What's up with the pronunciation of "L"?


Why is it that the vast majority of Taiwanese pronounce “L” as “elo”? Since everyone does it there must be some reason. Is this an English dialect thing like “Z” being read “zee” or “zed”?

Originally posted by Grizzly: Why is it that the vast majority of Taiwanese pronounce "L" as "elo"? Since everyone does it there must be some reason. Is this an English dialect thing like "Z" being read "zee" or "zed"? [img]images/smiles/icon_confused.gif[/img]

very accurate observation Grizzly.

Many Taiwanese also pronounce “S” as “s-oo,” and “D” as “D-uh,” etc. etc. I think its a combination of poor English ability, poor English instruction, the influence of other languages/dialects (e.g. Japanese and Taiwanese) and the festering of these things unabated over time.


It’s because the sound “ell” doesn’t exist in Mandarin. Most words in Mandarin do not have a final consonant sound, with the exception of words that would end in an “n” like “fan”, or an “ng” sound as in “hong”. For a Chinese speaker to have difficulty with the concept is understandable. It’s like when waiguoren here refer to their girlfriends as “noo” pengyou - since the sound doesn’t exist in English, mistakes are easily made. hehehehe


You have a point about other letters. What I was trying to get at is more along the lines of: how did this particular mistake become so prevalent that everyone says it and thinks that it’s correct. It’s very hard to disabuse people of the notion that “ello” is the correct pronuniciationn. I translate with a Chinese man who speaks phenomenal English (I’m always telling him we shouldn’t use words because no one in the States will know them) and he still says “ello.” It’s like there was an addled Ur teacher here or a linguistic virus.


As I’m sure anyone who’s ever taught kindergarten can tell you, it’s often the first teacher that introduces a child to saying the ABCs who is at fault. If they learn the incorrect pronunciation of say “F”, “H”, or “L”, then it’s hard for the children to correct later on. It’s not impossible, but it takes a serious desire to change a habit that you’ve already formed.


What about the pronunciation of the letter “n”? Even I’ve become used to pronouncing it as “un” instead of “en”, just because it differentiates it so clearly from “m” which is pronounced “em” and is often misheard by locals…
Yikes. Another year or two and I’ll be speaking broken English…




LMAO !!!


I am training to be an opera singer. Because I sing in many languages it is important to work on diction I also coach students on diction when teaching voice. Right now I am also coaching my husband who is from Taiwan on his spoken English and I also teach voice to a girl from Japan.

I have discovered some things that are amazing probably only to me, but if you really want to spend time with your students on diction here are some things to know.

Please understand that I am speaking from the point of an American. American English has a huge amount of impurities as far as vowels are concerned. American “a” is nothing like an Italian or German “a”.

Anyway, when my husband says his vowels most often the tongue is further back in the throat and the space/sound seems darker and more swallowed. To help him brighten up his vowels I have him place the tip of his tongue (no comments please) against the back of his lower teeth. Not pushed just touching. That way the sound will be brighter and more forward. This is slightly uncomfortable for him and against his habit, but if you have your students consistantly try to say their waords with the tongue in that general position you should hear immediate improvement. However, you have to watch carefully, it is a language habit that needs to be built over time. Mirrors and partners help with this. Also something to watch for is that the tongue does not become to flat or pulled back down the throat. It should have a nice gentle arch. Further front for the “i” and “e” and softer for the “a” “o” and “u” (these are IPA symbols.)

“L” is a mess as is “n” and oddly enough “ng.”
The “L” is made closer to the front of the mouth again which is why it is difficult. The hard part of the roof of your mouth is called the hard pallet. We use it all the time in English to make consonants (as well as the teeth.) So imagine how hard it is for someone who produces most of their sounds in the back to try and use more of the front of their mouth.

“N” ends up more like a strange vowel sound for my husband than a consonant. Partly because when we say “n” we start with a vowel sound E as in bed. Well once again E is a “forward” vowel. So he feels more comfortable saying un instead of en. You really have to listen and watch your students carefully to see if they are making a real “n.”

The “ng” however I was suprised about. When we write out Chinese we associate what we hear with the consonant combination, but I don’t think that it is a totally accurate representation. “Hong”.
When I had my husband say a true “ng” sound he couldn’t do it. It was completely foreign to him. For this sound you need to close off your vocal tract with you tongue. It genlty reaches up to the soft pallate(mushy part of the roof of your mouth.) It is a truely nasal consonant so if you plug your nose while making the sound, everything should stop. If you can still hear sound then the “ng” is not completely closed and is closer to a vowel sound. This is also part of the problem with the nasel “n.”

As you can see something that is so simple to us is actually a complex issue with several difficult muscles to control. The tongue has a mind of its own and prefers to not learn new tricks. So the reason the mispronuciations are propagated is partly because it takes so much time and work to change them, and it takes away time from learning vocab. and grammer.

If you really do want to work on this with your students you can check out websites that deal with the voice, diction and so on. Many voice teachers deal with this on a daily basis and there are resources available.

Well, thats it for my lecture on the voice. Any questions feel free to ask. If it is too complex, well, feel free to ignore it. Most people do anyway. P.S. To really help students try paying attention to your own tongue, teeth, lips and so on when you are talking. Then you can better articulate what you want them to do. If your not teaching it will at least give you an understanding of how varied Chinese and English sounds really are.


This is all very useful stuff and by the time foreign teachers come on the scene the damage has usually been done. I think native speakers should teach the basic sounds first (not local teachers) and it is not so important at an advanced stage what accent your teacher has as long as his/her grammar is correct, as at that stage the student can already make the sounds correctly.

I was taught by mainland teachers for years. Didn’t affect my Taibei Guoyu accent one iota because I developed that very early on.



From my experience, I think that some people get it and others don’t. I have had students that could come to pretty good pronunciation. Others, no matter how much you try to get them to make the right sounds, they just never get it. Maybe it’s hotwired in there somewhere.

My biggest agony: ‘Master-car’ for MasterCard.
Second: ‘Oh my Gah!’

Originally posted by wolf_reinhold: My biggest agony: 'Master-car' for MasterCard. Second: 'Oh my Gah!'

I’m quite fond of rai-rai-rai. Ending on a consonant just seems to be impossible.


An interesting website on phonics etc. Based on reading primers from the 1800s