There are basically two ways to pronounce the letter R in French. The first, and hardest for most people, is the back-of-your-throat 'coughing' one. It's really not that difficult if someone explains it right. All you gotta do is pronounce an 'H' like you're trying to hack something onto the wall. Then, all you must do is incorporate this sound into the middle of several common words. For example:

Merci (thanks)
Porte (door)
Trente (thirty}

The second way is slightly softer and gentler. This is usually used when the R is at the end of a word. Examples:

Pour (for)
Bonjour (hello)

You are now on your way to impressing everyone!

The r in "merci", "porte", "trente"

sounds often like an American "L".

There was once a movement to remove the "awful" sound of the French "R" from the language by changing it to a z sound. This gave us chaise but really didn't have a large effect elsewhere in the language.

The French 'R' is very similar to the Russian 'R' in that you have watch the redhead teacher hysterically jumping around the tables and knocking down the chairs until finally, she collapses against the blackboard with a contented 'rrrrrrrr'.
Thereby my face brightens with hope and understanding, and I exhale a pitiable 'chchchchchch' sound, comparable to scraping the melted and cremated cheese from the frying pan where it wasn't supposed to be in the first place.

The redhead's eyes roll around her head and she screams: "Ze teep of yourrrr (satisfying 'rrrrrrrr' at the end of the flat English 'your') tongue muuuhst taaach the top of yourrrr maouwwwth... Rrrrollll it from the baaack of yourrrr throoooat"
I desperately press my tongue against my pallet and let the 'baaack of my throoooat' do the rest, which sounds something like a parrot imitating the angry hiss of a cat.

Many hours later (many many many hours), I realise she was wrong: all you have to do is picture yourself out of the classroom and into the arid savane.
The redhead has become an innocent gazelle and I am stalking it. With an effortless and extreeemely grateeeefying RRRRRRRROARRRRRRRR, I throw myself onto my prey...

which was nice

A French 'r' is a usually a uvular sound, closer to the Spanish /x/, spelled 'j', than anything in English. The French version is actually further back and voiced, however, and the IPA symbol is an upside-down capital 'R'. In some dialects, this sound can be a uvular trill, a sort of purring sound.

I don't know what the hell inky is talking about, as a French 'r' is not like a Russian 'r' (Cyrillic 'p'), but more like a Russian 'kh' (Cyrillic 'x'). French's 'r' is actually not too standard as far as European languages go, though not as weird as English's 'r'. German, on the other hand, has an 'r' similar to French.

"R" was the sound that gave me the greatest trouble when I was first learning French. I received varying advice when I asked for pronunciation help: my American-born French teacher in high school suggested that I practice gargling; authoritative classmates who were native speakers of Russian and Spanish gave conflicting recommendations on where to position my tongue.

Through trial and error, I've found that I can approximate a French "R" as one might hear on the streets of Paris or on RFI by attempting to enunciate an American English "L", then rapidly switching halfway to an American English "R" sound. The trick lies in bringing the tip of the tongue close to the region behind the upper front teeth without actually making contact with the palate. This gap is needed in order to produce vibration. As air passes over the tongue, the sound that emerges from the back of a throat will probably sound like a cross between an English "R" and the Russian "KH" Mercuryblues describes above.

Depending on location, the French "R" might be trilled like the Russian or Spanish "R". As a spoken language metropolitan French hasn't been around for all that long; a century ago less than a third of all Frenchmen living within the "Hexagon" could speak let alone write standard Parisian French.

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