Learning japanese with a lisp (speech impediment)

I have started learning Japanese for a few weeks.
I Started on tofugu.com, I finished the hiragana part that linked me to here.
I am really enjoying it, I am finding it great when it comes to written Japanese when studying on here.
But I feel like I am struggling to pronounce words/sentence, while following for the lesson/review on here :frowning:.

Because of my lisp, I don’t feel like I sound anywhere close to what I hear in the lesson/review.

If there anyone else on here who has a lisp, or any other learner that can give me any tips that helped them.
I would be very grateful, thank you.

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Output is overrated. Forget about it for now. Focus on understanding. Chances are that your pronounciation would be shit even if you didn’t have a lisp since you haven’t had enough input yet.


In general - my first note is that even without any kind of speech sound error/distortion, you’re having to train your brain to use new and different sound patterns/sequences - it’s going to feel unnatural and hard to say. Expect to need to say things a bit slower and work up to faster. I often feel ridiculously slow. If you want it to be easier to actually get the sounds out, you will eventually need to practice doing it, just in sheer terms of the motor skill of producing the sound sequences, separate from the language skill of knowing what words to say (if your native language has particularly similar phonology to Japanese, this may be less of an issue).

The skill of producing a sentence accurately is more motorically demanding than a single word. I often find it helpful if I’m having trouble producing a particular sentence to work backwards (or from whichever part I’m having most trouble with) - starting with trying to produce the tricky part until it’s fairly fluent, then adding on a few more words until I can get the whole sentence. This came up a lot for me with some grammar points (なければなりません comes to mind as being quite annoying when I tried to say it in sentences)

Specific tips for pronunciation correction would depend on the type of lisp (frontal or lateral), and the sounds it affects. Generally - for s,z sounds (the usual lisp culprits), you want the air to flow out the middle of your tongue (the sides of your tongue kind of brace against the inside of your teeth and your tongue forms a bit of a groove) and not escape from the sides, and your tongue should be behind your teeth. Sorry if that’s super obvious - I figured it was worth mentioning.


If I understand correctly, you have difficulty with “s” sounds, or something along those lines, right? For instance, perhaps trying to make an “s” sound produces a “th” sound, right?

I wouldn’t worry that much about it. Japanese people have serious difficulties hearing the difference between “s” and “th” sounds in English, which leads me to believe that if you spoke “s” sounds in Japanese with “th” sounds it actually wouldn’t impact things that much, because it “all sounds roughly the same” to them. It will sound obviously off to you because you speak a language where hearing the difference between “s” and “th” is important, but it’s similar to “r” and “l”. They don’t distinguish those sounds in Japanese, so basically anything in the “r” to “l” range sounds almost the same to them.

That’s just my hunch from watching them listen to English though.


Thank you everyone for your replies to my post, it means a lot to me.

Thanks @Kanamana66, to be honest your reply made me laugh I feel better now

Thanks for the tips @Nishi790 , I will give it a go :blush:,

Thanks @Leebo for the input :blush:, I will try to worry about it for now:)

I will keep you all updated in the next few weeks/months on how I am getting on with learning :blush:


Disclaimer: I am one very new beginner giving advice to another new beginner! But I work in an alternative school for kids with learning and communication disabilities, so I have many students with speech difficulties. I think shadowing exercises would be very helpful for you. Luckily, many learners are interested in pitch accent and pronunciation so you can find these on YouTube. I believe there is a way so slow down the video to get it to the sped that will work best for you. Focus on accuracy, even if that means going at snail pace.

If you want feedback for pronunciation, the HelloTalk app has a feature where you can post recorded speech and ask for corrections.

Thought I have to say it, but if there are specific sounds that vex you no matter what, it might behoove you to get an SLP…I don’t know what the cost or difficulties are for doing this asan adult, but speech is so nuanced…

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As an SLP - depends where you are, in Ontario, typically in the range of $120-$140/session.

A lot of SLPs say they only take kids, but that usually means ‘I don’t do neuro stuff like strokes’ - if you explain that the concern is speech sounds/articulation, they will quite likely take you.

Depending on the type of lisp, you often see faster progress with adults because there’s motivation, and they understand better what you’re trying to tell them to change and usually will follow through on practicing better. That said, the habit has been there a lot longer, so it definitely requires some conscious thought to make changes.

If it’s something you want to change, definitely reach out and look for someone to help you with it!

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