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Unable to roll my R's?


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I am unable to roll my R's, which is in some ways, mandatory for certain languages (for me at least). However, I've come to assume that with the anatomy of my tongue, that it is just nearly impossible. Is there anyone here who at one point was completely unable to roll their R's, but then learned how to? If so, I'd love some tips or to hear your story and experience with it!

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I too had some problems with rolling the Rs.What I did was to make my list of words and practiced at the mirror by placing my tongue at the roof of my mouth. I had my daughter listen and tell how good or bad I was and continued that way and now I no longer have that problem.

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When I was a kid, my relatives always laugh at me when I say something that has an "r" in it because according to them, I can't properly pronounce the "r" part. I was 7 yrs. old, and that time I really didn't know what they're talking about. But luckily, as I grew up, I was able to improve that "speech impediment" without really doing anything. But in your case, since you're already an adult, I guess you should watch Spanish programs, the way they pronounce their r's is really emphasized, you just have to listen carefully and imitate how they say it.

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I certainly can't roll my "r"s as a native English speaker but I don't think I'd worry about it too much. This is a pretty standard problem when it comes to people learning other languages: different languages have different sounds. For a lot of people properly pronouncing a sound they didn't learn when they were children is next to impossible. A good example of this is speakers of certain Asian languages cannot pronounce the "l" sound in English the way native speakers can. Of course if you can pick it up then that's great but I wouldn't focus on it as a big stumbling block unless for some reason you're trying to pass as a native speaker.

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Practice, practice, practice is all you are going to need. It was really difficult for me at first. It took me a lot of time to practice and to get it right. I was happy that it paid off. In fact I initially thought that it's going nowhere because it's really really hard at first, but later I got the hang of it and I am happy.

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I had this challenge, too, when learning Spanish.  I did a lot of practicing, yes, but what also helped me greatly was listening to native speakers -- television, radio, in person, etc.  I worked towards getting just as much immersion as I could manage.  I think that really helped, along with the practicing.

Yes, it does feel awkward at first.  It's something that a non-native speaker is not used to doing, and so I think part of the challenge is building up confidence.  Again, practice is very important. 

Also helpful is to record yourself and to listen and strive to improve based on what you hear.  Video in particular is very helpful. 

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I have this problem, too, and I'm nervous now that we have a Spanish class. It's something I've had ever since I was a child, and the problem is that my R's are sometimes turning into W's ("train" becomes "twain"), and it really bothers me. I could handle it better by being able to speak R on words with no rolling R's, but when it comes to the rolling R's, I'm really having an issue.

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It is definitely possible for you to learn how to roll your R's, it is just going to take some time and practice for you to get it right. I had a bit of trouble at first as well. Just be persistent and patient.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I think it may be a biological thing too. My dad used to speak Spanish when he was younger and now, though we can't speak Spanish, my whole family can effectively roll our r's. But I guess that really doesn't help much in your studies in particular. I would say just watch someone do it. Watching someone do it is the best way to learn it I feel and following online instructions only helps to a certain extent. Everyone has a unique way of speaking and that includes how they roll their r's.

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Oh, can I post an update? I'm starting to get the hang of it, haha! But I can only do it for a few times each day (sometimes luck), so I can't really guarantee that I'm getting there. But your tips really worked! Thanks, guys!

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If you think it is because of the anatomy of your tongue, going to speech therapists may help.  They will know how you can produce a sound by doing different mouth movements and they will also be able to teach you how to still produce the sounds even when your anatomical structure is not ideal.  A few sessions may help you a lot.

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Uhm, I rarely stop to think the hard time most people trying to learn Spanish have when trying to roll their ''R's''!  But I can imagine how hard it can be, since I have seen how funny some things they say sound if they don't roll their R's right. Because actually it's very hard to understand some of the things they say if they don't roll their R's right! 

I can't offer tips, since I really think rolling a R right isn't so easy at all!  For me it's natural... in the end it has everything to do with how you position your tongue! Whenever I say a word with a ''RR'' sound my tongue softly leans over my palate and the R's roll like that.  I don't recommend people to exaggerate  it tho, the tongue must be touching the palate so softly.

