Learn to Pronounce the French R, Perfectly

How is R pronounced in French?

Friends having lunch in Provence
Marcus Clackson/DigitalVision/Getty Images

The French letter R is one of the two most difficult sounds in French for most people. (U is the other one.)

The R is a kind of raspy sound pronounced in the back of the throat: listen. There is no equivalent sound in English, so for this letter more than any other is essential to get help from a native French speaker. In the meantime, take a look at step-by-step instructions on how to pronounce the French R.

French words with R

Click on the links below to hear the words pronounced in French:

Many French students have trouble with the letter R. Follow these step-by-step instructions to learn how to pronounce the French R.

Here's How

  1. Open your mouth.
  2. Close your throat as if you're going to gargle or to avoid swallowing a mouthful of liquid, and say K carefully, several times.
  3. Pay attention to where in your throat the K sound is made. We'll call this the K place.
  4. Begin slowly closing your throat, until you can almost feel the K place. Your throat should be only partially constricted.
  5. Tense the muscles around the K place.
  6. Gently push air through your partially constricted throat.
  7. Practice saying Ra-Ra-Ra (where R = steps 4-6) every day.

Tips

  • Try not to think of this letter as an R. The French R is nothing like the English R (pronounced in the middle of the mouth) or the Spanish R (pronounced in the front of the mouth). The French R is pronounced in the throat.
  • Re-listen to sound files above with the letter R.
  • The French R sounds a lot like the ch in "Loch Ness" and the kh in Arabic transcription, as in Khalid.
  • Practice makes perfect!