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L and r sounds for Japanise speakers
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Beth



Joined: 10 Nov 2003
Posts: 1
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2003 9:13 pm    Post subject: L and r sounds for Japanise speakers Reply with quote

I tutor 3 adults from Japan who are intermediate students but I can't seem to find a way to get them to hear the diffrence between r and l they will pronounce glass as grass any sugestions?
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EH



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 174
Location: USA and/or Korea

PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2003 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is really tough for most Japanese speakers. It's made even more difficult by the fact that /r/ and /l/ are made somewhat differently depending on the sounds that surround them in words.

Here's how I teach (American English) /r/. Start with vocalic /r/ (i.e. attached to a vowel sound, rather than at the beginning of a word). The whole process will likely take a few weeks of 15 min. sessions, depending on the students' skill levels.
1) Have them make an "ah" sound with a wide open mouth, noting that their tongue is sitting down at the bottom of their mouth, right behind their lower teeth. Have them make an "ee" sound, with a wide grin. Have them also make an "oh" sound, with their lips rounded. They must practice these seemingly simple vowel sounds for at least one session. The key is for them to make the vowels with correct mouth postures, NO tongue movement during each sound, and NO jaw movement either. Give practice for homework, to be done in front of a mirror.
2) Next session, do the same sounds, and keep the jaw completely still, but practice moving the tongue forward and backward while making the vowel sounds. The resulting sounds will be silly sounding, usually an inexact cross between the original vowels and the vowels plus /r/. At this point, forward/backward mobility of the tongue with stability of the jaw is the goal. This may take a session or two. Again, give homework to be done in front of a mirror.
3) When the task becomes consistently easy and automatic, go on to the next step, which is forming those random forward and back movements into real vowel + /r/ sounds. Start with /ar/, as that is the easiest to see in a mirror. You say /ar/ three times, slowly, with a wide open mouth, and then they try to copy you. Give them a thumbs up (perfect), thumbs down (not yet) or horizontal thumb (almost) for each production, so they know if they're on the right track or not. Have other students give ratings to their peers' productions as well, for listening practice.
4) When /ar/ is mastered, try /ir/ and /or/. Then try the same sounds with a consonant sound in front of them, as in words such as car, bar, hear, deer, sore, more. Then add more sounds, as in words such as stars, hardly, unclear, fearsome, deplore, before. After that, put the words in short, and eventually longer, sentences to practice.
5) Usually once vocalic /r/ is mastered, /r/ at the beginning of words becomes much easier. If it doesn't come naturally, you can let the students add a little vowel sound before the /r/ if that helps them (uhrabbit, uhradio, etc.). Gradually fade out the vowel sound.
6) For some students, /r/ blends (grass, brown, trade) are the hardest of all, usually because these require a lot of quick tongue movement. You can have them try adding a little extra vowel sound in here, too (guhrass, buhrown, tuhrade) if that increases their intelligibilty, but this is not a great habit to start. Probably better to just practice these blends a whole heck of a lot, without any added vowel crutches.

Teaching /l/ for me is really easy if the students are kids, and really hard if the students are adults. With kids, I use the tongue bite strategy. They stick out their tongues as far as the tongue will go, then lightly bite down on the protruded tongue and try to say the /l/ sound. It will sound a little strangled and silly. Do this a few times. The point is to realize that the very tip of the tongue--so important for Japanese /l/ sounds--is not as important for American /l/ (we sometimes use the tongue tip, but often use the area right behind the tongue tip, or both areas). The next step is for them to continue making an /l/ sound while very slowly sliding their tongue back into their mouth. The very slowly part is important here, because you are going to stop them when their /l/ sounds ideal. When you say stop, they immediately freeze their tongue position and say the sound repeatedly in this position. As for /r/, it helps if you model the sound three times, then they copy you three times with feedback from you and from classmates. Once they have the sound in isolation like this, move on to simple syllables, then more complex words, then short and finally longer sentences. Again, blends (blue, glove, place) will probably be a real challenge. It may help to tell them to have their tongue in the /l/ position before even making the proceeding sound. The hardest words of all will probably be those with both /r/ and /l/ (girl, squirrel, Carol). Those may never be easy, but a lot of practice does help.

