By Pam Marshalla

Q: I have tried “everything” to teach R to this one client and he has gotten nowhere. Then one day he learns a Spanish trilled /r/, and WHAM! He gets an American R right away. Can you explain this?

Van Riper wrote about this as one method for teaching the retroflex R:  “Have the child imitate you as you trill the tongue-tip. Then use this trill to precede the vowel E”  (Van Riper, Speech Correction, 1947, p. 142).

Think of speech as comprised of POSTURES and MOVEMENTS –

  • POSTURE: Trilling the tongue sets the tongue in the right posture. The trill sets the tongue wide in the back with its perimeter curled upwards.  This is the exact posture for the retroflex R.
  • MOVEMENT: Curling the whole tongue back while trilling moves it back in the right direction for R.

0 thoughts on “Trill-to-R”

  1. I’ve had a similar experience with two school age clients. They both acquired their R after they began taking Spanish as a second language. I attributed motivation, effort, and an increased level of sound discrimination as the reason why the two children were able to say the R in Spanish. Both children had to consciously think about the pronunciation in Spanish, whereas their lax R in English was a bad habit that they didn’t consciously try to break even though the possessed the motoric ability to do so.

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