My son is now 2 years old and he cannot say R (he would either use another letter or say something more similar to "v"rather than "r").

What concerns me is that R is one of the first letters he was able to say! He would sometimes go on for a couple of minutes "singing" tr-tr-tr-tr.

Is it possible for a child to "unlearn" how to make a sound?

NOTE: I am Italian, my wife French and we live in UK. When together we speak Italian. My wife speaks French/Italian when I'm not with them. His friends all speak English. By "R" I mean the way it is pronounced in Italian, not English.

2 Answers 2


It has been very similar for us (our daughter learned Russian as her first language). She was also pronouncing "R" just fine before she started talking, and then this knowledge seemingly went away. For a long time she has been substituting "R" by other sounds. My understanding is that this is completely normal. Making a sound all by itself simply isn't the same thing as using it in a word (meaning combining it with the right vowel for example). The knowledge is still there, but it takes time until the child can apply it to speech.

And two years is way too early to be worried, it would be highly unusual if a child could already pronounce all the sounds at this age. The rule of thumb is that any mispronunciations before the age of four years will correct themselves automatically as the children hear the correct pronunciation around them. You should avoid correcting your child however as it is a rather discouraging experience for them. Instead, just repeat what they said in the correct way: "Ah, you are asking about berries?"


Definitely. Especially in a situation where they're surrounded by multiple languages that handle pronunciation differently. Your child is learning three languages simultaneously, so it's not terribly surprising that they may stumble over some sounds more than a child that only learns its native language.

The thing, as it often seems to be with raising a child, is not to worry about it. Keep doing the right thing and be patient with them as they work things out.

  • But he knew how to say R before. And my wife, even though her native language is French, says "R" correctly when speaking Italian. The way my son pronounce it is not even similar to English.
    – algiogia
    May 3, 2016 at 15:55
  • I think Dave is spot on. You do seem very concerned about it, but it not something to be concerned about. I would emphasize again not to worry about it. Be patient and know that children are learning about THE WHOLE WORLD at the moment. EVERYTHING is new to them, and they are taking in everything from language to "how do I act when I hurt myself".
    – Jeff.Clark
    May 3, 2016 at 17:25

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