10 English Pronunciation Errors by Japanese speakers

If your mother tongue is Japanese, you may find certain sounds in English more difficult than others. Here we present to you some of the common errors made by Japanese-speaking students at Pronunciation Studio:

1. /l/ or /r/

Japanese speakers often confuse the lateral alveolar approximant /l/ with the alveolar approximant /r/. In the sound /l/, the tip of the tongue touches behind the top teeth, whereas in /r/ the tongue doesn’t touch anywhere:

Roy left the rice in the red trolley.

2. Schwa /ə/

There is no neutral vowel in Japanese, whereas in English we use the neutral schwa in many unstressed syllables:

Can the prince come today for a chat.

3. ‘th’ Fricatives – /θ,ð/

Fricatives articulated in the front of the mouth are very difficult for Japanese speakers, most noticeably the two ‘th’ sounds: /θ/ and /ð/ which should not be replaced by either dental /t/ & /d/ or alveolar /s/ & /z/:

I think the theatre was more than thrilling.

4. 12 Vowel Positions

Japanese contains 5 vowel positions – /a, e i, o u/, English contains 11: /i ɪ e æ ɜ ʌ ɑ u ʊ ɔ ɒ/. Japanese speakers should try to use the full range of vowels in their English:

good/food | hit/heat |  hat/hurt/hut/heart | port/pot

5. Word Stress

There is a tendency for Japanese speakers to place equal stress on each syllable, making long words unclear. In fact, native English speakers put more stress on one particular syllable in long words:

apparently, complicated, photographer

6. Added Syllable

Japanese speakers should take care not to add a little ‘o’ after consonants at the end of syllables:

Matt made a very nice soup.

7. Sentence Stress

Japanese speakers often place a roughly equal stress on each syllable of a sentence, whereas an English sentence uses a strong/weak structure with only some syllables stressed:

The car was parked on a hill side.

8. Diphthong vowel /əʊ/

One of the hardest English vowel sounds for Japanese speakers is /əʊ/ because it starts neutrally rather than rounded (as the spelling may suggest):

Don’t go so slowly.

9. Joining

There is a tendency to separate words when Japanese speakers pronounce English, instead of joining them with vowels or consonants:

Go͜ over there͜ and͜ ask͜ if we͜ are͜ allowed͜ in.

10. Consonant Clusters

Some Japanese speakers may place a small vowel between two adjacent consonants, but in fact the consonants should be said very quickly one after the other:

please try three