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ENGLISH

It seems that one of the greatest difficulties some native-English speakers have is learning to trill their R's. Some, it seems, are completely incapable of performing this task.

Is this ever a problem for native-born Spanish speakers? If so, is this considered a speech impediment (such as having difficulty with the letter "R" is in English?)


ESPAÑOL - ¿Hay hablantes de español nativo que no puedan resonar las "R"?

Parece que una de las mayores dificultades que algunos hablantes de Inglés nativo tienen es aprender a resonar sus "R". Algunos, al parecer, son completamente incapaces de llevar a cabo esta tarea.

¿Es esto alguna vez un problema para los hablantes nativos de Español? Si es así, ¿se considera un impedimento en el habla (como lo es en Inglés el tener dificultad con la letra "R")?

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  • 1
    What do you mean, difficulty with "R" in english? I'll have you know that when I pahk my cah in Hahvahd Yahd, the people I meet all pronounce their "R"s in exactly the same way! ;) Mar 20 '13 at 10:44
  • 1
    All kinds of people have speech impediments.
    – Lambie
    Sep 5 at 15:57

12 Answers 12

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This is a very common defect, called rotacismo. This is one of the last sounds the children learn.

In fact, I was unable to pronounce it correctly until I had some corrective training.

Usually, it's not considered a speech impediment, but it will make the speaker sound dorky.

It's worth noting than some regions (for example, many provinces in Argentina) do not pronounce the R in a standard way. Their pronunciation is approximately a voiced retroflex sibilant.

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  • 3
    Is there a name for this condition like we in English have the word "lisp" for people who have trouble pronouncing the "s" sound? Nov 16 '11 at 15:45
  • @hippietrail, I'm not aware of a scientific name for it. Nov 16 '11 at 19:06
  • What about a slang or any other kind of name for it? Nov 16 '11 at 19:10
  • 8
    Not as an adjective. But you can say about someone with this problem le patina la erre (slightly derogatory depending on the context) or no le sale la erre (descriptive). Nov 16 '11 at 19:24
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    Yet another reason my Spanish just sounds dorky. As with English, it seems the very phrases used to describe the condition are unpronounceable for those of us who suffer from the defect. Nov 28 '11 at 21:16
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Certainly, there are Spanish native speakers who can't roll the r, but this is not a common problem and rarely represents a difficulty to children.

According to logopedics (logopedia) — the study, and correction, of speech defects, especially in children —, this is called "rotacismo" or "dislalia del fonema r".

Dislalia is classified as a speech disorder. It sounds very weird to native Spanish speakers and according to logopedists it can lead to low self-esteem, social isolation and even statter.

If you allow me to add a personal anecdote here, I've only heard a handful of native speakers having difficulties to roll the r in my whole life, and in this particular moment I can't even remember a person among friends, relatives, students, teachers, colleagues etc... who has this problem.

Please note that even if there are regions where the r is not rolled (some evidence here would be welcome) does not invalidate this truth: that not being able to roll the r in the same way as the rest of the population is a rare phenomenon and of course considered a speech impediment, which can most of the times be corrected by a logopedist.

Please also note that rolling the r is not exclusive to Spanish. Other languages, such as Russian, Polish and German as spoken in Bavaria, roll the r in (nearly) the same way. The same that we are discussing here applies to those languages.

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  • Uno de los lemas a la hora de responder en cualquier sitio de StackExchange es "be nice". Te recomiendo que edites tu respuesta para suavizar el tono. No tienes reputación suficiente para poner comentarios en otras respuestas, pero si alguien se equivoca en su respuesta lo normal es decirlo, siempre con educación, en un comentario. Por otro lado, piensa que hay 420 millones de hablantes nativos, y la respuesta seleccionada dice claramente que hay regiones enteras donde no se pronuncia así.
    – JoulSauron
    Oct 2 '12 at 7:42
  • No encuentro ningún tipo de lenguaje ofensivo ni fuera de lugar, salvo una pregunta retórica importante: ¿por qué consideramos más importantes nuestras anécdotas personales que la realidad? En estos sitios se trata de orientar y ayudar a la gente respondiendo a sus dudas.
    – user1025
    Oct 2 '12 at 10:00
  • Simplemente cuando dices "¿por qué confundís...?" puede sonar un poco agresivo. Por lo demás, es una buena pregunta para que la hagas en Spanish Language Meta y lo debatamos allí. :) Y tienes parte de razón, preferimos que las respuestas vayan acompañadas de evidencias, como enlaces a sitios con un mínimo de seriedad.
    – JoulSauron
    Oct 2 '12 at 10:27
  • Corregido. Espero que haya quedado mejor. Saludos.
    – user1025
    Oct 2 '12 at 10:33
  • Esta perfecto, muchísimas gracias. Explicas muy bien, espero verte participar mucho por aquí ;)
    – JoulSauron
    Oct 2 '12 at 10:40
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Yes, there are. This whole advertising campaing was based on that. It's one of the most remembered campaings in Argentina and "tapa rosca" has since become a nickname for someone who can't thrill the R here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7OTCZyEmWc

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Some native Spanish can't trill their R's properly, but I wouldn't say this is a big impediment. As long as there aren't many Rs in a row, such as in "Erre con erre guitarra", this shouldn't be very important.

