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O, La Ra La

For those who are interested in the Japanese language or Engrish, this blog entry by Frank Boosman must be highly suggestive. He introduces an article that can explain how difficult it is for Japanese speakers to distinguish the sounds "ra" and "la". It says the first language we learn warps everything we hear later. Now you can understand it takes a lot of courage for a Japanese guy to say "I love you" at all -- at the risk of sounding like "I rub you." In the same way, Japanese speakers don't understand why "karaoke" can be "carry-okie", or "Honda" "Hahnda". When hearing foreign words, we tend to put the sounds into our familiar ones. Getting over the established phonemes of our first language is a tough job.

If you happen to find interesting English mistakes that are made not only by Japanese but by native speakers as well, please let me know. I feel like collecting and studying them.

Comments

Interesting article! I particularly liked the sidebar story (here: http://www.sciam.com/page.cfm?section=sidebar&articleID=0008A2EF-23D7-1D2A-97CA809EC588EEDF ) which claims that there are at least 869 phonemes in the world, but that only infants up to 8 months old are able to distinguish them, and that after that we start to whittle down the sounds to those contained in our native language.

Re: errors, a common one to Japanese speakers of English is adding the "to" or "do" to certain words, like "ando" and "butto". I'll have to think of errors native speakers make, there are plenty to be sure (but not by me, of course! :) ). One needs to remember that due to the many forms or strands of English spoken (American, British, Southern American, African American, etc.), what might be "wrong" for some is perfectly correct for others. For example, I don't consider "ain't" to be incorrect in many contexts.

Just off the top of my head (strange expression in itself, isn't it?), I can think of a couple midwestern American mannerisms. First, some of us replace the ending "-ing" with "-een", as in, "We're goeen to the mall." Next, around Chicago, there's a quirky use for the word "with":
"We're goeen to the mall; wanna come with?" People from other parts of the country sometimes wonder, "Come with what?"

MNW

Kurt, I think my pronunciation was that way in high school. I've never used "ain't" myself, not because I don't like it but because I ain't a native speaker.

MNW, those examples are very interesting! I feel they are rather comprehensible to Japanese speakers of English.

Ain't - I avoid that word at all cost. Isn't it Cockney? East-end of London talk? . I've been meaning to write about this actually...

Personally I find differences in American (sorry to group so much) and British English quite confusing. I think it's becoming harder to tell the difference here sometimes... We are watching too many American TV shows - er programmes! The problem is that your writing may be considered incorrect, depending on who is reading it.

I'm neutral. Besides, I add some Japanese flavour to my English. It's fun. ;)