English is; where you put your tongue when you pronounce the d in dog–if you were to pronounce that d sharply. Your tongue will be in approximately the same place when forming the trill–approximately being the key word here. Also, try saying “ladder” repeatedly and rapidly.
If you can’t produce the sound right away, don’t worry about it too much. It’s very difficult for native English speakers to master–just try your best. Over time you’ll likely get it. And remember not to pronounce any Spanish r’s like an English r–a soft d sound is better, if you can’t produce the Spanish rr sound.
If you’d like to hear how all of the Spanish consonants are pronounced, watch (and listen to) the video at the bottom of the Learn How To Speak Spanish: Consonants lesson page.
Did you find this lesson on how to pronounce the Spanish rr sound helpful? Do you see an…ugh…error? Please leave a comment (or question)–I try to answer questions promptly.