WNW: The Ryon's Tale?
Funny story connected to an interesting linguistic phenomenon.
First, the language part, then the story.
It's commonly known that many Asian languages (such as Chinese and Japanese) don't have the typical [r] and [l] sounds that we have in English, and that native Asians learning English as a second language often mix up the two and/or struggle to make them sound different at all. Many can't even hear the difference.
This fact is often used for jokes in television and movies, such as a Japanese person intending to say, "clap" but who instead says, "crap." There are cruder examples, but I'll spare you.
According to our favorite online encyclopedia, the Japanese R is pronounced much like a soft Spanish R, where you flap your tongue against the palate behind your teeth. It's not at all like the English R. Plus, Japanese has no comparable L sound.
The article also states that the Chinese "R" really isn't one in the English sense. Instead, it's a "voiced retroflex fricative," which means it's more of a [zh] sound than an [r] as we'd know it. So again, Chinese people have no context for the English [r] and [l].
If you've lasted this long, you get to have the funny story part:
My maiden name is Luthy. (Pronounced like "Lucy" with a lisp. Not Lutchy. Not Loochy. Not Lutty. LUTHY. Got it? Good.)
As I've mentioned probably six hundred times, my dad has a Ph.D. in linguistics and taught at BYU until his recent retirement. He often had foreign students in his classes.
An Asian student once turned in a paper on this very concept: the difficulty in pronouncing [r] and [l] for Asian speakers of English.
I have no idea how good the paper itself was, but this student apparently also struggled with the problem and needed to brush up on distinguishing between the two sounds . . .
because the top of his paper listed his teacher as "Dr. Ruthy."