If You Don't Know How To Roll Your Rs, it's Because You Don't Want to (2023)

  • “I can’t trill my R’s”.
  • “I’ve tried everything but rolling my R’s it’s impossible”.
  • “I think there’s something wrong with my mouth”….

Does it ring a bell?

Trilling your R’s is impossible… because you don’t know how to do it.

Once you learn the basics (technique, where and how to place your tongue, what to do with the air…) everything becomes easier.

Will I be able to roll my R’s?

People often think that their inability to trill is genetic. But it’s not.

Rolling your R’s is a skill you can master unless:

  • You were born with a cleft lip or palate. Only 1 out of 600 babies is born with this problem.
  • Your tongue frenum is too short. You will know because you’ll feel related to some of the following statements:
    • Your tongue gets tired when talking for a long time.
    • You can’t lick your upper gum, lip or reach your palate.
    • You prefer ice cream cups to ice cream cones. Because you prefer using a spoon rather than licking.
    • You aren’t able to swallow capsules or tablets.
    • Some kisses are difficult.
If You Don't Know How To Roll Your Rs, it's Because You Don't Want to (1)

If there’s nothing wrong with your mouth, then you should be able to roll your R’s. You only need 3 things:

  1. Understand how the sound is produced in your mouth.
  2. Have a method that works.
  3. Practice (of course!)

Everyone can do it.

If you aren’t able to roll your R’s yet, you’re doing something wrong.

Why is it difficult to trill my R’s?

Nobody is born knowing how to roll the R. In fact, it’s one of the sounds Spanish kids learn the latest and some of them need help before they get to pronounce it right.

These are the 3 reasons why it’s difficult to trill your R’s:

  1. Because the position of your tongue and the strength of the airflow you need are quite strict.
  2. Because you don’t see what happens in the mouth. It’s like when you learn to whistle. You don’t see what’s going on in there so it’s difficult to make the same happen in your own mouth.
  3. Because you have very little awareness of how your mouth moves. We do have it when we learn to talk -as babies-, but once we know how to do it, our mouth moves automatically. Likewise, walking. You don’t pay attention to the movement of your legs and feet. It just happens. You can talk and walk at the same time without thinking how you’re doing it.

However, rolling your R’s is a skill, and like any other skill, you need to practice (did I mention it yet?).

If You Don't Know How To Roll Your Rs, it's Because You Don't Want to (2)

A Simple Guide to Roll your Rs
(step by step)

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(Video) How to Roll Your R's, Step-by-Step [Spanish Pronunciation]

How long will it take to roll my R’s?

I had students who had been trying to roll their R’s for years with no success.

They watched Youtube videos, had advice from friends, teachers… but they didn’t get a single trill. However, after understanding how the sound is produced and having the proper guidance, they learned to roll their R’s in 2 days.

It’s possible but definitely not common.

You can expect to get your Spanish Rs sound -on a fairly normalbasis- after 7-10 days of daily practice.

Learn how to trill your R’s step by step

Being able to pronounce the rolled R will make you speak more native-like and improve your self-confidence.

But how can you do it?

Step 1. Understanding how the trill is produced

Let’s do this more visual.

A simple experiment to see how to produce the trill

You only need:

  • a piece of paper
  • a surface to put it on.

(Don’t continue reading if you don’t have them).

Do you have them yet?

No? Go take them.

I’ll wait for you

1. Cut a small piece of paper -around 7×7 cm (or the size of a finger). If you can (and want) make it more real by cutting the paper with the shape of a tongue.

If You Don't Know How To Roll Your Rs, it's Because You Don't Want to (3)
(Video) How to Trill Your Rs

2. Put it on the table and hold it with a finger on the wider side. Blow on the opposite side (the tip of the tongue).

Find the right position to make it vibrate. This is not important for rolling your R’s (you can’t change the direction where the air comes from).

3. Experiment with the amount of airflow. (This is the important point). Notice how strong you need to blow to make it vibrate. If you blow gently, the paper won’t rattle.

*Try doing the same with a piece of plastic wrap. What happens?

(Conclusions below)

A small practice to feel the trill

This might seem a stupid question:

Are you able to trill your lips?

Yes, your lips. Don’t worry, I’m not going ape. If you want to understand how to trill your R’s, t’s important to start here because you can feel the vibration in your own mouth.

As you saw in the previous exercise, trills have 2 elements in common:

  • Something that is “relaxed” (we’ll see this later) and vibrates.
  • A flow of air.

