"T-Dava, T-DRava, Trrrrrrrrava." It didn’t take many visits for Caroline to catch on. Rs in Czech are easy to pronounce once you realize that they begin in the same place in your mouth as a D, and then roll. Soon Caroline was rolling her Rs with great drama and length, applying her lessons to every R in Czech (as you should) and every R in English (as you shouldn’t).
We learned rhymes together, lines like:
Trubač troubí, vytrubuje, trubka se mu blýská. Trubač troubí tramtarata, trubka zrovna výská.
(All about trumpets and trumpeters)
And my favorite to say really fast:
Franta frká: frky, frk, holub vrká: vrky, vrk
(Frank has to blow his nose, a dove has to coo)
From R, lessons moved on to Ř. An Ř is typically the last sound children learn to pronounce when they are growing up here, because of its difficulties. Caroline's teacher explained that an Ř is a rolled R spoken through nearly closed teeth. She had Caroline practice by baring her teeth like a wolf and whispering her Rs to create the famous rrrzh sound. "Řepa, řeka, řekla, řekl", Caroline worked on her word list until she finally graduated to a nursery rhyme:
Řežu, řežu dříví,
až jsem celý křivý.
Cut cut wood,
I'm already all crook'd.
This time, the lessons were useful for more than just Caroline. I worked along with C until we could both bare our teeth and pronounce our Řs. Remember the fairy tale from a few days ago? Tři oříšky pro Popelku becomes easy to say if you can remember to roll your Rs, and keep your teeth together. If I were to mangle an English phonetic spelling, it might look like this: Trrzhee orrzheeshky pro Popelku. Go ahead and try, then let me know how it goes!
- In Czech pronunciaton, a háček, or hook, softens letter sounds. Š = sh, ž = zh, č = ch, etc.
- Here's a sound file for tři.