10 English Pronunciation Errors by Japanese speakers

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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

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