Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why rolling your R

As you probably noticed, there have been less posts the last few weeks. It's not because I don't want to write, it's simply that I don't have time. Unfortunately, this will continue to be for about a month, but I'll try to publish at least one post per week.

Studies are going really well and I'm getting more and more fluent in Spanish which really feels good. I'm a bit of a perfecionist and this works both ways; I'm getting fluent faster and I'm getting better than I could've imagined. For example, last week someone asked me why I spent so much time perfecting my accent and pronounciation. "Isn't getting understood most important?" Well, of course getting understood it most important, but I want to get beyond that. Mainly because I want to move to Spain one day, I'm perfecting my Iberian Spanish pronounciation (I know, there isn't one pronounciation, but there are some standards). Although some people don't seem to find this very important, I do find it important and I'm willing to invest some serious time in this.

Similar to this my uncle also asked me this week why a rolled R is so important in Spanish. My first reaction was: 'A non-rolled R just sounds weird', and this includes not using a 'flap' for non-rolled R's. Again, I spent some serious hours tackling the rolled R and as soon as I mastered it, it gave a boost to my learning progress. Also, when you eventually 'master' Spanish - but have a poor pronounciation - people will almost always listen to that instead of what you're actually saying, some might even hate it so much that they don't like to talk with you (happened to me).

So, is pronounciation important? YES! I would say. And why wouldn't you concentrate on your R's (both rolled and flapped), c/s/z, uve's, etc., etc.? It only takes a little bit of extra energy when starting with Spanish, but the advantages are HUGE.


Michael said...

It took me a year of practice and then suddenly one day... I could roll my R's! But... then I couldn't do a non-rolled R anymore!!! Yikes! So now I'm re-perfecting my non-rolled R.

I took 4 weeks of classes in Mexico, 4 separate 6-week courses here in Texas, online courses and book studies and NOBODY ever told me the CORRECT rules for whether an R is rolled or not rolled in Spanish. Nobody.

I learned the correct rules from a Chilean chat buddy who is an aspiring linguist. Even Spanish-speakers I've asked seem baffled at what the rules really are... So I'm going to try to explain how it was explained to me...

Roll R's when:
1) RR = rolled, always... For instance "correr" or "perro"

2) R at the beginning of a word is rolled (if not pre-ceded by a vowel sound).

3) R at the end of a word (if not followed by a vowel sound). For instance, all infinitives, "por" etc.

Do NOT roll R's when:

1) The R is pre-ceded AND followed by a vowel OR a vowel SOUND. For instance.... in the sentence "Roberto puede comer tacos." Roberto has a rolled R. But, if the sentence is "¿Solo Roberto puede comer tacos?" you don't... because of the immediately preceding vowel sound.

2) A single 'r' in a word preceded and followed by a vowel, for instance "para" "pero"

I'm sure I'm forgetting something and I'm sure someone will correct me... I just know that the way I was taught originally was utterly incomplete!!

I also am still having problems doing a rolled R if it begins a sentence with no pre-ceding sounds at all... It's like I need a breath or something to transition into the rolled R! Also, it's really hard to roll an R while speaking quietly! Is this why Spanish speakers typically talk so loud??

One last thing... I'm still blogging about my Spanish learning experience here: http://www.learningspanishintexas.com.


Ramses said...

Yeah, I'm doing Spanish for a college degree to eventually be able to teach it, and they don't concentrate on the phonology. It's frustrating. About the R when talking quietly: it just doesn't work for me. But I guess, it's not that important as I don't need to speak quietly that often ;).

The rules you just explained are amazing by the way. I'll take them to class to ask the other rules regarding R's :).


Martín V. said...

People use languages in different ways. For those who just want to say "How much", a nice pronunciation is not very important -for the rest of us, it IS.

Keep up the good work!