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Inability to produce alveolar trill

I was born with a condition called ankyloglossia, which means that I have a very short and tight lingual frenulum, and the tip of my tongue is practically tethered to the underside of my tongue. I am unable to touch the roof of my mouth with my tongue. This has caused several speech impediments in my early years, mainly difficulty making the English r and l sounds (I used to make a w sound instead). After speech therapy, I was able to correct this. I still have a slight lisp though. More recently, since I've started learning other languages, I've realised that I'm incapable of producing the alveolar trill. I've successfully achieved fluency in Brazilian Portuguese, because thankfully, the alveolar trill is not required. But I've become very frustrated with Spanish, and now Esperanto which seem to require this trilled r. I can perform the tapped r, as in the Spanish "pero", but not the trill as in "perro" or "ratón". I can perform a sloppy uvular trill, but if my throat is dry, it ends up being more like the German ch as in "Bach". I'm considering getting surgery to fix this so I can speak properly. In the meantime, would I be better off using the tapped r in Esperanto, or taking my chances with my sloppy uvular trill? I don't want people to think I'm saying d or t when I use a tapped r, or ĥ when I try a uvular trill. It's making me very frustrated and sad.

September 14, 2018



With Esperanto, you will find a lot of patience for non-standard pronunciation. In my local group, half of the members use the English r sound half the time. If you can pronounce a tapped r, I'd recommend using that, but Esperanto speakers tend to be very forgiving of pronunciation so I wouldn't stress about it too much.

September 14, 2018


you took the words right out of my mind this is what i was trying to say

September 14, 2018


There are conditions that make it difficult to learn a second language correctly. In my years teaching at the US summer Esperanto course I've often had older students who can't hear well . . . and the bottom line is if you can't hear sounds, you can't reproduce them. It's a similar dilemma if you can hear the sounds correctly, but physically can't reproduce them. In either situation, no Esperanto course or teacher can really help.

I agree with Jason Mey that in Esperanto gatherings there is usually complete acceptance of a wide range of pronunciations. In the local group I participate with, some people have good pronunciation, some people have terrible pronunciation. I would never correct anyone in a gathering like that, unless they specifically asked me to.

That said, there is a clear difference in Esperanto between "good, standard International pronunciation" (which is reflected in the Duolingo sound recordings, among other sources), and "not really very good pronunciation that people can understand even though it's not right".

There's a comment that "in Spanish there's a big difference between 'pero' and 'perro'. In Esperanto, either of those r sounds is within the range of normal, good pronunciation. Esperanto isn't Spanish.

If you need surgery to correct a physical problem that affects your pronunciation, I wouldn't worry too much about Esperanto pronunciation until after the surgery is done.

September 15, 2018


A "tapped R as in the Spanish 'pero'" is fine.

September 14, 2018


Hang in there buddy i'm sure people will understand you

September 14, 2018


I have the same thing, but I am sure there are native Spanish people with the same problem, so I do not worry about it.

September 16, 2018


I was born the same condition, though mine was not as severe as what you are describing. I was never able to do a trilled "r," even after having the surgery. However, I have gradually developed the ability to do the trilled "r" over the last couple of years through a series of oral exercises, the kinds you can find discussed in articles on pronunciation and on YouTube videos. It is still FAR from perfect and VERY inconsistent, but it gives me some hope I will eventually be able to produce the sound regularly on command.

Just don't expect the surgery to immediately fix the issue of pronunciation.

September 18, 2018
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