Posted by Grant Richardson, 22nd September, 2015
In Cantonese, the ‘N’ and ‘L’ sounds have merged (become the same sound). Therefore, a lot of Cantonese speakers produce the ‘N’ sound instead of ‘L’, or produce ‘L’ instead of ‘N’. They have difficulty hearing the difference too.
In English, the sounds ‘N’ and ‘L’ are still completely different sounds.
With ‘N’, the air is released from the nose; with ‘L’, it is released from the mouth.
To test this, while producing a long ‘NNNNNNNN’ sound, cover your mouth, and (if you do it correctly) you will see that the sound continues. But, block your nose, and the sound will stop.
In contrast, while saying ‘LLLLLLLLLL’, blocking your nose does not stop the sound, but covering your mouth does.
To test your ability to hear and produce these sounds correctly, use minimal pairs for N and L (see instructions below):
To make the test more difficult, each word should be said once only.