Recommend some excercises to help me hone my r rolling skills
September 8, 2004 2:15 AM   Subscribe

About a year ago, I taught myself to roll my r's. I still have problems when the sound comes after most consonants (e.g. 'tr' or 'gr'), and with sustaining a roll for more than about a second.

Anyone know any good exercises or methods of teaching to improve this?
posted by monkey closet to Education (14 answers total)
Up front (like in most Spanish accents), or in back (like in most French accents)?
posted by LairBob at 4:15 AM on September 8, 2004

I'd not really considered the distinction - I was just happy to have managed at all! After a little investigation (must have sounded a little strange to everyone else at work), up front.
posted by monkey closet at 5:03 AM on September 8, 2004

I can do it in French perfectly, but I physically can't do front of the mouth rolling. It seems to involve moving the tip of the tongue way too fast. The French 'r' is less of a roll and more of a grunt, of course.
posted by wackybrit at 5:22 AM on September 8, 2004

I can't do the Spanish front roll either, but back in the day, a good Spanish teacher had us press our thumb on our opposite palms while practicing the roll. It kinda helps.
posted by rainbaby at 7:04 AM on September 8, 2004

I'm sorry that this is less than helpful, but I'm finding it astonishing that a person (a) didn't know how to do this as an adult and (b) needs to practice! It's never occurred to me that it's difficult: I can probably sustain a rolled sound for 30 seconds, and I don't speak a word of Spanish or French.

I guess all you can to improve your technique is use it. Find a few Spanish words that you can exclaim frequently enough to be annoying, and use them!
posted by majick at 7:18 AM on September 8, 2004

Here's what worked for me:
Don't try to move your tongue that fast, wackybrit is right that it's not possible. Instead, curl your tongue slightly so that the sides are higher than the center. The sides of your tongue should be barely touching your gums just behind your top back teeth, while the center of your tongue should be lower. Raise the very tip of your tongue just behind your top front teeth. There should be a hollow space in the middle of your mouth. The tip of your tongue should be relaxed, while the back should be firm.

Then exhale strongly and try to make the air force the tip of your tongue to vibrate. If you make a hissing sound, then you need to apply a tiny bit more force to push the tip of your tongue up more strongly. Basically, you push the tip up, and then the air pushes it down, and it rolls up and down that way.

It's a lot easier if you first practice getting the tip of your tongue to vibrate without actually using your vocal cords. Once you can do that, then try to vibrate your vocal cords as you exhale, and you've got it. The difference between the non-vocalized vibrating tongue and the vocalized Spanish "rr" is similar to the difference between a non-vocalized "t" and a vocalized "d" in English.

It sounds a lot more complicated than it feels when you get it right, but practice will improve your cunnilingus skills as well.
posted by fuzz at 7:30 AM on September 8, 2004 [1 favorite]

;) Damn it, monkey closet! I was going to post a question today about this and now it will be hard to get the help I so desperately need without being acused of double posting! I have never been able to roll or trill my r's in any manner. Can you tell us how you learned? Can anyone else give starting advice? I've asked a lot of people over the years but I've never found a technique I can make work. My tongue is held down by a relatively short frenum. Perhaps that's a handicap?

On preview: Advice! Things to try! Thanks!
posted by Songdog at 7:34 AM on September 8, 2004

An old english public school rolled r exercise my Gran taught me was "Round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran."
posted by putzface_dickman at 7:44 AM on September 8, 2004

Songdog, I spent a long time working it out. Apparently the frenum can be a handicap - it's not a problem I have, but in some countries where the sound's an essential part of the language, children are operated on to free it as a matter of course (a couple of years ago a young cathedral chorister in England made the news in a very minor way having it done to improve his singing).

I finally found coherent instructions on a Spanish-language-for-English-idiots website (basically the same as fuzz's, but without the curling the tongue at the sides bit, which I'm going to try as soon as I get out of the office today - thanks fuzz).

Then I practised. Anywhere there was a fairly low chance of being heard. As I drove anywhere, I'd read out the road signs and corporate logos I passed with exaggerated rolled r's.

Practice does indeed improve things (spoken and otherwise ;-)), but my failure to master these last two hurdles makes me think my technique isn't 100% yet.
posted by monkey closet at 7:49 AM on September 8, 2004

One word of advice: don't overdo it. In Spanish, you only roll double-Rs (e.g.:"Correo") or Rs at the beginning of a word (e.g.: "Raton"), but not single Rs in the middle of a word (e.g.: "Para").

I still have problems when the sound comes after most consonants (e.g. 'tr' or 'gr')

Again, in Spanish, you wouldn't roll the r in 'tr' or 'gr'.
posted by signal at 8:01 AM on September 8, 2004

I'm not actually trying to do it to speak Spanish.

I work a lot with singers (and do a little bit myself) and the rolled 'r' sound is favoured in a lot of choral repertoire even where the spoken language doesn't necessarily demand (or indeed tolerate) it. Overdone, it can sound extremely mannered, but there's a time and a place for it...
posted by monkey closet at 8:05 AM on September 8, 2004

Try purring, i.e., in imitation of a cat. The tongue movement you use is exactly the same, except it's unvoiced, of course.
posted by kindall at 8:43 AM on September 8, 2004

As an aside, in the Netherlands, some people use the "front" version of the rolled r and some use the back. I haven't lived there for a lot of years but my impression is it is a north (front) versus south distinction, as well as an agrarian/blue collar (front) versus urban/upper-class (back). The soft English r does not exist in Dutch.

The back version is called "brouwen", at least as a denigrative term by front-r speakers, and it appears to be on the ascendant. In other European languages like French and Danish, a transition from front to back took place over some centuries and is virtually total.
posted by beagle at 10:19 AM on September 8, 2004

Take a lover whose name includes this sound. ;)
posted by gottabefunky at 11:05 AM on September 8, 2004

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