Yesterday was a pretty big day for me. Its a silly thing but for me its a huge thing. Little backstory:
When I was a kid I was in speech for something like forever, not true just 3 or 4 school years, to learn my /r/ sound. It was a pretty big deal because my last name started with an /r/ and so I always said my last name wrong, a little devastating. I went into speech I think when I was in second grade but frankly, the Speech Therapist was really worthless. I don't remember seeing her often and what I do remember of seeing her she ran us through a list of words without correction. I don't want to jump to the end but I can say she was worthless because I know. We moved when I was in 4th grade and I got a new speech teacher. She was wonderful. Mrs. Stroud was a terrific teacher and a better person. She made me feel good and smart and creative and kids who still don't get their /r/ at 4th grade don't always feel that way. I got teased a lot. She kept me in speech through the 6th grade and she worked me good. I made progress but certainly the /r/ was still far from perfect. She got cancer at some point while I was in school. But she was trooper. She had the prettiest wig (I complemented her on it once thinking she had just gotten a new hairdo. She thanked me and said it was nice to say. I hope it didn't make her feel bad). She was always a happy friendly encouraging woman. I felt good being around her. At the end of 6th grade I remember Mrs. Stroud telling me I needed to continue to work on it but that I knew what to do so I could do it on my own. I didn't feel like I could do it on my own but it got better over time. Sometime while I was in 7th or 8th grade Mrs. Stroud died of that old cancer. I was so sad. I remember crying and crying over her. She was young (relatively, she has a son my age) and wonderful.
Well I grew up and went to univ. and studied Communication Disorders and Sciences. I wanted to be (and still want to be) a Mrs. Stroud for some nice girl with funny curly hair, a goofy sense of humor and a really bad /r/. I gained a new respect though for Mrs. Stroud, CDS isn't the easiest field of study. It takes from teaching, physical science and behavioral science. I did ok but as I studied I learned that I had a really screw up speech teacher at first and then a really terrific one. I also learned that it was a little bit abnormal for a kid to persist in /r/ until the 6th or 7th grade. Normally they clear up by 3rd grade, some hang on another year. Moving on, the thing is I don't produce an /r/ now that isn't thought through. I probably make the same number of mistakes with /r/ that anyone else does but I'm keenly aware of it. And its a bit of a soft spot when I encounter my least favorite word in the english language "jewelry". Now you're are practicing it and thinking why is that hard? Because there is a stupid /wlr/ blend in the word and God didn't intend for people to do that.
Put all of this thought into learning a new language, which is a process that also makes you think you aren't that bright or good. Well you have a whole new level of anxiety when they start asking you to roll your /r/ that you've worked really hard to just get at an average ability. Now I'm feeling pretty self concious. The woman in my class with me has been sweet about (she has this beautiful long trill to her /r/) and encouraging; whereas every now and again the teacher will try to drill me, which leaves me feeling hopeless. Yesterday as we were practicing /r/ blends I realized at some point that my /kr/ was holding and then I realized that yes indeed I just rolled my /r/. I held in my glee for a minute and sure enough I was rolling my /r/ through a list of words. There was some shouting and clapping at that point. And my friend in class was so sweet and cheered and clapped with me. The teacher laughed and clapped. I nearly cried.
If Mrs. Stroud were still about here I would find her phone number and call her. I wish I could tell her because I'm sure she would laugh and clap. And hopefully go home and brag to her family about a little girl she taught to roll her /r/.