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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher where I’ll answer some of *your* most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is…
Is the Japanese R like an English R or L?
So as you know, English, "R" and "L" sounds are very different. When you hear "arigatou," meaning “Thank you” or "ramen" meaning “a type of noodle”, you might wonder whether an English R sound is used or an L sound.
So what’s going on with this?
Japanese ‘r’ sounds, such as ‘らりるれろ’ are actually different from both an English R *and* the English L sound!
When you say "r" in Japanese, you lightly tap the the roof of your month with the tongue. Don't roll your tongue. The tongue taps the same place that it does when you say "d-" sounds.
I’ll show you the differences. Please listen CAREFULLY. English ‘R’ sound is ...“RA” and English ‘L’ sound is ...“LA.” Japanese ‘r’ sound is ‘ra/ら.’
Let’s have a look at some examples;
'Kirai’
‘Yukkuri’
‘Yoroshiku onegai shimasu
‘Kore’
‘Urusai’
I hope this helps you with these sounds.Did you know we have a whole series devoted to Japanese pronunciation? If you’re interested, check it out!
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
またね!

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JapanesePod101.com Verified
June 16th, 2015 at 06:30 PM
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What Japanese learning question do you have?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
September 2nd, 2020 at 11:16 PM
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Hi Oliver,


Thank you for your question!


As you noticed, Japanese "r" sound might be different depending on the person, word and situation.

It's like between the English "r" or "l" sound. So that's why it sometimes sounds like "r" and sometimes "l."

However, both "r" and "l" sounds are Japanese "r" for us Japanese.

Contrary, that is the reason why Japanese people are not good at distinguishing the pronunciation "r" and "l" in English😅


Hope you enjoy learning Japanese with us:)


Sincerely,

Miho

Team JapanesePod101.com

Oliver
August 21st, 2020 at 06:25 PM
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I'm still confused about the Japanese r, I have to admit. Might it be possible that there is a large variability between speakers, how it is pronounced? Sometimes to me it sounds like Hiroko pronounces it in the vid (which sounds to me mostly like an r), but I often also hear it pronounced such that I could swear it is an English l. Very clearly noticable is it for example when characters in anime say ありがとう, in particular when the characters are girls. Almost every time I hear it it sounds like an l.

JapanesePod101.com Verified
July 21st, 2020 at 06:37 PM
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Hi Mohamed Shaltoot,

Thank you so much for your comment!


Actually Japanese R sound seems difficult for any non-native speakers.

Maybe it's hard not to roll your tongue, but just try to tap the same place where you pronounce D sound.

Then you will make it!


Hope you enjoy learning Japanese with us:)


Sincerely,

Miho

Team JapanesePod101.com

Mohamed Shaltoot
July 17th, 2020 at 07:53 PM
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My original native language is Arabic where the R sound comes from rolling the tongue more or less like the English, and up until today I thought I was pronouncing the Japanese Ra Ri Ru Re Ro in a correct wat till I listened to Hiroko Sensai say it, and to be honest it's quite hard to prevent my tongue from rolling in my mouth when making the R sound :D.

JapanesePod101.com Verified
June 22nd, 2020 at 06:09 AM
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ビリーさん

Thank you for the question!


Japanese ‘r’ sounds, such as ‘らりるれろ’ are actually different from both an English R *and* the English L sound,

so try to pronounce them in this way.

When you say "r" in Japanese, you lightly tap the tooth ridge that is just behind your top row of teeth with the tongue.

Don't roll your tongue.

The tongue taps the similar place in your mouth and moves similarly when you say "d-" sounds.


If you roll your tongue, we would understand, but the sound is unnatural.


Thank you for studying with us!


Sincerely,

Erica

Team JapanesePod101.com

JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 29th, 2020 at 07:02 AM
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Hi Tara Lay,


Thank you for your comment!😄

Yes. "Urusai" could mean "shut up." When you tell someone to be quiet or describe it's noisy/loud, you can say urusai.👍

Please let us know if you have any other questions!


Best regards,

Izumi

Team JapanesePod101.com

Tara Lay
May 26th, 2020 at 04:39 AM
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I often hear "Urusai" in lots of anime and it is used to mean "Shut up"


Is that correct as well or no?

ビリー
May 18th, 2020 at 01:30 PM
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So, does it not matter what you should pronounce either "L" or "R" like からい (karai)-(kalai)?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
September 6th, 2019 at 07:13 AM
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Hi Alan Pelletier,


Thanks for the great comment about Hiroko's pronunciation!


Good luck with your Japanese studying. You will get there eventually! Keep up the good work!


Sincerely,

Miki H

Team JapanesePod101.com

Alan Pelletier
August 29th, 2019 at 11:40 PM
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Fantastic job with your English "R" and "L" sounds!

With work, I'm hoping my Japanese is as good as your English.

Arigato Hiroko!