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Thread: Rolling the "Р" (R sound) - important, or not?

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    Увлечённый спикер Lindsay's Avatar
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    Rolling the "Р" (R sound) - important, or not?

    I'm having a lot of trouble learning to roll "Р" (R sound). I can manage it - sort of - at the beginning of a word like Рыба, but really struggle to do it in the middle, especially for example words like Бутерброд.

    If anybody has any exercises that can help me learn to do it, that would be most appreciated

    If I can't get my tongue around it, is it a terrible thing if I'm only able to say the sound in the "English" way?

    Thanks,
    Lindsay

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    Властелин
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    If I can't get my tongue around it, is it a terrible thing if I'm only able to say the sound in the "English" way?
    It's not terrible, of course, but it's not good. You won't be able to distinguish between hard and soft "r". Then, especially if your accent is non-rhotic, the sound may desappear because English "r" is less audible than Russian, isn't it? Alveolar trill is a really difficult sound. Children fight against it for a long time (I couldn't pronounce it untill I was seven years old). Soft "r" was a little bit easier to me: I started pronouncing it a year before. I managed to pronounce hard "l" only at nine. Soft "l" did noy cause any problems to me.

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    Увлечённый спикер Lindsay's Avatar
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    Thanks Marcus, hearing that even children struggle with it makes me feel a whole lot better I'll keep on practicing but take away the expectation that I "should" be able to learn it quickly!

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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    I couldn't roll my the "R" until age 20, after two years of studying Russian, so don't feel bad!

    There was an exercise suggested by one of our grad-student Teaching Assistants that did help me: the tongue-twister Eddy, Teddy, Freddy!, said over and over.

    The idea is that the repeated "D" and "T" sounds put your tongue into a position that's similar to a trilled "R," so your tongue gets confused and rolls the "R" by accident.

    And it did work for me, although it took a couple months, as I recall! But whenever I had some privacy, such as in the shower or walking by myself between classes or jogging for exercise, I made a habit of chanting Eddy, Teddy, Freddy! Eddy Teddy Freddy! Eddyteddyfreddy!, faster and faster.

    And eventually, after a lifetime of NOT being able to trill the "R", one day I just did it by accident:
    Eddyteddyfr-r-r-r-r-reddy! And with a little more practice I was able to do it perfectly, whenever I wanted.

    P.S. After that, the only remaining difficulty for me was remembering NOT to trill the soft "R"! To work on the soft-R / hard-R difference, there's a famous Russian скороговорка (tongue-twister) about a guy named Грека who puts his руку (hand) into a реку (river) in order to grab a рака (crayfish, crawdad).
    But first, practice your rolled hard-R with Eddy Teddy Freddy.

    P.P.S. If you get bored with Eddy Teddy Freddy, you can invent your own tongue-twisters using lots of "D" and "R" sounds. For example:

    Dodo Frodo, Dreidel d'Oro!

    ...which, as Hermione Granger could tell you, is a magical spell for turning a low-IQ Hobbit into a golden Hannukah-top!
    Говорит Бегемот: "Dear citizens of MR -- please correct my Russian mistakes!"

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    Moderator Lampada's Avatar
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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Here's the entire скороговорка about Greka and the crawdaddy/crawfish/crayfish, with the soft R's in red and the hard R's in blue:


    Ехал Грека через реку
    Видит Грека - в реке рак
    Сунул Грека руку в реку
    Рак за руку Греку "цап"!

    Greka was riding (on a boat) through the river.
    Greka sees a crayfish in the river.
    Greka stuck his hand in the river.
    "Snap" went the crayfish, on Greka's hand!
    Last edited by Throbert McGee; July 4th, 2011 at 04:08 AM.
    Говорит Бегемот: "Dear citizens of MR -- please correct my Russian mistakes!"

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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    By the way, one might logically guess that "crawfish" (речной рак) comes from crawl (ползать) + fish (рыба), thus signifying ползающая рыба ("crawling fish").

    But in fact, the word "crawfish" comes from "crayfish", which comes from Middle English crevize, which was an уменьшительная форма (diminutive) of "crab" (крэб краб). And the word "crab" itself is cognate with Greek graphein ("to write"), and comes from an Indo-European root that means царапать ("to scratch").

    So crab etymologically means тот, кто царапает and crayfish originally signified something like "crabette" -- meaning a маленький крэб краб.

    From the original "crayfish" (произносится крЭйфиш) came the dialect variant "crawfish" (крАвфиш). "Crawdad" and "crawdaddy" probably came later, by folk etymology, based on "crawl". So "crawdaddy" = "crawl daddy" = ползающий папенька.

    P.S. Thanks for the corrections, CoffeeCup!
    Говорит Бегемот: "Dear citizens of MR -- please correct my Russian mistakes!"

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    Старший оракул CoffeeCup's Avatar
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    "crab" (краб) ...
    маленький краб
    So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

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    Moderator Lampada's Avatar
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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Thanks, Lampada -- good to know that Russian children have trouble with the soft-R / hard-R distinction, too!

    An even more difficult скороговорка has just two words:

    Пароль -- «орёл».

    Which literally means The password is "eagle". But it's very challenging to pronounce all the sounds correctly, because it goes hard-R, soft-L, soft-R, hard-L. Again, using red for soft consonants and blue for hard consonants, it's:

    Пароль -- «орёл».

    So, Lindsay, after you've eventually mastered the rolled-R with Eddy Teddy Freddy and Dodo Frodo, Dreidel d'Oro, try Пароль -- «орёл» a few times!
    Говорит Бегемот: "Dear citizens of MR -- please correct my Russian mistakes!"

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    Увлечённый спикер Lindsay's Avatar
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    Thanks Throbert for all the info and exercises, that should keep me busy for quite some time!

