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Learning French - Mastering Prounouciation of the French "R"

Updated on December 6, 2010

The French "r" sounds, to most English speakers, like the sound one makes when hocking up a loogy. And please forgive the colorful imagery, but let's call a spade a spade here. Technically the sound is referred to as a "uvular r" or an "r" that is produced in the back of the throat involving the hanging-down-thingy i.e., the uvula.

And I normally would not talk about the point of articulation, but as this sound is so, well foreign, to most English speakers, it bears mentioning for the following reasons. To the untrained ear, the French "r" sounds a little like an "l" and then again a little like an "h." Let's face it - it's a hard sound to nail down and consequently, when most English speakers try to imitate the sound, it invariably comes out a hybrid of the two. But if you know where the sound is supposed to be coming from then you have a fighting chance of getting it right.

With these few suggestions, you can be well on your way to mastering the French "r." By the way, not all dialects of French have the same "r" sound. Some have the trilled r very similar to that in Spanish. So, if after many trials the standard French "r" just isn't coming, revert to the trilled r in Spanish - you won't sound Parisian but you won't sound totally foreign either.

Okay, here we go. Start practicing by pretending to clear your throat. But while clearing your throat raise the back of your tongue a little. If you do it correctly, you will notice a little tickle on the back of your tongue. Keep practicing that until it you can pronounce it with less and less effort. And remember, "r" sounds at the end of words like beurre, the word for "butter." are pronounced very gently, almost imperceptibly. Watch the attached Youtube video and good luck! Remember... practice does make perfect.


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    • profile image

      Anon 3 years ago

      THANK YOU! All this time I have been trying to modify my trilled Spanish R to make it sound French, but the sound is generated too far forward in the mouth that way. I didn't realize the sound originated from so far back in the throat.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

      This should make you laugh, but although I am still in the early stages of studying French, I understand more of it than "hocking up a loogy." I also have a feeling that I don't want a detailed explanation.

      Thanks for tips and the youtube link.

    • QudsiaP1 profile image

      QudsiaP1 7 years ago

      Believe me I pronounce Arabic like a non Arabic speaker.

      Arabic is originally supposed to be spoken very softly, this act is called Qirrat, where you pronounce each vowel with a certain musicality that is believed to be healing.

    • DTR0005 profile image

      Doug Robinson 7 years ago from Midwest

      LOLLL ok... phonetically "Je regarde par le fenetre" sounds a bit like this - Zhuh regaad paa luh fuhnet-ruh. In fast, everyday speech the "r" in the middle of words tends to soften and extends the proceeding vowel's sound. And again, the beginning "r" of "regarde" is very similar to the Arabic "h" as sometimes transliterated into English.

    • QudsiaP1 profile image

      QudsiaP1 7 years ago

      Okay, totally mind boggling experience.

      When the youtube video said, "listen and repeat I am looking outside the window in French"... I was kind of expecting it to be pronounced at LEAST how it was spelled.

      "Je regarde par le fenetre" sounded like the woman had a sore throat and took a can with rocks in it to make the sentence pronounceable.

      From what my untrained ear told me it sounded like, "Ju gu gack da paag la fanatcha"... a sound, I might utter while chocking.

      Wow French is hard. I think German is easier, you just have to add 'scien' to the end of every word. :P