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Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean etc) speakers of English and the alphabets 'r' and 'l'

Why do Asians mispronounce the letters 'r' and 'l', often interchanging their pronunciations? And, is this mistake highlighted in their schools when they're learning to speak English?

For e.g They might pronounce 'Please' as 'Prease' and 'Sorry' and 'Solly'

This pronunciation issue is widely know among native English speakers. And, I hope I don't cause offense if you are Asian.

Additional Details:

'R' is pronounced as 'ARE'
'L' is pronounced as 'EL'

Additional Details:

Wow! Thanks for the insightful and intelligent comments guys. This is turning out to be a profitable discussion. Keep 'em coming!

Additional Details:

Friends, my question was not primarily motivated by some Western stereotype about Asians. I have a few Chinese friends, and just to give you an example, the other day when I was voice chatting with this person, she asked me 'So, how long have you been learning Mandalin?' That question sort of stuck in my mind, and I wanted to get to the root of it all.


For learning: English
Base language: English
Category: Uncategorized



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    Best Answer - Chosen by the Asker
    It comes down to understanding the unknown based on what one knows. And as Daniel explained, it goes both ways. We sound equally weird when attempting other languages.

    We native English speakers have added a couple of extra problems by not telling learners that our "L" is thicker and heavier than in Asian languages. And worst of all, we do not have a standard pronunciation for "R"! I researched this recently, and found three unrelated pronunciations in US English alone (one speech terapist actually described eight methods), one of which is only vaguely related to my Aussie R, and another which is again only vaguely related to the Asian R/L equivalent. No wonder we're all confused. ;)

    In Germany most people think Asians are not able to pronounce "R". May be this is because German (and French and Italian...) can have very "hard" "R"s. We are used to hear it our way.

    But, in fact, they have a "R"! I think about one that matches your example "sorry" (Chinese "ri" or "re" sounds exactly like "sorry").

    If they study our languages they practice proper pronunciation.

    I had heard that they don't have an L sound in their language(s) and the closest sound they can make (without training) is an R.

    In fact, there is pronounciation 'r' in Mandarin, but some Chinese from East China might mispronounce 'L' and 'R' bcuz of that they don't have 'r' in their diaclect. People from other areas of China have no problem to pronounce 'l' and 'r'.

    And Chinese from southwest of China might mix 'l' and 'n' sometimes.

    As far as I know, many Japanese also find it hard to pronounce "r" when they learn Mandarin.


    There is an American "R". It is introduced in the special English training course. Unfortunately, it is not the subject of ESL.

    The Asian are not taught to pronounce the "R" correctly. Moreover, when someone who pronounced the "R" in the corret way will be criticized incorrect. Threfore, the Asian are shy away to pronounce it correctly.

    Here, how many ELS speakers who claim to be the speaker with an American accent will accept that the "tt" is pronounced in "d" sound. For example: peanut butter, pronounce peanut buddah.

    " If they study our languages they practice proper pronunciation" - Mr. domasla

    In my experience, East Asian language speakers can often make perfect L and R sounds. The problem is that they don't hear the difference.

    Think of the English words "pray" and "play". The only difference between these two words is a single phoneme in which the tongue touches either the hard palate or the upper front teeth. English speakers learn to hear this difference because it can change the meaning. Likewise, Spanish speakers hear a difference between "pero" and "perro" that English speakers might not.

    Of course, we (English speakers) tend to have similar systemic trouble with their languages. For example, it is difficult for English speakers to hear the difference between Japanese long and short vowels, and, to the Japanese ear, we mispronounce "i" and "ii" often interchanging their pronunciations.

    Why do Asians mispronounce the letters 'r' and 'l' . "This pronunciation issue is widely know among native English speakers. And, I hope I don't cause offense if you are Asian".

    The question is not offensive, but it has been an unfair image toward to the Asians. American, British, and Australian english, their pronounciation of R and L also difference from each other. But, they called this difference by the name of ACCENT.

    I am not quite familiar with the Korean and Japanese culture, it looks like that Japanese alphabets only have the R sound ( ra, ri, ru, re, ro). But, the Chinese have both R and L sounds in their alphabets. I don't understand, why Japanese is chosen in representing the Asian community whereas Chinese is ranking the first place of the most population in the world.

    Before we can go any further, we have to make clear who is representing the Asian community.

    It doesn't make sense! The differences in pronounciation of the R and L among the American, British and Australian is called accent.

    Chinese may pronounce the R and L differently. Why not called Chinese accent instead of mispronounce the English words. There are billions of Chinese in the World, by the same token, the Chinese people may have the same image toward to the English speakers that they don't know how to use the English word correctly.

    Answer to additonal details:
    Misrepresentation and sterotype are the main causes leading to the wrong concept about the Asians. Your question is asking WHY, it is the root, the key word of what you are asking for.

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