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A common problem for Japanese and some other Asian English language learners is to fail to distinguish the sounds [l] and [r] in the letters /l/ and /r/.
Though the two sounds may seem similar to a Japanese or some other speakers, to a native English speaker, they are clearly different. In fact, there are several words in English where the only difference between two words are the [l] and the [r] sounds.
So, you can see that in order to speak clearly and accurately, it’s essential for English language learners to master the difference between [l] and [r].
How to say [l] and [r]
The key to creating these correct sounds is the tip of your tongue.
To create the [l] sound, the tip of your tongue should make contact with the top of your mouth (your gums), just behind your top teeth.
To create the [r] sound, the tip of your tongue must NOT make contact with any part of your mouth. Your lips are somewhat “pursed” or rounded. The sides of your tongue may touch your teeth. But the tip of your tongue should be in the middle of your mouth, without touching anything.
So, remember, when pronouncing the [l] and [r] sounds correctly, focus on the tip of your tongue.
- To say the [l] sound, the tip of your tongue makes contact with your mouth, just behind your top teeth.
- To say the [r] sound, the tip of your tongue should not make contact with your mouth.
Listen and Repeat
- glass [GLÆS]
- grass [GRÆS]
- glass, grass
- law [lɑw]
- raw [rɑw]
- law, raw
- climb [klɑiym]
- crime [krɑiym]
- climb, crime
- light [lɑiyt]
- right [rɑiyt]
- light, right
Now let’s practice words that have both the [l] and [r] sounds in them. To pronounce them correctly, remember, focus on the tip of your tongue.
Listen and Repeat
Don’t worry if this is difficult for you. Improving your pronunciation takes practice. Just focus on the tip of your tongue, practice over and over again, record and listen to yourself and watch your mouth and tongue in the mirror to notice what they’re doing when you pronounce the [l] and [r] sounds.
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