Vibrants /r/ and /rr/ in Spanish
Even though we write these sounds with the letter r, the student should take special note of the very important fact that these /r/-sounds do not even vaguely resemble /r/-sounds that occur in most varieties of English. Any attempt to transfer one's English /r/ over into Spanish will result in utter failure to produce a satisfactory imitation of the Spanish vowel.
You have already gone through a session of drill-work on the difference between /r/ and the variety of /d/ that appears between vowel-contrasts like . Now it is necessary to distinguish this single /r/ (the one which is so much like English tt or d or dd in words like Betty, cottage, lettuce, better, wader, waiter, shutter, shudder) from the double /rr/. The /rr/ is a rapid trill of the tongue-tip, and it can usually be learned only by careful imitation. The following drill is to help you hear and learn to reproduce the difference between the two kinds of /r/.
A. Exercise on /r/ and /rr/ between vowels
Not only is the Spanish /r/ quite different from the English r when it occurs between vowels, as in the preceding drill; it is also quite different in association with consonants. Take the Spanish word for example. Your first attempt will probably sound something like the English words tar day. If you will try to make it sound more like totter - they (spoken rapidly), you will come pretty close to the Spanish pronunciation.
The following drill will allow you to practice /r/ in all combinations with other consonants.
B. Exercise on /r/ before and after consonants
Whenever /r/ occurs at the very end of an utterance (not the end of a word, but the end just before pause), and especially when the final syllable is a stressed syllable, it has a different pronunciation from what is heard elsewhere. It is more like /rr/ but the vocal cords do not vibrate during it. The effect is almost like combining /r/ with /s/ except that the tongue - tip remains up at the end. This sound can be practiced by imitation of the following words.
C. Exercise in Spansih /r/ at the end of an utterance
In the preceding pages the gross difference in the pronunciation of sounds that are similar in Spanish and English have been illustrated and discussed. These are the differences which if unmastered will cause great difficulty and misunderstanding in an attempt to communicate in Spanish, and their mastery is therefore of the utmost importance to a student. However, there are other pronunciation features that should be understood and learned, to reduce the 'gringo accent' that will inevitably distract the listener's attention and thus impair the communication efficiency. The following lists of similar sounding words pronounced by a Spanish speaker and an English speaker respectively will illustrate import differences in the pronunciation of what might be considered the same vowels. Note especially that the English vowels seems to be more prolonged, more drawn out, and especially note that they do not seem to maintain the same quality from the beginning to the end of the vowel, whereas the Spanish vowel does.
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