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I have the same problem until now but I think I made some improvements. What I did is to just read a book aloud emphasizing words that have the letter "r" on it. Tongue twisters also helped me and it served as an exercise for me to properly pronounce words. Lastly, I record my voice whenever I practice so that I can check if I did improve my speaking skills.

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Hmmm...I always thought that making a sort of growling sound with the r was pretty easy as that is what a rolling r sound used to sound like to me before I went all deafie. I used to roll my r's as a kid for the fun of it and it drove my mother nuts. LOL

Never occurred to me that it would be something hard for anyone to do.  :confused: Glad to hear that you seem to be getting the hang of it too.  :smile:

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I have noticed that a lot of people for bilingual tend to struggle with this. Some languages treat l's and r's exactly the same. So for them they tend to lean to the side of the letter l. The only way to be able to change and adapt from this way of life is firstly to understand the difference between the two letters. Once you are able to determine which led to sounds which way, then you will be able to progress. You need to be able to get your tongue to learn how to shape certain and then from there it's a really about practice and awareness. Practice makes perfect

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have been accused of rolling my "R's" too strongly. Especially when I speak Spanish, my friends always make me aware of rolling things a little softer. I guess it has a lot to do with my native German language, where the "R" tends to be very pronounced in most cases.

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I have difficulty with rolling Rs, too.  Any time I attempt it, I sound as if I'm trying to swallow something that is stuck in my throat.  I've never made any of my attempts while I was looking in a mirror, but I know that watching your own mouth formation while producing tricky sounds actually is helpful.

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trust me, it's not a biological thing. It's just that we are trained to pronounce when we are kids so it get's stuck. I personally don't have a problem with the rough Rs because they are pronounced the same way in my native language

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  • 3 weeks later...

I had this same issue when I had to learn Spanish. Rolling R's does not come natural to native English speakers for some reasons. What helped me was exaggerating and saying it slow. After practicing over and over it comes easy.  :amazed:

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Guest sthrngypsy

I have always had this same problem as well.  When I was in high school my Spanish teacher told me I spoke "Spanglish."  I've always been nervous around native speakers and afraid to really try and practice because I think I sound so bad.  I'm glad to know this problem can be overcome.

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I haven't completely mastered rolling my R's yet, but my Spanish teacher back in high school taught me an interesting method: She said she learned how to roll her R's by repeating the word 'butter' repeatedly, and then, she would try to say a word in Spanish that had double R's, like perro. The method is helpful because when you say the word 'butter', your tongue hits the roof of your mouth, which is what you're suppose to do when you roll your R's. This method has helped me, a native English speaker, immensely. It takes practice, though, especially if you don't have the gene that supposedly lets you roll your R's with ease...I can definitely admit that I don't have that gene. :(

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I don't think it has to do with DNA or anything. Personally, I think that it just needs a lot of practice. My sister had the same problem last time. She couldn't roll Rs too but she was persistent with practicing and she worked it out. Maybe hers was a special case but doubtful.

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I have never been able to roll my r's without sounding like I'm recovering from a bad sinus infection. I had never considered going to a speech therapist, but when it was mentioned earler, I thought it sounded like a great idea. I always wondered why occasionally a native speaker would smirk at me when I pronounced certain words, and now I know! It is the those darn r's! I am planning on researching the cost of a speech therapist on Monday after work. I will let you guys know if I have any success after giving a therapist a try.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Keep in mind that the Rs are one of the last sounds a native kid will learn to pronounce correct. Takes A LOT of practice. I've actually know a case of someone trying to learn English who kept rolling their Rs instead of using the English R (which involves awkwardly folding your tongue backwards). I believe after a lot of practice and some sort of bet involved, he was able to master the sound after a few weeks.

If you're learning Spanish, this phrase is for you: "Erre con erre, guitarra. Erre con erre, barril. Erre con erre que ruedan las ruedas del ferrocarril!"

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The R in some languages are a bit tricky. When I am confused with the R in some words, I try to find a video where a native speaker speaks exactly those words or similar. Then I just keep watching the video repeatedly and while saying it back. What happens is that, I try to copy the native speakers mouth movement and somehow, am able to produce the same sound. You could say that I am visually training my mouth.

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