To master the skill of rolling your R’s you need to know what you’re doing. And practice. A lot of practice.

The practice is the key to success.

(Don’t skip this exercise. It’s the foundation to understand how trills work and feel it in your mouth).

1. Trill your lips breathing out:

  • First, with a weak airflow. (Don’t continue reading, try!)
  • Second, with a stronger airflow. Blow as much air as you can. (Try again).

Notice that it’s much easier to make your lips vibrate with a stronger flow of air.

2. Now, trill your lips breathing out:

  • First, keep your lips tensed. (Try, it’s impossible).
  • Second, keep your lips relaxed.

If you find it difficult try pouting/sulking like a kid.

If You Don't Know How To Roll Your Rs, it's Because You Don't Want to (4)

Notice that, if your lips are totally relaxed, you can’t make them vibrate. They should be relaxed but with a little tension on the muscles around them.

Careful, not too much!


  1. Your lips must be relaxed enough but not too much. Remember the piece of plastic wrap in the previous exercise? It doesn+n’t vibrate because it isn’t a firm material. It’s too loose to vibrate.
  2. Strong airflow helps to produce vibration.

Now that you know how the trill works, let’s get into the mud.

Step 2. Tongue position to make it vibrate

I could tell you the exact position where you should place your tongue to trill the R.

But I will not.


First, because there isn’t a fixed point to roll your R’s. Some people say it’s the same place as when you pronounce the English D. Others say it’s the spot where you produce the letter L. Others…

Find out yourself.

(Video) How to Roll Your R's - You Already Know How! (For Italian, Spanish, etc.)

Experiment. Put your tongue on different places of your palate: behind the teeth, further back in the mouth… It’s better you find yourself the point that works best for you.

To find out what’s the best place start with the 2 exercises below.

Exercise 1: Discovering your mouth (2-3 minutes)

This is a very simple exercise that speech therapists use with children who have problems rolling their R’s. It works with adults as well.

Maybe you think this is a stupid exercise but one of the things that make it difficult to pronounce the R is that we aren’t aware of what happens in our mouth, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do with this exercise.

Give it a try.

  1. Imagine your mouth is a house. You should clean it with your tongue. Thoroughly scour each part of it: remove cobwebs from the ceilings (palate); clean shelves (teeth); wipe the floor (bottom of your mouth), the walls (cheeks)…
    Now get out of your house and do some exercises. Play with your tongue: move it up and down, sideways…Make the tip wide and then pointy…(this last step is very important)
  2. Imagine you have peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth. Try to remove it. Reach far back into your mouth with the tip of your tongue and scrape forward. Close your eyes and pay attention to that you touch. Move your tongue slowly. Feel how your palate changes from soft (back) to hard (front). Take your time. Now, pass your tongue over the ridge right behind your teeth (prize! That’s the famous alveolar ridge). To produce the trill, you should place the tip of your tongue there. Again, experiment. Maybe you find it easier to roll your R’s a little backward.

Exercise 2: The alphabet – Finding the right place to put your tongue (1 minute)

Say the alphabet out loud (in English). Say each letter slowly, paying attention to where you place your tongue. If it touches different parts of your mouth, where does it touch? Feel the path of motion of your tongue.

I recommend you take a mirror.

Identify the 3 sounds where your tongue touches the alveolar ridge (the gum ridge I told you before, right behind your upper teeth).

Did you get them?

Now you know where to place your tongue.

Concern 1. What part of my tongue should I place against the palate?

Now you know in what part of your mouth you should place your tongue to produce the trill but what part of your tongue is actually touching the alveolar ridge (palate)?

No, It’s not the tip.

It’s the blade. Very close to the tip but not the actual tip of the tongue.

Concern 2. I can’t relax my tongue to make the trill

It’s a very common concern.

First of all, and if you don’t know yet, you should know that rolling your R’s doesn’t mean tapping your tongue very fast. In fact, you don’t have to move your tongue at all.

This is very important.

Your tongue should only be in the right place, in the correct position, with the appropriate tension. But it’s the air when it pasts your tongue, that moves it back and forth producing vibration.

You are told that you have to relax your tongue in order to make it vibrate.

How the hell are you supposed to do that, if you have to keep it on the roof of your mouth?

Don’t worry. That’s not true.

I was about to write that 99% of the time people say your tongue should be loose, but that wouldn’t be true either. Actually, I haven’t yet heard anyone saying otherwise (that you need some tension in your tongue).

I did, at some point, say to my students to relax their tongues.

Shame on me.