Hope this helps.
-EH
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Tue Nov 11, 2003 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice suggestions, EH. I've been teaching the "r" sound recently. I know some books show a retroflex tongue in the pictures of an "r", but I know that my tongue doesn't turn back to make one. (I think there are different ways you can make an "r") Instead, I find that my tongue is bunched in the back of my mouth. I've been suggesting students start with an "i" sound, and feel where their tongue is next to their back teeth. Then, keeping the tongue against the back teeth, pull back the tongue until you get an "er" sound. Much like your practice of "ar", "ir", etc, I have my students start with "er". One mistake I've noticed with Japanese speakers trying to say a word beginning with "r" is that when they can finally get the "er" sound, they often release it by letting their tongue get loose, and when it hits the top of their mouth it turns into an "l". So I tell them that to make an "r", you can't let your tongue flop around or touch the top of your mouth.
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dduck



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 265

PostPosted: Tue Nov 11, 2003 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks EH, it really learnt something useful there. Smile

Iain
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2004 11:10 am    Post subject: A Japanese student told me that.... Reply with quote

Hey there!

This “r” “l” thing among Asians is a curious phenomena….how is it that the Japanese and Chinese always make the switch over between these two sounds? But I mean always, they never fail to change the l for the r. Is it really them making the mistake? I wanted to share a discovery I made with Japanese students I worked with in New York in the 1980s.

After hours and hours of minimal pair work, making my students do physical, speech therapy type exercises, I was able to get any one of them to pronounce a nice l or an acceptable r when they were thinking about it. We were even able to apply such work on their speaking habits, slowly correcting the switch-over habit that is often considered inevitable and even an acceptable part of their native-tongue accent when speaking English. And yet, when my students read exercises, they suddenly “forgot” which sound to make when seeing an “l” or an “r” written. I immediately suspected visual interference, as that suffered by, for example, Spanish speakers when they see a “c” and want to pronounce it “th” or a “v” and want to pronounce it “b”, since that is the sound that that graphic symbol represents in their native, phonetically written, language. However, the Japanese don’t share our alphabet, so the sound that they attribute to those two symbols must have been learned.

And so it is, one Japanese student pointed out to me. Frustrated with his “inability” to correctly place his lips and tongue, I asked him just what sound he had learned for those two letters. In his case, his teacher back in Japan had explained to him that both letters represented the same sound, one that is probably not used in English, but which is close to the “r” or close to the “l” or maybe just in between them. Thus, when reading an “r” or an “l” and using that sound, what I heard was something that was so similar to the sound I expected, but was not quite right, and so must have been the other. The perfect change between the r and the l was not taking place in the student’s pronunciation, but rather, in my interpretation of the sound….he was always making the same sound for both of the letters in question.

Soooo….sometimes, the problem is visual interference. The exercises posted by EH are great and very similar to those I used to make the student conscious of the difference between the two sounds. But, since reading aloud is a part of any ESL class, I also had to be firm about the correct articulation of those sounds when they were encountered in reading material. Sometimes we even had to mark each “l” and each “r” in a text, slowing down and forcing the correct articulation before continuing on. Finally, it is up to the student to practice these new habits until they become more comfortable than the habit that sounds “wrong” to us!

peace,
revel.
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2005 5:15 am    Post subject: Updating.... Reply with quote

Hey all!

Here is that thread I mention in a recent post on which comes first, production or recognition. There are some interesting comments here....

peace,
revel.
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Pronunci



Joined: 21 Apr 2005
Posts: 23
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2005 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that all the suggestions are great. I have one comment about the L sound and R sound from my own experience.

First, I am a Chinese. I used to think I could pronounce the L sound and the R sound. Nevertheless, I easily mixed the L sound and the R sound because they sound too similar to me. Later, I realize that to pronounce the L sound, I need to put my tongue behind the teeth or between the teeth in the extreme case. To pronounce the R sound, I need to curve my tongue back. It made a huge difference because I can consciously tell myself to differentiate those two sounds.

