Talking to Myself with a Pencil in My Mouth

My poor neighbors. God bless them.

Since starting Russian in earnest last Wednesday, I’ve become consumed by it. Russian vocabulary circles my mind as I translate to myself. I’ve taken to carrying the textbook with me, because I like to be able to look up the words I don’t know. Today, I was writing in English cursive, and caught myself writing the Russian “m” instead of the English “t.”

Also apparently, my mouth has decided to take on a life of its own.

Note this conversation that occurred earlier tonight.

Me: (unconsciously) lyu-blu, lyu-blu, lyu…lyu…blu… lyu-blu..bloo…lyu-bloo…
Una: What are you talking about, blue?
Me: Huh…oh… sorry. I’m making soft L sounds.

There were several variations of this, because my mouth insists upon practicing even when I’m not doing anything remotely related to to Russian.

It’s probably…who am I kidding… it’s a lot OCD, too. I start repeating things over and over again and I have a real hard time stopping. It is, without a doubt, a compulsion. But it’s a useful compulsion, and one that I can pass off as true dedication to the perfection of my Russian accent.

(My Russian accent is currently pretty terrible. It needs all the perfection it can get.)

Car rides are pretty hysterical with me these days. They’ve become dedicated to the practice of R rolling – something I’ve never been able to do well. When I was learning Spanish, I made an attempt at learning to roll them. I read all the Google information. I stood in front of a mirror and butter/ladder-ed myself to death. Then I gave up and started cheating the R roll. 

When I decided to take Russian, however, I knew that wouldn’t suffice. So, since December, many of my car rides have been filled with variations of the following:

ti-di-va, ti-di-va, ti-di-va …. butter/ladder, butter/ladder, butter/ladder…. vision/dream, vision/dream, vizzzhhhhhhhhondream, vizzzzzzzhondrrrream

Followed by, if I was lucky:

errrrrre, errrray, errrrrrie, errrrrrro, perrrrro, parrrro, arrrro, arrrra, Tehrrrran, Tehrrrrran.

And aside from the fact that I sounded (and probably looked) like a complete idiot, it worked.

Sort of.

I could roll the R after my Spanish E sound, and after the A sound. But Us, Os, and Is? No such luck. And forget about STARTING a word with the R.  That produced a sound that was a bit like a gurgle. 

It wasn’t pretty. The ducks were NOT amused.

So tonight, I was lamenting to Una and Jenny for the hundredth time that I didn’t think I’d ever get it right. They’d both tried to teach me how to do it before, with mixed results, i.e., my R rolling didn’t improve, but they thought it was hilarious.

However, Jenny’s friend Ana was also visiting tonight. Ana is a lovely, Spanish-speaking, R-rolling kind of gal, and she suggested that I take my pencil and shove it in my mouth. Come to think of it, maybe she was trying to get me to shut up… that non-rolling gurgle is pretty hideous.

“Put it under your tongue, hold it down, and then blow. Your tongue will vibrate.”

I was skeptical. See, my tongue? It doesn’t vibrate. It just doesn’t. Doesn’t know how. I can’t even blow acceptable raspberries.

But I put the pencil under my tongue, I held it down, and I blew.

And my tongue vibrated.

SUCCESS!

Okay… maybe not a big success. In fact, Dylan was highly concerned by this sound. But it’s still a success, as far as I’m concerned. The more I do it, the more my tongue should get used to using the rolling muscles. I even managed to get it to roll tonight after I, U, and O. Not well – not reliably – but at least once.

It’s the little victories that matter, really.

And in the spirit of encouraging them, tomorrow’s commute to school will likely include a pencil shoved in my mouth.

I wonder if they make them flavored?

*Bobs
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