Hot Tip: Pronouncing The French ‘R’

The R sound in French is, how should we put it…problematic.
two people sitting on a parisian street corner french r

French pronunciation is full of pit falls and booby traps. Case in point: the nasal sounds. The liaisons. The voiceless letters. The accents. But if you’re reading this, it’s likely because at some point in your journey, the French R really, really frustrated you, and you’d like some straightforward advice for making your mouth, well, do that.

Babbel Live teacher Audrey says that in her classes, learners often make the French R sound like an English R, or they pronounce it like an L.

To remedy this, she has her students try these three techniques:

  • Put water in your mouth and gargle. While gargling, try to imagine where the R sound would form in the back of your mouth. Then, try to reproduce this without water, and by adding vowels.
  • If this doesn’t work and you find your tongue still flipping to the top, try pressing down on your tongue with a pen.
  • As a last resort, switch out the French R for an English H (or rather, the airy sound of the H). It’s not completely the same, but it’s close enough to differentiate the R and the L.
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