I got my R right, and it’s more of a miracle than it sounds

My native language is Finnish, and I’ve never been able to pronounce R correctly in it. I have what they call “a French R”, meaning I pronounce my R’s in my throat. I went to speech therapy for rhotacism (screw whoever invented that word) for a year when I was around 7, and never learned it. Eventually they just kind of gave up.

The Finnish R and Japanese R are usually said to be identical, which is mostly true, but the difference I’ve noticed is that typically the Japanese R is shorter and it doesn’t need to vibrate as strongly. If you think of the R that you’ll hear when a Japanese person tries to sound more agressive, like a yakuza or a generic tough guy, that’s basically what the Finnish R sounds like.
Thing is, since I’ve watched anime from a young age I at some point noticed I could pronounce the shorter Japanese R sound correctly, although sometimes I’d get rusty and would have to re-learn it. I was still never able to imitate the tough guy speech, but I was okay with that, it’s not like it’d be very useful to me.
But then we get to today. I was on my way home, singing Hunter x Hunter’s op, Departure. The last line of the TV sized version goes ”何度けど立ち上がれ!“, and the singer rolls his R as he stretches out the last word. I was singing along, at one point I noticed I also tried to make the rolling sound in my throat, and just thought “yeah I really shouldn’t do that or it’ll become a bad habit. I’ll just do the R as I normally do”. And so, I sing the song again, and as I approach the end I remind myself to just do the R the normal way without doing anything weird. Welp, I didn’t, because for the first time in my entire life, my R rolled the correct way. I obviously got super excited, tried saying a bunch of Japanese words with R, and a couple in my native language, but the latter felt a little clunky as I’m so used to the way I do it.

So now, at the ripe age of 18 years old, I can FINALLY stop being jealous of English speakers who easily learned to roll their R when I as a native Finnish speaker couldn’t. ありがとうございます、日本語さん🤝


I can’t roll my Rs, and I’ve been speaking English all my life…

Ah, linguistics is full of terms like that. Such as lisp (where you’re unable to pronounce silibants such as S), or Bell’s Palsy (a facial paralysis that makes Bs and Ps difficult to pronounce).


I mean tbf I wouldn’t expect an English speaker to be able to roll their R’s without practice, but I used to see people for example imitate hispanic accents and get the hang of rolling their R’s very easily. Seemed pretty unfair to me because why the couldn’t I when it would’ve actually been useful to me😭

It has to be them intentionally fucking with the people who have those because why the hell not, who’s gonna stop them. The police? I mean it is a little funny

me either....3 years of high school spanish years and years and years ago could never do it.....teachers through i was screwing with them....nope....to this day can't do it ....

Getting right can honestly be stupidly hard. The dumb part is that it doesn’t FEEL like it should be hard, yet it is

That’s awesome! I was a lot older than 18 when I figured it out, so it sounds to me like you’re making good time!

Here’s what made it click for me. First, I cup my tongue around the roof of my mouth, to make it airtight. Second, I send vibrations through my tongue.

It looks complicated but it’s just the KH sound from German/Russian/Arabic with your tongue curled upwards. In fact, one big breakthrough for me was realizing that that KH sound, the English H sound, and the rolled R are just the same air movement at different parts of the throat.

This also helped me with the two H letters in Arabic, which are similar but involve different parts of the throat.

It also helps (tangentially) with the Japanese ん. If ん occurs before a vowel or a Y or W sound, or at the end of an utterance, you don’t use the English N. Instead, you use the back of your tongue to close your throat (I think a nasalized French N like in “non” would work). That’s the trick to words like 原因.

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