Friday, January 23, 2015

The Minimal Pair

A minimal pair

English can be a tricky business for second language learners and a lot of it has to do with the "art of perception."  

I met a Japanese guy the other day who said he worked at an “ass fart” company. “You make ass farts for a living?!” I cried out in disbelief (it sounded like easy work for which I was well qualified). “For the street,” he said. Then it hit me. He worked for an asphalt company. He made asphalt!

Here in Temple Valley and across Japan the difference between an ass fart and asphalt is minimal at best. In the end, the thing that separates an "ass fart" from "asphalt" all boils down to a matter of perception. That is what Japanese second language learners make of the English "r" and "l" sounds and how native speakers perceive those folks when they hit the streets and it all gets mixed up. 

Related post: Watch Your A's


  1. Dude, I feel you, man. Listen, how'd you fare with those civets ? I hope you graduated from all those herbal and homeopathic techniques which seemed impressive to the clover-leaf crowd to something more effective. How do you spell GOOD RIDDANCE when it comes to civets and other unwanted 'tenants" ? W-I-N-C-H-E-S-T-E-R or S-M-I-T-H- A-N-D-W-E-S-S-O-N. Think about it, dude. COMRADE X