Common Spelling Mistakes Japanese Students Make

   I have been teaching for about five years now and these are the most common spelling mistakes my students make. Most of these mistakes happen because typical Japanese students write the word they are not familiar with as they pronounce it and also because Japanese hiragana and katakana are different from the English alphabets. 

R and L

  Almost every Japanese has had a spelling mistake with the r and l. They don’t have the l sound in their alphabets. You might have noticed that they pronounce /l/ as /r/, therefore they spell it that way too and vice versa. So, whenever I teach my students new words with the l and r, I always remind them to be careful. 

and d

  I am not sure if this is true for most Japanese students only. I may have been confused with b and d when I was a kid too. But I teach junior high school and I still see a number of students, especially first graders, get confused with the letters. Thankfully, there are many ways to correct this problem.

Double consonants – (tr,pr,gl,etc…)

  There are no double consonant sounds in the Japanese alphabets. Japanese students who are not familiar with the word will pronounce a double consonant sound in two syllables. For example, traffic – /toraffic/ and most probably will spell it like that too.

Double vowels – (ea, au, etc…)

   When we start learning English, the first things we learn are the alphabet and phonics. I am not sure how phonics is taught in elementary school here in Japan. But I do believe that it’s important to have a strong foundation in it. That means learning not only the alphabet sounds individually but also the double consonants, double vowels, long and short vowel sounds, silent letters, and syllables. If our students master these, they will be able to spell words more accurately. 

Words with /er/   

Watch out for these mistakes as well. In the Japanese language /er/ is pronounced as /ah/ as in computer – /computah/. So, er will be spelled as ar

Spaces between words   

Yes, I consider this as wrong spelling. I always remind my students about those words that should be written as one, separately, or with a hyphen. During my first year teaching, students would plead with me to consider their answers and I would give in. But mind you, they will repeat the same mistakes over and over. So whenever I teach them new vocabulary, especially compound nouns, I would tell them to be careful. A word written otherwise will not be accepted.


These are some of the minor yet common mistakes I see from my students every year. At first, I would check the mistakes one by one and let them go. But I see these same errors every time so I decided to give emphasis and tell my students to watch out for these spelling mistakes. And I also remind myself to be patient and kind in correcting them because if I don’t do it, they would keep misspelling the words until who knows when. 


Do you remember some spelling mistakes you often had when you were younger?

What are the most misspelled words you often see students make? 

Let me know your answers. Comment down below or share this post with your own list. 

Thank you for reading.

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