Try to tell your students to put the tongue behind the teeth or between the teeth to see if they can pronounce the L sound. The R sound is hard because they have to build the mouth musclarity to pronounce the sound. Come to http://www.PronunciationPatterns.com to learn about the mouth muscle exercise which I found very useful to help me build the mouth musclarity.


Xin Wang
MBA --- Class of 2005
Carnegie Mellon University
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2005 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pronunci wrote:
I realize that to pronounce the L sound, I need to put my tongue behind the teeth or between the teeth in the extreme case. To pronounce the R sound, I need to curve my tongue back. It made a huge difference because I can consciously tell myself to differentiate those two sounds.


Putting your tongue behind the teeth makes a lot of sense to me, but I don't see why putting the tongue between the teeth, (an extreme case, you said) is even an option.

While some people use a retroflex "r" many of us use a "bunched tongue r" (for want of a better term). I have found difficulties with students who think curving their tongue back is the way to make an "r", but have a lot of trouble because their tongue is not anchored to their molars, so their mouth is too open. (If that made sense. heh, sure can't demonstrate in a Web Forum. Rolling Eyes )
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EH



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 174
Location: USA and/or Korea

PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Lorikeet. For most students thinking of the tongue as "bunched up" is much for effective than thinking of it as curled back or "retroflex". If curling the tongue back works for Xin Wang that's great, but for most students it doesn't work.

Also, it is possible to make an /l/ with the tongue tip stuck out between the teeth, but this should be a form of practice for the real thing, not a final product. You look really weird if you stick your tongue out all the time on /l/ words.

One more thing--Xin Wang, you mentioned building up muscularity of the tongue as something necessary for good /r/ pronunciation. It's a picky little point, but I just have to mention that (for people without brain injury) tongue strength is NOT AN ISSUE in /r/ production. New motor movements may need to be learned, but the strength of the muscle is not a factor. Here's the guidleline: if a person can chew their food and swallow it without any problems then strength for speech is adequate.
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globaltefl



Joined: 13 Aug 2005
Posts: 7
Location: Chicago, SF Bay Area, Boston

PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2005 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have found the following extremely helpful for the /r/ and /l/ problem:

1. Have the student say 00 as in boot. The lips must be and remain rounded. The tongue will automatically move back in the mouth.
2. Holding that position, have the student say /root/. The tongue will not be able to reach the alveolar ridge and will reflex into the /r/ sound.

Good luck!
Global TEFL
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2005 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a new reply to a rather old thread. I think it's interesting to look at it from the idea of how English speakers get confused with the Japanese sound. The Japanese /r/ sounds like an /l/, a /d/ and an /r/ in real Japanese when a lot of English speakers perceive it, depending on its context/phonetic environment. So Japanese speakers are physically capable of producing sounds that get perceived as three English sounds. The problem is getting them to produce the sounds at the right time/right context. Hence my 'positional variation' re-training approach.

As someone has hinted, interference from the writing system might be a factor. When English words get taken into Japanese, they get written in a native syllabary, which makes both English /l/ and English /r/ a Japanese /r/ sound in terms of representation. BTW, a fourth interesting variation of Japanese /r/ is the 'maki-jita' of rough male talk from the Kansai; it is thoroughly trilled.
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GrannyGrump



Joined: 30 Apr 2006
Posts: 13
Location: Sokcho

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 9:52 pm    Post subject: Thanks! Reply with quote

Pronunci wrote:
I think that all the suggestions are great. I have one comment about the L sound and R sound from my own experience.

.... I realize that to pronounce the L sound, I need to put my tongue behind the teeth or between the teeth in the extreme case. To pronounce the R sound, I need to curve my tongue back. It made a huge difference because I can consciously tell myself to differentiate those two sounds.


I also have the children practice growling for R. Clench the teeth and be a lion: Rrrrrrrrrrr!!!!! Then I make an exaggerated tongue movement for the L in just La la la la la la la.

