Ask An Asian: L's And R's


***** writes:

Do Asians have a harder time saying "L's" or "R's"? In "A Christmas Story" it seems like it's "L's" but my friend says it's "R's". Who's right?

First off, thanks for confirming that American Online still exists. For the past eight years I just sort of assumed they had went the way of Prodigy, Netscape, and my first internet provider, GTE.

Now upon reading your question, I went back and YouTubed the scene from the movie ‘A Christmas Story,’ in which Ralphie’s family is having Christmas dinner at the Chop Suey Palace Restaurant. In the scene, the restaurant staff is singing Christmas carols, but instead of singing ‘fa-la-la-la-la’ they repeatedly sing ‘fa-ra-ra-ra-ra.’  This greatly annoys the restaurant’s owner, who tries to correct their mispronunciations, but to no avail. Honestly, I don’t know how widespread of an error this is among English-as-a-second-language speakers from East Asian countries. If we focus solely on where the tongue is placed when pronouncing L’s and R’s, the difference comes across as subtle enough that someone unfamiliar with English could possibly botch the two.

Last living AOL user on the face of the earth—HEAR ME OUT!...The question is not a matter of whether Asians botch L’s or R’s more often, but in the truest sense--do we as citizens of the free world still believe in the freedom to butcher whatever foreign pronunciation we want to? Imagine the disgrace if the language police forced us to pronounce every French word the way the French pronounce it. Paris would become 'Pear-ree' and Detroit 'De-twa'. After all, if Patrick Roy’s name was really supposed to be pronounced Patrick ‘Waah,’ surely they’d have half the sense to spell his name with a ‘W’—or not.

Regardless of who you are, or where you're from---the next time you encounter a strange, foreign-sounding word---in the spirit of the Chop Suey Palace, do your best job and butcher the crap out of it.


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