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P5 How to pronounce the sound R in Romanian

The pronunciation of R in Romanian is probably the most difficult for English/American speakers. That's because all your life you pronounced the R the English way, and now for the same letter, you have to pronounce it differently in Romanian. And since in English you pronounce the R by instinct (you do not think 2 minutes how to pronounce it), sometimes it's difficult to change an instinct, and sometimes it takes time and you have to train.

The most important in the pronunciation of R in Romanian is the position of the tip of the tongue. For the English R the tip is pointing up, and does not touch anything, but in Romanian the tip of the tongue touches the ridge of the upper teeth (see picture below).

It is impossible to pronounce the Romanian R from the English R. It means that if you think you can start by pronouncing the English R and as you go along you will be producing the Romanian R, that is not the case. You have to learn to pronounce the Romanian R in a different way than the English R.

To get there, follow these steps :

  1. Where is the tongue
  2. Start with the D
  3. Make the R vibrate with air
  4. Videos
  5. It's your turn to give it a try
  6. Drill
  7. The children's test

  1. First you need to be aware of the position of your tongue in your mouth.It sounds simple but it is not.
    If you become aware of the tongue's position in your mouth you have made 30% of the way to the perfect pronunciation of Romanian R.
    Most mistakes are made because you hurry and you try to pronounce the Romanian R instinctively, as in English, without knowing or thinking where tongue is in your mouth.

  2. Put your tongue in the D position and pronounce D a few times. In this position the tip of the tongue touches the upper teeth.
    To reach the correct position of the tongue for the Romanian R it is necessary to move the tip of the tongue from the upper teeth upwards until it no longer touches the teeth. Advance slightly (0,07 inch /2-3mm) upwards still touching with the tip of the tongue the palate.
    Your tongue must be on a kind of hump/ridge 0,07 inch from the base of the upper teeth.So, you do not touch the teeth or the gums but your tongue is very close, we will call this place the upper front ridge.
    The picture below shows you, in the small blue frame, where you have to put the language:

    Take your time, at least 20-30 seconds to make sure you place the tongue in the right place. At this time do not try to pronounce the Romanian R, first practice only by putting your tongue in the correct position.

  3. Once you have managed to touch with the tip of the tongue the upper front ridge you must make the tip of your tongue vibrate against the upper front ridge by exhaling air through your mouth .
    You must breathe well and get the air out of your mouth. For this exercise it is necessary to exaggerate in the beginning and get more air out to help the tip of the tongue vibrate. Once you have acquired the pronunciation of Romanian R it will no longer be necessary to exaggerate with the breath.

    It is important to understand that the Romanian R is produced by the air that vibrates the tip of the tongue. You should not try to vibrate the tip of the tongue by moving your tongue, you should let the tip of the tongue relatively relaxed touching slightly the upper front ridge and then exhale the air that will vibrate the tip of the tongue against the upper front ridge.

  4. How can you tell if your tongue is vibrating or not? The tip of the tongue should touch the upper front ridge many times in a second.
    You just have to practice and you will get there.

If you find the pronunciation of the Romanian R difficult, you should know that it is also difficult for Romanians to pronounce the English R.

Videos

To better understand how to pronounce the Romanian R watch the following videos:



Give it a try

We have chosen a few interesting Romanian words that contain various combinations of the letter R with other Romanian letters / sounds.
Listen carefully and try to pronounce the following Romanian words.

Romanian words containing the letter R

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription
      red

roșu

/'ro.ʃu/
     pink

roz

/roz/

Bad, mean

Rău

/rəw/

Which (one)

Care

/'ka.re/

the train station

gara

/'ga.ra/

brochure

broșu

/bro'ʃu.rə/

late

târziu

/tɨr'ziw/

river

râu

/rɨw/

pencil

creion

/kre'jon/

right

dreapta

/'dre̯ap.ta/

Spring

Primăvară

/ˈpri.mə.va.rə/

cross (the street)

traversați

/tra.ver'saʦʲ/

I go

eu merg

/jew merg/

three

trei

/trej/

4 four

patru

/'pa.tru/
      blue

albastru

/al'bas.tru/

strong or powerful

puternic

/pu.'ter.nik/

2. Listening
Translate


Drill

Unfortunately, for the moment we can offer only listening exercises. We hope that in the future we could offer Romanian speaking drills (to compare your pronunciation with the ideal pronunciation)

Romanian Exercises: Romanian words containing the letter R

Question 1 / 17

Listen to the following word/expression.
Type the words that you hear

ă î â ș ț


How do Romanian children learn to say the letter R

Sometimes Romanian children, and even adults have difficulties with the pronunciation of R. They are called in Romanian "rârâiţi".
To practice they use a phrase, quite known among Romanian children:
Râu rățușcă rămurică, Rică nu știa să zică râu rățușcă rămurică.

You can listen to it here:

Rică is a Romanian first name (rarely used).
The translation of the sentence is: River, little duck, twig, Rică did not know how to say river, little duck, twig.

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