Pronouncing the Spanish Double Consonants ll and rr

Spanish has two double consonants, ll and rr. Each pair is considered a single letter, and each has a singular sound. Because these consonants are considered singular, they stick together when you separate syllables. For example, the word calle (kah-yeh) (street) appears as ca-lle. And torre (toh-rreh) (tower) separates into to-rre.

ll: Sounds like y

The ll sounds like the y in the English word yes, except in Argentina and Uruguay. In the pronunciation brackets, y signals the sound of ll.

Now try the ll sound, using the y sound, in the following examples:

  • brillo (bvree-yoh) (shine)

  • llama (yah-mah) (flame; also the name of an animal in Peru)

  • lluvia (yoo-bveeah) (rain)

Argentineans and Uruguayans pronounce the double consonant ll as the sound that happens when you have your lips pursed to say s and then make the z sound through them. Try it. Fun, isn’t it? But really, the sound isn’t that difficult to make because you can find the English equivalent in words like measure and pleasure. The way you say those s sounds is exactly how ll is pronounced in Argentina and Uruguay.

rr: Roll ’em!

The rr sounds like a strongly rolled r. In fact, every r is rolled in Spanish, but the double one is the real winner. To roll an r, curl your tongue against the roof of your mouth as you finish the r sound. It should trill.

An easy way to make this sound is to say the letter r as though you were pretending to sound like an outboard motor. Spanish speakers take special pleasure in rolling their rr’s, and you can too. One fun thing about rr is that no words begin with it. Isn’t that a relief! In pronunciation brackets, this sound is signaled simply as rr.

Play with these words:

  • carrera (kah-rreh-rah) (race; profession)

  • correo (koh-rreh-oh) (mail, post)

  • tierra (teeeh-rrah) (land)

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