こんにちにゃあ～！Welcome to Kiki+Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! Online! in blog form, part of a balanced breakfast with 8 essential vitamins and minerals. We’re your hosts, your guides to Japanese language and culture, Kiki and Koko! If you’re interested in Japanese language, or just want to sharpen your mind by broadening your horizons and learning new skills, learning to read is paramount. But, there are many times where even with ローマ字, romaji,the correct reading of a character isn’t apparent, which is definitely one of the pitfalls of ローマ字, romaji. However, for beginners, it’s really the only tool that can be used to transliterate until you’ve learnt the readings. But, that’s when we arrive on the scene! With our favourite computer friend, QUIZBO™, here to read the characters aloud as many times as you like, and us, here, to explain how things work with our helpful hints, reading Japanese will be a breeze!
Well, ‘a breeze’ may not be the exact sentiment, as everything takes a bit of effort, especially when you’re first learning something different to your own language. And if there’s anything that’s quite a bit different to English, it’s 「らりるれろ」and the Japanese R/L sound. Now, already, saying 「R/L」is a misnomer, as it’s romanised as「R」, but we think this might assist you in trying to pronounce it.
So, as you may or may not know, Japanese doesn’t actually have an 「L」, and in fact, it doesn’t have an「R」sound, at least as you might recognise it. The 「R」that you may have come to known and love in the States or in Irish or Scottish dialects would be the rhotic「R」. To understand rhotic Rs, we’ll compare it to an non-rhotic R. If you’ve heard our radio show or watched our videos, you’d probably know that we speak with a non-rhoticity. In this case, words like 「tyre」are pronounced 「ty-ahh」or words like「car」are pronounced 「cahh」which isn’t just an English phenomenon; it’s also a feature of many American dialects. However, there are rhotic Rs used at the beginning of words. This feature is non-existent in Japanese, and instead, traded for an aveolar lateral flap.
An aveolar lateral flap is when a consonant, in this case 「R」, is pronounced using a tap of the tongue at the top of the mouth in a similar place to where you would roll an R. And though, there are dialects that use rolled Rs, when learning standard Japanese, or speaking formally, you’ll most likely not use a rolled R. In fact, as a Japanese language learner, you probably would want to avoid using rolled Rs as it may give the wrong pronunciation. Rather than a rolled R, it’s much closer to a combination of L and R. In linguistics, it would be written as: ⟨ɺ⟩, which is a combination of R and L. Though, even in that, there’s still a bit more to it than combining an R and L sound.
So, when you attempt this sound in the case of 「る」, ru, you want to do the opposite of an R roll. It’s a quick tap of the tongue, usually with the tip of your tongue going forward rather than an R roll where it’s sort of forcing itself up and back. It’s not quite saying, 「lu」but it’s obviously not saying 「Rrrrru」. You want to find a middle ground between L and R, which oddly has a bit of an American「D」sound. But, in order to get the sound, you can’t exactly attempt any one of the letters, R, L, or D alone, it’s just a bit of a guide to figure our what your tongue should be doing. It’s like if L were a firmer sound or R were a softer sound.
If you’re really having a difficult time, you can try to say the English word「do」, but not in the way you may think. Take the tip of your tongue and brush it forward from the middle front part of your palate to just before the back of your front teeth, like combining the L and D sound. If L were a D, that’s the sound you’d get.
All in all, the thing to keep in mind, the Japanese 「R」is held totally in the tongue rather than the rhotic 「R」 that is voiced in the throat or back of the mouth, a sound of which doesn’t exist in Japanese. Instead, you’re ‘voicing’ the vowel and the 「R」simply starts and stops the air happening during that vowel. This is why there’s a difference between the 「D」and 「R」, or 「D」and 「L」, despite both being tongue-based, there isn’t the same type of friction happening. A Japanese 「R」is a flap or a light tap, controlling the air, rather than creating any sort of buzz or trill.
In its simplest form, you can get away with using an L, BUT not in the same way you would normally use an L. Ls are usually pronounced in English with your tongue at the back of the teeth, however with this, you would use the roof of your mouth a little bit further back from your teeth, as long as it’s not touching the teeth or it’ll create a D sound.
We do hope that properly explained it, but believe it or not, we haven’t even gotten to the actual reading lesson, yet! So, if you don’t quite have it, you can hear and practise with QUIZBO™ with「らりるれろ」~!
