How to practice pronuncing L & R sounds


| - Tim Lake |

How to pactice L and R sounds

Japanese learners of English have particular difficulty with pronouncing /L/ and /R/. This is because Japanese essentially doesn’t have the letter L. The Japanese /R/ sound sits between the English /L/ and /R/, and most Ls and Rs are pronounced the same way when they are transliterated into Katakana Japanese. As this is a particular problem for Japanese English learners we though we’d give you some advice on how to improve your /L/ and /R/ sounds so they sound different.



1.) Make the tongue movement big!
With an /L/ sound the tongue moves a lot. It should almost flop forward out of your mouth after touching the top of your mouth and the back of your teeth. A typical problem with Japanese speakers is that although with Japanese /R/ sounds the tongue moves, with an English /L/ they don’t move it enough. When you are practicing the sound exaggerate the movement. Get that tongue flopping.

1.) 舌を大きく動かすこと!:


2.) Don’t move your tongue!?!
Conversely with the /R/ sound you basically shouldn’t move the tongue at all. This is very hard for Japanese speakers and in fact although the Japanese sound is technically an /R/, the pronunciation of an English /R/ involves a different movement. When you are practicing the /R/ sound focus on not moving your tongue. It’s hard but essential.

2.) 舌を動かすな?!


3.) Don’t touch the top of your mouth.
When making an /R/ sound, another thing to think about is that the tongue shouldn’t touch the top of the mouth. This is a common mistake and an important difference with the Japanese /R/ and English /L/ - both of which have the tongue touching the top of the mouth.

3.) 口内の上部に舌が触れないようにする:


4.) Practise on words that are almost the same.
There are many words in English that sound almost the same with only one letter difference. Practice a list of words beginning with /L/ and /R/. For example: Light / Right; Load/Road; Long/Wrong; Do them slowly and record yourself using an app on your smartphone. Can you hear the difference?

4.) 似た単語で練習してみる:
英語には、表記が違うだけで似たような発音を持つ単語がたくさんあります。「L」と「R」で始まる単語を練習してみましょう。例:Light / Right, Load / Road, Long / Wrong


5.) Take it to the next level.
Once you are comfortable with words that begin with /L/ and /R/ work on pairs of sounds that combine with /L/ and /R/, such as /cl/ and /cr/ - cloud/crowd; /pl/ and /pr/ - play/pray. You need to be able to make the difference clear here too.

5.) 次のレベルに挑戦する:


Remember, practicing pronunciation also helps with being able to notice the difference when listening. Working on your /L/ and /R/ is particularly important for Japanese speakers and is one area that you could focus on to maximize results with your improving your English speaking and listening. It will help you to better understand as well as being better understood. Just remember it won’t get better overnight - you need to keep working at it.



Considering how often a letter appears in English, it might be helpful to know that R is a more common letter than L, but the difference is quite small. 6% of words in English contain an R whereas 4% contain an L; 2.8% of words start wth R whereas 2.4% start with L. However there are quite a few words that contain both!