One day, while researching exercises to help one of my students to get the trill (and practising myself) I realized that I could roll my R’s with my tongue being tense. Quite tense.

(Video) How to roll your R's - Exercises that work!

It’s true that, when we speak and trill our R’s in real life, our tongue is never tight (the R’s wouldn’t sound natural). But it isn’t loose either.

If You Don't Know How To Roll Your Rs, it's Because You Don't Want to (5)

If the tip of your tongue was loose, you would produce a sound similar to an aspirated T (the first T in potato) or double T in butter.

So your tongue should be a little tight to keep it there, on the roof of your mouth, and be able to make it vibrate. Otherwise, the strong airflow you need to produce the rolled R will blow away your tongue. (Remember the experiment with the plastic wrap?)

Step 3. How rolled R’s are produced – The airflow

Concern 3. How do I know if I’m expelling air with the right amount of strength?

There isn’t an exact amount of strength. But there is a range.

If You Don't Know How To Roll Your Rs, it's Because You Don't Want to (6)

TIP: Inhale and inflate your cheeks. Then blow but keep your cheeks inflated. Notice that you blow out of the lungs.

That’s the way of expelling air to trill your R’s. The airflow comes out of the lungs.

In short

Everyone can roll the Rs.

Being able to do it will make you look more native-like, and improve your self-confidence too.


  • The blade of your tongue should touch the alveolar ridge or close to it. Experiment. Place your tongue on different places of your palate and find yourself the place that works best for you.
  • To produce the trill you shouldn’t tap your tongue yourself. It’s the air that moves it when it pasts your tongue.
  • It’s much easier to make your tongue vibrate with a stronger flow of air. With the airflow coming out of your lungs. But if your tongue is totally relaxed, the strong airflow will blow it away.

Anyway, this is just one of the 33 sounds of the Spanish language so don’t get frustrated if you haven’t got to roll your R’s yet. Be patient. Practice a little every day and soon you will see improvements.

How to practice your Spanish Rs

You can practice with the 16 most difficult Spanish words with the letter R or with this video:

Or you can improve your pronunciation by learning to pronounce other sounds that are more frequent than the rolled R, such as [d], that may be pronounced in 5 different ways (or be silent sometimes); [b] and [β]; or Spanish T, that is pronounced in a different way from English T.


Can some people not roll their rs? ›

It's a misconception that some people are destined never to roll their 'r's. In countries with 'r' rolling languages, many people learn the skill in childhood. Spanish is an example of one such language. However, those yet to master the skill need only to practise.

Why can't I roll my R's? ›

But the reason people struggle with the trill is simply that it's not obvious how to do it. Everything takes place out-of-sight, inside the mouth, where most of us have very little awareness of what our mouth parts are doing. Even among native speakers, the rolled R is typically mastered later than any other sound.

Can everyone learn to roll their rs? ›

There's no real equivalent in English to the rolled 'r'. That's what makes it so notoriously hard for native English speakers who are used to the very hard R sound. Despite this, it is possible to learn this skill. Being able to roll your 'r's isn't a genetic trait like, say, being able to roll your tongue.

Can you learn Spanish without rolling your R's? ›

Yes! There are whole Spanish-speaking populations that are in the same boat as you are! Rolling your R's is not a requirement for learning Spanish! There are tricks you can use to help you pronounce flapped R's better, which is the more important sound that affects understandability more often than rolled R's.

Is Rolling R's Genetic? ›

To many native English speakers, the rolled R is notoriously hard to pronounce since there isn't an equivalent in the English language. The biggest myth around this topic is that the ability of rolling your R's genetic. In fact, alveolar trill is a skill that can be acquired through practicing.

Can Asians roll their rs? ›

Can Asians roll R? While the “R” is in the same position but with the tongue allowed to drop a little so that it “floats” ever so slightly below the palate. The Asian “R” becomes an “L” simply by touching the palate with the tongue.

What is it called when you can't say your R's? ›

Difficulty pronouncing the /r/ sound is very common because /r/ is one of the most challenging sounds in the English language to pronounce. This speech problem is known as a rhotacism.

Why can't kids say their R's? ›

Inability to pronounce the R sound usually leads to a child pronouncing their Rs as Ws. This is because there are more variations of the letter R pronouncement than any other letter. Adding to the difficulty, it isn't easy to show a child how to position their mouth and tongue to make the sound correctly.

Is learning to roll hard? ›

You can help by rolling him to his side a few times before going all the way over to his tummy. Rolling is very hard work for your baby. He may need time practicing the movement before he is comfortable.

