7. Trills again – and /r/
Lots of people (here in Taiwan, anyway, and probably others whose native language is trill-less) seem both fascinated and frustrated by trills. One day after class a student came up to me on the stairway and asked, "How do you make a trill?" I asked her if she knew the Chinese folk song, "Flower Drum Song" 鳳陽花鼓. Part of the chorus goes (in Pinyin): drrrrrrrrrrrrrr ling-dang-piao-yi-piao 得兒....鈴鐺飄一飄! If you do the drrrrrrrr 得兒 right when singing this song, you can do an alveolar trill! The student tried it, it worked, she smiled and thanked me, and rushed off to her next class.
what if you don't get the drrrrr right? Some former students have
suggested a method they read on the NTU BBS that they say really helped them
learn the alveolar trill. In short, in addition to the "Flower Drum Song"
trick, the post suggests trying to push the back of your tongue against your
velum in order to relax the tongue enough so it can go into free vibration.
This may not be the way you make a trill once you have mastered it, but it has
helped some poeple to successfully produce their first trill. Here's
the original BBS post.
Here's a LINGUIST post on the same topic. One contributor suggests rapidly reading a short sentence with words containing the American tap, e.g. "I edited it". Link to read other ideas on the subject:
best way I know of to learn a uvular trill, sometimes called a 'burr',
is by practicing gargling 漱口. This sound occurs in the speech of some
older speakers of Northumbrian English (spoken on the northeastern coast of
England), but it is dying out. Here is a page from the BBC's "The Routes
of English" on Northumbrian English; it includes a short clip with several
We've finally worked our way up to chapter eight, acoustic phonetics, so the next page is on:
Fundamental frequency and harmonics