I recently finished listening to the Audible version of La Reina del Sur by Arturo Pérez Reverte. I have been a Pérez Reverte fan for 20 years, having first seen La tabla de Flandes on Spanish tv in 1995 and then gobbling up many of his works in Spanish and English over the years.

I liked La Reina del Sur . I’ll confess that some of the scenes at sea bored me with their repetition and their hyper reality. I could have also done without the literary leitmotifs too, as they seemed forced–almost from another line of thinking. These scenes didn’t add too much to Teresa’s character and they detracted from elements that did. Nevertheless, it was a really fun ride.

Beyond the fun ride it described, the novel was an exercise in pronunciation. The narration by Rogelio Ramos Gómez-Rejón was clear and crisp. The star of the show–la estrella–was the “ere.” I guess it only seems fitting that a novel by  Arturo Pérez Reverte narrated by Rogelio Ramos Gómez-Rejón had some major league-Rs. There was a time about 3/4 ways through the narration that I realized just how pronounced this sound was.

I have ponder the peculiarities of Spanish before, with respect and reverence. A perfect metaphor for the craziness in the letter “ere”. It is easy to to start with what it is not: it is not an English “rah, rah, rah.” It is a hybrid of R + D + TH  + RR (+/- L). How can one letter make four sounds? Well, it’s all about where the letter falls in the word as a function of where you find yourself in the world. Let’s consider a few examples.

radio = RRAH-d(+th)eeo. Where the “ere” is the initial sound, it’s a rolled RR

martes = MAHD-es, or it you are in the Caribbean, MAHL-tes.

comer = co-(MED+TH), or it you are in the Caribbean, co, MED(+/-L).

I made a list of 10 words from La reina del sur that, when practiced with regularity and increasing “rapidez,” are sure to ramp up your pronunciation in Spanish. I think the secret is to read them twice through in order and then to riff on them randomly.

¡A por ello!

  1. Radar
  2. Rapidez
  3. Ruso
  4. Raro
  5. Repetir
  6. Terror
  7. Cotorrear
  8. Entorno
  9. Parte
  10. Probador