French is notorious for having some difficult-to-pronounce sounds.
The French “R” sound, in particular, is a tough one to master.
That’s because it’s quite unique to the French language—it’s different from the English rhotic “R” sound and the trilled “R” (also known as the “rolled R”) found in other European languages like Spanish, Italian and Russian.
You’ll soon have it down pat, though, since this post has everything you need to know about learning how to pronounce “R” in French!
Fortunately, there’s more than one way to nail the pronunciation of “R” in French. Below, I’ll run you through three methods to do so, as well as how to pronounce it in different dialects.
With the Approximation Method, you may be able to “borrow” the French “R” from your native tongue! This is because it also has the guttural sound (sounds produced in the throat) found in other languages.
Keep in mind, however, that the “R” in French isn’t exactly the same as these sounds—that’s why it’s just an approximation.
Whether you speak another language or not, eventually you’ll want to step out of your comfort zone and start pronouncing the “R” exactly how it is in French.
There’s actually quite an easy way to do it—and it starts by basing it off the “K” sound in English!
The process is simple.
Remember those times when you were sick with a head cold? You’d probably try to clear the back of your throat by horking the mucus (snorting the gunk up from the back of the throat) and then spitting it out.
As nasty as it sounds, that horking is the place where the “R” in French gets created.
But wait! Don’t go around spitting everywhere!
Aim for a softer sound than horking.
Try to get more of a steady vibration instead of a violent hack.
If this is too gross for you, you can also use snoring as a baseline for the sound.
You’ve now learned how to pronounce “R” in Standard French—the most commonly taught dialect of French and the one you’re most likely to hear in mass media and major cities like Paris.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), there’s more than one way to pronounce the French “R” sound depending on the dialect or accent you’re using.
So why is this relevant to you when you’re likely studying Standard French pronunciation? Well, if you can’t pronounce “R” the way most native French speakers do, you can always adopt a regional accent!
Now that we know how to pronounce the “R” in French, let’s look at some words that use it.
Note that the “R” at the end of words ending in er isn’t pronounced. This er ending is pronounced as the ay in the English word “may.”
In addition to a good French pronunciation guide, the best way to master the “R” in French is to get out there and practice it.
But before you book a trip to France, you may want to check out some French pronunciation tools on the internet first.
Here are a few:
Forvo helps you hear the pronunciation of any French word.
I recommend Forvo’s French audio dictionary. Simply search for a French word that contains an “R” to hear its pronunciation. This is particularly useful when trying to hear how the “R” in French is pronounced when combined with other consonants, as in the word crime (crime).
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the French language and culture over time. You’ll learn French as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with FluentU's adaptive quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning and play the mini-games found in the dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
As you study, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a 100% personalized experience.
It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)
Simple-French.com offers quite a few recordings of the French “R” as well as exercises for you to practice on your own.
The exercises involve making several different sounds and words that use the letter “R.” Gradually, you get closer and closer to pronouncing it more accurately. You can check your pronunciation against the audio provided in each exercise.
If you’re serious about improving your French pronunciation, make it a goal to practice once a day until it’s second nature. Even if you got it right within the first few tries, repetition is what’ll help you truly master it.
YouTube is also a great place to practice the “R” in French. All you have to do is type in any keyword along the lines of “how to pronounce r in french” and the video-sharing platform should generate a number of relevant and interesting results.
The beauty of video is that, aside from the sound made, you can also see the way the speaker shapes their mouth to produce the sound. I suggest looking for the ones that teach not only pronunciation but also give out exercises to facilitate your language learning.
For example, Language City offers a short video explanation of the sound along with practice exercises.
Meanwhile, the University of Michigan includes a video about the French “R” sound in its series on French pronunciation.
For extra pronunciation practice, you could also check out this video by Julien Miquel, which offers 30 example words that use the French “R.” Listen to Julien pronounce the words and repeat!
Whew! At this point, you may want to grab a cup of lemon ginger tea to soothe your throat after practicing how to pronounce “R” in French so many times. I hope that mastering this particular letter will make you feel like all those cups of tea are worth it!
I am enjoying FluentU. I have been using this site for a couple weeks and I have definitely noticed a huge improvement in my vocabulary. I love that it uses a lot of relevant clips like Norman fait des videos to practice REAL French, and it is presented in such a fun way that it makes it easy to practice. Using this site has become part of my daily routine.
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I really like learning with the videos. I have studied using other methods and it was very hard to put what you were learning into context. With the videos, not only are you learning new vocabulary, you are seeing how it is used. For example the tone which is used, the body language of the person using the phrase and the reaction to the phrase being said.
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- Aileen Raquel Araúz