French Language Blog

French Pronunciation: The Guttural R Posted by on Jan 15, 2021 in Language

French Pronunciation: The Guttural R

The French guttural ‘R’ is one of the most difficult sounds to produce in the French language. There is no equivalent sound in English, so it really takes some practicing in order to master it.

To help us learn how to pronounce the French guttural ‘R’, first we need to determine where in the mouth it comes from- the back of the mouth, similar to the letter ‘K’.

Think of the word ‘koala’ and say it out loud. Can you feel the muscles at the back of your mouth, right at your throat, tense up a bit? That is where the French ‘R’ will be pronounced. Now try to say the letters ‘KR’ together. Keep your tongue glued to the back of your teeth in the process. Repeat it multiple times, eventually eliminating the ‘K’ and trying to only pronounce the ‘R.’

If the above ‘KR’ trick just isn’t working for you, check this video out. This walk through is simple but very effective:

Some tips:

  1. Don’t overdo it. The over-exaggerated gargle like noise that some people make to mock the French ‘R’ is incorrect, and not super cute. Pas chouette!
  2. If you can’t pronounce it right away, that’s ok! Your accent makes you who you are and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
  3. Practice makes perfect, so keep practicing. (C’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron1idiomatic expression – it’s in forging that ones becomes a blacksmith, practice makes perfect!)
  4. Lastly… have fun with it. (Ok, you might need to make that mocking gargling sound in private to laugh at yourself!)

Et maintenant, un peu de pratique, and now a bit of practice :

crier – to shout

ronronner –  to purr

rouge – red

créneau – gap

farine – flour

sucre – sugar

frère – brother

*écureuil – squirrel

Ecureuil being especially difficult, but also especially fun to say! Apparently during WWII the French used écureuil as a key-word to determine whether someone was a non-French spy or not… amusant, n’est-ce pas?

Ecoutez bien, listen close to the video below to determine whether or not you could pass as a French native speaker:

Quand vous avez le courage, when you are really feeling up to it, here’s a French virelangue, tongue twister, to practice the ‘R.’

La robe rouge de Rosalie est ravissante – Rosalie’s red dress is ravishing

Bon courage! 

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    idiomatic expression – it’s in forging that ones becomes a blacksmith, practice makes perfect
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About the Author: Bridgette

Just your average Irish-American Italo-Francophone. Client Engagement for Transparent Language.