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I realize anime is not like real life. In any case, I have noticed for a long time now that when saying "roger", they sound like they are saying "yokai" when in fact there should be a "r" sound in the beginning. It seems like they drop the "r" entirely, however. Maybe it's just me, but I've even rewound and listened to it said many times in many instances and it never ceases to sound like they omit the "r" sound entirely in this usage. So, if I'm hearing it correctly, why do they do this? If I'm not, then... well, why does it sound like that's what they're doing to me so clearly & consistently(perhaps I'm not sensitive enough to pick up on their language's tiny nuances yet)?

To clarify: I do realize the way they say "r" is light in & of itself already. The way it's pronounced makes it slip into their language in a very fine and balanced way(definitely a "soft" sound, unlike the American "r" I grew up with). But in other instances, I do still pick it up. It's only ever an issue with this word/in this scenario. I was curious whether or not there is a reason for this, is all.

  • Are you sure that Japanese Y is different from that of English too? That would be another factor that made you misheard it. – user4092 Dec 24 '16 at 1:07
  • That is actually an excellent point! I think you should have posted an answer, in fact. The others point out the fact that a Japanese r and English r is pronounced differently, but I already addressed that I am very much aware of this fact & took it into account when asking this question. But I did not, in fact, take into account the differences in y. I made the y sound slowly and in fact I think the English(again, American dialect) y is less of a full solid sound as it is in Japanese, & more like "ee-y-". For instance, "ee-yo-kai" instead of "yo-kai". That does account for a difference! – Gara Dec 24 '16 at 2:36
  • It's just you... – istrasci Dec 24 '16 at 17:26
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Japanese ry is palatal flap while English y is palatal fricative. So they are very close. (Japanese y is less fricative than the English counterpart and close to a kind of diphthong.)

  • I think this sums up the issue pretty well. Nice to have a clear explanation. Very interesting, too, so thanks. & sorry this is months late, haha. – Gara Feb 25 '17 at 2:16
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I don't think it is just the word "ryokai", but all りゃ, りゅ and りょ are often difficult to pronounce/hear for native English speakers as the sound does not exist in the English language.

See this site for how it is pronounced: https://www.wasabi-jpn.com/japanese-lessons/how-to-pronounce-ry/

As explained above, even though we use and "r" in rōma-ji, the actually sound is probably closer to an "l" (L) sound, which might explain part of the reason you cannot catch it.

A good example is the company Ryobi. In the US, I believe everyone pronounces it "Rai-oh-bi".

  • I realize now, thanks to another poster in combination with your pointing out that it's a particular issue with ry- words, that it's likely the combination of the differences not only in r(which I had considered & focused on), but also in y between the languages. That is to say, while I get that there is a difference in how r is across the two, I didn't much pay attention to the difference between y in English vs Japanese, which I now realize plays a large role in this as well. The actual word "yokai" has an abrupt y sound, but an English y can sound longer("eeyokai"). Replace ee w/ r & tada! – Gara Dec 24 '16 at 2:41
  • A similar, though not involving "r" example: how Japanese speakers and non Japanese speakers pronounce "Tokyo": non-Japanese say "to ki yo" whereas Japanese speakers do "kyo" in a single syllable (I think). – Andrew Grimm Dec 24 '16 at 4:02
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Japanese people do not use r sound. When they say ryokai, their top of tongue touches the upper part of mouth and it often does not make sound. So it is very hard to distinguish ryokai and yokai.

  • Yeah I know the difference & how to pronounce it. The issue, I'm beginning to think, is I was focusing on the absence of the r & not the remainder of the word, which ironically seems to account for it as well! Thanks for your answer btw; much appreciated. – Gara Dec 24 '16 at 2:37
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Japanese don’t have the sound of “r.” Therefore “了解-りょうかい” doesn’t sound as you expect. I think Japanese ら・り・る・れ・ろ are closer to la・li・lu・le・lo in sound.

However, if you omit “r” or “l” sound when you want to say “了解 – roger, gotcha”, and say “youkai,” it means “妖怪 – monster,” or “溶解‐melting,” or “容喙 - interfering” So all you have to do is just be attentive to Japanese ら・り・る・れ・ろ sound, which is very different from “ra・ri・ru・re・ro” sound in English.

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