YOU may have come across some signs in Japan, which made you wonder whether the spelling was correct. In Japan, “v’s” and “b’s” are as interchangeable as are “l’s” and “ r’s”, because the locals’ ears and tongues are not attuned to these sounds. The Japanese language has one consonant in place for L and R. When you pronounce a word with ra, ri, ru, re, or ro; you start out with an r sound and finish with a kind of short l sound.
There are sets of sound symbols, which represent all Japanese sounds, and until a few years ago the Japanese never used any other. But that’s changing fast, especially with the younger generation that doesn’t go to rabu hotels just to watch terebi and bideo.