What's new
Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

Help with Japanese R's


20 Nov 2002
Hello everyone first of all I want to say neat forum. I just joined and was wondering if I could get some help.

I am a college student here in the states and I am just now starting to learn it this year. I do pretty well in class except for my accent. At my university we get daily performance grades in how well we speak in class. Our classes are conducted in all Japanese except for our lectures on Japanese grammar which we have as a different class.

Anyway my problem is that I have real trouble saying the Japanese R's. Ra, Ri, Ru, Re, Ro. I have been practicing and have gone in to see my teacher for help but I still have problems with it a little even though ive gotten a little better recently.

Does anyone have any tips that will help me? Its horrible when you know the language but you just cant get a good grade because you just cant pronounce one part right.

Hehe, I think a Texan "r" must be pretty close to Japanese pronounciation.

No seriously, I leave the lingual subtleties up to more educated members and just bid you welcome!
Last edited:
I find that funny considering I lived in Texas for over 20 years and just now moved to another state to go to school.:)
Hey, Nikki -- I'm from Texas too (o.0) I'm no linguistic expert but...

how about pronouncing the 'r' almost (but not quite) like a 'd'? Da, di, du...?
I got the joke Thomasツ… because I lived in Texas for nearly a decade, and I know that the Japanese words that are spelled in romanji beginning with an "R" sound nothing like the Texan "R" words.

R's definitely sound more like L's.

ex. Ramen sounds like Lemmon.

The funny thing is when my wife used to say the English word Lemmon, it sounded like Remmen. Somehow R's and L's get all mixed up when English speakers first attempt Japanese, and when Japanese speakers first attempt English.
I agree with Kakuzen. I don't have much knowledge of Japanese, but you can find this R/L problem everywhere in Asia. I've been in Thailand a few times and you have to pronouce the R as an L, because otherwise you won't be able to tell a taxidriver where to go.
Well the only problem is its not exactly an L but its not an R either. Its what they call a soft R. Sometimes I can do it ok but usually I cant when im put on the spot in class so it comes out wrong.
Sounds to me like an R you have to skip. I reckon you have start to pronounce the R, but just before you actually do that, you drop your tongue and move on to the next syllable. The faster you speak, the easier it is.
Hmm. Not really. If you did it that way it would just be a different kidn of messed up accent. Oh well I guess I will just muddle through on my own. Thanks for trying to help everyone.
Ok, I teach the reverse. I teach my Japanese students how do "L" and "R" with a US pronunciation.

The "r" and "l" in Japanese are difficult because they are so close in construction that an American will have some difficulty.

The "N" sound in CNN news is a strong placement of the tongue on the roof top of the mouth. With "l" being almost the same with only a slight change in position and shorter length of strong pressure. While the "r" is made by pulling the tongue back into a snake like position.

R/L in Japan are closer to the "L" and "N" sound of CNN English yet ... the big difference the movement of the "R" is introduced.

So .... try doing a "l" sound using a slight snake like pull of the tongue with a light (very light) touch of the tongue to the roof top.

The posture of the mouth with L and N in CNN English is almost a smile while the R would be an round shape.

In Japanese R/L the shape is more closre to the L/N of CNN English being almost a smile.

Is this confusing? It's hard to explain without being in person.

Seeing that the Japanese R/L is almost the same structuraly and sound wise it is quite understandable that sailors 200 years ago wouldn't be able to make the difference of which was being done.

So, once more --
smile (except for ru and ro ... the vowels force a round shape mouth)
tap the tongue as a light L sound

That should work.

Cheers and welcome to the board
Your advice sounds good. Anything helps. And its not too confusing. I realize how hard it is to explain when not in person. Thanks for trying.
Your R advise is rock solid. I have a N question. Is there a rule of thumb for pronunciating the N? I'm learning some words via romaji, and in a word like RINJIN, is it RI-N-JI-N (4 syllables); and a phrase SHI WA TENSHI NO NIKOGE...[Noir lyrics], it's TE-N-SHI, correct?
In songs, the N part sometimes is pronounced out just to make the syllables match or whatever. I wouldn't depend on that. In regular (proper?) Japanese speech, TENSHI is TEN-SHI.
Japanese pronunciation is just like Spanish. every syllable is said. guess that what the texan 'R's are like. i dunno.
Top Bottom