It all started that day. I was then in third grade, and I got on my computer, unaware. Then I came across a game of some language that I couldn’t understand then. But when I read the link to the game, I realized that it was a Korean game, so I looked up the Korean alphabet.
But all of a sudden, Dad burst into my room and asked me, “Can you learn Japanese?”
So I looked up the Japanese language, and the first thing I searched was the alphabet. The first thing I saw was that Japanese had different sets of alphabets, but I didn’t know their names yet. I just skimmed the alphabets.
But one strange thing I noticed was that there were no characters with L.
Then I thought, “So there’s no L in Japanese?”
So I looked up the Japanese word for “Lebanon”, and it was transliterated as “Rebanon”. So I learned that because there was no L in Japanese, they replaced it with R. It was a fact so interesting that I fell in love with learning Japanese. Learning Japanese felt like going to a fantasy world, like Hogwarts, Disney World, or Wonderland.
Not only did I look at the alphabet, but I also read a bit about the culture, like the carp festivals, doll festivals, musical instruments, like the koto and taiko, the different types of sushi, like maki, nigiri, and chirashi, and the different types of origami, like planes, cranes, and boats.
The next year, in fourth grade, a Japanese visitor came to my math class one day. Her name was Mayumi. She read us a classic Japanese story called Momotaro the Peach Boy, where an elderly couple got a baby from a giant peach, hence the name Momotaro. Then she asked, “How do you say Dallas in Japanese?”
I had that fact in my mind, but I couldn’t spill it out of my mind.
Then she said, “There is no L in the Japanese language, so we replace it with R, so we say Darasu.”
In sixth grade, I learned that in Korean, the ㄹ character sounded more like R in initial position and L in final position, like “ramyeon” and “hangeul”. And like in Japanese, “Lebanon” became “Rebanon”, and “lemon” became “remon”. It was probably because L and R sounded similar in those languages. And their R was actually a flap sound, nothing like English, and not even rolled as in Spanish. But Japanese and Koreans were not the only languages to replace their L’s with R’s. There was Maori, a language mostly spoken in New Zealand, like “Bulgaria” became “Purukaria”, and Hawaiian did vice versa, like “Russia” became “Lukia”.