Why can't I roll my tongue? ›

In other words, if you inherited one or two copies of the dominant “tongue rolling gene” (R) allele from your parents, then you would be able to roll your tongue. If you inherited two copies of the recessive “tongue rolling gene” (r) allele instead, then you would not be able to roll your tongue.

Do Japanese people roll their Rs? ›

The Japanese don't roll their tongue, as in the Spanish language when pronouncing "R". However, the "R" sound is much closer to the Spanish "R" than the English "R".

Why is Spanish R so hard? ›

The main reason it's so hard to trill the Spanish R is because many native speakers of English simply can't reproduce the sound—no matter how hard they try—since the English language has no place for the alveolar trill in its set of sounds, preferring instead the R we all know and love, found in words like wrap, ream, ...

How can I learn to roll my R's in Spanish? ›

All you need to do is take that [tt] or [dd] sound and put it into Spanish words with the single R sound. In fact, for most learners, this is the first step towards rolling their R's.

Do French roll R's? ›

French R Vs Spanish R

The French R sound is produced at the back of the mouth, where you'll pronounce the G of “get” in English. In France, the French R is never the Spanish rolled R, nor is it the very guttural Spanish J as in Jesus.

Can you roll your r with a tongue tie? ›

Apparently Spanish-speakers also recognize a defect called Ankyloglossia, or “Tounge-tie”, which means that frenulum (the tissue that connects your tongue to base of your mouth) is too short. If you have “tongue-tie”, you cannot roll your r's.

Why do Asians say L instead of R? ›

While the “R” is in the same position but with the tongue allowed to drop a little so that it “floats” ever so slightly below the palate. The Asian “R” becomes an “L” simply by touching the palate with the tongue. That's why L and R sound so similar to our Western ears – because they are very similar.

What country rolls their r? ›

The rolled R is used in Italian, Spanish, Polish, Russian, Arabic and (sometimes) Portuguese. It's also part of Hindi and Tagalog. That rolled R not only sounds pretty nifty, but it can make a difference in meaning when you're speaking one of those languages.

Do Puerto Ricans roll RS? ›

In fact Puerto Ricans are famous for rolling their R's, so much so that it has become a stereotype and it is use in by many comedians when doing an expression of a Puerto Rican. Shortening of words: Puerto Ricans also often shorten words by eliminating whole syllables.

What does an R speech impediment sound like? ›

People with rhotacism typically produce the /r/ sound as a vowel-like sound, and this makes the /r/ word hard to understand. Often the /r/ is pronounced like a “w”. For example, “Roger Rabbit” tends to sound like “Woger Wabbit”. Rhotacism can also make other sounds difficult to distinguish.

How rare is rhotacism? ›

The least common combination is sigmatism and rhotacism, only present in 0.4% of the children (n = 3) (Figure 2).

What age do kids start saying R? ›

The R sound is typically one of the last sounds to be mastered by children, often not maturing until ages 6 or 7. That's just one of the reasons it has the persistency to remain incorrect in a child's speech.

When should kids say L? ›

When should your child be able to pronounce the /l/ sound? Acquisition of the /l/ sound can happen anywhere between ages 3 and 6 years. If your child falls within this age range, and is having trouble pronouncing /l/, this is technically developmentally normal.

What words can't kids say? ›

And here's how they actually tend to pronounce them.
  • · Amblance (ambulance)
  • · Aminal (animal)
  • · Babbit (rabbit)
  • · Pasgetti (spaghetti)
  • · Binoclars (binoculars)
  • · Confoo'd (confused)
  • · Constructions (instructions)
  • · Hopital (hospital)
Sep 18, 2014

Why is my 4 year old not speaking clearly? ›

These happen when there's a problem in the areas of the brain responsible for speech. This makes it hard to coordinate the lips, tongue, and jaw to make speech sounds. These kids also might have other oral-motor problems, such as feeding problems. Hearing problems also can affect speech.

How do you roll RS in Russian? ›

Russian has two different rolled-R sounds.
Remember: The air passing through your larynx and mouth makes the sound.
  1. Start by practicing that clear-your-throat “ckh” sound. Try to turn it into a “grr”. ...
  2. Press the tip of your tongue against the alveolar ridge behind your teeth. ...
  3. Practice and refine.

What age should roll over? ›

Babies start rolling over as early as 4 months old. They will rock from side to side, a motion that is the foundation for rolling over. They may also roll over from tummy to back. At 6 months old, babies will typically roll over in both directions.

