How long until I'm found out?
March 25, 2010 6:05 PM   Subscribe

So, I've become worried by this question and I have to know: how detrimental would it be not to be able to roll your R's in say, the Balto-Slavic languages?

I will never even attempt Spanish, so I'm not worried about that. I am learning Lithuanian and I may try to learn some Russian in the future, and this non-ability to roll an R is really hindering my progress. French was great because the R was so easy. I can do the old fake 1-second routine which sounds somewhat genuine in words like "draugas" where the R is almost hidden, anyway. I just don't know if I could get by doing that if I ever went to visit the country.
Apparently, Norwegians wouldn't accept my non-rolled R's.
But I've heard the R within words both pronounced and in my fake-sounding way, at least in Lithuanian.
By the way, (this isn't me but) if someone did happen to grow up in such a country and couldn't roll an R properly, but could fake it, how long until that person would be totally ostracised?

—Could I get away with it? Should I just give up by such a major thing? I know I could never actually try to say the letter "R" without rolling it properly.
—Is doing it halfway actually bad for eventually learning how to do it, by practising it wrong? Or will I just magically get it by almost doing it so much?
posted by lhude sing cuccu to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In Romania, you're supposed to roll the R, but some people cannot do it and it's not such a big deal.

On a personal note, event though I don't live there since a long time, I couldn't roll my R's until the age of fifteen. It just "magically" happened in my case. But I did consider seeing a linguist and learning how to do it in case I did not get a hang of it. I can roll it now but cannot hold it.

If you can afford it, I suggest going to see a linguist. They can do amazing stuff (think about actors learning an accent for a movie).

Hope this helps!
posted by Monte_Cristo at 6:48 PM on March 25, 2010

I'm Russian and I have never been able to roll my Rs. No one will ostracize you for not rolling your Rs =c)
posted by pyro979 at 6:56 PM on March 25, 2010

"By the way, (this isn't me but) if someone did happen to grow up in such a country and couldn't roll an R properly, but could fake it, how long until that person would be totally ostracised? "

Never! Good lord, do you stop talking to people who lisp and can't say "th" properly? Who have trouble with the English R? Who pronounce all A sounds as the flat Chicago a? (That'd be me, I butcher tons of words.)

I had a college roommate who majoring in Spanish who couldn't not and cannot roll her Rs. She is frequently complimented on her exquisite accent when traveling in Spanish-speaking parts of the world. She has a sort of "hiccup" she can do with the R that sort-of fakes a roll, but she can't roll. It's never been an issue. She speaks Spanish daily at work.

I have known a couple people born in R-rolling countries who couldn't roll their Rs; it was not generally a big deal. They didn't get teased any more than an American with a slight lisp.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:57 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

*who majored in.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:57 PM on March 25, 2010

I know several native speakers of R-rolling languages who, due to genetics or something or other, cannot roll their Rs. It doesn't matter.
posted by The World Famous at 7:07 PM on March 25, 2010

I can't roll my Rs, but I can do a single roll (is this what you mean by faking it?). I took Russian in university and spent some time in Russia; I was told my accent was pretty good and sometime people even mistook me for Ukrainian.

I also met a teacher there who couldn't roll her Rs. It's like having a lisp; she said she was teased as a child, but her speech was most certainly understood.
posted by kitcat at 7:32 PM on March 25, 2010

You are really making me feel better so far, everyone...I was worried no one would understand me unless I could get it flawlessly or something!
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 7:32 PM on March 25, 2010

You can learn the roll. Work on your tongue as a muscle: Say 'tuh' and then 'luh' and repeat a billion times, getting faster and faster. You'll be able to make your r's "flip" in no time, and the full roll will probably come eventually.
posted by sunnichka at 9:49 PM on March 25, 2010

I was eventually taught how to roll my rs. The trick for me was to say BAA-D and then try to say baRe, a Norwegian word meaning 'only'. I worked on ot for weeks and now my r is okay but there are a few words I simply cannot produce the r within, it comes either too suddenly or is surrounded by letters which are difficult for me to move from or out of onto a rolled r. Hope this helps!
posted by dance at 5:13 AM on March 26, 2010

Just as a data point, in my senior year of high school in the very advanced Spanish class, I was the only non-Hispanic student and I was the only one who could roll my R's. I am just guessing, but I imagine the rest of those students turned out ok in life.
posted by CathyG at 7:24 AM on March 26, 2010

It's been said that Lenin couldn't roll his R's, though this might be an urban myth.
posted by pravit at 6:12 PM on March 26, 2010

I doubt it would be any more serious than being an English speaker with a lisp.
posted by custard heart at 6:22 PM on March 26, 2010

I mostly cannot roll my r's and got by fine in Romanian, with a couple of exceptions: there are some words where the 'r' is most of the word and so the absence of it (as understood by a native speaker) made the word very hard to understand. I just learnt to use synonyms, or a phrase in the place of that word (although doing Sunday School drama & teaching without ever using the word 'bad' or 'evil' is challenging!). The other problem area was in spelling a word aloud; when spelling a colleague's email address on the phone to the tech support department I've been reduced to saying "its the letter before 's'".
posted by alicegoldie at 12:44 AM on March 28, 2010

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