There are a few linguistic talents that do not come naturally to everyone, not even when everyone around a person can make the sound. When it comes to speaking Spanish, rolling the Rs is one of them. I had friends when I lived in Puerto Rico who couldn’t do it and they had been speaking Spanish their whole lives.
As a kid, I didn’t speak Spanish, but I could roll my Rs, I just didn’t know that’s what I was doing. For me, that long rrrrrrrrrrr sound was just the noise of a speeding car or motorcycle. It never occurred to me it would come in handy when learning a language.
Bryson, one of my twin boys, has been rolling his Rs since about the time he could speak, but his brother, Ryder, could not. Every time Bryson would start in with the rrrrrrrrrrrr, Ryder would get a very puzzled look on his face. He tried to recreate the sound, but always failed to put the lingual dynamics into the proper order to achieve his elusive goal. Our ayis tried with him, but also failed to master the technique. They would laugh it off, but it was clear that Ryder was not satisfied with failure. Meanwhile, Bryson would merrily rrrrrrroll on.
Sometime in the past month, alone in his room, or perhaps with a bit of coaching from his brother, Ryder finally connected his Rs to his tongue and started them on a roll of his own. He never announced his triumph or paraded it before us. We simply noticed him doing it while playing with his toy cars one day.
It is nice to know that if my children ever get bored with just English and Chinese, they already have the vocal chops to take on Spanish. In the meantime, playing cars in our house has never been so much fun.
Photo: Steven Snodgrass (flickr)