Tips for pronouncing the French ‘r’

  • 2013.07.07

If you have ever tried to learn some 101 French words such as ‘Merci’ (=Thank you), ‘Bonjour’ (=Hello), or ‘Au revoir’ (=Good bye) to prepare for a trip to a French-speaking country, I bet that you have struggled with the sound of the French ‘r’. First, let me start by saying that there isn’t a sole ‘r’ sound, rather a variety of sounds made by the letter ‘r’. Depending on what region of the French-speaking realm a person is from, or where the letter ‘r’ is in the word – at the beginning, between two vowels, at the end, etc – the sound will differ. The following tips aim to help you practice the most common, standard French ‘r’ sound.

Unlike the Italian or Spanish ‘r’, it isn’t produced by vibrating the tip of your tongue (rolled ‘r’). Nor does it come from the back of your throat, like many people think. What you need to do is try to bring your tongue backward so that it almost blocks your throat and exhale. The passage of air between your tongue and the top of your palate will cause your uvula to vibrate. That’s what makes the ‘r’ sound.

Easier said than done, right? Well, here is what you can do to practice.

1. Gargle! When you use mouthwash and throw your head backward, your tongue will naturally move back to block the throat so that you don’t swallow the liquid. It is then in the same position as for the correct pronunciation of the French ‘r’ sound. I recommend trying this with a small amount of water, in order not to make a mess.
2. The ‘r’ sound is most easily pronounced between two ‘a’ sounds, because it forces you to open your mouth and lower the tip of your tongue. Try repeating the word ‘ara’ – a kind of parrot from the Amazon rainforest – for practice. To keep the tip of your tongue low and quiet, you can put a pen on it.

If you try these tips, you should start feeling what you need to do to produce a perfect French ‘r’ sound. Have fun!



あなたがこれまでにフランス語「Merci=ありがとう」や「Bonjour=こんにちは」、「Au revoir=さようなら」のような基本的な言葉を、旅行に備えるために学ぼうとしたことがあるならば、きっと「r」の発音に苦戦したことでしょう。まず最初に、「r」の音はたった1つだけではなく、むしろ色々な音が「r」で作られます。フランス語圏のどの地域からの出身であるかにより、または、「r」が単語のどこにはいっているのか― 言葉の始め、2つの母音の間、言葉の終わりなど― により音は異なります。次のヒントは、最も一般的な、標準の「r」音の練習に役立つでしょう。



1. うがい!マウスウォッシュを使って、頭を後ろにする時、あなたの舌は自然に後ろへいって喉をブロックして、液体を飲みこまないようにしますよね。その時のその状態が「r」を正しく発音する時と同じ位置にあります。失敗した時のために、少量の水で練習することをお勧めします。