October 23, 2009 | Arabic

An “R” Rolls In

In which I acquire startling new physical powers. finally sent me replacement audio files. They are better, but still not of the same quality as the dozens of Pimsleur lessons I have already done in Russian and Arabic. Nonetheless, there is no longer any danger of my going (a) deaf or (b) crazy.

Much more important is that today, in a sudden, dramatic, and wholly unexpected development: I am able to roll my r’s—I mean really roll them—for the first time in my life. Not consistently, but when I do it, I get a better, fuller roll than before, plus I can keep it going substantially longer. It feels as though the rolling is happening lower in my mouth than when I have tried it previously. In truth, I stopped trying very hard a long time ago. I had just kind of given up. I mean, I had years of Spanish, and my accent is decent, but my r-rolling never progressed beyond the feeble phase.

Today, though, I rolled away like crazy, to the point that my tongue got tired and sore. In addition, I was disappointed every time Pimsleur asked me to pronounce a word that did not require me to roll an r. The suddenness with which this new skill appeared reminded me of how, up until age 40, I could not burp. Then one day, the clouds parted, the sun shone, and I was able to belch with the best of them. I have no idea why, but until that point in my life, I could not physically produce a burp. I guess surprising new physical skills can come along at any time in life.

Brandt asked me which was more exciting: being able to burp, or being able to roll an r.

“I’m not sure,” I said.

Here’s the thing. The acquisition of language skills is in general far more important to me than the acquisition of vulgar new habits. However, although I couldn’t previously roll my r’s the way I wanted, I could do quick little rolls that sounded reasonably authentic, even if they lacked the drama and staying power of the new ones.

Not being able to burp when you really need to burp, on the other hand, can be quite painful. 

Comments (2)

Michelle • Posted on Thu, November 24, 2011 - 6:06 am EST

I now have hope that one day I too will be able to roll my Rs!! I’m 30 and have yet been able to except for what comes out more as LLL. Fingers crossed I will have an RRR moment just like you :o) Am loving reading through your blog :o) - started a couple of days ago from day 1 and can’t wait to see how you’ve progressed :o) I love the tit-bits of information you give on the languages too! Best of luck x (p.s. am hoping you try out Swedish lol)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Mon, June 30, 2014 - 12:06 pm EST

Michelle, I am on this page today, saw your note again, and wanted to tell you, if you are still around, that I am intending to try Swedish this fall! Can’t wait!

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