Thursday, February 28, 2008

My Mouth Doesn't Work Right

I have real problems pronouncing a couple sounds here. Ryu, for example. It means "dragon." The problem is, when someone says these words, they sound like a combination of "L" and "D" to me, and not "R" at all!

Kudasai (thank you), the same sort of thing; it sounds like "kurasai" to me. It's like I hear the opposite of what's transliterated, or something. If I can get someone to say the word for me several times, I can usually get the sound, sort of. The thing is, D is in the front of my mouth, and R is in the back, so they shouldn't sound alike at all, right?

7 comments:

  1. It is the sad fate of anyone born into a flapless language. (That tongue-against-alveolar-ridge sound is called a flap.)

    You'll get the hang of it! I finally figured it out while watching tv (alone, so I could practice my "ryu"s and "ryo"s without embarrassment).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous6:05 AM

    But English does have flaps--check out the sound in the middle of "butter" (at least in many people's speech).

    ReplyDelete
  3. The previous comments are both right. English does, but not its Rs. (American) English "dark" Rs are like no other Rs on earth. Think of British RP "veddy" (very) or the trilled R of some of your favorite Romance languages.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry, that should be "English does flap".

    ReplyDelete
  5. My bad -- I meant flappy Rs (as T.E. intuited).

    ReplyDelete
  6. richard6:29 PM

    No, the d is not pronounced in the front of your mouth. It's retroflex, not on the alveolar ridge but behind it, and with the underside of the tongue touching the roof of your mouth. And it's not voiced. Similarly, to pronounce the r/l, put the underside of your tongue on the roof of your mouth (but more of it than the d, and a bit farther back) and flick it forward.

    It's actually a lot easier to do than it is to describe....

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks, folks. It helps. And listening helps a lot, too. I think mine isn't the accent that was used to transliterate Japanese. My vowels seem all wrong at first, too. I often can't tell between what sounds like an "o" (Wisconsin) and what's written an "a" (Shinkansen). They rhyme, but sure aren't spelled alike!

    ReplyDelete