How to Roll your Rs in Italian

3rd April 2018

Can't roll your Rs? With the right techniques, you can probably learn. Learn how + a trick that'll instantly help you pronounce R more like an Italian.


Listen to the episode

Can you rrrroll your Rs? Don't worry if you can't yet - with a little patience, practice and the right techniques, most people can learn.

In today's episode, we'll give you some handy techniques to help you practise. And one clever little trick that'll instantly help you pronounce R more like an Italian - even if you've never been able to roll your tongue before.

Here's the tongue twister from today's episode: Trentatré Trentini entrarono a Trento, tutti e trentatré, trotterellando. It means: Thirty three Trentonians (people from Trento, an Italian city) came into Trento, all thirty three trotting.

To help you remember what you learnt in today's lesson, below you'll find bonus materials like word lists, quizzes and flashcards. But first...

Become a 5-minute Italian member (it's free!)

Learn to speak and understand Italian faster by joining the 5 minute Italian club! When you sign up, you'll get:

  • Mini Italian lessons + bonus materials delivered to your inbox.
  • Access to the private Facebook group where you can practice chatting in Italian.
  • Invites to free speaking workshops.

If you'd like to join us, click here to become a member of 5 Minute Italian.

Bonus Materials

Remember and practice using what you learnt with the bonus materials for today's episode.

Today's Italian words

Caro = expensive
Carro = cart
Marrone = brown

Take the Quiz!

How much did you learn? Find out in the 5-minute Italian quiz!

Click here to take the quiz for this episode: How to Roll your Rs in Italian

Italian flashcards

Remember the vocabulary from your 5 Minute Italian lessons by downloading the digital flashcard pack.


Please note: This is not a word-for-word transcript. 

Katie: Can you rrrrroll your Rs in Italian? With the right techniques, a little practice and a lot of patience, most people can learn to do it. Learn how, and a really useful trick you can use to make your R sound more Italian straight away, in this week’s episode of 5 minute Italian.

Ciao a tutti e benvenuti a 5 minute Italian, hi everyone and welcome to 5 minute Italian. I’m Katie…

Matteo: And I’m Matteo. Ciao.

K: This week’s lesson on how to rrrrroll your Rs is a subject that’s really close to my heart because for the longest time I just couldn’t do it. I was convinced that I just naturally couldn’t do it - that it was physiological, so I’d kind of resigned myself to speaking Italian with a slightly weird R sound.

But I practised a lot - doing the exercises which we’ll talk about very soon - and started doing them everywhere - in the shower, when I was waiting for my computer to load, while I was cooking… and eventually, I got the R sound. It’s still not as good as Matteo’s - let’s hear it...

M: rrrrrrrrrr

K: But I can pronounce it in words now and that’s the main thing.

M: So what exercises did you do?

K: The first and probably the most useful exercise is to try saying t and d together quickly. If you say td td td td td td td - it’s like a slow version of t plus the rolled R, like in the word tre. So you can practise doing it faster and faster until eventually, it becomes a roll - td td td..rrrrrrrrrrr.

One thing that really helps is to actually imagine a word spelt td. Instead of t - r, imagine it as td. So you get t - de. T - de … tre. And there’s an Italian tongue twister which is really good practice for this one.

M: Yes - it’s quite difficult even for an Italian speaker, but I’ll try. Trentatré Trentini entrarono a Trento, tutti e trentatré, trotterellando.

K: And we’ll put the links in the show notes if you want to find out what it means and get some more practise.

K: The next little tip is to try whispering the R sound. This helps because it increases the pressure of the air that blows across the top of your tongue, and it makes it easier to start vibrating.

K: So these are all things that are going to take a little time and patience. It's like going to the gym - you need build up the muscles. But there is something you can do right now to make your R even more Italian.

If you have or can do an American accent, you can already do one of the Italian R sounds.

Matteo: Italian, like Spanish, actually has two R sounds. A short one, like in caro.

Katie: Which means expensive, and is spelt with one R.

Matteo: And a long one, like in carro.

Katie: Which means cart and is spelt with two Rs. Interestingly, the short one, in caro is the same as the American "t" in words like butter and waiter.

So try to imagine words spelt with one R, like caro with the American t sound, and your pronunciation will immediately be much closer to the Italian pronunciation.

And if you're still working towards your tongue roll, in the meantime, you can actually use this sound to pronounce words with the long R sound too. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s much closer to the original pronunciation than the English R.

For example, if you want to say the word “brown” in Italian which is…

M: marrone

K: with the long double R, you can use the American t sound for now. So it would sound like "marone". It’s not perfect, but it’s much closer than the typical English R sound.

K: That’s all we have time for today, thanks for listening. And if you’d like to get more mini Italian lessons delivered to your inbox, don’t forget to subscribe by following on the link in the below. Grazie, and ciao for now, see you next time, or as we say in Italian, alla prossima!

Get more 5-minute Italian

To get more 5 minute Italian, including lessons delivered to your inbox, access to the private Facebook group and invites to speaking workshops, click here to become a 5 Minute Italian member.

Mamma mia! You’ve signed up – but without our weekly free lesson

Our free weekly lesson is a great introduction to learning Italian in a fun and friendly way. No boring grammar or lists of random words. It’s all about real Italian conversation!

Be the first to hear when registration opens!

Our online school opens its doors to new students three times a year. The only way to secure your place is to join up during this time – sign up to our newsletter today so you don't miss out.