Menu
Search

Let’s Rrrroll our R’s! Posted by on Jan 15, 2021 in Italian Language

Ciao a tutti!

I have never talked about la pronuncia italiana with all of you, so I thought it could be fun to discover together how to pronounce a trilled ‘R’, or if you want to get really tecnico  – a voiced alveolar trill. 

If you have been struggling with this, just know that it doesn’t mean you will never be able to do it. Your mouth and tongue have been very comfortable forming the same sounds and moving the same way for many years, so it’s just going to take some patience to re-work those muscles.

You also might be surprised to know that in English, we already make a similar movement. Say these words out loud:

Better

Cheddar

Lotto

Powder

Did you feel how the tip of your tongue vibrated once off of the roof of your mouth? This is exactly how you will pronounce a singular ‘R’ in the Italian language. Using the same movement, try to pronounce these Italian words:

Bere1to drink

Cera2wax

Loro3they

Paura4fear

To pronounce a double ‘R’ in Italian however, you will need the full trill. This is especially important since the difference between the singular trill and the full trill can completely change the meaning of words. Per esempio:

caro – dear

carro – cart

sera – evening

serra – greenhouse

Now let’s do some drills to prepare us for a full trill:

1. Pronounce the letter T and immediately after the letter D.

TD – TD – TD – TD

There is no R sound yet, but you are preparing your tongue for the necessary movement.

2. Pronounce the letter T and immediately after the letter R, and then the letter D and immediately after the letter R.

TR – TR -TR -TR

DR – DR -DR -DR

3. Prova ad allungare il suono R, try to elongate the R sound:

TRRRR – TRRRR – TRRRR

DRRRR – DRRRR – DRRRR

4. Keep your mouth open. Place the tip of your tongue on the palate behind your top teeth. At this point, pass some air and allow it to vibrate your tongue while pronouncing the letter R.

RRRR!!

I have even heard of a trick where basically you say “cup of tea” really fast over and over again right before saying a word that starts with the letter ‘R.’ The point of this exercise is to again train your tongue to move quickly up and down, from the bottom of your teeth to the top. This is exactly the kind of movement your tongue needs to make in order to produce the Italian trilled ‘R.’

Provalo, try it – cuppateacuppateacuppateacuppatea – RIGATONI!!

Qualche consiglio5Some tips:

  1. Don’t overdo it. Be mindful of when to use the full trill and the singular trill. 
  2. Practice makes perfect!
  3. There’s nothing wrong with having an accent. There are even native Italians who can’t do it, or whose regional accent just doesn’t call for it (like in Parma). They call it the ‘erre moscia‘, the soft R, and people can understand them just fine.

For some Italian listening practice and some more beneficial exercises how to pronounce the Italian R, check this video out!

Here are some ‘R’ words to practice:

grazie6thank you

barra7bar

tratto8suddenly

quadro9setting

ricco10rich

rana11frog

risata12laugh

birra13beer

sdraio14beach chair

protrarre15to prolong

riprodurre16to reproduce

In bocca al lupo!

Keep learning Italian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Bridgette

Just your average Irish-American Italo-Francophone. Client Engagement Associate for TL. Gaelophile. (Soon to be) Digital Nomad. Check out my personal blog, A Polyglot's Inkblot: https://www.apolyglotsinkblot.com


Comments:

  1. minou:

    grazie mille! come sempre, molto chiaro e disponibile!

  2. Steve:

    This blog reminds of my attempts at rolling my r’s. Some 4 years ago I spent 3 months in Spello in Umbria, where I was taking Italian lessons from a lovely retired Italian teacher. At one session he tried to get me to roll my r’s, but every attempt left with a fit of the giggles. I still can’t properly roll my r’s, but I keep trying.

  3. Nancy:

    Il mio instruttore ci ha insegnato ripetere “I edited it” .

  4. Rosanna g McFarlin:

    Grazie ed arrivederci o meglio a risentirci !

  5. KarenG:

    My accent is terrible so please do more pronunciation drills. How about next time practicing sounds like ‘gli’ as in figli? Or ‘gn’ as in Bologna?

  6. Joan Patenaude-Yarnell:

    I am a teacher of the classical voice – where Italian is the basic language. Your exercises are an excellent way to have my non-Italian students be able to flip or roll their “R” when singing in the Italian language.
    Thank you .


Leave a comment: