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In Japan, Ronald McDonald is called Donald McDonald due to a lack of a clear “r” sound in Japanese.

Ronald McDonald
24/07/2016

Now this is quite an intriguing fact. We all know about Ronald McDonald, who is a comic personality used as the primary symbol of the McDonald’s fast-food restaurant group. In Thailand, Ronald McDonald welcomes people in the customary Thai “Wai” salutation motion of both hands joined. In China, out of admiration for Ronald McDonald as a grown up, the children refer to him as 麦当劳叔叔 (Uncle McDonald). In Japan, people pronounce Ronald McDonald as Donald McDonald due to an absence of a flawless “R” sound.

The reason behind the Japanese enunciation is that not all sounds used in English are used in Japanese (and vice versa). So some of the fonts of the English alphabet are not used (such as “x” or “q”) when typing in Japanese. When using English alphabets for Japanese, nearly everyone uses the “R” character and drops the “L” from Romaji (a system of writing Japanese using the letters of the Latin alphabet).

The truth behind the articulation is that the letter “r” doesn’t exist in Japanese. The sounds indicated are usually written as “ra, ri, ru, re, ro,” but these aren’t the same “r” as the one we use in English. In reality, these sounds are more like fusion, or a sound that lies between the phonemic ranges of the letter “R”. The Japanese sounds described above are made by using one’s tongue in a particular way.

Japanese is entirely a different language which doesn’t add well with the English language. From the childhood Japanese are never taught of the “r” sound and so it becomes difficult for them to learn that accent. Even there is a difference in some vowels of both the languages. The Japanese language has simple five vowels. They use two-character (one consonant, one vowel) syllables to make up most of the linguistic, with a few three-character and one-character syllables that compliment well with the rest. For “McDonald” it would be “Makudonarudo” (マクドナルド), so it does sound a bit bizarre to pronounce English words in Japanese verbal.

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