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Home: English Pronunciation Mini-Course for Japanese Learners, Page 2

English Pronunciation Mini-Course
for Japanese Learners
Page 2 of 4

Lesson 2: R/L sounds


Because there's no L sound in the Japanese language, most English words with an L get pronounced with an R sound. As you can imagine, this creates many opportunities for some very hearty laughs.

Shortly after I first arrived in Japan, one of my students asked me if I liked the taste of Japanese lice. And there was another student who once proudly inquired, "Wolff-sensei, did you know we're having a BIG erection this Sunday?" Hmm, sounds exciting. smiley

One of the funniest things I've ever seen thru the years regarding R/L sounds was the 1988 book by Miranda Kenrick entitled "Is That an 'L' As in Rome? No, It's 'R' As in London." Hilarious stuff!

The good news, though, is that making the English L sound is not only a piece of cake (asameshimae, 朝飯前), but it's exactly the same mouth position as for making the TH sound. Just touch your tongue to your top teeth. That's IT!

How to make the L sound
How to make the L sound
(photo credit: wikiHow.com)

In my humble professional opinion, all the endless online debates & videos on where exactly you should place your tongue...forward position, back position, touch it to the tip of your teeth, touch it to the back of your teeth, force your air out THIS way or THAT way....OMG. No No No! It's simply NOT that complicated.

R/L sounds speaking practice

As in Lesson 1, in this video the teacher will first read a R word from the left column, and then its similar sounding L word in the right column. Please repeat the word pairs after the teacher, one by one, for your pronunciation practice. The same as with the TH sound, remember to touch your tongue to your top teeth for the L sound.


  R/L sounds speaking practice
(click link above to view a larger-size video on separate page)

Alright, very good. Please replay this video as necessary until you feel comfortable correctly pronouncing the R & L sounds. And now on to the R/L sounds listening practice. Do your best!

R/L sounds listening practice

Now it's time for some listening practice with the R/L sounds. The teacher will now read 10 words from either the left column or the right column. Please write down your answers on a piece of paper. He will say each word twice.


R/L sounds listening practice
(click link above to view a larger-size video on separate page)

Ok, congratulations! Now you can check your answers by clicking below on the “Show/Hide answers” link, which will reveal the 10 words which the teacher just said. If you got more than 3 or 4 answers wrong, you might want to do this listening exercise again for more practice.

Show/Hide answers


R/L sounds dictation practice

Our final Lesson 2 exercise is the R/L sounds sentence dictation practice. The teacher will read 2 sentences using the R & L sounds and you should write down the sentences on a piece of paper as best you can. The teacher will say each sentence 3 times, the 2nd time more slowly than native speed.


R/L sounds dictation practice
(click link above to view a larger-size video on separate page)

Ok, good job! You can now check your answers by clicking below on the “Show/Hide answers” link, which will reveal the 2 sentences which the teacher just said. If you found this difficult, you might want to try this dictation exercise again for more practice.

Show/Hide answers


Congrats! You’re now done with Lesson 2. If you're ready to start Lesson 3, B/V sounds, you can proceed now to Page 3.

Or if you want more practice with the R/L sounds, you might want to check your listening with an easy R/L quiz on this page. (First read the instructions, then click on the blue "Start" arrow. After each question, click the blue right arrow to continue the quiz on the next page.)





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