Norwegian Language Blog

Flip those Rs. Posted by on Feb 20, 2009 in Uncategorized

One of you eager learners requested that I do a little lesson on flipping Rs.  You might be wondering what flipping means vs. rolling.  In Spanish, for example, you roll and flip Rs.  In Norwegian, you just flip them.  The difference is how long you let your tongue vibrate for on the roof of your mouth.  In Spanish, when a word ends in R, it is usually rolled.  In the word tres (three), however, the R is flipped. Flipping is shorter. 

It is hard to teach this kind of pronunciation without being right there in front of you so you can see my mouth and hear the sounds I produce, but I’ll try to explain it.  To flip your R, start by saying “aaahh” as if the doctor is looking down your throat with a popsicle stick laying flat on your tongue.  Then pretend the popsicle stick is gone, lift your tongue in a kind of curling upward motion and stop quickly after you hit the roof of your mouth.  Practice this many times until you hopefully hear what sounds like a cross between an R and a D.  It really almost does sound like a D. 

Just to clarify, not every R in Norwegian is meant to be flipped.  Like the word norsk (Norwegian) for example, is pronounced “norshk.”  And the word fort (fast) is pronounced “fooort.”  Usually when an R is at the end of a word, such as many verbs in the present tense like gleder (looks forward to), elsker (loves), svømmer (swims) and sitter (sits), the R is to be flipped.  Or when the R is somewhere in the middle of the word, it is often flipped, like in frist (deadline), trappene (the stairs), krydder (spices), and markere (infinitive of ‘to mark’).

Most Rs at the beginnings of words are flipped as well.  Such as røre (infinitive of to move), religion (religion), and regner (present tense of ‘to rain’). 

There are actually very few instances in which you do not flip your Rs in Norwegian, and they are few and far between, so it’s a good idea for you to practice up on the flipping method so that you can pronuonce your Rs correctly.  I hope my instructions for flipping your Rs make sense.  If you have some sort of audio to listen to, I suggest you practice in front of a mirror while listening to someone speak Norwegian.  If you can both see what your mouth is doing and you know what it is supposed to sound like, it should be easier to figure out how to reproduce the noise.  Happy flipping! 

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Lydia:

    I’m really enjoying your posts, Kari! I like when you do the phoneticized versions of words, like you do at the beginning of this post; it’s good for those of us whose ears are not so linguistically-attuned.

  2. Angelus:

    Tusen takk for sharing, Kari. I have a lot of problems about pronuntiation in norwegian, so different from my native Spanish! For example, I still can’t get the “potato” (to ‘close’ my throat, I don’t know how to explain that) or how to pronounce the letters we don’t have on Spanish or on English, to not to mention y-u-o…

    But, I gonna learn. Just question of time.

    Takk for lærer!

  3. Kari:

    What about the potato? Maybe I can help you if I know what sound you are trying to make.

  4. Jens:

    Hei Kari,

    To follow up on the pronounciation of ‘R’ in Norway, you should do a post on how the L is pronounced. I have not had any contact with folk fra Tromsø, med har slekninger som bor i Hallingdal. Folk from there use a thick L and to me it sounds like when they say, f.eks “Hallingdal” its sounds like “Hallindarrr” Hva er noen av dine opplevelser?