Making Trills

Saint Michael

Golden Member
Aug 4, 2007
1,878
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I've finally decided it's time to learn how to trill properly, as I'm learning several languages that require the sound. Up until this point I've been replacing all my trills with simple taps. After reading up on it I can't find any sort of trick to learning how to do it, so I guess I just need to practice it in every possible combination of sounds over and over and over.

My question is, and this is to native trillers (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, whatever): do you pronounce a back of the tongue (uvular) trill at the same time as you pronounce your tip of the tongue (alveolar) trill? When I try to pronounce the tip of the tongue one my tongue usually vibrates against my soft palette as well, as if I were saying both types of trills at the same time. Is this how it's supposed to work, or should I make sure to avoid that while I practice?
 

jagec

Lifer
Apr 30, 2004
24,442
5
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Like, rolling your Rs?

A lot of spanish-as-a-second-language people never master that. My dad's been living in Latin America for decades and still can't roll his Rs.

Me, I've always been able to roll my Rs, but I couldn't say an English "R" until 6th grade.

My tongue only vibrates against my hard palate when I roll my Rs, not at the back at all. It's maybe 1/8-1/4" back from my teeth.
 

Saint Michael

Golden Member
Aug 4, 2007
1,878
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Thanks for your reply. It's not that I can't do it at all, it's just that in many sound combinations (perro and guerra in Spanish, words that end in a trill, and "iri" in Latin, for example) I can't pronounce the trill in a smooth transition from a vowel and back out again. There's often a delay. Also it sounds like I sometimes pronounce it incorrectly if indeed I'm not meant to vibrate on my soft palette, so I'll have to correct that now too. I don't think I'll never master it, I just need to practice it a lot so I can do it smoothly and quickly.
 

jagec

Lifer
Apr 30, 2004
24,442
5
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Hmm...well, I don't know how helpful this is to you, but when saying "perro" I transition from the lips-together puff of air for "p" to tongue-down, mouth open "eh", then my tongue darts up and forward to touch my hard palate and my jaw and lips close slightly to get the air velocity necessary for a proper "rrr", then my tongue drops down a little and my lips move to make the "oh". The last, of course, isn't the "oh-w" English pronunciation which many non-native speakers tend to use, but a shorter, sharper "o" without any 'w'-sound at the end.

Practice, talk a lot with native speakers. You might have a bit of a "breakthrough moment" like I did in 6th grade, where you finally get your tongue in just the right position and realize what everyone else has been doing.

Seriously, try making an English "rrrrrrrrrr..." and then moving your tongue ever so slightly around. You lose it pretty quickly! And yet speaking the language requires you to rapidly and accurately find exactly this place, smoothly transitioning to and from the surrounding vowel sounds, while putting the words together. Speech is pretty impressive when you think about what goes into it.

The rolled "rrrr" is in some ways harder, because in addition to mouth and tongue position you also have to worry about air velocity and how hard to push your tongue forward to keep it bouncing against the hard palate and modulating the sound.

Once you get the bounce, try moving your tongue around slightly, open and close your jaw a pit, and reposition your lips to get the best sound.
 

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