One of the hurdles in speaking a foreign language is pronouncing letters or combinations of letters that are not found in our native language. Our mouths are not used to “forming” these sounds. Tagalog, for example, does not have the /th/, /f/ and /v/ sounds — it’s not uncommon to hear some Filipinos pronouncing these instead as /d/, /p/ and /b/ respectively.
For the Japanese, it’s the /l/ and /r/ sounds that present a challenge. The closest phonetic the Japanese language has to the English /l/ sounds like a combination of /l/ and /r/. The lack of distinction between the two creates some confusion for Japanese learning English.
Here are some tongue twisters and a pronunciation guide from Okanagan, a great English learning resource I stumbled upon. Remember, the key is to keep practicing — eventually, your mouth will get used to forming the sounds.
How to Make the Sound
There are two /l/ sounds in English. One is the light /l/, which occurs at the beginning of a word (as in “leaf”), and the dark /l/, which can be found in the middle or at the end of a word (as in “apple”). To make the light /l/, place the tip of your tongue just behind your top teeth. Your breath should pass along both sides of the tongue and through the open lips. The dark /l/ is similar, except have the tip of your tongue further back. /r/ is very close to the dark /l/, except the tip of your tongue should not touch the roof of your mouth.
1. Laura and Larry rarely lull their rural roosters to sleep.
2. Sri Lankans are really leery of Landry’s rules.
3. Climbing crimes are lures for crowded clowns.
4. There are free fleas for all the loyal royalty.
5. It’s the right light with the glimmer in the mirror.
6. Collecting the corrections is the role of the elderly.
7. Are Roland and Sally rallying here in their lorry?
8. Jerry’s berry jelly really rankled his broiling belly.
9. Yellow arrows frilled with reefed leaves are rarely light.
10. A leaky rear latch on the listing bark lifted right up and the water rushed in.
For more great pronunciation exercises, head on over to the Okanagan English Pronunciation page.