What are the easiest papers to roll? ›

A king-size flax paper is a good rolling paper for beginners. A high quality flax paper will have a slow burn rate that will keep your joint burning slowly and evenly. If you don't have the patience to master the art of joint rolling, don't fear!

What is the hardest tongue twister? ›

In 2013, MIT‌ researchers concluded that “pad kid poured curd pulled cod” is the hardest tongue twister in the world. In fact, Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, an MIT psychologist, says you will get a prize if you manage to say that 10 times quickly. And not any kind of “quickly”.

How many people can twist their tongue? ›

The percentage of people who can roll the tongue varies from 60 to 80% [8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15] and the average percentage of tongue folding lies between 1.5 and 3% [10, 16, 17].

How rare is Clover tongue? ›

According to a study published in the journal Dysphagia, 83.7% of the population could roll their tongue. Well, that's impressive. Now you may be wondering, what percentage of the population can do a clover tongue? According to this study, only 14.7%.

Is it rude to fold yen? ›

Japanese Money Etiquette

It is easy to fold, crumple, and otherwise damage paper money into your pocket or wallet. However, when in Japan, you'll want to mind this concept as it is generally frowned upon. When giving or accepting money, it is a tradition to do this with both hands, and/or upon a tray.

Is it OK to be left handed in Japan? ›

the left hand is not a taboo in japan! however,when you give o receive something,its rude to use only one hand....you may notice that the japanese,expecially the women,when receive or give something use both hands.

Is sitting criss cross rude in Japan? ›

It's okay to cross your legs in a casual setting, but in business relations it's seen as too casual and improper. It is preferable to sit in seiza, the traditional Japanese way of sitting where you sit upright and your legs are tucked underneath you.

What is the hardest Spanish accent to learn? ›

Which Spanish is hardest to understand? Chile, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Andalusia (Spain) are a few of the places considered to speak more difficult Spanish.

Why is Spanish so easy? ›

Although Spanish is a Romance language rather than a Germanic language, it's fairly easy for English speakers to learn because many English words stem from Latin. Spanish also uses the same alphabet as English, and many of the words are pronounced just as they are spelled.

Do most languages roll their R's? ›

The rolled R is the most common trill—it's the one used in Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, and many other languages. Technically, it's called an “apical-alveolar trill”—because all the action happens at the tip (“apex”) of the tongue as it approaches the “alveolar ridge” of your mouth.

What does rolling r's mean? ›

idiom. : to pronounce the sound /r/ with a trill.

Can Americans roll their Rs? ›

If by Americans, you mean citizens of the United States, then they don't roll their R's. But if you mean citizens of the Americas, most Spanish speakers roll the R at the beginning of words (rojo or rioja) and whenever there's a double R in the middle of a word (burrito or borracho). That's how Spanish is spoken.

Can all Italians roll their R's? ›

Training the muscles to make new sounds takes perseverance (probably way more than you think), so it's easy to assume there must be some physiological reason why you can't do it. But in countries where Spanish or Italian is spoken, almost everyone can make the rolling R sound.

Why some people Cannot roll their tongue? ›

The reason we couldn't all do it, we were told, is because it is a simple genetic trait. You had either inherited the right variant of the tongue-rolling gene or you hadn't. And if you hadn't, you would never be able to do it.

What is the rarest tongue trick? ›

If you can twist your tongue into a cloverleaf, you are gifted. It is one of the rarest tricks. According to a study published in the journal Dysphagia, 83.7% of the population could roll their tongue. Well, that's impressive.

Can humans roll their tongues? ›

In humans, the ability to roll the tongue is a dominant trait. The inability to roll the tongue is a recessive trait.

Can you teach yourself to roll your tongue? ›

The short answer is: Yes, you can roll your R's! Assuming that your tongue is reasonably normal, you can learn to roll your R's. (There's a rare medical condition that inhibits mobility of the tongue.


1. How to Roll Your Rs [Tongue Trill for Spanish]
(Spanish and Go)
2. Reach Crazy High Notes by Rolling your R’s
(Nail Every Note)
3. Why Jonathan Ross Can't Pronounce His Rs
(Tom Scott)
4. How Not to Roll Your Rs - Sorry Linguists
(Ich Banana)
5. How to Roll Your R's in Italian - Italian Pronunciation for Beginners
(Italy Made Easy)
6. Fire In The Booth – R.S. (aka Roll Safe)
(BBC Radio 1Xtra)
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