I have R and L flashcards that have words that sound the same except the R and L -- Right and Light, Rake and Lake, Rap and Lap, etc. As students master just the R and L, I add blends -- Clown and Crown, Flame and Frame, etc. The cards are in pairs -- one with a picture, one with the word, with the backs blank. Once I have those ready, I have a number of games. Here they are, in order of difficulty:

R/L Running Game: Designate one side of the room the R side and the other the Left side. Teacher looks at a flash card and pronounces it. Students run to the correct side of the room. There is no winner or loser in this game; it's just listening practice.

R/L Game: Each student has a card that says R and one that says L. The teacher looks at the flash cards at random and pronounces them. Each student puts down the card they think is the right sound. Check how the "vote" came down, and tell them if the majority is correct or not. Again, there's no winner; it's just a fun way to do listening practice.

Pronouncing Game: The students line up. I'll show the student a random card and she has to pronounce it. If she pronounces it correctly, she gets to keep the card. Either way, she goes to the end of the line. The game ends when the teacher runs out of cards.

Passing Game: I mix the cards and deal out two to each student. They check to see if they have any matches. If they have a match, they lay those cards out in front of them and I give them two new cards. Then on the count of three, everybody passes one of their cards to the person on their left. They check for a match. Matches are laid out on the table and the student gets new cards. Play until all the cards are matched out.

Matching Game: I start with the first ten pairs of cards, mix them and put them face-down. I keep a reserve batch of pre-mixed cards from further in the deck to replenish. Each student turns over a card and says what it is. He then turns over a second card. I ask, "Is it rake" (or whatever). The student replies, "No, it's rock" or "Yes, it's rake." If the cards match, the student keeps the pair and I replace them from my reserve stock. If they don't match she turns them back over and the next student tries. We count who has the most matches at the end of the game.

Go Fish: Deal out about four cards to each student. Any pairs get put out on the table. The leftover cards go in a pile in the center of the table. Each student asks another student, "Do you have Lock?" If the other student does, he says, "Yes, I do," and gives the card to the first student, who puts the pair out. If not, he says, "No, I don't. Go fish!" and the first student picks a card from the leftover cards in the center. If a student runs out of cards, she gets to take a card from the pile. The game goes until all the cards are gone, and the one with the most pairs wins. If you have too many students to play with the size deck you have, you can have the students form teams and take turns asking other teams.
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ktfcOz



Joined: 03 Aug 2006
Posts: 3
Location: Perth

PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Whilst it might be important for their own self-esteem to actually be able to say the L and the R sounds correctly, it doesn't make too much difference to being able to understand what they are saying if the particular word(s) are said in the context of a sentence.

Sometimes it is more difficult to interpret what they are saying if they just say one word on its own, but it is perfectly understandable within a sentence.

My Japanese student will spend a long time practising words with the sounds in it and can then make the sounds. However, when they need to say the particular word without having practised it, that is when there are some more problems.

Overall, as long as they know the word they want to use and can use it properly in a sentence, a slight mis pronunciation doesn't really matter. After all, we pronounce words differently depending on our own accents.
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 3:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I understand your viewpoint, and I agree that context assists in understanding. However, I think native speakers are "jolted" when they hear what they think is an "incorrect" word for the context, and may therefore have more trouble understanding the flow of the conversation. I do tell my students that the most important thing is understanding and being understood, and not to worry about perfection.
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ktfcOz



Joined: 03 Aug 2006
Posts: 3
Location: Perth

PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lorikeet wrote:
I do tell my students that the most important thing is understanding and being understood, and not to worry about perfection.


I think it is important to tell them this because I know from my own limited experience that they tend to feel inferior or stupid because they can't say a particular sound when they are supposed to. This can then de-motivate them to learn as much English as they would have had they not hit this slight stumbling block.

It is important to not worry too much about it and play it down in order for them to not have a lower self-esteem and enable them to want to continue learning. Having said that, you can subtly continue to work on it as well.
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