Posted by: Jason | February 5, 2012

It’s Been a Cold Week

Welcome back everyone.  I hope that this finds you warm and safe in these bitterly cold nights.  Up north it has been snowing like crazy and this week we’ve seen some very cold weather and a few flurries ourselves.  Keep bundled up, find yourself a nice hot cup of cocoa and let’s get started.

Today was a very fun day for me and my family.  For the first time in too many years, we went bowling.  For the girls, it was their first time ever in a bowling alley and, to be honest, the last time I went bowling, I wasn’t even living in Japan.  It’s always a bit different bowling for me being Canadian.  In Canada, we usually bowl 5 pin bowling where the bowling ball is quite a bit smaller and there are only 5 pins.  I’m not used to the larger balls with holes in them.  Combine that with not playing for a very long time and I was really glad we were playing on the children’s lanes which had safety rails to prevent your ball from falling in the gutter.  Even with that help though, I didn’t even break 100.  Sigh.  I will have to try again later.

What has all of this got to do with English you ask?  Well, it actually does.  The word “bowling” and the word “boring” sound a great deal alike to Japanese English speakers. The “l” and the “r” are often very difficult to distinguish. Let’s listen to the two words:

Bowling and Boring

If you listen to the sounds close together like that, you should be able to hear the difference. But, when you’re talking to someone, that can be difficult. You might be in a noisy restaurant, for example, and you can’t hear clearly. There are still two things you can do. One, really watch someone’s mouth when they speak. The “l” and the “r” look quite different. Practice in a mirror for a few minutes and you should be able to see the difference. The other way is the context of the sentence. Where does the word come in the sentence? Boring is an adjective. It will almost always come after the verb “to be”, as in, “This movie is boring” while bowling is a noun and will almost never come after “to be”. “Let’s go bowling Friday night!” you might hear. It would be very difficult to “go boring”, which doesn’t make any sense.

Being aware of pairs of words with similar sounds can make communication a lot easier. If one word doesn’t fit, try the other one and see how it works. You’ll often find that sentences that didn’t make much sense, suddenly become a lot more understandable.

Well, that’s all from me. Until next time, take care, stay warm and keep practicing.

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