Can You Please Roll Your R’s!

| by Aracely | 15 Comments » | Central America, Costa Rica, Reflections

Old Photos of People in Ecuador

Aracely & Sister Priscilla in Ecuador

I was born in Ecuador and migrated to the United States when I was 7 years old.  My sister and I still grew up speaking Spanish in our homes, since at the time that is all our parents knew.  My name, Aracely, comes from Latin (Roman) origin and is often very difficult for North Americans to pronounce without some assistance.  While growing up here in the United States, it was always pronounced flat, without the rolling “r” sound that my Spanish family infused.  I assumed that while traveling in Central America I would hear my real name again, but surprisingly I was wrong.

It’s special for me to hear my name pronounced with a Spanish accent, providing me a sense of pride and homage to my family, something I didn’t quite experience in Costa Rica.  My time there made me very bitter, since every local I met spoke like a North American who hasn’t learned to roll their r’s.  Instead or saying “carrrro” like a native Spanish speaker should, I heard, “cowro,” which lacked the fluttering of the tongue.

It made me angry.
Best Natural Beaches in Costa Rica

Snorkeling at Playa Samara With Non 'R' Rolling Guides

I am cautious to offend any Costa Ricans reading this; that is not my intention.  I am simply voicing my opinion of what I experienced and how I felt.  Did anyone else with a trained Spanish ear notice this?  Jason and I did take the Gringo trail through Costa Rica, which means most people we met were involved in tourism, but it doesn’t justify the accent shift.

I also want to acknowledge Costa Rica for their ability to successfully use tourism to improve their economy, environment and human development.  I recently read that Costa Rica is ranked 3rd in the world, and 1st among the Americas, in terms of the 2024 Environmental Performance Index by the United Nations.  In 2024 the government announced plans to become the first carbon neutral country by 2024. (Wikipedia)  This is a very ambitious and impressive goal and I admire the country’s commitment to environmental protection while maintaining a healthy tourism industry.

Cloud Forests in Central America

The Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica

However, I just don’t understand why the need to alter their language, and in essence, their identity.  As a Latina, I am bitter.  Recently someone asked me about Costa Rica and I noticed my resentment surface.  I believe Costa Rica is a beautiful, educational and adventure filled country that many travelers will seek out, but I really wish they would just roll their r’s!

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Tags: Central America, Costa Rica

Written by Aracely

Co-founder of Aracely has been traveling, writing and taking photos since 2024, when she departed on his first year long travel backpacking journey. When she isn't seeking new adventures, Aracely is usually building Excel models as a financial analyst professional. Visit my website

15 Responses to “Can You Please Roll Your R’s!”

  1. Audrey says:

    I haven’t been to Costa Rica, but I do have a funny relationship with r’s. My mother’s maiden tongue was Spanish (Argentina), but she can’t roll her r’s…and neither can I. I’ve tried. I was put into speech classes when I was young and have learned other languages where it’s been required (e.g., Estonian, Spanish), but I can’t do it. So, I can’t imagine that the whole of Costa Rica is speech impaired like I am but it is kind of an amusing thought…

    • Aracely says:

      Hi Audrey! In my opinion, it’s not that the people can’t roll the R’s it’s that they have chosen not to. My guess is that they do this to associate more with the influx of gringos around them, I’m really not sure and don’t completely understand it.

  2. Erica says:

    Oh wow you carro thing brought back memories. I got into an ugly argument with a Spanish teacher in highschool because she didn’t pronounce things correctly (and told me my border Spanish/Spanglish) was ugly.

  3. you would get a kick out of buenos aires, they call burger king casa beekay and they say daddy shhhankeeee jajajajaja

  4. Marlene says:

    Aracely………………………….rolling rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs is probably a genetic thing……………………..without that gene, it is impossible.

    Also, all the photos are wonderful………………..I never even look to see who shot them.

    your feed makes my day…………………thank you so much

    • Aracely says:

      Marlene, Costa Ricans have the gene. In my humble opinion, I think they are choosing not to Roll the R’s. Which is very sad to me as a Latina. Especially because I love my language and wouldn’t stop rolling my R’s for anyone. Thank you for all your comments, and I’m so glad you enjoy the pictures.

    • beth says:

      It is not a gene thing but a learned thing. English speakers have a tense tip of the tongue and it is difficult after decades to re-train. If adopted as infant to all Spanish or other r rolling speaking environment, would be trilling their r’s as well as anyone else.