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I am familiar with two examples on non-standard pronunciation of rr:

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  • Regional differences don't really address the original question, because children in those regions learn how to speak as the people around them do, barring any speech defects. But just to add to the list, in Puerto Rico, the RR is guttaral like a French R and not trilled. And in central Peru the RR is frequently pronounced as what a linguist described as a "voiced retroflex fricative", a phoneme I have heard nowhere else on earth. Oct 8 '12 at 1:54
  • Después de leer el artículo en Wikipedia, tengo la opinión que la /rr/ Bogotana y la de la sierra del Perú son iguales. Hace años yo me imaginé que provino del quechua. Pero tal vez no. Oct 8 '12 at 13:24
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Are you talking about the Spanish "ere" or the Spanish "erre"? There are some English speakers who can imitate the "ere" passably well, but get all tongue tied when they try to pronounce an "erre".

If you listen to Irish singers, like Celtic Woman or Celtic Thunder, you'll find that Gaelic uses an "R" that is much like the Spanish "ere". So do most dialects of German or Italian. There are undoubtedly other languages that do this. I even think I hear an occarional "erre" in Gaelic, but I'm not sure.

English speakers have a hard time with this sound in any of those languages, including Gaelic, or English with an Irish regional accent. You have to move your tongue in a different way. When you are three years old, learning to do this comes naturally. By the time you are 23, it doesn't come naturally any more. At age 13, when a lot of English speakers start learning Spanish, the ability to mimic sounds without coaching is largely gone, but may still be present in some people. Many language teachers do not do this kind of coaching, and a few don't even pronounce "erre" correctly themselves.

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My boyfriend is a native Spanish speaker from Mexico, and he can only make the uvular trill. It hasn't caused any problems in communication, though people do joke about his "French" accent.

There are times when he fails to make any trill at all because he instinctively makes an alveolar approximant (like the English R). This happened even before he learned English.

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  • 1
    ¡Bienvenida a Spanish.StackExchange!
    – JoulSauron
    Sep 30 '12 at 0:31
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I'm 35, and I have a friend who's 38. Both of us can't thrill the 'rr'. Everybody notices eventually, has never caused us any problems, never did anything about it. At this point, I don't know if there's anything I can do. I particularly care about it because I'm learning German and Polish :) By the way, this is in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where rioplatense-Spanish has (sometimes over-)thrilled 'rr'.

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El sonido "erre" por lo general es el último sonido que aprenden a dominar los niños ya que ciertamente con lleva el mayor grado de dificultad de los sonidos en español.

En Colombia es común usar la siguiente rima con los niños para enfatizar el sonido "erre" y lograr su correcta pronunciación:

erre con erre cigarro
erre con erre barril
rápido ruedan los carros
cargados de azúcar al ferrocarril

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COZRNS7P2cY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UynzDdXs49U

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  • youtube.com/watch?v=oyoWkZPwDrg Acá no se le escucha clara en ninguna palabra, incluso después de consonantes, lo veo más complicado cuando viene exclusivamente después de una vocal como la e o en el comienzo de una palabra, en el video suena como glottal stop o una tapped R precedida de una vocal, como ka'en en lugar de /ˈkæɹən/ diferencia de la /ʀ/ francesa que es más de la garganta y suena como la G o de algunos escoceses que es como un sonido gutural gr, como de alguien que ha fumado mucho, aspirado.
    – cocteau
    Sep 5 at 4:12
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Just adding a humor note to this thread. This is a popular "trabalenguas", that forces the R rolling to its limits:

El perro de San Roque no tiene rabo porque Ramón Ramírez se lo ha cortado.
El perro de Ramón Ramírez no tiene rabo porque se lo han robado.
¿Quién le ha robado el rabo al perro de San Roque?
¿Ramón Ramírez ha robado el rabo del perro de San Roque?

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    ¡Bienvenido a Spanish.StackExchange! En este sítio buscamos las mejores respuestas, las más se adecúen a la pregunta original. Aunque hay algo de ello, esto no es realmente un foro, por lo que tu respuesta no es adecuada, pero podría ser un comentario. Te recomiendo que leas nuestro about y faq sobre el sitio, ¡y esperamos verte colaborar a menudo!
    – JoulSauron
    Oct 5 '12 at 17:54
0

I had problems with that when I was a child, and in high school I had a couple of friends with that problem (I think they never corrected it). But I think unless you talk a lot with that person you will not notice it in many cases.

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This is an old thread but I'm gonna throw in my comment because I have an interest in this subject and have found very little info that is of any real help. I'm from the USA, a native English speaker, and from a family that has been in the US since before it was called the USA (My German ancesters left Germany and arrived in the new world in 1700). I teach English as a foreign language in Colombia. I cannot, even after 8 years of trying, trill the rr. I had a student, he was a doctor and a native Colombian and native Spanish speaker, who also could not trill the Spanish erre. He told me the medical name for the condition but I have long since forgotten the exact name, but I believe it was some kind of "dislalia". It's definitely not common, but it does occur. He told me that in his entire life he never had any problems with communication because of it, and most people don't even notice unless he spent a lot of time talking with them. As much as I would like to trill the erre if it never happens, well, no big deal, I'm communicating with my Spanish friends and others just fine. The only real "problem" I've encountered are the few friends who have tried very strongly to get me to trill the erre, to the point of frustration. Eventually I simply force a change of subject to get past their attempts to help me pronounce Spanish better.

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  • The original question is whether there are native speakers who cannot do it, not speakers of other languages.
    – mdewey
    Sep 4 at 14:01
  • Right, and if you read into the middle of my comment you will read about a native Colombian who cannot pronounce the erre.
    – ChipW
    Sep 7 at 1:58

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