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Mixing up L and R? Why this happens in Japanese and other languages.

nice gaijin

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I just happened across this video and although there's no one asking the question right now, I wanted to share. It's not really about learning Japanese, nor about the Japanese language specifically, but the way the phonetic of your mother tongue change the way you speak other languages. So much so that it's become an old stereotypical trope, but no one seems to understand why.

I've thought a lot about the expression of accents. I think phonology is fascinating, and this video sums up everything I've wanted to explain about this whole L/R kerfuffle. It's very easy to follow even though it's accurate and uses the international phonetic alphabet (stopping just short of using phonological descriptions). I love that they started with an example where it's an English speaker as the butt of the joke; this goes both ways, and the Ip Man scene is way funnier than all the western examples they give.

 

Davey

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That was an interesting video.

I use a lot of phonics (jolly phonics) activities while teaching and find it sometimes hard to teach kids how to use their tongue and lips.

Teaching them to be more aware of how to pronounce the words is important.
 

nice gaijin

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Totally agree. The way I've always put it is you spend the first 12 years or so naturally building your vocabulary of sounds, and the rest of your life is expressed with that vocabulary. Learning a language once you've cemented your "voice" usually means making unfamiliar sounds, which are usually approximated if not taught properly, using the sounds you already know. This is what creates "foreign" accents, however slight; we're speaking Japanese with an American mouth, or French with a British mouth, or English with a Dutch mouth, respectively. Our mother tongue leaves a stamp on each new language we learn. It's hard to break those habits without deliberate effort, especially because they don't necessarily affect communication--if people can understand you there's no pressure to change your speech patterns.

At this point, if accent reduction is the goal, I feel like it's necessary to study phonology itself, to understand how the mouth moves, to explore the full spectrum of sounds we can make, and then analyze the language you're learning and attempt to correct those approximations. I started learning Japanese as an adult, but it was my study of phonology that gave me a "Japanese mouth." Now it's my limited vocabulary and not my accent that gives me away ;)
 

fouad

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Very interesting indeed.
The R is really troublesom so much so that even though I lived 4 years in the US I gave up imitating the american way.
It may be also the case of letters that don't exist in some languages like the P in arabic.
 
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