Sunday Soundcheck 66


We delve into the final column of the chart, yet we are far more than five weeks from done. Hold on until the 71st installation and I’ll explain more, but for now let’s commence. Ra is the first sound represented in hiragana as ら and katakana as ラ. Perhaps next week I will describe the Japanese ‘r’ sound in more detail, but for now I’m exhausted and a perfunctory description will have to do. Many people pronounce this sound like an English ‘l’, which is not a bad approximation in that one would most likely be understood in conversation; yet, I describe the sound as being in between ‘r’ and ‘l’. Positioning the tongue where one might expect for an ‘r’ and moving it like one might expect for an ‘l’ somewhat describes the mechanics. Were the sound closer to ‘l’ or to ‘r’, most likely Japanese people would not have as much trouble distinguishing the English sounds.

Ramineeto (ラミネート) is the word ‘laminate’. It is pronounced similarly to the verb, but it is really the noun. In Japanese it becomes a verb by tacking ‘to do’ onto it but the pronunciation doesn’t change as it does in English. We use this one a lot at school since most schools prefer spending hours making supplies rather than buying professional ones.

Rakuseki (らくせき・落石) means ‘falling rocks’. With all the winding roads cut precariously into steep hillsides and cliffs – in a country known for earthquakes – this word comes into conversation a bit.

Ranshi (らんし・乱視) means ‘astigmatism’. My experience has been that virtually all Japanese people are either near or far sighted. They have a word for astigmatism (which was handy when I was getting my new glasses) but few non-professionals seem to know what it means. Although, maybe most people in America don’t know exactly what it means; perhaps I know it because it affects me.

Ranbou (らんぼう・乱暴) means ‘violence’. I had to include this one because 20 years ago, when I was travelling on business here, Rambo was very popular. Most Japanese people I met thought this was the Japanese title because in this word the ‘n’ is pronounced more like an ‘m’ and would sometimes be written rambo. Fortunately they believed my explanation.


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