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French R pronunciation - The ultimate guide

French R pronunciation

Pronouncing the French r is not always intuitive for English speakers.

First, you have to feel where the sound comes from.

Then, you should pronounce it in a balanced way: not too soft and certainly not too strong!

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French r pronunciation: which part of the mouth is involved?

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French R: Leave Your Adam's Apple Alone!

Even if we call the French r a guttural sound, it should NOT come from the Adam’s apple.

This is a confusion many French learners (and some teachers) make, and the usual “roaring” exercices won’t help you pronounce the French r the right way!

Then, Which Part Of The Mouth Is Involved To Pronounce The French R?

In French, most consonant sounds are produced in the front or in the center of the mouth.

However, some letters (among others, k and r) are pronounced at the back of the mouth.

Therefore, pronouncing the letter k will help us determine how to pronounce the French r.

Start with the word koala, for example, and feel where the k sound comes from:

koala (koala)

We will start from this point to form the r sound.

Let it roll!

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In French, we roll the r‘s. This is not the same sound as in Spanish, though.

The Spanish let the tip of the tongue vibrate against the upper gum, whereas the French let the vibration occur at the same spot where the k sound is created (at the back of the mouth).

Here’s an exercise to work on the French r pronunciation:

Pronounce the word koala and insist on the consonant k (listen to the audio recording above). Then, try to let the space between your tongue and your palate vibrate. It should sound as a kkkkrrrr sound! You should feel that the two sounds are formed in the same area.

Last, try to eliminate the k sound altogether. You may also do the same exercice with the following word:

crier (to shout)

Keep a sense of proportion!

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If you can’t pronounce the French r from your first attempt, don’t worry!

Here’s my advice!

#1 Speak anyway

Most foreign accents are charming in French.

Therefore, even if you don’t pronounce each and every letter the right way, it should not prevent you from speaking and making friends!

#2 Don't overdo it

If you feel you can’t pronounce the French r, don’t overdo it.

It wouldn’t sound nice!

It is sometimes better to pronounce the consonant r “the English way”.

Until you get better…

#3 Practice

When you learn French, pronouncing sounds like r or u may require some practice.

You may have to do the same exercices again and again, until something clicks.

Here are some words for you to practice:

une rose (a rose)

le sucre (the sugar)

une racine (a root)

In French, r can also be silent

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Usually, at the end of a word, the letter r is NOT silent, but as often in French, there is an exception…

In polysyllabic words ending in er, the final r is silent.

Here are some examples:

aller (to go)

un poirier (a pear tree)

What about the double rr?

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No difficulty, here.

The double rr is pronounced the same as the single r. Here is an example:

j'arrive (I'm coming)


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Work on your French pronunciation with a collection of posts with examples and audio recordings.


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