Rrrrrrrrrrr pronunciation

Im very confused about this pronunciation, sometimes it sounds like a hard R, sometimes a L or D?

In my language a hard R is like a cat purring “rrrrrrrrrrrr” but with a lot more emphasis on the R. Making a harder R sound if that makes sense. It sounds like a japanese R when it doesnt sound like l or d.

Is it bad to have a accent like that, and how do i know when a “R” is pronounced with a softer L or D?

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Japanese people do not distinguish these sounds, which is why it might seem to you like they’re making all different sounds in this range randomly. Babies learning Japanese do not ever need to tell an English R from an English L, so they don’t acquire the ability to natively. The best advice I can give is listen to native speakers pronunication and imitate them. But the fact of the matter is that since they don’t distinguish between as many sounds as we do for these, they won’t notice when you are making a choice to do one version or another. It will all sound like “something in the R-L range” to them.


Ok so it wont cause a speech barrier. Thanks thats good to know.

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I unfortunately dont know any native speakers, so ill have to do things a bit differently i think. Maybe i could enlist for lessons, but i want to know some kanji first.

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Any source of listening is fine. TV shows, movies, youtube videos, podcasts, pronunciation sites like forvo, etc.


I didnt even think of youtube, and ill take a look at forvo.
Thanks mate.


The way it sounds to me and how I’m pronouncing it, try to slightly roll the R (like in spanish) but not all the way while making an L sound and you’ll get that D sounding mix.

Ngl it takes practice but once you get it you’re good to go.


If it’s the Japanese Rolling RRR you’re looking for, here’s one video explanation by a native speaker:

This is for the normal Ra Ri Ru Re Ro:

And here’s for Rya Ryu Ryo:


It’s true that Japanese speakers don’t distinguish between l and r and will identify anything in that range as /r/. There have even been experiments with trying to get Japanese speakers to distinguish them in English words (“light” vs. “right”) and them generally failing at it.

That doesn’t mean the articulation is totally random, though. As far as I know, the exact way of pronouncing it varies a bit on phonetic context, but you’d generally put your tongue not directly against your teeth but a bit further behind. Then, it’s either an “l” or something similar to a Spanish “r”, but without an “ongoing trill”, just a single tap. This is a bit similar to how “t” is sometimes pronounced between vowels in some (I think mostly American?) dialects of English (e.g. “water”).


Out of curiosity, in which words does “r” sound like “d”? I know of the l/r thing, but I don’t think I ever heard a “d” in the mix.


Maybe when it’s after an ん? When I told a Japanese friend that I find 連濁れんだく difficult, he understood 連絡れんらく. He wasn’t familiar with the word 連濁 at all, though.
I find the “r” harder to pronounce correctly when it comes after an ん.

I try to pronounce the japanese “r” similar to a spanish “r”, but with only a single “roll” / “stroke of the tongue”.


Ugh, I was meaning to write “t”, not “d”, and anyway, it’s not “t” as in “tap”, but as in “water”, “better”, and that’s only in certain accents of English.

(edit: actually, it does also happen with “d”, as in “buddy”)

In certain accents, including standard American I believe, that sounds turns into something like an “r”, although it’s only a single flap and not a continuous trill. That’s how the “r” sound is generally pronounced in Japanese.

It may instead sound more as an “l”, I think that’s mostly in situations where it’s easier to produce, e.g. when there is nothing preceding it or after ん, but I’m not terribly sure about that. It might also depend on the speaker / dialect.


Based on something I vaguely remember reading a long time ago (and the IPA symbols on Wikipedia), I think it’s basically the tapped ‘short R’ in Spanish words like ‘pero’ (which is different from the strongly rolled R in ‘perro’). However, like you said, the exact pronunciation varies.

I think it’s a person-specific thing, not so much something that varies from word to word. My impression (and this is how I pronounce it) is that the Japanese R involves getting the tip of the tongue just behind the upper front teeth and pulling slightly downwards and backwards as air flows over it. However, that also means that the tip of the tongue ends up being very close to where it would start for a D, and depending on the angle at which your tongue comes into contact with your gums and how you move it, it can sound a bit more like a D than it normally would. I think some of the videos @distantflower provided include examples of the variations.


I think that’s right, although I’m not an expert for Spanish phonetics lol.


Hahaha. I studied Spanish for a bit before starting Japanese, so I just used whatever knowledge I could transfer to make my life easier. I also remember a Spanish speaker learning Japanese saying on a forum that a Japanese friend had agreed that the sounds were the same in Japanese and Spanish, which was the point I felt I should go ahead with reusing whatever I had learnt for pronunciation in Spanish. (Of course, the issue is that we tend to map what we hear to sounds we already know, so in hindsight, I couldn’t be sure that their conclusion was unbiased, but after hearing a rolled R in an anime ‘tough guy’ scene, I figured the overlap in theoretical standard IPA symbols did match up with reality and I just rolled with it.)

PS: No pun on ‘rolling’ intended. Oops :laughing:


Ok between distand flowers videos, and fryie’s explaination i think i understand, and that im good with the way i pronounce it.

In my language you can also roll the R, but its a single instance of it. Im still confused how youre supposed to use your tongue, and thats where i think the D and L sound can come from. We dont use our tongue at all to pronounce it. Or maybe i just spent too much time talking to cats, so i pronounce it the way a cat would.

Thanks guys.


Yo también sé hablar un poco español pero antes que lo dijiste yo no me había dado cuenta de que el “r” en “pero” es un flap también. :upside_down_face:

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Acabo de intentar pensar en español, pero finalmente tuve que pasar por palabras japonesas y alemanas antes de acceder a mis conocimientos de español. :laughing: Está claro que no hablo lo suficiente. (Y sí, tuve que utilizar el diccionario para escribir tanto…)

Maybe you’re used to rolling a throatier R? I’ve heard people roll their Rs in German and in French, but that involves the uvula (the little flap next to the hole in the roof of the mouth), not the tongue, and that sounds more like a cat purring or an animal growling.

Rolling an R made with the tip of the tongue involves holding the tongue up loosely and letting air flow over it. Some people have trouble doing it though, including (to my surprise) some people who’ve been speaking Japanese since their childhood, so don’t worry about it too much. I hope you’ll figure it out, but even if you don’t, honestly, you just need to learn how to make a ‘tapped R’ like in the videos for Japanese, and if you use an L, Japanese people will probably understand you anyway. :slight_smile:


Maybe we need a Spanish practice corner. :rofl:

Yes, Germans and French people generally “roll” their Rs in the throat (actually, I think it’s not exactly the same sound in both languages, IIRC Germans use more a fricative while for French people it tends to be a trill, but I might be mistaken). Although that’s only true for the standard varieties, some German accents do use a “front-rolled” r like in Spanish “perro”.


Wikipedia says the fricative and uvular variants are in free variation in German, whereas in French, the fricative is the usual form. That seems to match my experience in general, since the French R tends to be a little ‘tighter’ and doesn’t really vibrate as much as the German Rs I’ve heard. However, there are definitely other variations, and I can think of a very famous example of someone rolling Rs in French (listen to Édith Piaf sing!), so… guess it depends on the region you’re looking at.