    I have discovered I can roll the R better after a glass of red wine - sadly not practical on a full-time basis

    Lampada - I don't know enough Russian to understand the videos, sorry.

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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lindsay View Post
    I have discovered I can roll the R better after a glass of red wine - sadly not practical on a full-time basis
    Hah!

    As I said, I used to practice the Eddy Teddy Freddy chant while I was jogging in college -- and vigorous cardiovascular exercise that tires you out can have the same "tongue-loosening" effect as a glass of wine! So, keep practicing, and I'm sure you'll get it sooner or later. But it's not the end of the world if you can't do it -- the important thing is to grasp that ра рэ ры ро ру and ря ре ри рё рю have DIFFERENT "r" sounds, and that in general you understand the difference between "hard" and "soft" consonants in Russian.

    P.S. Lampada's videos were examples of native-speaking Russian children having difficulty with the hard-R / soft-R distinction -- so no worries that you couldn't understand the videos, because they weren't models that you should be trying to imitate as a foreign learner.

    P.P.S. Difficulty with the trilled "r" sounds is so common that there's a special Russian word for it: картавить, which means "to pronounce the R sound incorrectly". It's analogous to English "lisp", meaning "to pronounce the S sound incorrectly."

    P.P.P.S. If you can't trill your "r", then the next best thing is flapping the "r" -- a "flap" is when you make the "r" sound a bit like "d", but ONLY ONCE -- imagine a Victorian orator doing that with the "r" in "heroic" or "historic." This wikipedia article about "flap" consonants provides the Spanish example of pero ("but", "но") and perro ("dog", "пёс"). In Spanish, the single "r" is flapped; the double "rr" is trilled/rolled. And the wikipedia article also makes the point that in the normal American pronunciation of words like "fatter" and "butter", the "tt" is actually pronounced as a "flapped R".

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    Maybe it will be easier to pronounce soft "r" first, it was easier for me.
    I don't think Russian children have problems with hearing the difference between hard and soft "r". They just cannot pronounce them correctly. That was my case.
    Throbert, was it difficult to hear the difference between hard and soft "r"?

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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    Maybe it will be easier to pronounce soft "r" first, it was easier for me.
    I don't think Russian children have problems with hearing the difference between hard and soft "r". They just cannot pronounce them correctly. That was my case.
    Throbert, was it difficult to hear the difference between hard and soft "r"?
    Ё-моё да блин, it was VERY difficult for me to properly hear the difference between ALL the hard and soft consonants in Russian -- because hard/soft distinctions are not "phonemically important" in English! So, in my first two years of studying Russian, the word люблю sounded to me like лъ-йу-блъ-йу, and нет sounded like нъ-йэт -- because that's how I was trying to pronounce the words.

    But then, in my third year of Russian at the University of Virginia, we had a newly-arrived Ukrainian woman, Светлана, who drilled us on pronunciation -- and she would make us say ла-ла-ла, ля-ля-ля, лу-лу-лу, лю-лю-лю... over and over, and after about a week of that, suddenly it just "clicked" in my head, and I finally understood the phonetic difference between "hard" and "soft" consonants.

    P.S. I was at UVa from 1989 to 1993 -- so although one could borrow VHS tapes of Russian movies from the "Slavic Studies Department", or listen to (boring) conversation exercises on audio tape, the convenience of hearing native Russian speakers over the Internet didn't exist!
    Говорит Бегемот: "Dear citizens of MR -- please correct my Russian mistakes!"

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    P.S. I was at UVa from 1989 to 1993 -- so although one could borrow VHS tapes of Russian movies from the "Slavic Studies Department", or listen to (boring) conversation exercises on audio tape, the convenience of hearing native Russian speakers over the Internet didn't exist!
    Didn't your teacher correct you? Do they think in the US that pronunciation is not important in foreign languages?
    Did you hear that you pronounce in a wrong way? How did you pronounce soft consonants at the end of the words?
    I remember Serbs (there are no ть, дь in Serbian) immediately heard that деньги does not sound like дэньги, they did not even understand that the sound was similar to д. They started repeating the word: дженьги, зеньги... So that's why I was very suprized when people say that the difference is not audible.

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    zxc
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    So that's why I was very suprized when people say that the difference is not audible.
    It's audible, but that doesn't mean that people learning Russian hear a distinction. And then if they hear it, it's quite another thing for them to be able to get their tongues to cooperate to reproduce the sound.

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    Завсегдатай chaika's Avatar
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    Throbert, Greka was going across the river, over a bridge, and by horse. I have just posted sworn depositions from the parties involved in the subsequent events of that day. See the Fun Stuff thread.

  18. #18
    Hanna
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    Well if you can't do it, you can't do it... Germans who speak Russian are sometimes using the "throat" R instead of rolling R because they can't say it either.
    I am sure you will be understood if you use the English style R, but it will definitely make you identifiable as American. I don't think any other language pronounces R in the way that English does.

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    Старший оракул Seraph's Avatar
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    Try this. Put tongue into position for l (English l), but block off any possibility for air flow, more completely than for normal l. Don't say l, but force air through mouth only, passed tongue tip, (none through nose) and keep blocking off air in mouth with tongue similar to position for l. Tongue will resonate like jack-hammer (voiceless). This isn't a voiceless trilled r, but it gets you used to forcing the trilling action, so you know you can force a trill anytime. Tongue is in slightly different position for r, but once you know how to trill reliably, it will be easier.

  20. #20
    Hanna
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    In my opinion, it's just a slightly different position of the tongue, when you say the R. (rolling vs English R)
    I think the French throat - R is harder though. It doesn't always come out like I want it.

    I struggle with the щ vs ш in Russian instead.

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