This lesson provides practice for some of the most persistent and difficult error contrasts
for learners of English, involving the three sounds [n], [l], and [r]. Most teachers of English
are aware of the difficulty that some learners have with [l] and [r]. Japanese, Korean, and Thai
learners, along with many speakers of Chinese, especially from the south of China, all have trouble
distinguishing and saying these sounds such that speakers of English can understand them. The lack
of understanding causes a lot of difficulty as well.
There are many pairs of words in which the only difference is [l] and [r], so the opportunity
for misunderstanding is great. Research on [l]
and [r] with Japanese learners show that it is one of the most lingering difficulties, but also
shows that improvement is possible with listening and production practice.
Less well known is the contrast [l] and [n]. A growing number of Chinese speakers have this
difficulty, especially those from the south of China (such as in the Wuhan area). Like [l] and [r],
[l] and [n] is a high functional load contrast. Unlike [l] and [r], there is little research on [l]
and [n], and it seems, in our experience, to be far more difficult to teach and learn.
Some learners may have difficulty with all three sounds, though this is rare.
Nonetheless, these sounds belong together in a lesson.