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Why Some Asian Accents Swap Ls and Rs in English



It's become a stereotype that Asians mix up the R and L sound when speaking English. That's a minor problem compared to the weird sounds coming from English speakers who attempt, but don't quite get, Asian tonal languages. But when you break down the linguistics, the R sound is very complicated, and so is the L, and native speakers of different languages learn to pronounce it differently from each other, and differently within languages depending on where it falls within a word. How complicated can it be? Joss Fong of Vox explains.


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There's a big difference between correcting someone to help them and making fun of them. As for correcting pronunciation, I suppose it depends on your relationship to the person you're correcting. You need to correct your child or student, and close friends know whether any guidance would be welcome. I would never try to correct a stranger unless they asked me to.
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In all sincerity (i.e. genuine curiosity), might I ask, is it rude to point out an American or English speaker's mishandling of Cantonese? Apparently, East Asian people online derive great amusement from it. Or are we simply pointing out the innate, and rather fascinating, differences in the way our various cultures approach language? Miss Cellania affirms that 'r' and 'l' are indeed pronounced differently in different languages and dialects. Why is it necessarily rude to acknowledge it? Of course, it would be wrong to assume every person of East Asian ancestry has no comprehension of the English sounds for "r" and "l" -- There are plenty of East Asian children born in the West who have no issue with it, just as there are lots of people from other countries who work at perfecting their English or American accent (often times picking up the particular dialect of the region they happen to be in).
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The part about little kids having trouble with the phonemes reminds me of a funny exchange between my two daughters while leaving Grandma's house.

Two-year-old: Bye bye, Gamma!

Three-year-old (authoritatively): It's not Gamma, Sis, it's GWAMMA!
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