But, maybe, you’re thinking that you might not be ready for a brand new lesson, maybe you just want to revise to keep everything fresh in your mind, or maybe this is your first time with us. This is the perfect opportunity to take a quick look and revise / review previous lessons! This is the 9th set of hiragana from the 五十音順, gojuuonjun, and whilst of course you have all of the time in the world to study with us, there’s only one more lesson left for 五十音順, gojuuonjun!!! We can’t believe it either! There’s 46-48 hiragana, and if you’ve been with us since the beginning, we’re so proud of you!!! All of the time and dedication should definitely pay off. But, no worries, this isn’t quite the end game. There’s more characters that should be a bit easier to absorb after these and then a whole new set of characters, then kanji. So, don’t feel like anything is ending! It’s just this chapter on this set of characters.
But, it’s a great excuse to give yourself a bit of a deadline if that motivates you, and if it’s a bit much, then no worries. Just go at your own pace! We’ll be here for you.
Pink thumbnails with all of us on it are usually Reading Lessons.
Pink thumbnails with QUIZBO™ are usually Quizzes.
Blue thumbnails with all of us are usually Writing Lessons.
and the others are usually Vocabulary/Reading/Writing Practice.
This was already a longer lesson than usual, but still a good opportunity to practise. Now, if you’re ready, it’s time to continue to the second to last set of hiragana in the gojuuon jun lesson set~! If you’re not sure what hiragana is, then be sure to take a look at this article to see how the Japanese writing system works.
But, without further ado, we’ll need to enlist the help of our computer friend, QUIZBO™くん！(The ™ is silent) This is a portable version, QUIZBO™ Mini, who lives here on the site. He’ll be here to help sound out these hiragana for you. You can click the sound ‘bytes’ as many times as you’d like, QUIZBO™ won’t mind. ( Get it, bytes? … Computer? …We’ll stick to teaching Japanese. ) Afterwards, you’ll be able to take a quiz with QUIZBO™ to help you review them or test your knowledge! Are you ready!?
Let’s NihonGO!! らりるれろ!!
We’re going to show you the character, then you you can click the play button to hear QUIZBO™ sound it out for you. But, as a better visualisation of each sound, we also have the romanised pronunciation of each character so you have something in English to which you can compare it.
In romaji, 「ら」 is transliterated as「ra」which sounds sort of like 「lahh」**
Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko:
So, when trying to pronounce 「ら」, a good starting point is 「lahh」, but try to replace the L with a tap of your tongue at the roof of your mouth just at the li’l bump or even a little further forward, just not on the back of the teeth or it might turn into too sharp of a ‘Dah’ sound.
In romaji, 「り」 is transliterated as 「ri」which sounds sort of like 「lee」**
Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko:
This is definitely one of these places you can get away with the L method mentioned earlier, making an L sound not using the back of your teeth, but using the top of your mouth a few centimetres back. The trick is starting the vowel sound and using the R/L as a gate to letting the vowel happen.
Also! You might notice you’ll see this character with a connected stroke sometimes in fonts and other times with just a little trailing tail, so when it comes to recognising it, just keep both styles in mind.
In romaji, 「る」 is transliterated as 「ru」which sounds sort of like 「loo」/ an American 「do」**
Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko:
So, the point of examples isn’t the sound you should actually be making, but just ways you can tell if you’re making the right sound. That is to say, you’re not simply saying the exact example text, it’s more like a way to adjust the way you say it so that it might comparably sound like that, or just a way to mentally have a sound in your head.
So, in this case, if you use the L method, your tongue will inevitably hit the front of your teeth and create a D sound, but that’s actually fine in this case because it oddly enough sometimes does sound that way. The goal, of course, is 「る」, which is a sound that just isn’t found in English, so you can’t always connect them with English sounds, but it can still help you connect to the sound mentally. Japanese sounds are all their own, so sadly, there isn’t always crossover.
In romaji, 「ろ」 is transliterated as 「ro」which sounds sort of like 「low」
Helpful Hints with Kiki+Koko:
All of the previous helpful hints definitely apply to this one in the same way~ We’re sure that with practise, you can get there! Just repeat and try-try again!
And, that’s 「らりるれろ」!! The ninth instalment of the 五十音順, gojuuonjun, series! We thank you so much for learning with us. We know that learning a new language can feel daunting, but we hope that this series has put you at ease. With little steps comes big progress! Be sure to subscribe to The Electronic Mailing List of Tomorrow, today, found at the side or the bottom of the web page, to get updates on the latest articles, videos, podcasts, and more right to your inbox, so you don’t even have to check the day of the week to know when new content is headed your way. If you’d like to keep the lights on at SpeRaToBo, and support the creation of more content, you can join us on Patreon, or leave a tip in the Tip Jar (coming soon, unless you see it on the menu, then… it’s already here~)
We hope this was/will be helpful for you on your Japanese learning journey!
Until next time, thank you for visiting! And have a wonderful day!