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April 6th, 2010

New ‘lip’ research sheds light on foreign language learning


United States: Lip movements may play a key role in the learning of second language speech sounds, while hand gestures may not be beneficial, suggest two Colgate University professors:

For Japanese learners of English, there is difficulty producing distinct “r” and “l” sounds, as in “rake” and “lake.” In fact, these learners cannot even hear that these two words are different.

In turn, English speakers, to great comic effect, often mistake the short vowel sound in the Japanese word “shujin” [my husband] with the long vowel sound in “shuujin” [prisoner]. Native English speakers can confuse these two words and others because unlike Japanese, length of a vowel does not change a word’s meaning in English.

Read the full story here.

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