As an instructor with experience teaching students from various linguistic backgrounds, including French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, and Farsi, I can confidently say that Japanese speakers often face unique challenges. Particularly, those who have received their English education in a formal environment, where English wasn't acquired from a native speaker or in an English-speaking country, encounter specific difficulties.

One of the most common issues Japanese learners encounter is the ability to distinguish between the sounds /l/ and /r/. In Japanese, a sound that falls somewhere between these two English sounds is used, which can be observed in words like "ramen". Additionally, Japanese speakers often struggle with differentiating the sounds /w/ and /v/, leading to the pronunciation of imported words like "veteran" as "beteran". This issue with the /w/ sound arises from the challenge of rounding the lips, which is characteristic of native English pronunciation.

These challenges, however, are just the beginning. Anyone who has spent considerable time in Japan as a native English speaker is likely familiar with these issues. However, awareness of these differences is one thing, and effectively addressing them is another.

Pronunciation isn't solely about the placement of the tongue; it also involves understanding how to produce sounds with the correct airflow. Japanese speakers tend to transition rapidly from one syllable to the next, resulting in a constant start-stop mechanism that controls airflow from the back of the mouth. In contrast, English sounds are typically aspirated with a great emphasis on the lungs. When speaking English, one can feel the diaphragm being pushed down and released as we speak.

For Japanese students aiming to improve their English pronunciation, it's crucial to start by grasping the fundamental mechanics of speech. I encourage my students to focus on the aspect of speech therapy. They need to take a step back and delve into phonetics, the basic building blocks of sounds, and learn to articulate them naturally. Merely repeating words or expressions with the hope of improvement may lead to disappointment.

Understanding the intricacies of English sounds and speech mechanisms at a fundamental level lays a strong foundation for mastering English pronunciation. It's a journey that begins with awareness and continues with dedicated practice and guidance.