Most of the accent modification teaching I do is with students whose first language is not English. But, from time to time, a native English speaker asks me about how to acquire a solid trill. They understand that, in order to sound authentic in any language that uses the trill phonemically, they need to acquire it. The trill is the rolling “rrrrr” commonly found in Spanish words, and it can be very hard to pick up. I’ve had people say they’ve been trying for decades, and had given up. I’ve even had people tell me that they have been told to give up – that they are genetically unable to produce a trill.
I’m writing this to say that there is HOPE! Everyone I have taught whose goal is the trill has been able to pick it up within 1 1/2 hours. Yes, it is effortful. Yes, it requires concentration. Yes, there is some sloppy spitting at first. Yes, it sometimes requires seven or eight different approaches to grasping it, but those approaches all happen, in sequence, within an hour or so. Seriously, there has always been a way, using the right approach. And, of course, the key is approaching it with humor and a depth of patience on both sides….And, at the moment of getting it, often surprised…..the student produces a trill…..”Is that it?!” Yes, that’s it. Celebration, disbelief….it’s a wonderful moment. “Let’s do it again!” we both say. They’ve got it and go off sounding authentic and accomplished. Because, after all, they made it happen, with some guidance.
So it’s rrrrreally do-able! And it’s worth it! For the trill of it!