  5. Earl says:

    When I was just in Mexico (living in the more touristy Playa del Carmen area), sometimes I would walk into the center of town in the evenings and discover accents (in both English and Spanish) that I simply had never heard before. Even my Mexican friends would comment that they vendors and the staff in the shops and cafes didn’t speak ‘real Mexican Spanish’.

    We tried to figure out why and really the only possible reason has to do with all of the tourists they interact with all day and all night, all year long. Whether they change their accent intentionally I have no idea, but the difference was more than noticeable. Although I will say that their strange Spanish was much easier for me to understand, which helped me improve somewhat…

  6. I’ve been living in Costa Rica for 8 months and also taking private Spanish lessons. You do hear a rolled ‘r’ every now and then, but not from everybody. I thought it was fun to roll my ‘r’s, but my Spanish tutor kept correcting me, saying that in Costa Rica, it’s not proper to do so. She said the more education a person receives, the less likely they are to roll their r’s. And I was able to verify it through experience – the people who roll their r’s the most seem to be the poorer and less educated class. That seems backwards to what I thought it would be, and I still roll them anyway because it’s fun, but hopefully that sheds some light on things.

    • Jason says:

      Brandon, Wow! We finally have proof that it is true, Costa Ricans aren’t rolling their R’s. This is so strange and I wonder where it originated from. My guess is that with the tremendous influx of foreign investment and tourists, that of course can’t roll their R’s, Costa Ricans are adapting to sound more like them. Maybe it’s intended to make a foreigner feel more welcome. Costa Rica has been a destination of foreign investment from North America for over a decade now and I imagine those people that now live there never learned to roll their R’s. And those people probably are upper class, being wealthy foreigners. The local population then begins to associate the non R rolling as a class issue. Upper class don’t roll their R’s, therefore we don’t want to roll our R’s. That’s my guess after hearing your first hand account. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  7. Alyssa says:

    I haven’t been to CR but knowing other Central American countries, I know for a fact some other regions don’t roll their r’s. They just don’t. It’s not that they’ve decided not to, it’s just what their accent is like, same as Chileans skip their s’s and Argentineans pronounce y’s j’s and LL’s as “sh” as in “sho” instead of “yo”. In DR people changed L’s for R’s constantly, which was really frustrating, but that was just the way it was.
    I don’t really know where it started, but it may be a pretty old custom, like the argentineans who take their accent from the italian inmigrants, and us peruvians from standard castillian or for some the quechua language.

  8. I’m not a native Spanish speaker, but I am relatively fluent and I do roll my r’s. It’s not impossible for us gringos to learn. ;) I have to say I don’t remember non-rolling r’s in Costa Rica, but it’s definitely true that accents change a lot from place to place. The Tico accent isn’t necessarily the influence of tourism. Mexicans from Cancun and Acapulco still roll them!

  9. Daniela says:

    I am from Costa Rica, and I must admint that I am suprised to hear that our accent made you “angry” and “bitter”. It is true, we don’t roll our R’s, but that is most certainly not to alter our language or identity; on the contrary, that is part of who we are. Like Alyssa said, it’s just what our accent is like, just like in Puerto Rico they substitute R’s with L’s, in Panama they substitute S’s with J’s, and in Argentina the pronounce Y’s like SH. It definitely has nothing to do with ‘gringos’ or us trying to be something we’re not.
    I am not offended in any way by the article, believe me this subject always comes up when talking to other spanish-speaking people (The rest of Central America makes fun of us because of our inability to correctly pronounce the R’s), I just thought I’d clear this up so people wouldn’t get a false idea of why we talk the way we do

  10. danie_CR says:

    I agree with Daniela.

    I’m also costa rican and if you read a little bit about latin american accents, our accents is the most neutral accent in Latin America after the Colombian accent. Is true the R’s thing, but it’s also of who we are and who we were back in the days.

    too bad you couldn’t deal with it.

  11. mike92 says:


    back in the days costa ricans used to spell the R as:

    trabajo= trshhhabajo

    while people get educated they started changing the Rsh sound for RRR (as english speakers) and that only happens in the Capital and the Caribbean part where people speak an english criolle version from jamaica.

    inform yourself before judging outher country’s accent

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